Friday, January 26, 2007

The ONLY Chocolate Pound Cake You'll Ever Want: Thank you, Judith Olney

Favorite cookbooks open automatically to favorite recipes, and my copy of Judith Olney's The Joy of Chocolate (1982, Barron's Educational Series) opens to page 68 -- CHOCOLATE POUND CAKE.

I have made it over and over again and it has never failed, and never failed to please. It travels incredibly well: across town, in my luggage around the country, and, handed frozen to the lovely people at FedEX, it has gone overnight to California and to Alaska. I'm told that it is a good keeper -- that's not been my experience because it's never been on the counter for more than a day. It is the CHOCOLATE POUND CAKE that every pound cake wants to be when it grows up.

But there is more to this cookbook than just the Fabulous Pound Cake. The photographs are riveting. The cover photo of CHOCOLATE CABBAGE CAKE is breath-taking. I will make this someday -- sponge cake halves sandwiched with whipped cream, surrounded by chocolate leaves molded from real cabbage leaves. When will I do this? Not soon, but someday.

Her preface is thorough and helpful, including "Working with Chocolate," "Working with cream," "Working with Eggs," and excellent advice on equipment. She presents concise conversions for liquid, imperial, and metric liquid and volume measures. Best of all, if you have ever puzzled over Nigella Lawson and her gas mark oven temperatures, the gas mark/fahrenheit/centigrade conversion table is on page xxiv.

SOUR CREAM MARBLED POUND CAKE, is a gem, but for me, the most fun to be had from a cookbook is from Judith Olney's GEODES. If you have ever made truffles or love to play with clay, this is your recipe. With GEODES, you make dark and white truffle mixtures and then wrap them one around the other, light over dark over light. Part of the fun is fiddling with the chocolate, but the best part is watching your pals cut into small or large GEODES and finding multiple layers of chocolate. The GEODES in the her photo are pristine and precise. Mine are rough and uneven -- more like a something dug from the earth. Next time, though, I'm tinting the white chocolate purple and trying to persuade my pals that these are Amethysts.

Adapted ever so slightly from Joy of Chocolate
I use a large tube pan from Bridge Kitchenware. Mrs. Bridge told me that her husband designed it for Maida Heatter. Hats off to all of them!

1 cup cocoa (I use Penzey's Dutch Process which is 24% butterfat)
2 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 T instant espresso (or other instant coffee powder)
3 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract (Cook's Magazine says that imitation vanilla is fine in recipes like these where you can't tell the difference)
5 eggs at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk (I use SACO Cultured Buttermilk Blend powder and sift the 4 T of powder with the dry ingredients in step 2)
1/4 cup water ( or 1-1/4 cup water if you have used buttermilk powder.)

1. Preheat the oven to 325. Butter a tube pan and, instead flour, dust with cocoa. Presto! NO ugly white spots.

2. Sift the cocoa, flour, baking powder, salt and espresso powder. Set aside.  If using buttermilk powder, sift with these ingredients.  Having an electric sifter makes sifting three times to incorporate everything a snap.

3. Using a stand mixer, cream the butter for two minutes. Add the sugar in a slow stream and then beat on high for five minutes. Slow the mixer and add the vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating briefly after each addition.

4. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk and water mixture or plain water if you have used buttermilk powder. Scrape down the sides and mix by hand at the end, making sure to catch any unmixed batter.

5. Pour into the pan, and bake for 80 minutes, turning the pan half way through. Check with a cake tester at 75 minutes. The cake is done when the tester comes out clean.

6. Rest the cake in the pan for 20 minutes, then unmold onto a rack.

7. To freeze, cool completely and double wrap in plastic and then double wrap in foil.

Thank you, Judith Olney.


Anonymous said...

Susan- This is handsdown my favorite cake of yours. If my chocolate torte recipe had flour in it- this is what it would dream to be as good as. I'm almost scared to make if for fear that it wouldn't be as fantastic as one from your kitchen.
Bake away!

Elizabeth said...

How on earth can I stay on Weight Watchers' when I am tempted by the delights of your blog? If you ever need to get some jam off your hands, my family would be happy to aid you. said...

Made this cake for years. Gets even more moist as it ages. My favorite from this cookbook is the sour cream marbled pound cake. The chocolate stays totally moist.