Monday, December 06, 2010

Chocolate Marble Pound Cake -- science of baking

Because it is December and we are in the Northern Hemisphere where December == Cold Winter, I have decided to crank up the oven on Friday nights to give us the much needed warmth.

This will also help me work on my non-existent baking skills. My goals aren't lofty. I just want to bake something decent that BS and LS might love and their children might enjoy and 200 years later the family fondly remember Great Grandma Bong Mom's Pound Cake while beating eggs 300 strokes by hand. Ahem.

So far, BS loves the Chocolate Brownies and the Better Than ... Chocolate Cup Cakes. I haven't told her the name and yet she loves them. They are really rich and chocolate-y.

Before Thanksgiving I made the Zebra Cake which looked really nice with the zebra patterns. But it was a little less sweet and not very rich in texture. Me & D liked it because it was less sweet and more bread than cake like.

BS didn't really show much enthusiasm.

Now honestly BS's showing or not showing enthusiasm does not mean much except a snub on my "I am the best" feeling. She could have ga-ga'ed over the same cake if it was at her best friend's house and might even come back and eat this two months later. You never know.

Last Friday, my project was Chocolate Marble Pound Cake from Sailaja's Kitchen. Pound Cakes have loads of butter but since it is December, I said ok and went ahead. While baking I am trying to understand the science that goes behind all that creaming and beating and it would be really nice if I could experiment more and flush the product down anywhere but my throat till I get the perfect cake.

This particular cake was rich and dense. When had the next day it needed to be nuked for 10 secs to get the moist taste.Also the batter was thicker and more spreadable than pourable. That I learned was not a source of panic but the norm for pound cakes. Really ? Is that true ?
I also needed 1/4 cup more milk than the recipe asked for to make the batter moist. The cake again was a little less sweet for the kid's liking but they enjoyed it with some preserves.

Since I am trying to find meaning in this madness of baking, I will have my two cents on baking science right here. None of them are my theories, they have been sourced from here, here and here.

Let me put some jam on this

Most buttery Pound Cakes start with a step called creaming. What happens when you cream butter and sugar ?

The first step in making a pound cake is to take lots of butter at room temperature and beat it with an electric mixer. This incorporates air bubbles. Sugar is gradually added to the butter. As the sharp sugar crystals cut into the butter, tiny pockets are formed and fill with air as the mixer blades pull more butter over the top of the hole to close it. This makes the butter double in volume and become creamy in texture, which is why this procedure is called “creaming.”

While creaming you know you have reached there: when you're no longer able to see sugar granules, but you can still feel them if you rub a bit of the creamed fat between your fingers.(from the God of Such Things Alton Brown)
Here is a "one bowl" or "quick method" pound cake that skips this step

What's the fuss all about ?

How to add eggs ?

Eggs should be at room temperature before they are added to the butter-sugar. Never happens with me, I will put them in luke warm water for 5 mins and proceed. Ok, maybe I SHOULD bring them to room temp.
Add eggs one at a time to the creamed butter and sugar and beat. Now Alton Brown says, adding eggs one at a time is silly. It must be. Anything one at a time sounds silly to me. Just dump all together and get it over with, I say.
It is better to mix the eggs together first so that the water in the egg whites can hook up with the emulsifiers in the yolks. Did that even make sense ? Whatever.

Now this is easy to understand.The eggs adds more volume and allows the mixture to hold even more air. Beat until the mix is smooth, light in color and the volume has increased to look fluffy.
The texture of the cake is dense if the eggs are added whole and much lighter if the egg whites are beaten separately and then folded into the rest of the batter.

I want lots of that gooey purple stuff. Much more than Didi has.

How to add the dry ingredients ?

First sift all the dry ingredients, i.e. the flour, the baking soda or powder. Then add the dry ingreds first, usually alternating with liquid(which in this case was milk) till it is well blended. The protein in flour, the gluten is what makes the cake hold its shape but too much of it will make the cake tough.So do not overbeat as that will produce more gluten.When you start with the dry you cover the flour particles with fat and so water can't get to the flour and there won't be any gluten. This ensures a tender cake. Whoa !!!

The baking soda or powder when comes in contact with liquid or when heated, releases carbon dioxide that forms bubble in the batter. So you get more air pockets or holes in the batter. This one thing is elementary science at least.

Ooopsie Daizy !!

What happens in the oven ?

As the batter heats up in the oven, bubbles(remember air pockets formed during creaming) expand and the batter rises. As the carbon dioxide breaks down, the moisture in the cake forms steam, which fills the air pockets our sugar made. Eventually, the steam evaporates, but by this time the protein in the flour has had enough time to set, thus making the cake hold its shape.

Just as heat makes steam and carbon dioxide expand, coolness causes contraction. So if you open the oven door before the cake is set, a draft will burst the tiny bubbles and the cake will fall.

This is Messy

What is it about cake pans ?

The size and shape of the cake pan plays an important role in baking. Apparently all cakes cannot be baked in all kinds of pans. Size and material does matter. Most cake recipes work well for cup cakes too. To make pound cake cup cakes try this.

I am not eating any more of this stuff. I am done.


Chocolate Marble Pound Cake

What You Need

AP Flour -- 2 cups
Baking powder - 1&1/2 tsp
Salt -- a pinch

Butter ~ 1 cup
Sugar ~ 1 cup

Egg ~ 3
Vanilla extract ~ 1 tsp

Milk ~ 1/2 cup(Original recipe said 1/4 cup)
Cocoa powder ~ 2 tbsp

How I Did It

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and dust a 9" round pan with flour.

Sift together the Dry ingredients

2 cups of AP Flour
1&1/2 tsp of Baking Powder
Pinch of salt

In a mixing bowl add
1 cup = 2 sticks of unsalted butter
With the aid of your mixer beat the butter.
Add 1 cup of sugar gradually.
Beat till sugar and butter mix is light in color and fluffy.

In a small separate bowl add
3 eggs
and beat lightly with a fork

Add the egg mix and 1 tsp Vanilla extract to the creamed butter and sugar and beat with your mixer(for 2-3 mins) till you get a smooth mix.You could also add eggs one at a time to the sugar-butter mix, beating for 30s -- 1 min each time.

Now add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to above, gently mixing. Follow with a little of the milk. Continue this ending with the dry.

Remove a cup of this batter in a bowl and combine with 2 tbsp cocoa pwd. Mix it gently. My batter was thick and not easily pourable.
Pour a tbsp of white colored batter into the greased and floured pan. Alternate with a tbsp of cocoa batter. Continue through out till both the batters are finished.
Smooth out the top with a spatula.
Take a knife and swirl it around the batter in a zig zag fashion, 3-4 times.

Put in the oven and bake for 40-45 mins. Check with a toothpick to see if it is done. Take out of the oven and cool for 10 mins. 


  1. I'm so not into baking! Not sure why. The cake looks good!

  2. ohh i dont know about my bad luck...i always blame it on the microwave since it does not give me satisfactory baking this cake has always been a challenge considering the layers of colors, i think i might just push myself one more time seeing your post :)


  3. I always stay away of this pound cake recipe, i am pretty sure that i will finish alone the loaf :)
    But I guess, that is great for kids, hope the little angel have enjoyed ur cake :)

  4. the pound cake looks delicious. Love the clicks and the whole read with the cute snippets under each picture.

  5. such a cute post, loved reading through :)

  6. Very nice flow.Good article
    Very nice flow.Good article
    Very nice flow.Good article
    Very nice flow.Good article
    Very nice flow.Good article

  7. Sandeepa, it was great to know the science behind baking. I love to improvise which is never a good thing like bringing the butter to room temperature in the microwave and never bothering about the eggs so I have only myself to blame for my poor baking skills :(

    that is the French way of eating pound cake with fruit spread. You are GOOD!!

  8. Wowo what is going on there you in a baking spreee.

  9. Vani

    Even I am not too much into it. But 'coz I am not good at it, I am giving myself this month to play around a bit.
    My biggest problem with baking is, I tend to eat all of it just to decide whether the taste is right or not :-)


    Ok, MW baking, I really have no idea


    Not too much. The cake was dense on the inside and less sweet. So you know why they didn't like it all that much ?


    Thanks :)


    Ahhh, now here comes an experienced baker :)


    I do that all the time. MW the butter is not bad as long as it is soft but not liquid.


    You tell me that, oh baking goddess :-)

  10. So a cake is air and more air and more, more air. :) Why is it so calorific then? I liked the tip about the right consistency for creaming, where you can feel the sugar but not the entire granule itself.

  11. whoa, that looks wonderful and delicious :)

  12. Lol, all this baking science goes over my head, I think I can never understand it. I haven't had a wonderful relationship with baking as well, and hence do not bake often, and even when I do, there often are blunders. I was reading each line twice in order to understand, but then gave up after two paras :)

  13. Sra

    Now that is really a good point. Does air have calories ? More science research in pipeline ;-)


    Priya M
    Thank You


    Same here

  14. oopsie daisy made me smile ,even my son watches in the night gardedn,he is big fan of c beebies,..cake looks too good...and the pics too,..

  15. Sandeepa,
    Star of this post is your cute lil daughter :-D..and amar meye in the night garden dekhte ekhon o bhalo bhase!! ki jey abol-tabol nam sob kotar..Cake looks so so delicious..pound cake'e old days e protek ta ingredients ek pound kore dito bole eyi nam..cant imagine eating that much of butter these days..Tumar moton amar same problem, beshi bhag ta ami khe feli tai cake kom hi turi kori..Eyi tumar kach thekhe C&C er entry jonne opekha e roilaam..kicho pathabe , bhalo lagbe ..hugs and smiles

  16. Liked all the scientific explanations to bake a good cake....hmmm, now I know I can blame some air bubbles if my cake doesn't turn out right! ;)

  17. Notyet and Jaya

    We have actually never watched Cee babies. Is the phrase "Oopsie Daizy" from there ?

    Actually BS picked it up from her friends or teachers at pre-school years back and that is how it got into our conversation at home.

    LS of course picked it from BS :-)


    CC'r deadline kobe ?


    No, no see Sra's comment. Because of all those air bubble now you can eat your cake without any guilt :-)

  18. Sandeepa,
    C&C er deadline 20th Dec and here is a link from youtube for "In the Night Garden"..related videos O check korte paro..bhishon cute hoye eyi series ta ..

    hugs and smiles

  19. Those cute lil hands and your comments:) so cute!!!! my baking has come to almost nil after coming to India!
    regarding Makhanas, I think you will find it in Edison or big subzi mundi (you are still in NJ right?) I did not shop for them while I was there so no idea.

  20. The marble cake looks lovely - maybe add some choc chips in there for the kids the next time. YES - there must be a NEXT time. baking is fun!

  21. I Loved it... and I have never come across a blog like this.. Can I follow you?..

    I would love to try all the baking recipes :P ..

    Megha...(Got to know about your blog from Deepanjana's Favs)

  22. Pictures are so wonderful!..Happy New Year to you and your family Sandy..


Thanks for your Comments. I hope you will be nice and not Spam.