Growing up I had a very Manichean approach to dessert. My favorite cookie was a Black & White. My favorite ice cream was a soft-serve twist of chocolate and vanilla from Carvel. And my favorite cake was Chocolate Marble Cake from our local bakery. In New York, where I lived until I was fourteen, these desserts were ubiquitous. Every good deli and bakery carried the cookie and cake of my dreams. And in those days, a Carvel sign could be seen at most off-ramps all over New York. The truth is, I have never outgrown these loves, although finding really good versions of them in the Midwest is more challenging. So I was VERY excited when I came across this recipe for Black & White Pound Cake using black cocoa powder.
Black Cocoa Powder is what gives Oreos (or Hydrox Cookies, which is what I ate growing up and believe to be superior) their color and unique almost dry chocolate flavor. I had only used Dutch cocoa before. That will work here but the look and flavor will be different. The recipe comes from Sohla El-Waylly, a Food 52 star baker. She is very fun to watch and has several YouTube offerings. Sohla has a slightly funky vibe and a natural charm. I’ve made a few things of hers and the results have always been successful.
Now the one part of this recipe that caused a lot of debate in the comments section was the so-called streusel, which is used in both the middle of the cake and on top. I say so-called because it isn’t really like any other streusel I’ve eaten. It’s quite dry and the whole cake when it comes out of the pan, kind of looks as if it had been rescued from a fire and was covered in coal dust. I know, I know – this doesn’t sound as if I am making a case for the topping. But the funny thing is that as I ate the cake, the not-very-sweet topping grew on me. The part that went in the middle just melted into the cake and was delicious. The stuff on top crumbled off these dark, deep Oreo-like bits which were not overly sweet, but had a certain somethin/somethin.
It would be completely understandable if you chose to leave it off of the top and the cake would be AMAZING. But if you are open to giving it a chance, I would encourage you to do so. Either way, I would definitely use it in the middle of the cake as given in the recipe.
The finished cake when cut is an ever-changing work of art. Each slice is unique in it’s design and all are beautiful. It’s edible modern art, with dark beautiful veins of deliciousness. And while it may appear to be difficult to achieve, it really isn’t. I won’t lie. The cake is a bit fussy, takes a little time and uses several bowls, but there are no special techniques to making this. Just REALLY, REALLY, REALLY read the directions through several times before starting. And I also found that by measuring everything out before I began actually making the cake made things much easier. Yes, it does create more bowls and dishes to wash, but it also means that there is no scrambling to measure and possibly mis-reading things. Directions are crucial here.
I have mentioned it in other posts, but it’s worth saying again. I have become a BIG fan of weighing most of my ingredients when baking. It really is so much more accurate than simply measuring. Kitchen scales are readily available and cost around $25 – money well spent. I have included both measurements and weights where appropriate.
The other thing I learned when making this cake is how transformative long creaming of your butter and sugar can be. Until Sohla, I had never, ever creamed butter and sugar this long. However, I will now never, ever cream butter and sugar anything but this long again! Who knew how light and fluffy the mixture could become? And it is essential that ALL of your ingredients are at room temperature for best results.
Yield: One 9 X 5-inch loaf
For the Streusel (Optional)
1 1/4 cup (156 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (100 grams) light brown sugar
1/4 cup (20 grams) black cocoa powder (or Dutched or natural cocoa powder)
3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
6 tablespoons (82 grams) cold butter, cut into cubes
For the Cake
14 tablespoons (196 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
1 1/4 cup (250 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1/2 cup (120 grams) sour cream, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup (187 grams) all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons (15 grams) black cocoa powder (or Dutched or natural cocoa powder)
1 tablespoon milk or water
For the Streusel
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, cocoa, and salt. Add the cubed
butter and rub the mixture together with your fingers until it comes together into clumps; set aside. [Mine never quite formed clumps and I tend to agree with most of the comments that felt it needed more butter for this to happen. However, it did surprisingly stay together on the cake and when eaten was the texture of a thick Oreo dust. Not especially sweet.]
For the Cake
Set a rack in the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×5-inch metal loaf pan with butter or cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment and grease that as well.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar,
baking powder, and kosher salt on medium-high speed until pale and very fluffy, stopping once during
mixing to scrape down the paddle and bowl, 6 to 8 minutes total. (You might think it’s done before that
time, but keep going all the way.)
Scrape down the paddle and sides of the bowl. On medium-high speed, beat in the eggs and yolk one at a
time, scraping down the paddle and the bowl after each addition. The batter should look very fluffy,
creamy, and emulsified (if not, your eggs or butter may have been not at room temperature—let the
mixture come to room temperature then try mixing it again).
Scrape down the paddle and sides of the bowl. In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream and vanilla
until lump-free and totally smooth.
Add half of the sour cream and mix on low until just incorporated, about 15 seconds. Add half of the flour
and mix until just incorporated, about 15 seconds. Repeat with the remaining sour cream and flour. Using
a flexible rubber spatula, scrape down the paddle and the bowl and mix the batter a few times to make sure
everything is evenly combined.
Transfer about half the batter to a medium bowl. Sift over the cocoa powder and stir into the batter along
with the milk or water.
Add half the cocoa batter and half the vanilla batter to the pan in alternating dollops. Top with half the streusel and repeat dolloping the remaining batter.
With a butter knife or offset spatula, swirl the knife through the batter to make sure it is evenly distributed
into the pan with no big air pockets and give the pan a few swift taps against the counter. Wet a butter
knife and use it to slice down the center of the loaf cake (this ensures an even crack right down the middle
of the cake). Top with remaining streusel, lightly pressing it into the batter.
Bake until the crust is deeply browned, the loaf rises and splits, and the cake feels firm and set when you
gently press the top, 65 to 75 minutes. (This is a very moist cake and it is better to overbake rather than
underbake. If the crust is looking very dark partway through, set a wire rack just above the loaf pan and
place a rimmed baking sheet on it to provide a shield.)
Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula or butter knife around the sides to
loosen. Tip the cake into your hand, then place on a wire rack to fully cool before slicing.