I love pound cakes, or quatre-quarts* in French. As a child, I went through a phase of eating Breton pound cake for breakfast day in, day out. I’m talking about supermarket pound cake, baked in long yellow logs and wrapped in soft paper. I liked it on the stale side, so I sliced it in advance, and let it age three to four days. I was an affineur of pound cake if you will.
I only recently discovered the beauty of homemade pound cake, and it has become one of my could-make-it-blindfolded cakes, in rotation with my French yogurt cake.
You know how pound cakes work, right ? You weigh the eggs, and add the same weight in sugar, melted butter, and flour. This means these ingredients each form a quarter of the batter, hence the French name, four-quarters. The English name comes from originally using a pound each of the ingredients, but that yields a pretty big cake. The French ratio allows for more flexibility.
Of course, it doesn’t tell you if you’re supposed to weigh the eggs with or without the shell, and how much baking powder to add. In truth, you can just relax about both. We’re not building a rocket ship; we’re baking a cake. Weigh the eggs with or without, add one or two teaspoons of baking powder, it will be fine. Channel your inner French grandma and do what feels right.
And it is a recipe that lends itself to variations with remarkable grace; my favorite kind of recipe for sure. Today I will share one of my favorite riffs: the buckwheat and chocolat pound cake.
I’ve been enjoying the buckwheat and chocolate pairing for years, by ordering a chocolate buckwheat crêpe for dessert at crêperies (Brittany again!). It is divine. Almost better than sugar-and-butter. Try and tell me what you think.
In this spirit, I make a pound cake with 100% buckwheat flour (this makes it gluten-free) and fold a generous amount of chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate) into the batter. The result is deeply flavorful, fluffy and moist, with chocolate in every bite, and a lovely crust dotted with sugar, my signature touch.
For the maths majors out there, let me confess two things: this becomes, in effect, a five-fifths (cinq-cinquièmes) rather that a four-fourths, just like my pistachio pound cake. And because I prefer my cakes not too sweet, I decrease the amount of sugar a little bit, which admittedly throws off the ratio, but who’s counting?
You will also notice that I give you the option of using coconut butter here, a magical ingredient I told you about here and here. In baking, it can replace regular butter, and here the coconut note is hardly noticeable against the buckwheat and chocolate.
It is a cake that is quick and simple to prepare, and because the formula is easy to memorize, it’s a great cake to bake on vacation with no cookbook and no Internet connection, to impress your friends as the baking fairy (or wizard) you really are. A skill that happens to be on my bucket list for cooks.
* I’ll let you get away with pronouncing this cat-car.
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- 3 large eggs (see note)
- 2/3 cup (130 grams) raw cane sugar, plus extra for sprinkling (see note)
- 6 ounces (170 grams) coconut butter, heated and stirred to a smooth consistency, or unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1 1/3 cups (170 grams) buckwheat flour (gluten-free-certified as needed)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder (gluten-free-certified as needed)
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 6 ounces (170 grams) good-quality dark chocolate chips (or chopped dark chocolate)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) and line a loaf pan with parchment paper (my pan is 10 by 3 1/2 inches, or 26 x 9 cm; a standard 9-by-5-inch loaf pan can be used).
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and coconut butter until slightly frothy.
- In another medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and chocolate.
- Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients using a spatula, until no trace of flour remains.
- Pour into the pan, sprinkle the top with sugar, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean (melted chocolate is normal; it's uncooked batter you don't want to see).
- Lift carefully from the pan and cool on a rack.
- Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
- The idea of a pound cake is that you weigh the eggs, and use that weight for all the other ingredients. My 3 large eggs typically weigh 6 ounces, or 170 grams. Adjust accordingly.
- By the above principle, I should use 6 ounces of sugar, but I like it a bit less sweet, so typically use 3/4 of the egg weight in sugar.
- The pound cake is best eaten on the day it is baked, but it will keep 2 to 3 days under a cake dome or in an airtight container. I keep it at room temperature when it's not too warm out.