For Chocolate Lovers only

Mocha Pound Cake

Tips: Away with those commercial, so-called “chocolate” pound cakes, dry and lacking in flavor! Here is a very dense, very moist, and very chocolate beauty to serve to…well, just about anyone. Whether you serve it unadorned to accompany afternoon tea or dress it up as an after-dinner dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (or whipped cream) and a few berries or orange sections, you can’t go wrong. The cake is a bit unusual, in that it contains three sources of leavening (baking powder, baking soda, and beaten egg whites) yet still manages to be quite dense. If you would like it a bit sweeter, use only 2/3 cup Dutch process cocoa powder and 2 tsp. instant coffee granules. Because the batter is heavy and there’s a lot of it, a stand mixer is necessary for making this.

Sometimes, after this cake has been baked, the center will sink slightly as it is cooling (before you turn it out of the pan). If that’s a problem for you, turn the cake out when it has stood for the requisite 15 minutes, and leave it upside down to cool completely before serving; it’s easy to dust the bottom with confectioners’ sugar just before serving and that will provide a more “finished” appearance. Otherwise, cool the cake right side up—you can always dust the top with confectioners’ sugar if you serve it that way, too.


  • 2-3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. white vinegar
  • Water to make 1-1/3 cups
  • 1 Tbsp. instant coffee granules
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1-2/3 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla
  • 6 eggs, graded “large”, separated and at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar

  • Optional for serving
  • Confectioners’ sugar
  • Ice cream or whipped cream and berries or orange sections


Adjust oven rack so that it is one-third up from bottom of oven. With solid vegetable shortening, grease a 10 by 4 inch, one piece tube pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of wax paper or baking parchment cut to fit. Grease the paper, then dust the entire inside of the pan lightly with flour, knocking out any excess. Set aside. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Into medium bowl, sift together sifted flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. Pour vinegar into liquid measuring cup of 1-1/2 to 2 cup capacity; add enough cool water to measure 1-1/3 cups. Drop instant coffee granules into vinegar-water and stir briskly to dissolve. Set aside.

In large bowl of electric mixer, preferably fitted with paddle beater, beat softened butter, brown sugar, 1 cup granulated sugar (reserve remainder), and vanilla for about three minutes at medium speed, until fluffy, well-mixed, and slightly lightened in color. (Throughout mixing process, scrape bowl and beater(s) often with rubber spatula to ensure thorough blending of ingredients.) At a low speed, add egg yolks one at a time. When all yolks are in, increase speed to medium again and beat for one minute.

At a low speed, add sifted dry ingredients in three additions and coffee-water in two additions. Begin and end with sifted dry ingredients, and add coffee-water additions very gradually. This is a large amount of heavy batter; you may have to increase mixer speed slightly to incorporate all ingredients, but mix just until additions are incorporated; do not overbeat. It might be helpful, at the end of the mixing process, to whisk the batter briefly with a sturdy whisk, just to make sure everything is well-blended. Set aside.

In clean, medium-to-large, nonplastic bowl, beat egg whites with clean beater(s) until foamy (I use a hand-held mixer for this). Sprinkle on cream of tartar. Incorporate it at low speed, then increase speed to high; beat until traces of beater marks show in whites. Add reserved 2/3 cup sugar in about 6 additions, decreasing mixer speed just before each and beating sugar in at the lower speed, the increasing speed to high once again for 10 to 15 seconds after each addition has been incorporated. Beat this meringue just to stiff peaks.

Plop a large spoonful of meringue into your cake batter and fold it in not too throughly (this is to lighten the batter). Add remaining meringue in three additions, folding in not too throughly after the first two and just until batter is an even color with no white streaks after the final addition. Carefully turn batter into prepared tube pan. Level by grasping one side of the pan in each hand, then turning the briskly in short, left-and-right movements. Then form a slight trench down the center of the batter, pushing it slightly higher on edges and around tube. Place filled pan into preheated oven.

Bake 55 to 70 minutes, turning pan once back-to-front after about 30 minutes. Cake will rise and form some cracks on the top surface. To test for doneness, insert toothpick into a center part of the cake; toothpick should emerge with only a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Do not overbake! Remove baked cake to cooling rack; allow to stand 15 minutes out of drafts. Check cake surface just before turning out to decide if you want cake to cool upside down or right side up.

Loosen cake from sides and tube of pan; carefully invert onto another rack. If you want to cool and serve the cake right side up, re-invert carefully. In either case, cool cake completely before serving.

Store airtight at room temperature for up to two or three days; freeze for longer storage. To cut, use a large, very sharp, serrated knife. If desired, dust top of cake with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.

16 servings

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