Best Chocolate Pound Cake Ever. Are You Ready?

Counting the days until Christmas, enumerating what yet “needs” to be done, working late into the night kitchen.

Are you ready? 

The question is incessant, often used as a greeting,  like a secret handshake, a password spoken among friends and strangers, like shorthand for the last-minute rush of retail.  Are you ready?  The answer hangs in the air,  at the mall, in the grocery store, at holiday parties,  wherever Christmas chitchat and pleasantries are sold and exchanged.  Are you ready?

Yes. in fact,  I’m ready.  I’m always ready for Christmas.   No matter that I’m Jewish, Christmas is inescapable. It’s everywhere, and I’m ever-ready to celebrate. 

In terms of sheer volume, majesty and imagery, let’s face it, eight little Hanukah lights and a spinning dreidel can’t hold, uh...a  candle to silver bells, chestnuts roasting, nutcrackers and sweets, Frosty the Snowman, halls decked with boughs of holly, reindeer on rooftops, mommas kissing Santas, and partridges in pear trees.
Religious practices and spiritual sensibilities aside, getting ready for Christmas involves very little on my part, little more than raking the last leaves of autumn and removing the  the frozen Halloween pumpkins, still sitting on front steps.  

On a street lit up like uh . . . a hundred Christmas trees, our house stands as a beacon of neutrality, a study in detachment.   No wreath at our door. No ornamental lights strung around our two-story Douglas fir.  No scent of pine in the house, no candlelight flickering in the windows.  No boxes of decorations to take down from the attic, no stockings to stuff and hang on the mantel, no sugar cookies to frost, no greeting cards to mail,  no menus to plan,  no table to set,  no honey baked... anything. And it's all fine with me.

To be Jewish at Christmastime offers its own pleasures. And blessed release.   Christmas is, after all, our national holiday for shopping and giving, a time for family and travel, lox and bagels for brunch, and a movie in the afternoon.  Without the trimmings and trappings, without the obligation to make the day any more special than it is, Christmas comes and goes, stress-free, with no particular needs or expectations to fulfill, and with no pressure whatsoever to get ready. With one exception . . .

Oh, Joy of Chocolate

There is one concession I make for the holidays and that is an extravagant chocolate pound cake. It's a bit of a fuss, but worth the effort, and the best thing I know to do with chocolate. This one cake never fails to get oohs and ahhs at the table with frequent requests for the recipe.  

So here it is,  from The Joy of Chocolate, a little gem of a cookbook, by Judith Olney, (a Barren's Educational Series, first published in 1982). My well worn copy just flops open to the recipe, batter splashed on page, 68, where the author claims it's the best pound cake she's ever tasted. I believe her.  Judith, a genius of chocolate baking, is lamentably no longer among us,  but I'm here to tell you, one bite of  this cake is enough to bring you to a culinary epiphany. 

I follow the recipe religiously. No substitutions for its ingredients and no use counting calories, 'cuz you're in for a pound: almost a pound of sugar, a pound of butter, a pound of flour and rich, creamy buttermilk.   The batter whips up to a velvety mouse and bakes to a dark, dense chocolate dessert that needs no embellishment but a dusting of powdered sugar.  The cake stays moist for days, you can bake it Christmas eve and still serve it New Year's Day.  

Are you ready?   Take out your tube pan, your mixer and get ready to enjoy.


1 cup cocoa powder
2 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons instant coffee powder
3 sticks unsalted butter
3 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup water

1. Preheat oven to 325/ butter and flour 10" tube pan
2.  Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt and instant coffee, set aside (I use food processor for this)
3. Cream butter until fluffy/ continue beating and add sugar in slow stream, beat at high speed for 5 minutes, slow mixer, then add eggs, 1 at a time, beating briefly after each addition
4. Mix dry ingredients alternating with liquid, starting and ending with dry ingredients, scrape down mixer
5. When batter is well blended, pour into tube pan  (batter will be very fluffy and velvety in texture) 
6. Bake in upper third of the oven for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.
7. Let cake rest in the pan for 20 minutes, then unmold onto cake rack. 

From my kitchen to yours, wishing you happy baking and merry holidays. Thanks for stopping by.  



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