Is anybody else low-key obsessed with The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes on Netflix? I started watching it with my mom when she was in town last spring (right before we left for our Istanbul trip!) and I’m still hooked. They feature beautiful homes across the world, all with unique features and designs. There was the home in the first season that was made with spare plane parts, another in Portugal that was built around existing trees, and I just finished an episode that featured a Norwegian house that literally sat on a small rock in a fjord and is only accessible by boat. To quote Caroline, one of the show’s hosts: corrrrr.
To be honest, the homes that appeal to me the most are the ones that look simple and unassuming from the outside, and only show how beautiful and grand they are once you step inside. Like this loaf cake! It looks just like any boring old pound cake from the outside. Good, sure—most loaf cakes are often flavorful and moist—but kinda boring? But never judge a book by its cover! Slicing into it reveals three layers of cake all in one simple loaf. It’s almost like magic.
The best part about the recipe is that it uses the same base loaf cake recipe for all three layers: to get the chocolate layers, you simply mix varying amounts of chocolate and cocoa powder in them to get the different colors of ombre brown. But to be honest, the same thing that makes this recipe easy and awesome is also what handicaps it — I didn’t think there was much difference in taste between the two chocolate layers. It tasted more like a regular marbled chocolate and vanilla loaf to me, rather than a triple-flavored one? But honestly, that’s a relatively minor flaw, so you can probably just ignore me and make it anyway. And I’ve already got ideas for other, more distinctive three layer pound cakes in the future (because you know that’s how I roll). Enjoy!
Some baker’s notes:
- I wish I could take credit for this recipe, but it’s actually a Martha Stewart recipe that I’ve had bookmarked for ages. The only changes I made were to make it in a 8 x 4-inch loaf pan (she uses a 9 x 5-inch pan, but I think it domes better in a smaller pan) and to use a measuring scale to divide out the batter in three equal parts. You can use the volume measurements provided in the original recipe (it tells you to divide the batter into three 1 1/2 cup portions), but according to this blog that doesn’t create even layers so I just used my measuring scale to weigh out the batter and divide it evenly instead (my recipe below has the weight measurements to do exactly this). If you’re a baker and you don’t have a scale, it really is worth getting one!
- Because you’re essentially making three batters, if you’re not paying attention, you’ll find that you accidentally used all the bowls up in your kitchen (REAL LIFE: IT HAPPENED TO ME). The best way to minimize the mess and ONLY use three bowls is this:
- BOWL 1: Measure out all the dry ingredients into a bowl big enough to use to make the batter (so, your mixer bowl if using a stand mixer).
- BOWL 2: Measure out all the chopped chocolate into a bowl big enough to hold about 1 1/2 cups of batter comfortably (ie, with enough space so that you can mix batter without it spilling over the sides). I used a 1 1/2-quart Pyrex glass bowl from this set.
- BOWL 3: Reserve a final bowl around the size of the chocolate bowl. I used a 1 1/2-quart Pyrex glass bowl from this set (I own two of this set like a crazy person — in a pinch, you can probably get away with using the smaller 1 quart size in the set).
Chocolate Ombre Pound Cake
- Special Equipment: a digital measuring scale (I love my Escali)
- 2 medium, heatproof bowls (see baker’s notes)
- 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
- 3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder, divided into 2 tablespoon and 1 tablespoon portions
- 1/3 cup (2.65 ounces) whole milk, at room temperature
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 3/4 cups (7.85 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (7.85 ounces) granulated sugar
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (9 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 1-inch cubes
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 325 (F). Lightly spray an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan with cooking spray and line the bottom and sides with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the pan’s two long sides. Set aside.
- Place 4 ounces roughly chopped chocolate and 2 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder in one of the medium, heatproof bowls. Place the bowl on top of a saucepan filled with few inches of water, but ensuring that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Melt over medium-low heat, using a heatproof rubber spatula to mix occasionally. Once the chocolate is fully melted, transfer the bowl to cool on a wire rack as you work with the other ingredients.
- Whisk 1/3 cup milk, 3 eggs, and 2 teaspoons vanilla in a liquid measuring cup. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 1 3/4 cups flour, 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt. Beat on low speed until combined, and add 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cubed butter, a few pieces at a time. Continue beating for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Slowly add half of the liquid mixture (from the previous steps) and increase the mixer speed to medium-high, beating until fluffy, about 1 minute. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the remainder of the liquid mixture; beat for 30 seconds, until just combined. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, mixing any leftover ingredients stuck into the batter by hand.
- Use a digital measuring scale to measure out 10.85 ounces (see baker's notes for volume measurements) of batter into the bowl containing the melted chocolate. Use a rubber spatula to mix until combined, and pour into the prepared loaf pan and smooth its surface with an offset spatula. Set aside.
- Use a digital measuring scale to measure out 10.85 ounces of batter into the second medium bowl. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon Dutch-processed cocoa powder on top of the batter and use a rubber spatula to mix until combined. Pour into the loaf pan on top of the first layer of cake batter. Smooth its surface with an offset spatula. Pour the remaining vanilla cake batter on top of this layer and smooth its surface with an offset spatula.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the loaf cake comes out with few crumbs. Check the loaf cake at the 1 hour mark — if the top of the cake is browning too much, cover with a loose sheet of aluminum foil. Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm, or at room temperature. The cake can be kept at room temperature, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, for up to 3 days.