When I was a child tagging along with my mom to the local bakery, I always marveled at the multi-colored slices of marble cake sitting behind the display window. How, I wondered, did the baker make a loaf that was both chocolate and vanilla? What prevented the batters from mixing together? Having a vivid (some would say wild) imagination, I conjured a slew of fantastical explanations – from baking two cakes that fit together like pieces of a puzzle, to magical incantations. I remember thinking the genial man behind the counter was a wizard, and for a time my chief goal was sneaking into his kitchen. Like the sorcerer’s apprentice – or Mrs. Weasley – I was sure he orchestrated the creation of his baked delights with wand in hand.
Then I grew up and learned how marble cakes are made – not with the twirl of a wand but with the figure-eights of a butter knife. I confess to feeling a twinge of nostalgic chagrin at this discovery, but the truth is that butter knives and toothpicks are no less magical than wands in the hands of a baker. Perhaps that is why they say a good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness in the kitchen.
Though marble loaves usually showcase the flavors of chocolate and vanilla, the pound cake in this post features molasses, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. I enjoyed a thick slice this afternoon, cold glass of milk in one hand and a copy of “Blackbird House” in the other. I truly hope you give this recipe a whirl in your kitchen. I promise, you will be delighted.
Marble Molasses Pound Cake
Reprinted with permission from Southern Cakes: Sweet and Irresistible Recipes for Everyday Celebrations by Nancie McDermott.
2 copies of this book are currently in the Baking and Books raffle – if you haven’t purchased a ticket there are still 9 days left! Though I hope you’ll participate in the raffle I understand if you can’t, no hard feelings – but please do consider emailing a few friends about this event. It’s a fun raffle for a great cause and I’d really, really appreciate your help with spreading the word.
Ingredients: Makes 1 loaf
- 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2/3 cup milk
- 3 tablespoons molasses or pure cane syrup
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a 9-by-5 inch loaf pan, line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, and flour the pan. (Measure the parchment paper by placing your pan on top of it and tracing around the bottom edges with a pencil. Use scissors to cut long these lines.)
Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl, and stir with a fork to mix well. In a large bowl, beat the butter with a mixer at high speed until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat to combine the ingredients well. Add the beaten eggs and continue mixing until the mixture is light, fluffy and smooth. 1 to 2 minutes. Stop several times to scrape down the bowl.
Add about a third of the flour mixture, and then about half of the milk, beating at low speed after each addition just long enough to make the flour or the milk disappear into the batter. Mix in another third of the flour, the rest of the milk, and then the last of the flour in the same way.
Scoop out about a third of the batter into a medium bowl, and add the molasses, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves. Stir with a wooden spoon or fork to mix everything into the batter well.
Quickly add both batters to the pan, a few tablespoonfuls at a time, alternating between the plain and spiced batters. Run a table knife through the batter in a figure-eight pattern to swirl the batters together. (I did this three times.) Bake at 350 degrees F for about 1 hour, until the cake is golden brown and springs back when touched lightly at the center, and until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack or a folded kitchen towel for about 10 minutes. Use a table knife to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan. Then turn out the cake onto a wire rack or a plate, remove the paper carefully, and cool completely, top side up.