Thursday, June 13, 2013

Zebra Buttermilk Pound Cake

Two whole Father's Days ago, aka, two years ago, I shared with you guys a recipe for a really delicious and simple pound cake.  It was a basic cream cheese pound cake, with no added frills or special flavorings.  It was the perfect cake for a man who is really just not that into desserts and sweets.  My dad and I are similar in many respects- we both love art and design, and are very creative; we share a love for good food, and learning the stories behind such food; we're both night owls, and are about 1000% more productive when working at 3 AM than at 3 PM, and we sometimes share an unfortunate short temper (only sometimes, though, I promise).  When it comes to dessert, however, we couldn't be more the opposite.  Obviously, I consider dessert a necessary component of my everyday life, even if it's just a simple fruit salad or a scoop of ice cream, but my dad is perfectly alright with finishing dinner, and having a coffee and bread as a snack later on.  Coffee and bread?  Isn't that breakfast?  He also happens to finds most of the brownies, cookies, cakes, cupcakes, ice creams, etc, much too sweet for his taste, and usually more than satisfied after sampling a tiny bite out of whatever I ask him to try (maybe he's just being polite, but I'll never know for sure). 

As anti-sweets as my dad is, there are actually a few sweet treats he really does like.  Milkshakes happen to be such a treat.  Most of the milkshake recipes I've posted yield enough for two fairly large milkshakes.  My dad probably consumes about 1 1/2 of the two milkshakes that come out of each recipe, with my mom and I splitting the remaining half a milkshake.  His favorite milkshake so far, has been the Snickers and Pretzel Milkshake that I made last Halloween (and I don't blame him, that was definitely one of my favorite milkshakes too).  I have no idea how he manages to drink all those milkshakes and stay thin (totally jealous right here), but I'm secretly glad he likes them so much, because I know that I can make a milkshake recipe anytime I want and know that it will never go to waste.  But anyway.  Milkshakes are not the topic of today's post.  Pound cake is what today is all about.  Father's Day is coming up, and from past experience, I know that a pound cake is something my dad will always appreciate and enjoy.  Since he's a night owl (probably from working nights most of his life) my dad loves having midnight snacks every now and then.  Simple cakes and cookies are usually what he goes for, and a pound cake is perfect for a super late night coffee break.  I wanted to make a more interesting pound cake version this time though, and I immediately knew that I wanted to make a chocolate and vanilla zebra striped pound cake. It's just a bit more interesting and sweet than a traditional pound cake, and since this version is made with buttermilk, it offers a slight tang that offsets the the added sweetness from the chocolate stripes.

This zebra buttermilk pound cake received pretty high marks on both the taste and looks spectrums.  The cake is really striking, visually speaking, and I had actually been longing to make a zebra Bundt cake for the longest time, ever since I first saw it featured on Bakers Royale some time ago.  I just thought it looked so cool, and it interested me so much more than more typical marble pound cakes.  Zebra pound cake totally beats out marble pound cake.  For me, it's probably because there is a more even distribution of chocolate cake in the zebra version than in the marble version, which can sometimes only contain a few faint streaks of chocolate, which is not nearly as good as having thick bands of chocolate cake running throughout the cake so that you are guaranteed a nice dose of chocolate cake in every slice.  Aside from that, and like I said before, it just looks so cool

Even cooler than how cool the zebra cake looks, is just how simple it is to achieve its striking look.  The vanilla portion of the batter comes together really quickly-- provided you actually have cake flour on hand when you start baking.  As I was making the cake, I must have somehow skimmed over the fact that it called for cake flour, rather than all purpose flour, and I didn't notice until just before it was time to add the flour to the rest of the cake batter.  Of course, when a situation like this happens, you're obviously going to be out of the ingredient that you need.  Seeing as I had no cake flour in my kitchen, and running out to the store to get some when I already had half a cake batter mixed in my stand mixer, I had to improvise and make my own cake flour.  If you're ever in this sort of predicament, making your own cake flour is very simple.  All you have to do is remove two tablespoons of all purpose flour for every cup that you need, and then replace that flour with two tablespoons of cornstarch.  Sift the flour-cornstarch mix about five times, so that it gets really well aerated, and there you have it!  This DIY cake flour that I had to resort to using actually worked very well in the cake, as it still came out with a very lovely light and fluffy texture, but hopefully you guys will do a better job than I did about actually reading the recipe ingredients than I did, and will save yourselves the trouble by making sure to have actual cake flour on hand.  But back to the striping, which is what I had been meaning to talk about before going off on a tangent about cake flour.  The technique is really simple- if you can use an ice cream scoop to scoop ice cream or cookies, you can scoop out cake batter and make this cake.  That's really all it is!  It's just a matter of alternating between the vanilla and chocolate cake batters, and layering scoops of each on top of each other.  The weight of the batters (and a little shimmying of the Bundt pan) will help the cake batters distribute in the pan and will form those irregular, thick bands of cake that I just love.  I imagine that using this technique in a regular cake pan, with the vanilla cake dyed in different colors would be an interesting twist to holiday cakes! 

Once the cake has been scooped into the pan, it gets baked and that's it!  The version on Bakers Royale had a chocolate ganache poured over the cake, but being that this cake was made especially for my dad, I figured he would much prefer a simple dusting of powdered sugar for a little extra sweetness followed by a dusting of cocoa powder to cancel out the powdered sugar.  Had this cake been for me, you know I would have loved to use powdered sugar and then pour a thick layer of ganache over the top, but, I'll admit that my dad's simpler, less rich version was just as good.  He must have thought so too, because after a few days, the Bundt cake had been completely devoured!  I guess pound cake really is the best thing to give my dad as a gift (aside from perhaps a loaf of crusty homemade bread, but that'll be saved for another day!).  Happy Father's Day to all the awesome dads out there!

Zebra Buttermilk Pound Cake
recipe adapted from Alton Brown and inspired by Bakers Royale


12 ounces (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 pound cake flour
1 pound granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature (I used lowfat because it was what I had on hand, whole will work as well!)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
6 tablespoons water


Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour a 10-cup Bundt pan with nonstick baking spray.  

In the bowl of a standard electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar minus half a cup (you'll be using this half cup of sugar later on!) on medium speed for 6 minutes so the butter gets nice and fluffy.  With the mixer running on its lowest speed, add the eggs, one at time, making sure that each egg is fully mixed in before adding the next.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Add the vanilla and salt, and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. With the mixer running on its lowest speed, add the cake flour, alternating with the buttermilk, in three additions, making sure to begin and end with the flour, and that each flour addition has been incorporated before adding the next.  After the last third of the flour has been added, beat the batter for an additional 30 seconds on medium speed, until it is almost smooth. 

In a medium bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, cocoa powder, and water.  Whisk until smooth.  Scoop out 2 generous cups of the cake batter and add it to the cocoa mixture, stirring until fully combined.

To create the zebra effect, begin by using an ice cream scoop to pour two scoops of the vanilla batter into the prepared Bundt pan.  Then, add one scoop of the chocolate batter (I actually did two scoops of chocolate using a cookie scoop to prevent extra streaking, but in retrospect, I don't think anyone would notice additional streaking that would come from using a single scoop!) directly on top of the vanilla batter.  Continue to alternate between the vanilla and chocolate cake batters until all the batter is used up and the Bundt pan is full.  The batter should naturally spread and fill the Bundt pan, but you might have to do a little pan tapping and pan shimmy-ing to help coax the batter to distribute in the pan, but I promise, this will work!

Bake the cake for about an hour and 10 minutes.  The crust will be golden brown (or the vanilla parts will be, at least!), and should spring back when lightly touched.  The crack around the center ring should appear moist, and a toothpick, when inserted into the cake, should come out clean.  Allow the cake to cool on a cooling rack, still inside the Bundt pan, for about 15 minutes, before removing the cake and allowing it to cool completely on the wire rack.  Dust with powdered sugar and cocoa powder, slice, and enjoy!

Makes 1 Bundt cake


  1. Hi! Your recipe looks delicious! I'd love to try it but I'm a little nervous about the conversions... Checking online, I get 4 1/2 cups for 1 pound of cake flour and 2 1/3 cups for 1 pound of granulatd sugar. Are those the quantites you used? I'd really like you input, thanks!

    1. Hi there, so sorry for not getting back to you sooner. I typically don't convert from weight to volume when I'm baking, because I find the quantities will always vary. If a recipe is given with the ingredients measured by weight, I measure the ingredients by weight. As long as you weigh the ingredients out with a scale, the recipe will work out just fine! Baking is always much more accurate when the ingredients are weighed, rather than scooped into measuring cups. Hope that helps!

  2. When you do the batter alternating you begin with two scoops of vanilla, then one scoop chocolate. For the next repeats is it always 2 scoops vanilla to 1 scoop chocolate? Is the ratio 2:1..


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