Cocoa-Marzipan Pound Cake For the Ages

Cocoa-marzipan pound cake to wind down the year with.

I’m not ready for Christmas nor for the end of 2009.

But I’m ready for cake.

Is it me or has this year just raced by at hyperspeed?

It feels like it should be May or July at the very latest, not December, for gosh sakes.

I remember how when I was little, summer dragged on forever — but in a good way, of course. Now, hours and days zoom by, and before I know it, I’m planted squarely on a new calendar page, wondering how I got there and how the dates have already filled up so fast when I’ve barely taken a breath.

It may be a cliche that “Time flies when you get older.” But I’m feeling the years when I think 2009 is almost over — day by day disappearing, just like that, with nothing I can do about it.

That’s why I need cake.

The recipe makes enough to share.

To be sure, cake is always welcome. At least in my world.

With one forkful, it recalls the past with candles, frosting, party hats and chirpy, sing-song wishes. And it beckons the future with its sweet promises of good tidings to come.

Cake makes time stand still, at least for a moment, as we sink our teeth into something airy, festive and special that makes everything else around us disappear.

I can’t stop 2009 from coming to a close all too soon.

But I can give you cake that will make time slow to a welcome crawl long enough for you enjoy a nice, thick slice.

”Cocoa-Marzipan Pound Cake” is such a cake. It’s by esteemed pastry chef and blogger, David Lebovitz, and it’s from his book, “The Great Book of Chocolate” (Ten Speed Press).

It contains one of my all-time favorite baking ingredients: almond paste, which gives it a lightness and delicacy not found in most denser pound cakes.

Look at the color of this cocoa powder.

It also contains one of my new favorite ingredients: E. Guittard Cocoa Rouge. You can use any unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder in this cake. But when I spied this so-called rare red cocoa powder at Sur La Table, I just had to fork over $8 for the 8-ounce can to take it home to play around with.

The color is an almost burgundy-brown. And it does lend a deep fudge-like flavor to baked goods.

The batter is generous enough to fill two loaf pans. Each gets a generous sprinkle of sliced almonds on top before baking. Be sure not to over-bake or else you may end up with a dry crumb.

Some of the almonds will fall off when you invert the baked cakes, then turn them right-side up again on serving platters. But no worries, the pound cakes will still be quite decked out in them and emerge quite prettily.

The cake is tender, chocolate-y, infused with almond essence, and crowned with a lively crunchy top.

Don’t lament the inevitable passing of time. Just have cake instead.

Cocoa-Marzipan Pound Cake

(makes two 8 1/2-inch loaf cakes, about 16 servings)

3/4 cup (7 ounces) almond paste

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

4 large eggs at room temperature

1/2 cup milk

2/3 cup sliced almonds (optional)

Butter two 8 1/2 inch loaf pans and dust with flour, tapping out excess. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat almond paste, sugar, and almond extract until almond paste is broken up into very fine pieces.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt.

Add butter to almond paste mixture and beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Stir in half of the dry ingredients, then the milk. Then mix in the remaining dry ingredients.

Divide batter between loaf pans and smooth tops of the cakes.

Evenly sprinkle tops with sliced almonds. Bake cakes for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool completely on a wire rack before inverting and turning cakes right-side up onto serving platters.

Note: Once you remove cakes from loaf pans, wrap them in plastic wrap overnight to allow flavors to meld. These cakes will keep up to 3 days at room temperature, or if double-wrapped, can be frozen for up to 1 month.

From “The Great Book of Chocolate” by David Lebovitz

More: Almond paste also stars in Italian Macaroons

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  • Haha same same – slow down time, but bring on the cake! πŸ˜€

  • Mmmm… I can almost taste it!

  • As always Carolyn, yum. I have to say I have always had an aversion for Marzipan stemming back to when I was a child and my Italian great grandmother always had those marzipan fruit-shaped candies around. Perhaps I should stop being so closed minded and give it another chance.

  • I’m not sure where 2009 has gone… but I do know where I’m going! To Sur La Table to pick up a decadent can of Cocoa Rouge. No doubt it has the power to slow, if not stop time.

  • Wow, that looks almost like fudge with that deep rich chocolate color. It looks so beautiful with the almond flakes.

  • Carolyn, I found some cocktail napkins at Sur La Table that read something like this: Some problems can be resolved with kindness, some even with humor, but some just require cake!

  • Claudette: Oh my gawd! Those napkins are soooo cute. I must get some of those! πŸ˜‰

  • awesome looking cake. I will have to try this one day. Thanks for sharing.

  • Uh, Ok. I need to make this tonight.

  • O.

    That photograph of rich, burgundy-colored cocoa is like a SIREN SONG calling to me! I long for that cocoa and now, I would swear that in Day 2 of my new nutritition regime, YOU POST THIS CAKE??? ARRGGHHH!!! I can’t stand it! It’s too gorgeous! I don’t even like chocolate cake and I want to make this and take a headlong dive into the pan, mouth-first!

    Gorgeous post, truly! I’ll make it for… Christmas?

  • How did I miss this recipe? I love that book! Thanks for pointing me to it, it looks divine.

  • I could just bite the computer screen of that first photograph! It looks so scrumptious! πŸ™‚

  • Oh, yum. I knew when I saw the title on my RSS feed that I’d be hungry pretty much as soon as I clicked.

    Haven’t tried that cocoa powder but I will put in a mention of the best cocoa I’ve ever found — Callebaut, the cocoa that won the top ranking in a Cook’s Illustrated’s test. It is hard to find. I bought it by mail from Chocosphere. Ugly website but their service was great. $25 for a 2.2 lb (1 kg) bag.

    And I’ll also mention that my “research” (hard work, being a foodie!!) came when I was optimizing a recipe for chocolate syrup. Trust me: Make your own. Makes the regular brown squeeze-bottle grocery store stuff seem like brown glue. Recipe and so forth:

    Oh, I so need some chocolate right now.

  • Marti: There is NO way one can start a new nutrition regime at this time of year. It’s impossible! Don’t even try. Wait until after the new year. And enjoy the cocoa-marzipan pound cake now instead. πŸ˜‰

    Heck, I’m fighting a cold and just ate three pieces of See’s candies. But one must feed a cold, right? Uh, that is the saying, isn’t it? If not, I could be in trouble….

  • I think I just have to make this! Even if I have to get my hands on some almond paste! I love the deep dark rich colour!

  • My favorite posts of yours are the ones where you reflect on life using food and food memories – I can truly relate because all of my fondest memories in life are somehow tied in to some type of food, especially cake! Love your blog =)

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  • This sounds like an amazing cake! And I agree, cake does slow things down a bit, at least for a moment… πŸ™‚

  • I’m always ready for this type of cake, no matter the time of the year πŸ™‚ Who cares the time with this chocolate sweetness?



  • chocolate and almonds on top – I’m sold! Excellent cake!

  • Carolyn,
    Would you mind telling me how much 3/4 cup of almond paste weigh?
    Thank you.

  • Hi Tuty: It is 7 ounces of almond paste.

  • I think a run to Sur La Table for the red cocoa powder is in store!

  • Oh my, that sounds spectacular – I will have to make this as soon as I unpack my kitchen. I’ll really need a slice at that point.

  • Wow, I love marzipan and dark chocolate – this looks really delicious. And yeah, I totally agree with you about time flying. It’s incredible how quickly it flies the older we get!

  • your cake looks lovely. the cocoa looks divine! would love to try it.

  • omigod. i want it now!

  • Thank you for sharing this recipe. I too love the Guittard Cocoa Rouge, and I will definitely be using it in this cake!

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  • Have you ever tried baking it in a pound cake mold? I’d like to try the recipe in my new mold, and could eye-ball it with cook time I suppose, but would appreciate any direction you can offer.

    Thanks in advance!

  • Hungry Hippo: I have not baked it in that type of mold. But you could try it, and check it maybe at 35-40 minutes to see if it’s baked through yet.

  • Looks divine, at what point do you sprinkle the sliced almonds on top?

  • Artemis: The almonds are sprinkled on top just before you put the cake in the oven.

  • Anyone who has actually made this cake and can give some honest feedback?

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