Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Neapolitan pound cake

It's been a long time between cakes. Don't get me wrong - I've been eating them just not making them as I've been away from my oven and busy with work. But I had a birthday last week. I don't know what's happening, but as I get older, my taste in birthday cake seems to be regressing. This year, and last, my cake of choice has been this Neapolitan pound cake - basically a marble cake of vanilla, chocolate and well... pink. It's an Ottolenghi recipe so it's a little bit adult I suppose but there's nothing terribly mature about something smothered in pink drippy icing. But maybe that's the point. I made it for the first time last year to take on a houseboat called Wallamba so my friends who shared that adventure with me - and this year's smaller scale south coast celebration - now refer to it as Wallamba cake, which seems perfect as birthday cake should be whatever you want it to be. And certainly not second-guessed.

Neapolitan pound cake (aka Wallamba cake)
Recipe adapted from Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh

When making the chocolate portion of the batter, next time I would try using a little more milk to dilute the cocoa as both times I've made it the mixture didn't blend smoothly. You could also try mixing in the cocoa dry, then adding the milk to the vanilla cake mixture. If you do it this way don't be tempted to skip the milk as the batter will need that bit of extra moisture to soak up the cocoa.

90ml full-fat milk, at room temperature plus an extra 20ml (or more - see notes on recipe above) for the cocoa paste
6 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla extract
200g self-rising flour
100g plain flour, plus extra for greasing
1/2 tsp salt
300g caster sugar
300g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing 
2 tbsp cocoa
a drop or two of pink food colouring

45ml full-fat milk, warmed
260g icing sugar
30g unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
a drop or two of pink food colouring

Preheat oven to 200 deg C. Grease and flour a 23cm bundt tin and set aside.

For the cake: 

Whisk together milk, eggs and vanilla in a medium bowl. Put the flours, salt and sugar into a bowl of a stand mixer and toss to combine or mix on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and half the egg mixture and mix til the dry ingredients are incorporated. Increase the speed to medium and beat for one minute. Add the remaining egg mixture in two batches, making sure the first is fully incorporated before adding the second. Divide this batter equally between three small bowls.

Combine cocoa with warm milk to make a paste, then stir into one of the bowls of batter til mixture is chocolatey and set aside. To another of the bowls of batter, add the pink food colouring - just a drop at a time, mixing well after each, til it's the colour you want. The last batter is fine just as it is.

Dollop the batter into the bundt tin in six alternate blocks, two of each colour, then take a knife or skewer and run it through in a zig zag pattern so that one colour runs into the next. Don't overdo this or you'll end up with a mess - just once or twice through is fine.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool in tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. If the cake has risen in the oven unevenly you may need to slice a bit off the bottom so it sits flat. 

For icing: 

Mix icing sugar and warm milk in a mixing bowl, then add the butter and vanilla and whisk til smooth, then tint with food colouring til it's your desired level of pink.


  1. Yum!!!! And happy birthday Alice 😍

  2. Looks fabulous and yes Happy Birthday!

  3. I love this cake from Sweet! It's such a great celebration cake :)

  4. Hello,
    I thought this post was wonderful. I have always loved marble cake with the gorgeous pink, vanilla and chocolate swirls. I have tried a vast number of recipes but always disappointed as they were too dry, dense or just not what I remember them to be from childhood.
    What is the texture of this recipe? Based on the ingredients it looks to be more of a butter cake and therefore more dense.
    I suppose I am looking for a lighter fluffier cake so any help or advice will be greatly appreciated.
    Regards from Brisbane,

    1. Hi Angela
      Glad you liked the post! You're right - the texture of the cake is quite dense. If you're looking for a lighter cake the Chocolate Midnight Cake on my blog is wonderful. It's an oil based cake so maybe that makes a difference. Otherwise, I'd totally recommend having a look through the cake archives of Smitten Kitchen.