Chocolate Pound Cake

Chocolate Pound Cake FinishedYou will be needing some Christmas cake, I suppose. Someone should bring cake. This is one of my favorite family recipes. My mother made it for our big family gatherings at my grandparents’ house for years and years. It is a memory cake for me.

This year I was in charge of desserts for Thanksgiving so I decided to strike up the band one more time and bake the things that I loved from my childhood, namely this cake and chocolate brownies (without pecans because in my kid life I wouldn’t eat them and this is a kid-intensive gathering). You see, I was able to go home to Wichita Falls and celebrate Thanksgiving at my grandma’s house, where my Aunt Joyce and Uncle Pete Gill now live. This is the first big gathering I’ve made in a few years and it was the wonderful, love-filled, extremely casual, joyful day of smiles that it always was. We used to live right next door to my grandparents on Lake Wichita. The morning of Thanksgiving or Christmas my mom would start the day by sending my brother and me next door to deliver copious amounts of baked goods to my grandma’s house. Grandma Katie would put down a cloth over the washer and dryer and that became the dessert table. And it was always jam packed with cakes and pies and cookies and candy.

Cake at Grandma's

Desserts at Joyce’s house and My Grandma’s piano, still with the tape she put on the keys to teach her grandkids.

We did it exactly the same this year. And, because no one is fussing over linens and china or pulling any holiday control dramas (you people know who you are), we are all able to mill about and visit, chase kids, drink tea, or beer, laugh, eat a plate filled with turkey (smoked turkey by cousin Jeff Bowles) and brisket (smoked by Uncle Harry) and deviled eggs and green beans and corn, and salad, and a million other things. Because everybody brings something. Everyone show up with something and a smile.

Family Football

Football at the lake.

This year, I really saw for the first time the devastating impact of the drought in Texas. Lake Wichita was flat out empty. Docks were on dry land and the parched ground was covered in the mussel shells we used to collect like treasures. But all that meant to us on this particular day was that we had a really great football field. While the Cowboys did what the Cowboys do, we all had a major all-age, no rules in particular, hug-tackle football game in the dry lake bed. Generally speaking, the under-12 set scored all the touchdowns. The old people (I include myself in this) ran every trick play and cheat in the book. And it was more fun than you can possibly imagine. My cowboy boots are finally officially broken in from running Richard’s slant plays in the dusty bed of Lake Wichita. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. And the Kennedy’s in their Hyannis Port breezy casual finery ain’t got nothin’ on this happily extended family of Carlsons in Wichita Falls. By the way, my Aunt Joyce can still twirl a baton like a high school majorette.

Here for you is the cake we ate before and after the football game.

Chocolate Pound Cake Ingredients

Chocolate Pound Cake
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 16
A family favorite! I hope your family loves it as much as mine.
  • ¾ pound unsalted butter (3 sticks), softened
  • 625 g granulated sugar (approximately 3 cups)
  • 5 eggs, room temperature
  • 325 g all-purpose flour (approximately 3 cups)
  • 50 g cocoa (approximately ½ cup)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup whole milk
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, approximately 4 minutes.
  3. While the butter and sugar are mixing, prepare a 10" x 4" tube pan by buttering it thoroughly and coating the edges with flour (or cocoa, to avoid a white film on the cake). In a small bowl, combine the flour and cocoa. Sift the flour and cocoa and then add the salt and baking powder. Set aside.
  4. Crack the eggs into a large measuring glass. Add the eggs to the butter mixture, one at a time. Beat to fully incorporate each egg before adding the next. Add the vanilla.
  5. Reduce the speed on the mixer to a low setting. Add one third of the flour mixture and mix to combine. Add one half of the milk and mix to combine. Repeat, adding one third of the flour, the remaining milk, and then the remaining flour. Mix briefly to combine.
  6. Spoon the batter into the prepared tube pan. Bake for 1 hour, ten minutes. Test for doneness with a toothpick. Bake up to an additional ten minutes. Do not over-bake. Allow the cake to rest for 10 minutes and then turn it out onto a cake plate.
  7. Cool completely. May be served with a sprinkling of confectioner’s sugar.

Chocolate Pound Cake Mixing

Mea Culpa: an earlier version of this post listed “3 CUPS” of butter. The proper amount is 3 sticks, not 3 CUPS!! So, ¾ pound (3 sticks), not 3 cups! I am so sorry. Though, the several honest friends I have who baked it rather liked the “super butter” version…so hopefully I didn’t cause any major disasters. You all keep me honest!!

Chocolate Pound Cake BakingDoneness: This is a family recipe. It was originally the recipe of one Di Allison, an old medical school buddy of my parents. And though my mom hasn’t seen her since before I was even born, my mom has been making this cake for YEARS for family gatherings such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. Isn’t it funny how a recipe handwritten on a card can be a living thing, and work its way into the fabric of your memories? My undying gratitude goes to Mrs. Allison, someone I’ve never met but with whom I have celebrated and baked for years. The best thing about this cake is that it clearly bakes from the bottom up. This means that the last part to be baked is the part you will be testing with a toothpick, and it’s the part that ends up on the bottom when you flip the cake. Note the cardboard circle used for flipping perfection, compliments of my mother, the kitchen engineer.

I intentionally under-bake this cake, because when you turn it out of the pan, there is about an inch of semi-fudgy cake at the bottom of each slice…and it is the best part. So don’t wait until you get a perfectly dry toothpick. If you do, you will have a dry cake and no fudgy bit. If you are seeking cake perfection, this might not sound like a good plan. I get that. But this is “my” family recipe and I like it exactly this way and I’m not about to alter it, though I can admit that years ago I changed it to all butter from an original plan of half shortening and half butter. The shortening method leads to a cake slightly more perfect in appearance, but the butter version tastes better to me. And, I’m rarely unapologetic… but, as I mentioned, this is a family cake. This is the way we like it. I didn’t purdy it up for public consumption. If it tasted or looked any different it wouldn’t be our chocolate pound cake.

Family Football Richard and Lily

Lily getting “tackled” by Uncle Rick.

And, while I’m feeling nostalgic, I’d like to introduce you to my aunts and uncles. This is the original bunch of Carlson kids; these are the people who have had a larger impact on my life than anyone. Still today, they are my spine and my heart. Just seeing them all together is a joy. We cousins who they kept so close are a lucky brood, and now our own children are part of the fun. And while Katie and Virgil, my grandparents, are now gone, we are all walking, running and jumping with the love that they instilled in us. These are my people.

IMG_7965 3

Don, Joyce, Jane, Harry, Carol (Mom), Richard, and Betty. A.K.A. The Carlson Kids


  1. Barbi Norton says

    Kelly -

    Looks like you had a wonderful and yummy Thanksgiving! Loved reading about your family gathering and great photos! This cake looks so good, may have to include it in my Christmas baking.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family!


  2. Joey says

    Good times! What a wonderful day and a wonderful tribute you have written. We are truly blessed to have one another, and the legacy that Katie and Virgil left behind was definitely present that day. Make lemonade out of lemons…make a football field out of a dry dusty lake bed! Love is love, no matter how dry the field, or how sour the lemons. I love you. Merry Christmas!

  3. Joey says

    P.S. Marty actually cracked his ribs landing that epic pass from Uncle Richard! Trip to the Internist, $150…seeing Ford’s end zone, touchdown Irish jig…priceless!

  4. Kelly says

    I love you, Joey. And the greatest thing is that aside from all of the “originals”, so to speak, we have all brought great spouses and friends to the fun. That was the epitome of joy. A great day!

  5. Diane G. says

    If it weren’t for Facebook, I would have no relationships with any of my family. I haven’t seen my cousins or 1 remaining aunt in over 30 years. I haven’t seen my brother since my dad passed away, 3 years ago. All our parents are gone, now. We do see some of my husband’s family and our family is always included in their festivities..(because we are fun

  6. Anne Mullen says

    Families are great, no matter how… whatever… they are, and your Thanksgiving story is wonderful. I loved seeing you and meeting Meaders the other day. Best of Christmas wishes to you and all your family. Best, Anne

  7. Angie Bain Bailey says

    Merry Christmas to you all from your Iowa family. Please tell everyone hello and it was great to see everyone in your pictures. I am so sad to hear the lake has dried up. I have great memories of a summer trip to the cabin to see you all about 35 years ago and playing with all my Texas cousins. I remember the mussels you mentioned in your article and asking Uncle Virgil to open them for us as he told us they may just have a pearl in them. What great memories! Take care!!

  8. Kelly says

    Angie, so great to hear from you. I promise it isn’t all dried up…just mostly. It’ll come back! Thankfully, the memories always come back too. Merry Christmas to the Iowans!

  9. Bebe says

    Thank you, Kelly, for your wonderful-sounding family recipe. And for your special tips about how you like YOUR cake! I have usually overbaked pound cake so will opt for your slight underbaking technique.

    Three chears for your attitude toward family recipes and the alteration of same to meet different tastes, food proclivities, allergies, PC preferences, etc., etc., etc. I am stunned when I see wonderful recipes for cakes posted and then the commenters go to work trying to substitute almost every ingredient and generally dismantle the original (tested) recipe. Makes me crazy! Mot don’t understand that baking (especially cakes) is as much science as art and fooling around with the ingredients and techniques courts disaster.

    Merry Christmas!

  10. Karen Mertens says

    I made this for Christmas Eve and it is delicious. It is so moist and just the right amount of chocolate. I will make this again for sure. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and your family.

  11. Dalnapen says


    I’m just now catching up on your blog and wanted to tell you I LOVED this post–especially as it began “You will be needing some Christmas cake, I suppose…” Thanks for sharing. You reader feels almost as if they were intruding on a family gathering. Thanks also (and here comes the confessorial reason for my comment) for the the gentle and subtle warning against the foodie perfectionists who make family holidays less fun. I truly wasn’t this way before for long years–I promise! But I find it creeping in after my mom’s death; somehow I can’t get myself quite right without her. I think in missing her SO much, I put extra effort in trying to make sure everyone has a perfect time, which I think sometimes makes me a perfect buzzkill. But I’m working on it! Just wish I was knee deep in dried lake mud and dust with a happy and sweaty family around. My aim is to relax and let it rip and I appreciate the Carlson’s Family good example!


  1. […] The drought is on my mind and my mother and my Aunt Betty are both turning their lives upside down to challenge themselves to save and re-use water when they can. I’m in! There is a bowl in the sink at all times to collect veggie rinsing water, for instance. No running the water when you brush. Hand watering plants. Once one makes it into a personal challenge, it is actually quite fun. This is something we ALL need to do. Eliminating the long hot shower will be my crucible though. My hometown of Wichita Falls published this great list of 100 Ways to Save Water, in case you need some ideas of ways to get started. The local paper, The Times Record News, is daily publishing on the front page a reader tip about how to save water. We all need to do this. I showed you the photos of the lake where I used to live. We were playing football in the lake bed. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title="" rel=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>