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Martha Stewart Dishes on Her Top Baking Tips for the Holidays

When a cookbook comes along that makes you want to try pretty much every recipe — as soon as possible — you know it’s a keeper.

Martha Stewart’s Cakes is just such a book. Stunningly photographed, with an array of mouthwatering recipes, this book is just what you would expect from Martha.

But what I really love about it is how clear, accessible, and thorough the recipes are. From the helpful baking tips to how to make the pretty garnishes, and even gift-wrapping ideas, this is one of the most complete cake books I’ve ever come across.

Martha recently took the time to answer my questions about her newest book!

There are so many dessert recipe books out there. What makes this one unique?
Not only do we provide 150 of our favorite, fool-proof recipes, layer cakes, cheesecakes, mini bundts, and loaves, but we also offer special techniques and tips. We have pages upon pages in the back that offer tips and step-by-step processes on leveling and splitting a cake, creating candied garnishes, rum glazes, your basic buttercream frosting, the list goes on. 

What inspired you to put it together?
We wanted to follow up on our enormously successful Cupcakes, Cookies, and Pies and Tarts books — this is the latest in that bestselling series. Although we had published a wedding cakes book, we had never put all of our best cake recipes into one book, and we wanted to make sure we included the cakes that people make again and again — bundts, pound cakes and loaves, cheesecakes, upside-down cakes, single-layer snacking cakes, coffeecakes, as well as our favorite layer cakes for birthdays and other celebrations.

The cakes you feature in this book are stunning — it’s hard to believe non-professional bakers can whip them up! Are they really as tough to make as they seem?
This book provides a basics section specifically designed for amateurs who are looking to sharpen their baking skills. It provides essential equipment and ingredients for mixing, baking, and finishing.

If you had to pick, what would be your favorite recipe from the book and why?
My favorite recipe from the book is the Lemon Meringue cake. I love anything lemon and anything meringue.

What piece of advice would you offer to cake bakers?
It’s very important to choose your ingredients wisely. It makes all the difference to use the freshest, best-quality butter, eggs, chocolate, vanilla, and spices. It’s also crucial to read the recipe all the way through before you even begin, and to have all of your ingredients pre-measured and ready. Always plan ahead.

We’re excited to whip up some of these desserts during the holidays! What’s your favorite part about that time of year?
Now with my two grandchildren Jude and Truman the holidays have become all about them. It’s a wonderful time for family to gather and enjoy being together. It’s one of the nicest and most joyous celebrations of the year. Carrying on family traditions is meaningful to me, and it’s important that I pass them on to my daughter and grandchildren.

What’s the key to putting together a great holiday dinner?
Whatever you do to create a wonderful holiday dinner, make sure you plan both the big and the little details. Write down all of the elements you need to think about: food, seating, decorations, and also the style. What will make it magical? Whatever you serve, you can make it look more festive with a little splash of color add some kumquats to a platter of ham, or pomegranate seeds to a salad.

I am not kidding when I tell you that I want to make every one of these cakes! It was hard to choose where to begin, but with the holidays approaching (and the start of my marathon baking sessions) I settled on these pretty marbled pound cakes. I love the simplicity of a good old-fashioned pound cake, and this one delivers. The recipe makes two 9 x 5 loaves but I used my mini loaf pans to make six smaller cakes: the perfect size for gift-giving. I’m sharing the recipe here, along with my own tried-and-true baking tips!

  • Marble Pound Cakes 1 of 14
    marble pound cakes

    Pound cakes are a baker's dream: a few simple ingredients, no fancy technique, and a tender, mouthwatering dessert is yours. Pound cakes freeze well too, so you can get a jump on your holiday gift list right now!

  • Prep Your Pans 2 of 14
    martha stewart, marbled pound cake, prep cake pan

    For easy and clean removal of your cakes from the pans, proper preparation is essential. Grease the bottoms and sides of the pans with either softened butter or non-stick cooking spray. Place a piece of parchment paper in the bottoms and grease again. Scoop a spoonful of flour into each pan and coat the sides and bottoms, shaking out the excess.

  • Let the Butter Reach Room Temperature 3 of 14
    martha stewart, marbled pound cake, butter and sugar

    Getting your ingredients to room temperature results in the smoothest batter. Leave the butter and eggs out for an hour for the best results.

  • Break Eggs in a Separate Bowl 4 of 14
    martha stewart, marbled pound cake, eggs

    You never want to break eggs directly into your batter — always use a separate bowl. If there's an egg that's questionable, you can discard it, and if a bit of shell breaks free, it's much easier to retrieve. I love this spouted bowl, but a liquid measuring cup works great too.

  • Cream the Butter and Sugar 5 of 14
    martha stewart, marbled pound cake, cream butter and sugar

    "Creaming" butter and sugar gives baked goods rise, texture, and structure. This is accomplished by beating air into the butter — the sugar helps to "hold in" the air. Creaming is especially important in pound cakes, which do not contain the typical leavening agents (such as baking powder) that help cakes rise in the oven.

     

    Start on low speed till the ingredients are incorporated, then increase the speed to high for about 8 minutes. The resulting mixture will be pale in color, light, and fluffy. 

     

  • "Scrape" the Bowl 6 of 14
    martha stewart, marbled pound cake, scrape the bowl

    Using a sturdy rubber spatula, push the batter from the sides of the bowl down to the bottom so that the butter/sugar mixture is all together. Your liquid ingredients will be easier to incorporate.

  • Time to Add Your Liquids 7 of 14
    martha stewart, marbled pound cake, add the vanilla

    With the mixer on medium speed, you can now add your liquid ingredients. Start with the vanilla.

  • Incorporate the Eggs Thoroughly 8 of 14
    martha stewart, marbled pound cake, add the eggs

    Next, add your eggs — a few at a time, in four batches. Be sure to scrape the bowl a few times during this step so the batter is smooth and consistent.

  • Combine Your Dry Ingredients 9 of 14
    martha stewart, marbled pound cake, combine dry ingredients

    Scoop out half of the batter into a separate bowl, and add the dry ingredients to each, creating your plain and chocolate batters.

  • Create a "Marbled" Effect 10 of 14
    martha stewart, marbled pound cake, alternate vanilla and chocolate batters

    It's easy to create a fancy-looking marbled effect. Simply drop the batters, alternating between the two, in a checkerboard pattern into your prepared pans. It doesn't have to be perfectly neat or even, as you'll be swirling them together in the next step!

  • Swirl It! 11 of 14
    martha stewart, marbled pound cake, swirl the batters

    Now you're ready to swirl! Use the tip of a small knife, and be sure not to "overswirl," so you can still see the plain and chocolate batters.

  • Cakes Are Baked! 12 of 14
    martha stewart, marbled pound cake, cool on racks

    So pretty, right? Cool completely on a wire rack and wrap well. I find the flavor and texture of pound cake improves overnight, so make these the day before you plan to serve. The pretty pattern means no additional frosting or decoration is needed!

  • Wrapped and Ready to Give! 13 of 14
    martha stewart, marbled pound cake

    Pound cakes freeze beautifully, making them the perfect do-ahead treat for holiday gift-giving. Wrapped in plastic and tied with a simple ribbon and tag, these pretty cakes will make a welcome gift to give teachers, family, and friends!

  • Pretty and Delicious! 14 of 14
    martha stewart, marbled pound cake

    These cakes are just as lovely sliced! Be sure to keep at least one for yourself, too!

Marble Pound Cakes
adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cakes

Ingredients:

2 c. unsalted butter, left out at room temperature for an hour
2 1/4 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla
9 large eggs, left out at room temperature for an hour
2 3/4 c. flour, divided
1 T. kosher salt, divided
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 350. Butter and flour two 9 x 5 loaf pans; line the bottoms with parchment paper.

With your mixer set at high speed, beat the sugar and butter for 8 minutes, till light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Reduce the speed to medium and add the vanilla. Add the eggs in 4 batches, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides. Scoop half the mixture into a medium bowl.

Mix 1 1/2 c. + 2 T. flour and 1 1/2 t. salt into half the batter; mix 1 c. + 2 T. flour, the cocoa powder and 1 1/2 t. salt into the other half. Scoop batters into the pans, 1/2 c. at a time, alternating the plain and chocolate. Swirl with the tip of a knife.

Bake until a cake tester comes out clean, about 65 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on a wire rack for 30 minutes — remove from pans to cool completely. Cakes can be served immediately or wrapped well and frozen.

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