With rich green tea swirls, my light and tender Matcha Marble Pound Cake is a delectable snack that pairs perfectly with your afternoon coffee or tea. This Japanese-style pound cake tastes even better the next day, so it‘s an ideal make-ahead recipe.
Do you have a good pound cake recipe in your repertoire that you gift to a friend or bring to a gathering? Today, I’ll show you how to make one of my favorites – Matcha Marble Pound Cake (抹茶マーブルパウンドケーキ). This Japanese pound cake is buttery, tender, and bursting with a unique green tea flavor – plus the striking emerald swirls make it feel like a luscious, special-occasion treat.
Whether you’re making it for a Sunday afternoon treat or to take to a party, this Japanese-inspired pound cake is going to be your new keeper!
Table of Contents
- What is Japanese-style Pound Cake?
- Use Matcha for Baking Sweets
- How to Choose the Best Matcha
- Where to Get Matcha
- Use Cake Flour for Japanese Pound Cake
- Tips for Making the Cake Batter
- How to Create the Marble Effect for Pound Cake
- Creating a Beautiful Crack on the Pound Cake
- How to Serve and Store the Pound Cake
- Other Matcha Recipes
What is Japanese-style Pound Cake?
There are a few key differences between a Japanese-style pound cake and a typical pound cake found in the United States.
First, the Japanese version is lighter and less buttery than its heavier and richer American counterpart. Next, a Japanese pound cake usually has a tighter crumb and firmer structure, whereas the American version has a softer crumb with a looser structure. Therefore, you’ll notice that the Japanese version slices cleanly and holds its shape well, while American pound cake tends to crumble and break apart more easily.
My recommendation is to eat it the next day for the best flavor and texture. This gives the butter time to oxidize and blend into the cake for a moister texture. It also allows the flavors to meld and improve for a stronger matcha taste.
Wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap and keep it in an airtight container at room temperature until you’re ready to serve.
Use Matcha for Baking Sweets
Unlike regular green tea, matcha (抹茶) is made from shade-grown tea leaves to prevent direct sunlight, which slows down growth and stimulates an increase in chlorophyll level, which turns the leaves into a darker shade of green. Only the most delicate tea buds are hand-picked, removing the veins and stems. The buds are then stone-ground to the fine, bright green powder.
While green tea is an infusion of tea leaves, matcha incorporates the entire leaf, resulting in a more concentrated source of nutrients and caffeine. You can read more about matcha on my site.
With its earthy and slightly bitter undertone, matcha has been used as a mainstream key flavoring in making all kinds of sweets, pastries, and baked goods in Japan. I personally love the flavor of matcha. It’s especially great in baked goods as it keeps the flavor from tasting too sweet. Another beauty of baking with matcha? The bright green hue lends to the final good that is sure to make an impression.
You Don’t Like Matcha? If you do not like matcha or do not want to use it, you can substitute it with pure cocoa powder in this recipe.
How to Choose the Best Matcha
When buying matcha powder, the first quality to look for is its color. Matcha comes in a vibrant bright green, not yellowish or brownish green. Sugar and natural flavorings should not be included in the ingredients. You should also look for the country of origin for any matcha product. And remember to check the expiration date.
As matcha should be consumed within 2-3 weeks after opening, you should get a package that contains 1 oz (30g), which is a standard matcha size in Japan. Do not buy a big bag of matcha even though it seems like a “good deal”.
There are various grades of matcha, sometimes labeled as “culinary grade” and “ceremonial grade”, which have a slightly different flavor profile. For making desserts and baking, you can go for “culinary grade” but the color of green will not be as beautiful as “ceremonial grade.”
Where to Get Matcha
- Ippodo Tea ($35) – It’s my favorite!
- Naoki Matcha ($23) – I used it in this recipe. I previously collaborated with them for giveaways on the blog and I like their matcha.
- Maeda-en ($11) – It’s decent quality for this price range!
- Japanese grocery stores: Nijiya Market, Mitsuwa Market, Marukai Market, etc
Use Cake Flour for Japanese Pound Cake
Many American recipes ask for all-purpose flour when making pound cake, but in Japan, cake flour (薄力粉) is always used to make a pound cake. It makes the pound cake extra tender.
To achieve the perfect texture for the pound cake, I used Super-Fine Unbleached Cake Flour from Bob’s Red Mill®. Because it is sifted to a very fine texture, the cake flour is fantastic for all sorts of cakes. You should be able to find this cake flour at any major grocery store. Alternatively, you can also buy it on Amazon.
Tips for Making the Cake Batter
These three tips are important to make sure that the pound cake rises properly and the cake won’t end up with a tough texture.
- Use room-temperature butter and eggs to ensure maximum volume. Allow the butter to sit out on the counter for about 1-2 hours before beginning your recipe. Cold ingredients do not emulsify together. Partially melted butter won’t cream properly. If you forget to take out the eggs from the refrigerator ahead of time, you can submerge the cold eggs in warm (body temperature) water for 10 minutes.
- Cream the butter and sugar mixture until very light and fluffy for a smooth velvety texture. Beat on medium-high to high-speed settings for anywhere from 3 to 7 minutes, depending on a mixer type or hand-held. The sharp sugar grains cut through the butter and create tiny air pockets that aerate the batter and cause leavening. The mixture should be creamy but grainy.
- To avoid a curdled mixture, gradually add a very small amount (1 tablespoon) of the beaten eggs to the creamed butter and beat well after each addition. The eggs contain water, and the yolks and the butter are fats. Remember, oil and water will not mix without an emulsifier (in this case, the yolks), which suspends fat molecules in water making a smooth mixture. If there is a slightly curdled appearance to the batter after adding the eggs, don’t worry. The emulsification is usually complete enough that the batter will become smooth. The addition of flour helps as it absorbs some of the excess water.
- Don’t overmix the batter once you’ve added in the flour. Once the flour has been added, gluten bonds will start to form and if you mix the batter too much your cake will end up dense, tough, or deflated.
- Fold the batter by hand with a large spatula. Folding is a way of mixing together two ingredients with different densities. Folding helps preserve the lightness and structure of the mixture.
How to Create the Marble Effect for Pound Cake
There are two ways to make a marble effect:
- Make the swirl with the green and yellow batter inside the cake pan.
- Make the swirl with the green and yellow batter in the bowl and then transfer it to the cake pan.
I personally prefer the second method because I can see how the two colors are combined before pouring into the pan. With this approach, I feel that the swirls look more dynamic and you can control the balance of the colors.
Creating a Beautiful Crack on the Pound Cake
Did you know the pound cake is supposed to crack on the top? Pound cakes are denser than most cakes. The exterior of the cake starts to bake first in the oven, and as the heat that is released from the still-baking batter reaches the center of the cake, it needs to expand through the top of the cake since all sides have set. So a pound cake is defined by the crack which gives it a rustic appearance. However, the crack doesn’t usually appear perfectly centered in the cake.
If you wish to achieve a perfectly cracked pound cake where the rupture sets right in the middle, there are two tricks you can do:
Trick 1: After 12-15 minutes of baking, insert a knife into the top of the cake batter in the pan and score a straight line. Do it quickly so you won’t lose the oven heat.
Trick 2: Before putting the cake pan into the oven, cut a very thin strip of cold butter and lay it on top of the cake batter. Or put softened butter into a plastic bag and squeeze it out from a small tip to create a line on the cake batter.
See this image if you need a visual guide. I use Trick 1 as it’s easy to do, but both tricks work beautifully. Since pound cakes are supposed to crack, it’s nice to know how to control the cracking so you get the best-looking pound cake possible.
How to Serve and Store the Pound Cake
Once it’s cool, you can slice and serve the Matcha Marble Pound Cake, if you wish. However, I strongly recommend serving it the next day (and up to 3 days after baking).
This gives the butter time to oxidize and blend into the cake, resulting in a moister texture and allowing the flavors to meld and improve for a deeper matcha taste.
To store, tightly wrap the cake and keep it in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to serve. Refrigerating the cake extends its shelf life, but it also alters the fresh texture and flavor of the cake. The pound cake will remain fresh and delicious for about 3-4 days at room temperature.
Other Matcha Recipes
I hope you enjoy this Matcha Marble Pound Cake recipe as much as my family does! It also makes the most gorgeous edible gift if you are thinking of making someone smile today.
Matcha Marble Pound Cake
- 5.6 oz unsalted butter (1½ sticks, 12 Tbsp; at room temperature)
- 160 g sugar (¾ cup + 2 tsp)
- 4 large eggs (50 g each w/o shell)
- 200 g cake flour (1⅔ cups; weigh your flour or use the “fluff and sprinkle“ method and level it off)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- ¼ cup milk
- 3 Tbsp matcha (green tea powder) (1 Tbsp matcha is 6 g)
Before You Start…
- While you can serve this pound cake the same day you bake it, I strongly recommend that you serve it 1–3 days after baking. The cake will become moister and the flavors will improve. See To Serve below for details.
- Gather all the ingredients. It‘s important that the butter, eggs, and milk are all at room temperature. I highly encourage you to weigh your ingredients using a kitchen scale for this recipe. Click on the “Metric“ button at the top of the recipe to convert the ingredient measurements to metric. If you‘re using a cup measurement, please follow the “fluff and sprinkle“ method: Fluff your flour with a spoon, sprinkle the flour into your measuring cup, and level it off. Otherwise, you may scoop more flour than you need.
- Center a rack in the oven. Turn on the oven to 350ºF (180ºC) and preheat it well; when the cake pan goes in the oven later, you will lower the temperature to 340ºF (170ºC). For a convection oven, reduce the cooking temperature by 25ºF (15ºC). Tip: I strongly encourage you to check your oven‘s temperature with an oven thermometer, as the actual temperature inside may differ from the display setting.Use the residual butter on the butter wrapper to grease the pan (8½ x 4½ x 2¾ inches). Then, place the parchment paper inside the pan (the paper will stick to the butter). Tip: I recommend using a light-colored pan for this recipe; your cake may bake faster if you use a dark-colored pan.
To Make the Batter
- Put the 5.6 oz unsalted butter (12 Tbsp; at room temperature) in a large bowl. Use an electric hand mixer (or stand mixer) to beat it on medium speed until it is light and fluffy, about 1–2 minutes. The butter will be pale in color and have lots of little tails forming around the beaters. Tip: This process adds air to the mixture and is crucial for a light and delicate cake texture.
- Add 160 g sugar (¾ cup + 2 tsp) to the whipped butter. Cream the butter and sugar thoroughly on medium (not high) speed, about 5 minutes, until it is light and fluffy. The color is pale and the sugar is completely dissolved. Tip: The sharp sugar grains cut through the butter and create the tiny air pockets that aerate the batter and cause leavening. This process is very important for the light and delicate texture of the pound cake.
- Crack 4 large eggs (50 g each w/o shell) in a small bowl and whisk well.
- Add the beaten eggs, 1 Tbsp at a time, to the butter mixture and beat well after each addition. Repeat until all the egg is incorporated. IMPORTANT: You must add and blend only a very small amount of egg at a time to achieve a smooth mixture (not a curdled mixture). Tip: The eggs contain water, while the yolks and the butter contain fats. Remember, oil and water will not mix without an emulsifier (in this case, the yolks) that suspends fat molecules in water to make a smooth mixture.
- If there is a slightly curdled appearance to the batter after adding the eggs, don’t worry. The emulsification is usually complete enough that the batter will become smooth when you add the flour. The flour helps to absorb some of the excess water, too.
- Next, add the dry ingredients in three stages. Put 200 g cake flour (1⅔ cups), 1 tsp baking powder, and ¼ tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt in a fine-mesh sieve. Sift one-third of these dry ingredients into the bowl of the egg mixture. Switch to a silicone spatula (or use a mixer on the lowest speed) and fold the mixture by hand so you can scrape the bottom of the bowl to get any dry pockets of flour.
- Now, add another one-third of the dry ingredients and fold again.
- Finally, stir in the remaining dry ingredients. Fold it just until the batter is smooth. Tip: Even though we are using a low-protein cake flour, excess mixing will develop the gluten and the cake will rise nicely in the oven, then sink as soon as you pull it out. A sunken cake has a tougher crumb with dense, moist, and gluey streaks.
To Incorporate the Matcha
- Next, make a paste with the matcha: Heat ¼ cup milk in a microwave or saucepan until warm (roughly body temperature). Gradually add the milk, 1 Tbsp at a time, to 3 Tbsp matcha (green tea powder) in a medium bowl. Whisk well until combined. Optionally, you can sift the matcha in a fine-mesh sieve first before mixing with the warm milk. Tip: Warm liquid is easier to blend with matcha.
- Add one-third of the batter to the bowl with the matcha paste.
- Use a silicone spatula to fold the batter into the matcha paste just until the it's smooth and homogenous. Do not overmix.
- Now, combine the green and yellow batters to create a marbled pattern. Add the matcha batter to the original yellow batter in 6–8 separate dollops scattered around the bowl. To swirl the two batters, use a silicone spatula to scoop the batter from the bottom of the bowl and fold it onto itself while rotating the bowl a quarter turn. Repeat this two more times only.
- Pour the batter into the pan without mixing the batter, keeping the swirl effect. Tap the cake pan on the countertop once to release an air pockets.
- Using an offset spatula, smooth out the surface of the batter without mixing too much.
- Put the cake pan in the oven. Lower the oven temperature to 340ºF (170ºC) and bake for 50–60 minutes. Tip: Every oven is different, and your cake may be done in less than 50 minutes, so I recommend that you start testing for doneness several minutes before the baking time is up. If you‘re using a dark-colored pan, the cake may bake faster and your baking time could be shorter by 5–10 minutes or more.
- After 15 minutes of baking, open the oven and quickly score the top of the cake with a sharp knife. (Please read the blog post about why we do this). Continue to bake, monitoring the oven to maintain a temperature of 340ºF (170ºC).
- The cake is done when a wooden skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Tip: To prevent overbaking, start checking if the cake is done several minutes before the baking time is complete.
- Remove from the oven and allow the cake to rest in the pan for 15 minutes on a wire rack. Then, take the cake out of the pan to cool completely.
- Once it’s cool, you can slice and serve the Matcha Marble Pound Cake, if you wish. However, I strongly recommend serving it the next day (and up to 3 days after baking). This gives the butter time to oxidize and blend into the cake, resulting in a moister texture and allowing the flavors to meld and improve for a deeper matcha taste. Tightly wrap the cake and keep it in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to serve.
- You‘ll notice some differences between this Japanese-style pound cake and a typical American pound cake. The Japanese version is lighter and less buttery than its heavier and richer American counterpart. Also, a Japanese pound cake will have a tighter crumb and firmer structure. Finally, the Japanese version will slice cleanly and hold its shape well, whereas an American pound cake is softer and will crumble and break apart more easily.
- Store the pound cake at room temperature and consume it within 3–4 days. In a hot and humid environment, store it in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for 1 month.