With its rich green tea swirls, this buttery Matcha Marble Pound Cake is a rustic and delectable snack. It pairs perfectly with an afternoon cup of coffee or tea enjoyed with friends.
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). It’s 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!
Matcha for Pastries & Baked Goods
Matcha (抹茶) is literally powdered green tea, made of top-quality tea leaves that are covered before picking, then stone-ground into a delicate fine powder.
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.
There are various grades of matcha, sometimes labeled as “culinary grade” and “ceremonial grade”, which have a slightly different flavor profiles. For making desserts and baking, you can go for “culinary grade” but the color of green will not be as beautiful as “ceremonial grade”.
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”.
Where to Get Matcha
- Amazon: Maeda-en ($11; great quality for this price range), Naoki Matcha ($23; used in this recipe)
- Japanese grocery stores: Nijiya Market, Mitsuwa Market, Marukai Market, etc
Use Cake Flour for Matcha Marble Pound Cake
Many recipes ask for all-purpose flour when making pound cake, but in Japan, cake flour 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.
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.
The 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.
2 Most Important Cooking Tips
These two tips are important to make sure that the pound cake rises properly and the cake won’t end up with a tough texture.
Tip 1: Cream the Room Temperature Butter
It’s very important that your butter is at room temperature before you start. Beat the butter until it is light and fluffy and lots of little tails foam around the beaters, about 1-2 minutes.
Add the sugar to the whipped butter and beat thoroughly for about 3-5 minutes. 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.
Tip 2: Slowly Add Room Temperature Eggs to the Creamed Butter
Again, it’s also important that all the eggs are at room temperature. 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.
To achieve a smooth batter (not a curdled mixture), add a very small amount (1 Tbsp) of the beaten egg to the mixture 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.
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 to make someone smile today.
Matcha Marble Pound Cake
- 5.6 oz unsalted butter (1½ sticks, 12 Tbsp; at room temperature)
- ¾ cup sugar (¾ cup + 2 tsp to be precise)
- 4 large eggs (50 g each w/o shell)
- ¼ cup milk
- 3 Tbsp matcha (green tea powder) (1 Tbsp matcha is 6 g)
- 1⅔ cups cake flour (if you're using a cup measurement, please follow this method; otherwise, you may scoop more flour than you need; 1 cup should be 120 g; you can make Homemade Cake Flour)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt)
- Gather all the ingredients. It's important that the butter, eggs, and milk are all at room temperature. Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 350ºF (180ºC). For a convection oven, reduce the cooking temperature by 25ºF (15ºC).
- 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).
To Make the Batter
- Put the room-temperature butter 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 the sugar 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 the eggs in a small bowl and whisk well.
- Add the whisked 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 the cake flour, baking powder, and 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 combine 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 mix again.
- Finally, stir in the remaining dry ingredients. Mix 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 the milk in a microwave or saucepan until warm (roughly body temperature). Gradually add the milk, 1 Tbsp at a time, to the matcha in a medium bowl. Whisk well until combined. Tip: Warm liquid is easier to blend with matcha.
- Add one-third of the batter to the bowl with the matcha.
- 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 to 60 minutes.
- After 15 minutes, open the oven and quickly score the top of the cake with a sharp knife. (Please read the blog post why we do this). Continue to bake.
- The cake is done when a wooden skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
- 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. Enjoy!
- You can keep the leftovers in an airtight container (or wrap in plastic) and store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and in the freezer for up to 3 months.