Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Nutty, Chocolaty, Swirly Sour Cream Bundt Cake

Nutty, Chocolaty, Swirly Sour Cream Bundt Cake

There is a reason I come back to Dorie Greenspan's "Baking" again and again. It's not only because the recipes are simple, easy to understand, charming and delicious. On a basic level, I love this book because the recipes always work. After a disaster with [unnamed magazine]'s recipe for cookies which looked and tasted like cardboard, and chocolate ganache which was so sweet that I had to throw away the whole batch (throw away a batch of cookies! nooo!), I felt in need of some therapy, so I sidled up to "Baking," stroked the cover lovingly and opened it to the bundt cake page.

INutty, Chocolaty, Swirly Sour Cream Bundt Cake

Now, there was no photo of this bund cake in the book. I think it was a deliberate ploy to give your imagination room to run free, because when I saw the name, "Nutty, chocolaty, swirly sour cream bundt cake," my mind kind of exploded into bliss and I had to take a moment to calm myself down before running to the kitchen to take the butter out of the refrigerator.

Nutty, Chocolaty, Swirly Sour Cream Bundt Cake

Holy bundt cake, GOOD LORD YES. This cake was everything I had dreamt of and more. I used to think that bundt cakes were dry and boring, in need of coffee or tea to choke them down. The error of my ways is clear to me now. Dry? Boring??? This cake is anything but. The smell alone is enough to drive anyone crazy, and the taste, with the orange and the sour cream and the chocolate and the pecans/raisins/cinnamon trifecta, and mmmmm..... so much happiness.

Nutty, Chocolaty, Swirly Sour Cream Bundt Cake

Nutty, Chocolaty, Swirly Sour Cream Bundt Cake
Dorie Greenspan's Baking

The Swirl
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (or 1/3 c. mini chocolate chips)
1/3 cup plump moist raisins (dark or golden, or may use dried currants)
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
freshly grated nutmeg, a pinch
salt, a pinch

The Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 orange, zest of
8 ounces butter, at room temperature (2 sticks)
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
powdered sugar, for dusting

Position oven rack in center; preheat oven to 350°; butter a 9- to 10-inch Bundt pan, dust the interior with flour and tap out the excess; do not place the Bundt pan on a baking sheet.

Make the swirl: add all the ingredients to a bowl; stir to mix.

Make the cake: whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl. Working in the bowl of a stand mixer, rub the sugar and zest together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and aromatic. Add in the butter; with the paddle or whisk attachment beat on medium speed for 4 minutes.

Add in eggs one at a time, beat for 1 minute after each egg goes inches. Beat in the vanilla; decrease mixer speed to low and mix in the sour cream. Still on low speed, add in the dry ingredients and mix only until they disappear into the batter.

Give the batter a last stir or two with a rubber spatula, then scoop about 1/3 of the batter into the Bundt pan. Evenly sprinkle on half of the swirl mixture, then spoon in the rest of the batter. Make a shallow indentation with the back of a spoon in the center of the ring of batter and fill it with the remaining swirl mixture, then cover the mixture lightly with the batter on the sides of the indentation—the batter probably won’t cover the mixture completely and that is fine.

Bake for 60-65 minutes, or until a pick comes out clean.

Transfer pan to a rack and let the cake rest for 10 minutes before unmolding it onto the rack to cool to room temperature. Just before serving, dust the cake with powdered sugar.

Continued after the jump...

Friday, April 23, 2010



I have a small confession to make. *Deep breath* I don't really like traditional Texan cornbread. You know, the kind that's made entirely with cornmeal and has like one teaspoon of sugar, if that? The kind made in a cast iron pan with a healthy slather of bacon grease? Yeah, that kind. It turns out that I'm a California girl to the tips of my toes and I need the sweet cushioning of flour and sugar, and the thought of bacon grease scares me more than just a little. Look, we all have our faults, ok? Count this as one of mine. You still love me, right?


If you're like me, this cornbread is the recipe for you. It's soft, moist and yet sturdy enough to cut into squares - though I do advise you to make those squares larger rather than smaller; it's just "corny" enough, especially with the addition of sweet corn kernels; and its sweetness is there, but just hanging out in the background, making this cornbread a perfect vehicle to sweep up some tangy sauce at a summer BBQ.


Last but not least, this recipe's beguiling simplicity (a five minute mixing effort with a wooden spoon) creates a platform for ideas to run free. If you're a real Texan, you might want to turn away now, because I know this will hurt you. I dreamed of adding roasted and chopped poblano peppers to the batter, of spicing it up with jalapenos or throwing in little delicious salty nuggets of pancetta, and maybe, just maybe swirling in some softened goat cheese. I don't know what ideas I will come up with for a second rendition of this cornbread - all I know is that I'm making a double batch and not looking back.


Cathy Justice's Best of Show Blue Ribbon Cornbread
via Dorie Greenspan

1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/16 teaspoon salt (I used 1/2 tsp.)
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg, slightly beaten
3/4 cup canola oil
1 cup sweet corn kernels

Heat oven to 425F and prepare an 8x8 baking pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. In a smaller bowl (I used a measuring cup), whisk together all the wet ingredients until smooth. Pour over the dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon or a spatula only until the dry ingredients are moistened. Batter will be lumpy, but that's ok. Gently stir in corn kernels.

Pour out into the baking pan and bake for 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Continued after the jump...

Friday, April 9, 2010

Strawberry Cream Cake, version 2

Strawberry Cream Cake

Let me tell it to you straight. I wasn't going to show you this cake because I didn't think the pictures turned out well. Stupid reason, right? For a whole month, my vanity held me back, but then I realized that every time I thought about this cake, my mouth watered and I gave a little contented sigh, which means that I have a DUTY to tell you about it. Simply put, this cake is an Oh-My-God-Where-Have-You-Been-All-My-Life kind of a cake. Three gorgeous layers of the fluffiest, the sweetest, the most delicious vanilla butter cake I've ever had, and it's soaked with a rum simple syrup and then filled with like two pounds of tart, juicy strawberries and lots and lots of pillowy, sweet whipped cream. You must, one day, make it. In fact, I think that day should be tomorrow.

Strawberry Cream Cake
Strawberry Cream Cake

When the whole thing comes together, it's pretty much the most awesome thing ever. It's tall and beautiful, it has sweetness from the cake and tartness from the strawberries, with the whipped cream cushioning all that lovely, fragrant, cakey goodness. And then there's the rum - it's kind of subtle, but with enough time for the flavors to meld, it gets into everything, strawberries, whipped cream and all, and it's just boozy enough to make it feel like dessert is the most important course of the entire meal (IT IS). I made this for my parent's 32nd anniversary (go Mom and Dad!!!) and my mom actually hid a giant slice in the refrigerator from her guests so she could have a piece all to herself. Sneaky, mom! But necessary, as it turned out, because all those guests who were all, "oh, no dessert for me, thank you, I'm on a diet," apparently decided to give their diets the night off. There was not a crumb or a smudge of whipped cream left.

Strawberry Cream Cake

Vanilla Buttermilk Cake from Sky High Cakes
Makes three 8", 9" or 10" round layers or two 9x13" layers (I made mine 10" round, so I could build in a springform pan)

4 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
3 cups cake flour
2 cups sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 lb strawberries
2 cups of heavy cream + 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup water + 1/4 cup rum

Make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350C and butter the cake pans well.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and 1 cup of buttermilk and with the mixer on low, blend together to moisten the batter. Then, on medium speed, beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Whisk the eggs and the egg yolks, the vanilla and 1/4 cup of buttermilk in a bowl and add to the batter in 3 additions, mixing only until thoroughly incorporated. Divide the batter between your pans. NOTE: The recipe anticipates that you will have the requisite number of cake pans (i.e., three round 8", 9" or 10" pans or two 9x13" pans). Having a 90 sq. ft. kitchen, I only own one cake pan of each size, so I had to bake each layer separately. The cake batter hung out on the counter while I did this and seemed to do just fine.

Bake the layers for 28-32 minutes, until the top is golden and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Turn out onto a cooling rack and cool completely. If the cake layers have domed, trim them with a sharp bread knife.

Prepare the strawberries:
Reserve 18 whole strawberries out of the 2 lbs. Chop the rest into small pieces. Out of the 18, take six and cut them in half with the green part still on. Hull and halve the other 12.

Whip the heavy cream with the sugar until it holds stiff peaks (but do not overbeat because it will be hard to spread). Combine water and rum together.

Assemble the cake:
Line the sides of a cake ring or a springform pan with plastic, so there is some overhang. Put one cake layer inside and, with a spoon or a pastry brush, soak the cake layer with one third of the rum/water mixture. Set the halved strawberries around the sides of the cake, placing them cut side down and wide end pressed against the sides of the pan. Spread half the chopped strawberries inside. Spread a little less than half of the whipped cream on top of the strawberries.

Place the second layer on top and press gently to distribute the whipped cream evenly. Repeat the soaking/strawberries/whipped cream steps. Place the third layer on top of the second one and again press gently to distribute the filling. Soak with the remaining rum, frost the top with the remaining whipped cream and decorate with the halved strawberries that still have the tails on. This cake needs at least 4-5 hours for the flavors to meld.

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