Tuesday, January 24, 2012
What a good cake. Velvety texture, nicely balanced flavor. And so pretty. I don't wax rhapsodic about baking pans at the drop of a hat, but in this case, you'll have to excuse me while I do just that. I'll try to make it short and simply say, "Bless you Nordicware, for making such a swirly, whirly, incredibly high-quality, seemingly indestructible, unbelievably nonstick, bundt pan. (And thanks to you, too, Williams Sonoma, for selling it!)"
I know what you're thinking, and the answer is no, I did not get the pan for free, nor am I being compensated to gush over it. I bought it myself. Really. I just happen to love it. Completely. Yeah okay, but why, you ask? Pull up a chair and I'll tell you.
I've been around the block a few times with various and sundry bundt pans, as you may know, with mixed and sometimes sad results--light ones, dark ones, flimsy, not so flimsy, nonstick, everythingstick--you name it. I've made coconut bundts, lemon bundts, sweet potato bunds, chocolate zucchini bundts, mocha bundts, banana bundts, ad infinitum bundts, and I've rarely had an entirely problem-free experience.
But the Nordicware Heritage bundt did not let me down in any respect. As pans designed for home bakers go, it's heavy duty, to be sure. You'd probably have to drop this bad boy from a highway overpass to dent it (but I'd advise against that unless you're overly curious about the inner-workings of the justice system). And, if you grease and flour with the utmost care, you will be rewarded a hundred fold when you unmold your cake. Prepare to gasp in stunned delight when you see how perfectly it emerges. No blemishes, and no forlorn cake chunks left clinging to the pan. I had to holler for my husband and son, who were entrenched on the couch watching an old western, to come and look at it with me. They, too, kind of gasped and I think one of them even remarked, "Wow!" Then they returned to the couch. I remained in the kitchen and just stood there, gazing in rapt amazement, drinking in the sight of that perfectly shaped cake, astonished that it had actually entered the world so unscathed. Apparently, bundtastrophes can be avoided, and my cake faith has been restored.
About this recipe . . .
For my maiden voyage with this pan, I used the basic recipe that came with it, making a couple minor tweaks here and there, including the addition of a very modest amount of white rum in the batter. I also added a quick glaze, which I flavored as well with a dash of white rum, to the semi-cooled cake and I reworded the instructions to reflect exactly what I did. It's an easy cake with a beautiful crumb. I can't wait to concoct further variations on this one.
Vanilla Velvet Bundt Cake with White Rum Glaze
(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place a shelf in the lower third of the oven.
Carefully grease your bundt pan, taking care to get the grease in every nook and cranny; don't skimp, but don't leave visible globs either. Flour the pan generously, then tap out the excess. (I highly recommend greasing a bundt pan with a professional pastry brush; I use a round, natural-bristle brush. It fits well into corners and doesn't become easily misshapen the way flat pastry brushes do.)
For the cake:
2 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 and 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 level tsp. coarse kosher salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened and at room temperature
1 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 tsp. white rum
3/4 cup milk, room temperature
1/4 cup half & half, room temperature
For the glaze:
1 cup confectioner's sugar (sifted, or be sure to use 10x)
1and 1/2 to 3 Tbsp. white rum (depending upon how thick you want the glaze to be, and how much rum flavoring you prefer)
In a medium size bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
Stir the milk and half & half together in one container.
In the large bowl of your mixer, on medium speed, beat the butter for about 30 seconds, just until smooth and creamy. Gradually add in the granulated sugar, still on medium speed; beat for approximately 5 minutes, until fluffy; stop to scrape as needed.
Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one, scraping periodically. Pour in the vanilla and white rum, and beat for about 1 minute, until combined.
On your mixer's lowest speed, add in the flour alternately with the milk, starting and ending with the flour (3 equal portions of flour and 2 equal portions of milk). Don't worry if the batter looks sort of curdled at the start of this process. Mix each addition only until incorporated, pausing between additions to scrape the bowl and beaters.
Carefully spoon the batter into the pan; don't pour it from the bowl. Using the back of your spoon, urge the batter up the inner and outer sides of the pan (you'll be creating what looks like a shallow trough).
Bake the cake on the rack set in the lower third of the oven, for about 50 - 60 minutes (mine took 55 minutes), until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, and the cake looks like it's beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan. (Try to resist opening the oven at all until the cake's been in there at least 45 minutes. That's my advice.)
Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let the cake cool for 15 minutes only. Now pick up the pan by its edges and, still holding it upright, tap it firmly against a hard surface. Hold the cooling rack over the pan and invert the two. Carefully lift the pan off of your cake, and let it finish cooling on the rack.
To make the glaze:
In a small bowl, stir together the confectioners' sugar and the rum, adding the liquid in slowly until the glaze is the texture you prefer; add more sugar if needed to thicken it. Stir until no lumps at all remain. Set the cake on its rack atop a sheet pan, and drizzle the glaze over the almost-cooled cake. Let the glaze set before slicing and serving the cake.
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