Wednesday, March 24, 2010

One Little Thing: Lemon Yogurt Mini-Bundt Cakes . . . with Limoncello Glaze

What is it about having a miniature cake to call your own?

Nothing so common as a cupcake, mind you, but an accurate-to-scale mini version of a bigger cake. Something about being in possession of such a diminutive gateau seems to confirm what you, hopefully, already knew about yourself. If that dinky cake could speak it would surely remark, "Hey, you must be extraordinary because you merit your very own tiny cake. You are worthy."

It's a positive development that we Americans, somewhere along the way, reached a stage of gustatory evolution wherein we began to appreciate carefully constructed and painstakingly detailed individual dessert items, versus huge layer cakes predictably blanketed in sugary American buttercream. Cakes that are designed to serve a dozen or more people are good, oh sure, and they have their place. But let's face it, they exist to feed the masses. They don't care who you are, particularly.

The mission of a super-sized cake doesn't involve catering to the different tastes of each person in a crowd. On the contrary, everyone gets the same thing. A huge cake lives to serve by being sliced up equally. Take it or leave it. One size fits all. You don't like frosting? Gosh, that's tough. Scrape it off with a plastic fork and don't forget to dump your soggy paper plate in the trash on your way out. Not a pretty scenario.

So when the craving for a sweet possesses you, don't you find it reassuring to have the option of selecting one single-serving dessert--modestly portioned, artfully prepared, and seemingly unique? Of course you do. After all, sometimes all you want is one little thing.

It's all about choice . . .

Which brings me to today's lemon yogurt mini-bundt cakes. Neither complex nor time consuming to make, these baby bundts are delightfully presentable. Ultra moist and very tender, this cake falls on the texture spectrum somewhere between a butter cake and a soft pound cake. You can make these as 12 mini-bundts, or 24 cupcakes. (If you're brave, you can try it as one large bundt, too, but doing that apparently makes this recipe less predictable and more prone to producing a dense/fallen cake, just fyi). You can choose to make the tangy-sweet, limoncello glaze thin enough so that most of it demurely soaks in (as I did), or mix it thicker and slather it on as a flashy embellishment. You're the driver.

See? It's all about choice. I love having choices. I know you do, too.

About the recipes . . .

I adapted the cake and glaze recipes from Baking at Home with The Culinary Institute of America, a volume that's on own my short list of highly admirable cookbooks.

What did I alter? Well, instead of using buttermilk in the cake (the book's recipe is called "Lemon Buttermilk Cake") I substituted Greek style plain yogurt, along with a few tablespoons of milk to smooth it out.

And, there's no limoncello in the CIA formula, but I suspected that it would tag along perfectly with the existing flavors, so I added a smidgen into the cake batter in place of some of the lemon juice, and also used it with lemon juice in the glaze. (A popular Italian liqueur, it's such tasty stuff. If you've never tried it, you might want to get some, but if you prefer not to use it you can always omit it from the recipe entirely and go with all lemon juice. The cakes will still be luscious.) I also reworded, and slightly revised, the instructions.

Lemon Yogurt Mini-Bundt Cakes with Limoncello Glaze

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Liberally coat with baking spray, or thoroughly grease and flour,  pans for 12 mini-bundts, or 24 cupcakes. 

2 and 2/3 cups All-Purpose flour (I used unbleached)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
1 and 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. grated lemon zest
4 eggs, large
1 cup and 1 Tbsp. plain Greek style yogurt
3 Tbsp. milk (I used 2 percent)
5 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 to 1 cup confectioners' sugar
4 Tbsp. limoncello (lemon flavored liqueur)

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In another small bowl, stir together the yogurt and the milk just until smooth.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, sugar, and lemon zest for about 5 minutes, until smooth and light. Stop to scrape the bowl periodically.

Add in the eggs one a time, still at medium speed, scraping down the bowl between each addition. Mix well after each egg.
On low speed, add in the flour mixture alternately with the yogurt in three additions. Mix just until incorporated. Increase the speed to medium and mix for 2 minutes more, until the entire mixture is smooth and light.
Add in 3 Tbsp. of the lemon juice and 1 Tbsp. of the limoncello. Blend just until evenly mixed, no more than 30 seconds.

Portion the batter evenly into your pan(s); smooth the top of the batter.

Bake until the center of each cake springs back when pressed lightly with a finger, and a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean. This will be about 15 minutes for mini-bundts or cupcakes (if making minis or cupcakes, don't wait for the exposed part of the cake to look golden brown; golden around the edges is enough).If you've made the cake in mini-bundt pans, let them cool for about 10 minutes before inverting the pans onto a cooling racks to remove the cakes. If you've baked cupcakes, give them no more than about five minutes in their pans before carefully removing to a cooling rack.

To make the glaze, mix the confectioners' sugar, 2 Tbsp. of lemon juice and 3 Tbsp. of limoncello in a small bowl and stir until any lumps are completely gone. If you'd like the glaze thicker, just stir in a bit more confectioners' sugar until it's the texture you prefer.To apply the glaze, place the cooled cake(s) on a cooling rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Using a spoon, drizzle the glaze liberally over each cake, allowing it to drip down the sides. Let the icing set for about 15 minutes before moving the cakes.If you like, serve each cake topped with a little unsweetened whipped cream and some lemon zest curls. Yummy.

Update from Jane, January 2013: 

Dear readers, 

I have heard from dozens of bakers who've tried this recipe since I first posted it almost three years ago. About half of them love it and got great results, and about half had cakes that were extremely dense and disappointing. Based on reader feedback, it also seems like this recipe is more predictably successful when made in mini-bundt pans, versus one large bundt pan. So, that's something to consider before giving it a whirl.

In light of the inconsistent results, if you still want to try it in one large bundt pan, I am recommending (especially if you don't bake bundts regularly) that you visit this link before you start the recipe: 
How to Bake the Perfect Bundt Cake (
It contains helpful hints on baking with bundt pans and may help you to achieve success with this formula as one large cake. Nordicware is the original creator of the bundt, and they are the true experts. I trust their advice. 

Thanks very much for visiting and for providing me with honest feedback. It's always appreciated.

Keep on baking!

(If you'd like to comment on this post, or to read any existing comments, just click on the purple COMMENTS below!)


Stella said...

I want my own cake, Jane! I also want that pan you used. I really need to update my baking supplies, as they are pretty pitiful.
This cake sounds and looks so wonderful by the way. Yogurt cakes are so moist and delicious.
Oh, and I just got a glimpse of that cherry cream cheese bread out on the sidebar-gotta take a look at that...

Jane said...

Hi Stella,

Well, yes, and you deserve your own little cake, too! You know, that mini-bundt pan is easily acquirable, 'case you were wondering. I got a couple of them at Michael's (the craft store; I used their 40 percent off coupons). They're the Wilton brand. I like them even better than a fancier, heavier, far more expensive Nordicware mini-bundt pan I also have. They are flimsier, for sure, but they actually seem to work better and they release the cakes with no problem at all. That cherry cream cheese bread you saw was really, really good. Beware, it may cast a wickedly good spell on you!

:) Jane

Katrina said...

I love everything about this recipe. It's lemony, and delicious. THANK YOU!

symphonious sweets said...

OMG! drooling and hitting print!

Chele said...

Wow! They look amazing - I want one right now and its breakfast time!

Cherie said...

Let me just say, AMAZING!!! I look forward to making this recipe very soon :-) Would it be possible to just substitute lemon juice instead of the lemoncello? I don't have any on hand.

Thank you so much for sharing such a joyful creation!!

Helen said...

These look lovely. Lemon cakes are my favourite (well one of them!) And there's nothing better than your OWN cake and ones these pretty must be yummy. I need to get myself a mini bundt pan as these are too cute not to make. I love the addition of the cream and zest at the end.

Jane said...

Hi Katrina,
Yes, lemony is right! I had to give most of these little cakes away to avoid munching them myself.
: Jane

Hi Symphonious Sweets--
Thanks very much!

Hello Chele,
Well, breakfast is as good a time as any, I say! Enjoy!
:) Jane

Hi there Sleepy Bear,
Yes, you could certainly leave out the limoncello completely. Just use all lemon juice instead.

Hi Helen,
I think the little bit of cream, and the zest, add a nice touch, too. Plain whipped cream really goes well with lemon. No sweetening needed, in this case.
Thanks for visiting!
Jane :)

Cheryl Kohan said...

This recipe looks just luscious! I'm getting one of those mini bundt pans as soon as I get home. You are so right...the mini cakes are way nicer. Not only that but they're very classy.

Unknown said...

Oh how lovely! I want those mini bundt pans to make your lemons cakes. They look perfectly tender!

Tish Boyle said...

Lemon is one of my favorite flavors (second only to chocolate), and these little cakes are adorable. Love the limoncello glaze!

Lori said...

Looks so fresh and inviting. Very beautiful.

Cherine said...

Those lemon cakes look soooo good!

ARUNA said...

Looks amazingly beautiful!!

shbook said...

I'm totally making these for Mother's Day! They would be the perfect "special" thing. Garnished with some edible flowers on the side might even make them look prettier. And I loved your explanation of how having your own cake makes you feel!

Cyndy said...


I love the way you explain details! Love lemon and your presentation is perfect. The crumb is nice and dense and you can see how moist they are. This lemon head is in heaven!


Hanaâ said...

I love lemon-flavored baked goods and these look delicious! Did I mention they look super-adorable too? Thanks for the tip on the Wilton brand mini-bundt cake pan. Will have to check out my Michaels store. I recently bought the "silicone mini-brownie bites" pan from there. I have yet to try it out.

~~louise~~ said...

Oh Jane, you've done it now. I just this weekend posted my first recipe using a Bundt pan and now I must find these baby pans. I adore minis:)

I'm puckering just thinking about those little darlings and I just made a new batch of yogurt too. (thanks for the tip about adding the milk I never do:)

Just one thing though before I attempt to bake these. I've been wanting to make my own Limoncello ever since seeing this recipe over @ Cucina Panzano.

Thanks for sharing, Jane. I'm so saving this post. I always leave here feeling delightfully famished...

Julia @Mélanger said...

Ummmm, hello? This lemon cake looks fantastic. I love the limoncello glaze spin. Wonderful.

So you really like that CIA book? I've read mix reviews about it.

Jane said...

Hi CherylK,
Every girl needs a mini-bundt pan in her arsenal. It's just one of those things!
Thanks for the nice comments,
:) Jane

Hello Marcellina,
You are sweet to say so!

Dear Tish--
Chocolate is my number one also! Citrus is right up there, though, so I know what you mean. Many thanks for visiting here again. I see delectable wonders on your beautiful blog every time I stop by there--it's a favorite!
:) Jane

Hi Lori, Cherine, and Aruna-
I appreciate all those nice comments so much! Thank you, ladies!
:) Jane

Hello Shbook,
The edible flowers addition sounds fantastic. What a pretty Mother's Day dessert presentation that would make.
Very creative thinking!
:) Jane

Hi Cyndy,
I'm glad you like details! I can't help myself from including them. I hate it when I read a recipe and end up with about 15 unanswered questions. I think that must be why I add the details in! Hey, lemon head, I appreciate your visit and your comment!

Hi Hanaa,
I haven't tried any silicone bakeware yet at all. You'll have to let me know what you think of it. Every time I'm in a store and run across that stuff, though, I pick it up and flop it around incredulously. I know you'll give me the straight dope, though, once you've formed an opinion!
:) Jane

Hello Louse! Always so nice to read your comments. About the homemade limoncello, I did see a few recipes for it while I was researching what I wanted to do with these little lemon cakes. Sounds like it might be worth making sometime. I've never tried to make any sort of flavored liqueur at home, but in my 20's I had a roommate who used to make homemade Kahlua now and then. As I recall it tasted quite a bit like the real stuff!
:) Jane

Dear Julia,
I have had very good luck with the recipes in that CIA book, thus far. I recently heard, though, that the CIA baking & pastry arts textbook (a big heavy thing that bears no resemblance to the book for home bakers that I used for this post) may contain some errors within recipes. My current baking teacher (who is a CIA alumnus) was, in fact, just talking about this sort of problem with a few students in my class last week. That giant CIA textbook is not the book that we use for our class (we use Wayne Gisslen's "Professional Baking"), though, so I can't say I've ever personally had a problem with it. Seems, in any case, like one has to approach all baking cookbooks with caution these days. I see glaring typos in published cookbooks so frequently lately; it's a little disheartening to think of what else might be lurking in them that's potentially so much worse!
Thanks so much for commenting, Julia!
:) Jane

Roisin said...

Hi, is it possible to give the amounts in actual weight or volume as opposed to cups, as I have no idea what two sticks of butter should weigh, or how big the cup should be. Thanks so much. Roisin

my little expat kitchen said...

I love the look of this cake! Bundt cakes are my favorite.

Anonymous said...

What type of Greek yogurt did you use - full fat, low fat, fat free?
I always eat fat free yogurt and skim milk since I will get a stomach ache if I eat full fat or low fat.
But wondering if it would be all right for the cake...

Anna said...

Yummm! Can't wait for these to come out of the oven. The dough in itself tastes like a desert.

debcom said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
debcom said...

You mentioned getting these pans at Michaels craft store, are they made with aluminum? My local Michaels has Celebrate this aluminum mini bundt pans and was wondering if thats what yours were

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this very nice recipe. I made my cake last night but with orange juice and orange zest and I used a large bundt pan. Taste really delicious BUT it came out solid, it is not sponge, it is like cutting a block of cheese. Apart from the orange twist I used electric mixer (not have paddle attachment). Do you have any idea what did I do wrong? Thank you for any help.

Jane said...

Hi Debcom,
My mini-bundt pans were Wilton brand, and if I remember correctly I did buy them at Michael's. I am not familiar with a brand called Celebration.
Thanks for visiting!
Jane :)

Dear Anonymous,
I'm so sorry to hear that about your cake! You mentioned that you did not use a paddle attachment, though you did use your mixer, yes? I am assuming, then, that you must have used the whip attachment? If you used the whip attachment, I wouldn't be surprised if the batter was over-mixed, thus causing a tough heavy cake when baked. This can happen because over-mixing the batter once you've added in the flour will allow over-development of the gluten, and that is not what you want to happen in a cake. This particular batter is similar to a pound cake batter, and you will notice in recipes that one is often warned about the danger of over-mixing when making almost any type of pound cake. Over-mixing also causes a lot of air to be incorporated into the batter, which can cause a cake like this to "fall" once it's in the oven. In my experience, baking pound-type cakes in bundt pans can be fraught with mishaps in general. I have had some very unhappy bundt cake experiences of my own over the years. Some tricks I use to help ensure success with a bundt pan: I try to absolutely avoid opening the oven while the cake is baking (I think this is critical); and I run a knife through the middle of the batter before putting the cake in the oven to help pop any air bubbles; and, I also tap the filled pan firmly on a hard surface before putting the cake in the oven, again to help expel air bubbles that can cause a pound cake to fall when it's baking. I know all of that sounds like a lot of bother, but taking those steps has helped me to have success with bundt pans. In any event, I am really sorry your cake didn't have a nice texture and the recipe was a disappointment for you. I sincerely appreciate that you let me know about our experience.
Thanks again and please keep on baking!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so so much for your advices, be sure I'll keep them on mind next time I bake a bundt cake. And thank you also for your encouragement words, very kind of you!!!! All the best. Monica

Anonymous said...

I have had repeated success with this recipe from mini bundts to full bundts to madelines...yes there was just enough batter left over to fill a madeline pan. As the crumb is dense enough to take some manipulation it is debuting as Nessy, of Loch Ness, for my son's 1st birthday next week. 2 x 10 inch bundt cakes cut in half for her to undulate out of the water (half sheet lemon cake covered in blue). Wish me luck as I am in way over my head. Love the blog. Post birthday celebrations I am on the hunt for rose petals and mint milano cookies - they are up next.

Unknown said...

Hi! I made these, just got a mini bunt pan & was looking for recipes. The balance of flavors was really nice I will definitely make the recipe again, thank you for sharing.

The consistency of my finished cake was a little bit spongy. I mixed everything by hand as I don't have an electric mixer.
Do you think that was my problem? Any suggestions (beyond getting an electric mixer)!?

Thank you!

Shelby said...

Thank you for sharing this recipe! I plan on making it for a wedding shower this week. When you say "unsweetened whipped cream", do you mean homemade or store bought? Thanks!

Jane said...

Dear Shelby,

By unsweetened whipped cream, I meant that I used heavy cream (aka "whipping cream") and when I whipped it up myself, I did not add in any sugar or powdered sugar. The cake itself, along with its glaze, already provides sufficient sweetness, I thought. Good luck with your cakes and have lots of fun at the shower! Thanks so much for visiting and letting me know you're trying this recipe. I'd love to hear how it turns out for you!
Jane :)

Elajr said...

I've been looking for a real tender butter cake to make a layer cake put some filling and frosting like a birthday cake. My question is, can this recipe be made into two round cake pans, if so what size would you suggest. I hope my search ends here for that tender cake my mom used to make when she was still with us. Thank you.

Jane said...

Hi Elajr,
I honestly don't know if this cake would work well baked in regular layer cake pans instead of bundt pans, so I'd like to suggest a different recipe for you. Here's a link to a nice vanilla layer cake recipe that I've had really good luck with. It's got a real nice texture and it's perfect for a filled and frosted birthday cake. (I did a blog post on this cake in March of 2011.)
Thanks very much for visiting!
Jane :)

Victoria said...

This cake looked and sounded amazing. I followed the recipe to the T and it turned out dense and heavy like a block of cheese. I am wondering if the 1/2 tsp of baking soda is enough or if there should be some baking powder as well? We each had a slice and threw out the rest. Very disappointed and want to figure out how to make it correctly.

Jane said...

Dear Victoria,
I am so sorry to hear that. Did you make yours in mini bundt pans, or in one large bundt pan? I am not sure what went wrong for you, but these are among the questions I would ask: Was your baking soda fresh? Could the batter have been over-beaten? Was the oven door opened prematurely while the cake was baking, causing the cake to "fall" (a significant factor with bundts, and sometimes they even fall upon coming out of the oven)? Some readers have indicated to me that they've had great success with this recipe while others have had difficulties and ended up with dense cake. Though I have not experienced trouble with this recipe myself, I have certainly had trouble with various other bundt cakes now and then in the past. Bundts of many types seem to be inherently fussy and prone to collapse. Again, I am very sorry you had such a bad experience with this recipe. I don't know if you're a veteran baker or someone who bakes rarely, but here's a link related to baking bundt pans that I have found helpful myself.

Thanks for letting me know your experience, Victoria. I appreciate the feedback.


Shelby said...

Hi Jane,

I know this update is a bit late, but the mini bundts I made for the shower at work were delicious. Everyone loved them, and I had people begging for the recipe. However, I just made the recipe using a full size bundt pan, and it ended up burnt and didn't really rise. I only baked it at 350 for 50 minutes. I ended up throwing it in the trash. Perhaps it's just not meant to be used in a full-sized pan???

Jane said...

Hi Shelby,
Thanks for that feedback! I decided to tweak the recipe to discourage readers from baking it as one large bundt. It seems that that is where the problems always tend to occur, based on reader comments. I really appreciate that you let me know what your own experience was like with mini-bundts vs. one large bundt. Hopefully, going forward, anyone else who tries the recipe will now be completely forewarned if they decide to bake it in one big pan.
Keep on baking!
Jane :)

Anonymous said...

Made these this morning and they turned out amazing. I followed the recipe exactly. This recipe is now in my recipe box....yum!