It is always such an honor and pleasure to make a birthday cake for someone. As much as birthdays remind us how quickly time is passing by, they also take us back to being a kid again- blowing out candles on a birthday cake with puffy cheeks and eyes tightly closed as we make a wish.
Yesterday, V and I threw a birthday bash for our extra-sweet downstairs neighbor, inviting a dozen of her friends over for dinner, cake and ice cream. Neighbor girl and I are very close, being only 2 weeks apart in age, and with our lives running parallel in some respects- we are both recent graduates engaged in the dreaded job search. Personality wise we are as different as chalk and cheese which only makes the friendship that much more interesting.
Two weeks ago, on my birthday, neighbor girl announced that she had a surprise for me. I HATE surprises and protested feebly as she folded me into her mini car, and we set off on the Interstate highway. Neighbor girl drives like a bloody maniac, swerving into lanes, cutting people off willy-nilly. "I'm not so much a defensive driver", she told me cheerfully as I buried my head in my hands and wished I was the praying kind, and a minute later "Ooh, the fuel gauge is on empty, how much time do you think I have before I run out of gas...20 minutes? 30 minutes?". At which point I told her to take the next exit and find a gas station- or else. Anyway, we ended up in one piece, miraculously, at Kitchen Conservatory and she handed me a gift card and ordered me to start shopping. How sweet is that?
A bundt pan had been on my wish list for a while (they look pretty and the cake is large enough to feed a crowd), so together we chose the sturdy, heavy sunflower pan from Nordicware and also splurged on a bottle of the finest vanilla extract. It was only fitting that the first time I used the pan was for neighbor girl's birthday cake.
The birthday girl requested "chocolate cake with lots of stuff in it, like nuts and candy bits and things, you know" and I considered the chocolate part and ignored the rest. The chocolate stout cake on Smitten Kitchen sounded very rich and moist so that's the recipe I decided to go with.
Just look at the grooves and nooks on the bundt pan. Getting a cake stuck in this pan would be an absolute nightmare, so I highly recommend using a special baking spray, a combination of oil and flour which really coats the surface of the pan. I used the brand "Pam for Baking" but there are other brands available too. Alternatively, use soft butter (not melted) and brush it into every crevice of the pan with utmost patience, then flour the pan thoroughly.
Chocolate Bundt Cake
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen's recipe)
(a) Prepare the bundt pan very well.
(b) Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Dry mix. Whisk together-
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1⁄2 tsp. baking soda
3⁄4 tsp. salt
3. Wet mix I. Heat together to a simmer-
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
1 cup strong beer like stout or porter (I used vanilla porter). This is about two-thirds of the bottle.
Stir in 3⁄4 cup cocoa powder and whisk well. Let it cool for 15 minutes.
4. Wet mix II. Cream together-
2 large eggs
2⁄3 cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
5. Mix the cocoa mixture into the egg mixture. Stir in flour mixture gently to make a thick glossy batter. Pour into bundt pan and bake for 40 minutes or so, until inserted toothpick comes clean. As you wait for the cake to bake, drink the rest of the beer from the bottle, no point wasting good beer.
6. Cool for an hour before holding your breath and turning out the cake.
The cake was spongy, sturdy, moist and had a wonderful deep chocolate flavor. The beer taste is discernible as a malty undertone.
If you have a favorite bundt pan recipe, I'd love to know about it. I have a feeling I'll be using this pan often, to make self-decorating cakes.
Come back on Wednesday for 3 easy appetizer recipes. Have a good week!