- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 12, 2007

As a French-trained chef, I never gave bundt cakes much attention. I would spend hours making fruit tarts with pastry cream and flaky pastry dough, chocolate European-style tortes and praline souffles.

When I began my food-writing career, I was asked to develop a bundt-cake story for a food magazine. From then on, I had so much fun coming up with creative renditions that the bundt became my standby cake. The glazed lemon-sour-cream cake is the one my daughter insists on having for her birthday every year.

Well more than half a century ago, the Bundt pan was invented. There is some controversy over whether it was introduced in the early 1900s, as indicated in the “Settlement Cookbook,” or in the 1950s by the president of Nordic cookware. Whoever invented this pan made a wonderful contribution to American baking.

The Bundt pan is based on an Austrian kugelhopf design, featuring a hole in the center that allows for even baking. Bundt cakes became very popular after the tunnel-of-fudge bundt cake won second place in the 1966 Pillsbury Bake Off.

With that accolade, the bundt cake became a regular fixture for home cooks who wanted to excel in the kitchen without spending an entire day there.

Since then, scores of different Bundt pans, such as fleur de lis, castles, cathedrals, hearts, roses and even a fairy-tale cottage shape have become available. You can find one suited for just about any occasion. They all have in common a fluted bottom and sides that present a distinctive design when inverted.

This quick-to-prepare cake falls squarely within the Seriously Simple cooking philosophy. It is easy to put together and amazingly versatile.

I find these tasty cakes bake up with a moist texture, which is an added plus. Their shape is different from that of other cakes, so they stand out in a crowd.

A fine dusting of powdered sugar or a simple glaze drizzled on top in a lacy pattern is all that is needed to finish the cake — no need for intricate buttercreams or other time-consuming frostings.

The glazed lemon sour cream cake version is finished with a lemon glaze poured on while the cake is still warm, yielding an extraordinarily pungent lemony moistness.

Many recipes call for lemon juice in the cake, which seems to cause problems with texture. I finally experimented with lemon extract in the cake and fresh lemon juice for the glaze with an outstanding result, bursting with flavor.

The mixed berry bundt cake is great for an easy dessert or served in wedges for an early-morning breakfast or midday brunch.

Glazed lemon-sour-cream cake

13/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs at room temperature

1 tablespoon minced lemon zest

2 teaspoons lemon extract

1 cup sour cream

GLAZE:

1½ cups powdered sugar

½ cup strained fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons finely chopped lemon zest

Grease and flour a 9-inch lightweight Bundt pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift the flour, baking soda, and baking powder together in a medium mixing bowl. Set aside.

In a medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed or in a food processor fitted with the metal blade, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in the eggs, zest and lemon extract and mix for 2 more minutes.

Reduce the mixer to the lowest speed, add half the flour mixture, and mix until well combined. Add half the sour cream, mixing constantly, and then add the rest of the flour and sour cream, ending with the sour cream.

Pour the mixture into the prepared Bundt pan and bake for about 35 to 40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then invert onto a cake rack.

To make the glaze: Using a wire strainer, sift the powdered sugar into a small nonaluminum bowl. Add the juice and lemon zest and whisk to break up any lumps.

Place the cake and the rack on a wax-paper-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Using a long skewer, poke holes in the cake, almost going through the bottom at 1-inch intervals.

Slowly pour the glaze over the cake, making sure it’s absorbed as you pour. Let the cake come to room temperature. This can be prepared up to 3 days ahead and kept at room temperature, tightly covered. The cake also can be wrapped tightly and frozen in aluminum foil up to 2 months. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Mixed berry bundt cake

5 eggs

12/3 cups sugar

2½ sticks unsalted butter, softened to room temperature and cut into pieces

2 tablespoons Kirsch or other fruit liqueur

2½ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch salt

1½ cups fresh raspberries

1½ cups blueberries or blackberries

Powdered sugar for the garnish

Grease and flour a 9-inch Bundt pan. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In large mixing bowl, blend eggs and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed. Add pieces of butter and Kirsch or other fruit liqueur and blend with an electric mixer until fluffy.

Add all but 2 tablespoons of the flour (reserving the 2 tablespoons to coat the berries), baking powder and salt, and mix until well incorporated, with no lumps.

In a separate bowl, toss the berries with the remaining 2 tablespoons flour, coating them evenly. Gently fold into cake mixture.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool 30 minutes in the pan. Invert cake onto a cake rack and cool thoroughly. Dust with powdered sugar. Place on a platter and serve. This can be made a day ahead, covered well and left at room temperature. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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