The Bundt Cake distilled
When I search for Bundt cakes I literally find millions of recipes. And most of them have ingredients I do not have in my pantry. I want the bare essentials of what I need to bake a cake.
Hmm, I don’t want to go to the groc, but I want to bake a cake…
How are bundts different from other cakes?
Bundt cakes are not all that different from other, fancier cakes, but I see them as a flexible starter cake. If you have a base recipe, you can use the bundt format to experiment with different ingredients and methods. If you have eggs, flour, sugar, and butter you can pretty much use what is in your pantry for the rest. The basic bundt is a really forgiving recipe for us newer bakers or those who love a good bake experiment!
No bundt pan? No problem!
You can also bake bundts in just about any pan from cupcakes to fancy Bundts to sheet cakes. This recipe is just so basic and forgiving we can adapt it to any format.
So why all my recent interest in Bundts?
Yeah, so I have cooked all my life. I’m an intuitive cook. I refer to recipes but hardly ever follow them by rote. I also have a hard time writing exactly what I do when I cook. According to all the people over the years who have feasted at many holidays and parties the food I cook is delicious, but it is unique to me and hardly ever written into recipes. By hardly ever, I mean never, not even scribbled on post-its or on the back of receipts. When friends and family ask for recipes, I jot down something likely unintelligible and shrug. I am not trying to be coy, I genuinely do not use recipes as more than a rough framework.
Bundt: The perfect cake for the DIYer
Therefore, it is not surprising that baking is not one of those parts of cooking that I do particularly well. Baking requires a different intuition, one based on biochemistry and physics, and the strict adherence to certain rules. It requires recipes to make the biochemistry turn out right. I have a PhD in Biochemistry and the publications to show that I once had a successful career as a scientist “at the bench” (aka in a lab following experimental protocols) so I SHOULD be able to follow a damn recipe and bake a cake. And I should be able to distill that to the required steps and ingredients, vs. those that we can experiment with and tweak to suit our taste and pantry inventory.
So I did.
My first recipe to master, and I am going to nail this bitch, is the classic Bundt cake. I will be updating this as I develop more adaptations of the bundt. So stay tuned!
- Stand Mixer
- Nordicware 10Cup Bundt pan (or any 10C Bundt pan but the Nordicware ones are the best IMO)
- Blender or food processor (for Option 3)
Base Ingredients to cream together
- 2 C Butter (227g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, at least 65°F
- 397 g Sugar 2 C
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 lg eggs at Room Temp at least 65°F
- 361 g 3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour The flour consistency is important, its always a good idea to sift
- 2 tsp Baking Powder I refresh mine every couple of months. It can go off
Wet ingredients-OPTION 1
- 1 C Whole Milk @ 65°-70° This is the base KA recipe, which calls for whole milk, but you have options
Wet ingredients -OPTION 2
- ½ C Half and Half @RT 65°-70° In option 2 you need to up the fat in the milk portion, heavy cream works here too but if you do that add more juice or liqueur if the cake batter is too thick.
- ½ C citrus juice from fruit OR Orange liqueur like Grand Marnier or Cointreau NOTE: you can omit the rind for the apple option but it is tasty if you want to keep it in there!
Wet ingredients – OPTION 3
- 2 apples or other fruit cored and quartered (peel on is fine but peel them if you want a more internally smooth cake)
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 crank allspice I keep mine in a grinder so I just crank once
- ½ C Half and Half I use half and half to up the fat a bit.
- 3 each finely grated rind of 3 lemons or 3 oranges KA calls for 2, but I like the more intense 3 here.
- ⅓ C (74g) freshly squeezed lemon juice, the juice of about 1 1/2 juicy lemons, or some great liquor like Grand Marnier, Cointreau, Cognac, Rum, even Bourbon. Anything you like the taste of! I've mixed citrus and liquor as well.
- 149 g (3/4 cup ) granulated sugar
- 170 g (1 1/2 cups) confectioners' sugar, sifted
- 28 – 43 g (2-3 Tbsp) citrus juice or citrus liqueur This will vary
- 10 C Bundt Pan
- Cake pan spray or butter & flour
Prep the Bundt Pan & Preheat the oven
- Prep a clean Bundt pan with Baking Spray or rub with butter and coat with flour. Do not use regular oil spray on good quality pans like those from Nordicware.
- Preheat the over to 350°F (or moderate if your oven is as bad as mine is)
- Measure out all the ingredients. This seems odd but in these baking recipes temperature and timing are important. I find that measuring everything and having my mise en place complete yields a better cake. Also check the temps of the ingredients. Baking is chemistry and in chemistry temperature is critical. You cannot beat the air into butter that is cold, and adding cold eggs can make your batter curdle. It's worth it to get everything to the right temp. There, lecture over.
Option 3- Prep the apple puree
- Combine the apple, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a pan. Cover and heat on low heat stirring occasionally until the apples soften enough to puree.Puree the mixture in a blender or food processor.Allow to cool the stage as described in "Prep the cake"
Prep the cake
- Add the sugar and butter from the base ingredients in a stand mixer and cream until light. Don't shorten this step, it's the difference between a light tender cake and one that is not so much. Also if your butter is cold, wait until it warms.
- Add the eggs one at a time. Mix completely between additions. If the eggs are too cold you may get separation of the batter, so make sure they are no more than slightly cool to the touch. (Yes, I learned this the hard way)
- Combine the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. If your flour is not smooth, sift the flour-baking powder combo. This ensures you have good distribution of the baking powder and you wont get nasty chunks of flour in your cake (yep, learned the hard way…) Stage your prepped ingredients next to the mixer. I usually put the flour mixture on one side and the liquids on the other. But that's me.
- Measure your wet ingredients and stage next to mixer. Do not combine the alcohol or juice with the half and half if you are doing the second option.
Option 1 Mixing
- Scrape down the mixer so that all the creamed ingredients are at the bottom. Add the flour in three parts alternating with the whole milk. Combine completely between additions. The milk should be your last step.Take the bowl off the mixer and scrape the sides, then add the grated rind. Do not overmix!
Option 2 Mixing
- Scrape down the mixer so that all the creamed ingredients are at the bottom. Add the flour in three parts alternating the first two with the half and half. Combine completely between additions. Add the last part of flour, then add the juice or liqueur.Take the bowl off the mixer and scrape the sides, then add the grated rind. Do not overmix!
Option 3 Mixing
- Scrape down the mixer so that all the creamed ingredients are at the bottom. Add the cooled apple puree.Add ½ of the flour Add ½ of the milkAdd remainder of the flourAdd remainder of the milk.Take the bowl off the mixer and scrape the sides.Do not overmix!
- Bake for ~45-50 minutes @350F. I have the worst oven on the planet so this is rough depending on the mood of my oven. If you do not have a good oven thermometer then buy one. Even better run a series of tests to determine the calibration of your oven. Then run them again with the thermostat on the opposite side of the oven. Yes, the little bastards vary from side to side. Write all this down. I keep the calibration on a note taped to my oven. Ovens suck.A better way to judge is to let your cake bake for ~30 minutes and look at the top, it should be a light, pale, golden. Keep and eye on it for the next 20 minutes, it will be mid-dark brown. When it's done, you wont see any bubbling around the sides. When you press on it, it will be springy but still tender. Lastly use a cake tester or very narrow sharp knife and push in the middle of the cake, it will come out with crumbs and moisture but no batter sticking to it.
- When the cake is done, remove from the over and invert on a cooling rack. Usually my cakes will drop immediately out of the pan, but if not I give them a couple of minutes and try again. If after about 10 minutes the cake is stubbornly sticking you can turn the cake top side up, and run a knife alone the top edge in case any batter is sticking, then rap the cake gently against the counter and then invert on the rack again. I have never had a cake not come out of the pan, I have had a few cakes that tore. Usually this is because there was something off in the baking, like my asshole oven's hot spot decided to move.
- I usually just glaze this cake and be done with it. It's moist enough to be fine with only a glaze.
- Mix the citrus juice and sugar together in a saucepan and heat until the sugar dissolves. You don't need to heat too much just enough to get the sugar dissolved.
- Glaze the cake when hot! You want the badly-named glaze to soak into the cake and add to the moisture. I brush it over the cake and then let it soak in and keep brushing until the glaze is gone.Let the cake cool and then you can either 1) eat the cake, or 2) frost the cake.
Frosting the cake
- This is yet another opportunity to infuse flavor and perhaps a dash of alcohol into your cake. Let your cake cool completely before you frost, otherwise the frosting melts and falls off. That is just sad.
- Add the liquid to the sifter confectioners sugar and mix with a hand-mixer or a wisk to the point where you have a semi-liquid. You want this to be not as stiff as a normal frosting, but thicker than a glaze. This also depends on the pattern of your bundt pan, if the pattern is very intricate you want a more liquid frosting to allow the pattern to show through, if the pattern is regular with deep channels you want the frosting to be thick enough to stick to the grooves from the top to the bottom.Sorry this is one of those thing that you have to figure out on your own. But no worries, you can eat all the failed experiments!