Something came up at work recently that caused me to assess my writing and presentation skills. I've come a long way from where I used to be. Not with the writing part--I've never had much trouble with that. But there was a time when I was completely petrified at the thought of speaking in front of people. It goes a long way back--I can remember a situation as far back as 3rd grade. I was very shy as a child, probably in part because we moved around a bunch when I was in grade school and I went to a number of different schools. I was okay with people once I got to know them, but still hated larger groups. Even in college, when I had to do more presentations (I even had to take a short class on it as a graduation requirement) I was incredibly anxious more often than not.
So it's pretty amazing to me to think that I put this blog out there for anyone to read, week after week. Sure, there's a certain amount of anonymity, since I don't have to see the people who are reading it, but I'm still surprised at how much I enjoy it. And it's so cool to see how far I've come with the presentation. It took a while to come up with a consistent style, but eventually I did, and I like it. It's made me realize that I'm better at this sort of thing than I thought. =) And really, confidence is the key. Somewhere between the end of college and now I realized that as long as I feel like I know what I'm talking about, presenting things to others isn't so bad. Good thing, since I've got a really important presentation coming up! Too bad I can't just take along some baked goods to help win them over. =P
This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe is a great one in the presentation department. Erin of When in Doubt...Leave it at 350 picked the lovely Mocha-Walnut Marbled Bundt Cake for us to make this week. This cake is pretty straightforward to mix up. It uses the creaming method, so you beat together butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs and vanilla. Then you alternate adding dry ingredients and milk (dry, wet, dry, wet, dry). To get the chocolate batter for the marbling, you start by dividing your batter in half. One half is good to go as is, while the other gets some chocolate and coffee added to it. For the mocha flavor, you're supposed to melt together bittersweet chocolate, a bit of butter, some coffee and some espresso powder, then let it cool and add it to the vanilla batter. I'm not a coffee drinker, so the only time our coffee pot gets used is when we have visitors. So I just used water in place of the coffee and added an extra half-teaspoon of espresso powder. It seemed to work fine.
Next, I got to put the batter in my new bundt pan! It's the classic shape from NordicWare. I found it at Target, of all places. A couple weeks ago, I was wandering through the housewares section and discovered a bunch of NordicWare stuff. I don't think they've been carrying it long, since I don't remember seeing any of it before. Anyway, I was able to acquire a lovely new pan for about $20. Awesome! Okay, back to the baking notes... I generally coat my bundt pans with baking spray (e.g. Pam for Baking) to avoid sticking problems. Worked quite well, as usual. I added the vanilla batter to the pan, watching to make sure I didn't leave any big air bubbles around the edge of the pan. Then I poured the chocolate batter on top and swirled the two just a bit with a butter knife. The batter didn't fill the pan as much as I thought it would, but one thing I like about this pan is that it seems to result in a nice shape even if you don't fill it as much. You end up with a shorter but still pretty cake. I baked my cake for 60 minutes.
The verdict? This is a very yummy cake. Everyone here enjoyed it. I guess the nuts were chopped finely enough, because I didn't get any complaints from my usual nut hater. =) I really enjoyed the contrast of the two flavors. The chocolate part in particular was very moist. And I love, love, love my new pan--the crust came out such a lovely and delicious golden brown. The cake was great on its own with a cup of tea, but a little chocolate sauce on the side doesn't hurt, either. I can definitely see myself making this one again--I'd like to try it with pecans. The one thing that I'd like to do better is the marbling/swirling. I just ended up with a chocolate blob shape in the center of most of the pieces (the one I photographed was the most interesting I could find). I'd like to try again for something prettier. =)
If you'd like to give this one a try, head on over to Erin's blog. And don't forget to see what everyone else did with this recipe this week. You can find a list of people who participated here.