So, does anyone else still have their Christmas tree up? We always leave it up until after the 6th (gotta have the 12 days of Christmas!), so this past weekend was my target for putting everything away. I really meant for us to get to it yesterday, but it just didn't happen. I had to work all day Saturday, meaning Jamie was stuck with the girls by himself all day, and he was mostly out of commission all weekend anyway, due to the lovely seasonal cedar pollen. It didn't help that Brianna and Gillian were both trying my patience mightily on Sunday. So there's still stuff all over my living room and around the tree, making it kind of hard to take it down. At this rate, it may be a several-day project like putting it up was.
But while we're on the subject, did you get any good Christmas presents? I did! I accidentally found out about one of them several weeks before Christmas, and then had to wait to get to use it. My in-laws got me the fabulous Heritage Bundt pan that I used to make the cake in this post. My mother-in-law also made me some lovely new aprons featuring food designs. They'll make a nice change from my old one--they're in such pretty colors. (I try to remember to wear an apron whenever I'm in the kitchen, since I'm a bit of a klutz and always seem to end up wearing some of the ingredients...) I also got Classic Home Desserts from Jamie, which has a great forward by Dorie Greenspan. And with some of my Christmas money, I picked up a copy of Baked Explorations. I think I may spend the rest on a pain de mie pan. =)
I had a hard time deciding what to make first in my new pan, but finally settled on a tried and true recipe from Cook's Illustrated, the Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake. One thing I really like about this cake recipe is that it uses natural cocoa powder, since I prefer that to Dutch-processed. (The alkalized stuff always seems to me to have a weird aftertaste.) The cocoa is bloomed in boiling water to really bring out the chocolate flavor. Some bittersweet chocolate gets melted in the boiling water, too--I used a mix of El Rey 58% and 70%. Some instant espresso powder is added as well, to give the chocolate flavor an additional boost. Once the chocolate mixture is cooled, sour cream is whisked in. The cake batter is made with the creaming method. The butter is creamed with brown sugar (which adds moisture and flavor compared to white sugar). Next eggs and vanilla are beaten in. Then the dry ingredients (flour, salt and baking soda) are mixed in alternating with the chocolate & sour cream mixture.
I realized as I was doing the final mixing that there was more batter than would fit in my new pan. The recipe calls for a 12-cup bundt pan, and the heritage pan is only 10 cups. So I pulled out one of my little 3-cup pans for the rest of the batter. I filled both pans about 3/4 full. The smaller pan took 30 minutes to bake, while the larger one needed 50 minutes. I let the cakes rest in the pans for about 10 minutes before turning them onto racks to cool completely. In the past, I’ve added a chocolate glaze on top, but this time I wanted to really show off the shape of the cake, so I simply dusted it with powdered sugar once the cake was completely cool.
The verdict? I've made this cake several times, and it's always fabulous. My main issue with most chocolate cakes is that they're not that chocolatey. No such problems with this cake! It's not often that I find a cake I'm happy to eat without any sort of frosting or glaze. =) It was a big hit with everyone else here, as well. (I made it while Jamie's parents were here so they could help us eat it.) As I expected, I love the shape of the cake in this pan, too. I can't wait to make some other ones.
If you'd like to try this recipe for yourself, you can find it here if you subscribe to the Cook's Illustrated website. I also found it here on food.com.
Cool new foodie aprons! =)