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All-In-One Holiday Bundt Cake

Even as I get older and wiser (?), life continues to be full of firsts. This recipe, for instance, was the first TWD entry in my brief TWD career baked entirely by King H, my first love (discounting the likes of Taylor Hanson and Jordan Catalano, who may have come earlier, but certainly weren’t as…real), during his first foray into baking in our first kitchen. As you might imagine, I am usually the one doing the baking in our relationship. King H, on the other hand, makes a fitting sous chef (he’s often found cleaning up the wake of baking products I leave behind), a mean Chicago deep-dish pizza, and the perfect choice of music to muck around in the kitchen to. He’s also very often left to eat half a batch of muffins or 25 cookies, all in the name of feeding my baking habit. And for that I’m grateful.

Imagine my surprise, then, when he came home from work one night and mentioned he was involved in a bake-off at work. Another first: our roles had suddenly been reversed. We got into the spirit last week, when our friend B stopped over to use the kitchen and prepare her entry, these stunning Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting (incidentally, this will now be my go-to Autumn carrot cake recipe, and is a perfectly fall-spiced compliment to my more spring-y version previously posted here), but this week it was finally King H’s turn to shine. Initially inspired to bring in sweet potatoes with marshmallows, a Thanksgiving staple which is all but lost on anyone outside of the US (believe me, I’ve begged more than one English chef to make this for the holiday, only to be met with complete and utter shock and disgust, which is a big part of the reason I’ll be finally be hosting Thanksgiving at home this year), his excitement was tempered by the fact that he’d be assisting in making six pounds worth of candied yams (yams? Sweet potatoes? I’m going rogue and calling them both*) a mere four days later. And so King H had a momentary lapse in bright ideas on Sunday afternoon, as he was dragging a 14 pound frozen turkey and 12 pounds of potatoes home from Waitrose. Suddenly, all he saw before him was days of mashing, basting and mixing. It was enough to put him off baking entirely and he was suitably forlorn.

Enter me and my desire to get back on track in my quest to complete Tuesdays with Dorie and…problem quickly solved (at least the pot-luck part – he’s still got lots of mashing to do in the days ahead). I gave King H a choice of all four recipes this month (the folks at TWD have graciously done away with the one set recipe per week rule during November) and this one jumped right out at both of us, courtesy of The Nitty Britty. If he couldn’t make his candied yams, this Bundt cake, it appeared, would be a fitting substitute, as Dorie herself noted you could “name your favorite it-tastes-like-Thanksgiving flavor, and you’ll find it here”. And, as usual, right she was. I left King H to his own devices (one of the rules strictly enforced by his co-workers was that I would not produce this for him) and, aside from chopping a few unruly cranberries (why, oh why must cranberries pop all over the place?!) and answering a few questions about the KitchenAid stand mixer creaming/mixing process, I didn’t reappear again until he was pouring the batter in the well-buttered Bundt pan. And was I ever glad I had the foresight to appear at such a crucial moment, because this was the first time I was the one who got to lick the batter bowl clean, an honour I usually bestow on whoever pops down to the kitchen while I’m baking and tasting in my own time.  If the batter was any indication, this cake was going to be a hit at work. King H drizzled it with a maple syrup glaze and I watched it head out the door with him on his way to work this morning, feeling more than a bit despondent at the fact that I wouldn’t be tasting the cake that filled my whole house with the smells of Thanksgiving a mere twelve hours earlier. I may have to wait until Thursday to smell anything quite as good again, but I have it on good authority that King H’s compatriots were thrilled with this cake. And I’m thrilled with it, too, even though I never had a bite, because he baked something! And it was beautiful! And it smelled like heaven! And he’s so precise! And he told me I keep him, even when he wins the contest and becomes an international Bundt superstar! And, perhaps most importantly, now…now that he’s given these foreigners a taste of the cranberries, pumpkin, apples and pecans that help make this time of year so special, thanks to King H perhaps we just may have another first to look forward to: winning them over with those marshmallow-topped yams on Thursday…

All-In-One Holiday Bundt Cake

All-in-One Holiday Bundt Cake
(from Baking: From My Home To Yours)

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger (or 1 tsp ground ginger)
1 1/4 sticks (10 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 large apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
1 cup cranberries, halved or coarsely chopped
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting or maple syrup icing (see note)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9- to 10- inch (12 cup) Bundt pan. Don’t place the pan on a baking sheet-you want the oven’s heat to circulate freely through the Bundt’s inner tube.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and ground ginger, if you’re using it (not the grated ginger).

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and both sugars together at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, and beat for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the pumpkin, chopped apple and grated ginger, if you’re using it-don’t be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Still on low speed, add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. With a rubber spatula, stir in the cranberries and pecans. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top with the rubber spatula.

Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before unmolding, then cool to room temperature on the rack.

Note: just before bringing the cake to the table, dust it with confectioners’ sugar or drizzle it with maple syrup icing, which Dorie introduces in her “playing around” section and which King H used to much praise in his version. Simply sift 6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar into a bowl and stir in 2 tablespoons maple syrup. Add more maple syrup little by little, until you have an icing that runs nicely off the tip of the spoon — you might need another 1/2 tablespoon syrup to get the right consistency. Put the cooled cake on a sheet of wax paper and drizzle the icing from the tip of the spoon over it. Let the icing set for a few minutes before serving.

*Edited to add this link, aptly found by King H a mere day after my great yam/sweet potato debate.

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Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Spearmint-Lime Glaze

I have a confession to make: I purchased a Bundt pan nearly a year ago and, up until this weekend, I had yet to use it. It feels good to get that out in the open. I’ve discovered that’s the beauty of the Bundt pan, though: when one has made enough brownies and cupcakes and tarts and crumbles to last a lifetime (or at least a summer), there it is, the promise of a dense and delicious slice of pound cake, staring back at you from/falling out of your ridiculously overstuffed cupboard like some sort of divine culinary sign (or perhaps just a sign that you need to do some cleaning).

I will be the first to admit what a mistake it was to wait this long to put that Bundt pan to use, particularly if everything I make in it from now on is even half as good as this gem from Flo Braker’s Baking for All Occassions (one of my favourite go-to dessert books). I stumbled upon this recipe on Saturday afternoon when I found myself in an unusual mood for dessert simplicity. Normally what I love most about baking on the weekends is the lack of time contraints, albeit such a lack often leads to marathon sessions in the kitchen at all hours and a trail of flour in my wake come Monday morning (have I mentioned how badly I need to clean?!). But, this weekend, I wanted none of it. Perhaps it was my eventful tart-making escapade the previous weekend, or the fact that I had batches of Polperro chips to dunk in hot oil, or that we’d spent the past two weeks knee-deep in the most decadent peanut butter brownies EVER. Whatever it was, I set out to peruse a few cookbooks with the express desire to find something simple, not too sweet, but a bit summery, befitting of one of our final barbecues of the season. I was sold on this recipe the minute I read Flo’s preface to it – this cake, she assured me, is simple and perfect for a leisurely picnic beneath a shady tree. And, it is. It’s dense, citrus-y, incredibly easy to prepare and the speariment-lime glaze gives it a moist inside that almost makes you forget you’re inhaling a solid pound of cream cheese and sugar. But, my favourite part by far is the very bottom, where the cream cheese batter bakes to form a sweet crust that is simply heavenly and which has to be tried to be believed. This is the kind of recipe that will draw your co-workers into your office on a Monday morning to tell you you’re in the wrong line of business (oh, how I love those recipes!). It works for dessert, it works for breakfast, it works for a snack…it works for everything. I’m pretty sure it could cure anyone’s easing into Autumn blues and I, for one, plan on making it again and again. King H is already begging for more, for one, and that Bundt pan refuses to work its way back into the overstuffed cupboard. A divine culinary sign, if you ask me.

Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Spearmint-Lime Glaze

Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Spearmint-Lime Glaze
(from Baking for All Occassions)

For the cake:

3 1/4 cups (13 ounces/370 grams) cake flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
9 ounces (2 1/4 sticks/255 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
One 8-ounce (225-gram) package cream cheese, at room temperature
3 cups (1 pound, 5 1/4 ounces/600 grams) granulated sugar
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (or 325 degrees Fahrenheit if the pan has a dark finish). Butter a 10 by 3-inch Bundt pan, light coat it with nonstick spray, then flour it, tapping out the excess flour. Have all of the ingredients at room temperature.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until creamy and smooth, 30 to 45 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. On medium speed, add the sugar in a steady stream and continue to beat until light in color and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Stop the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

With the mixer still on medium speed, add the eggs, 2 to 4 tablespoons at a time, beating after each addition until incorporated. The entire process of adding and beating the eggs should take 2 to 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and lime juice during the final moments of mixing. On the lowest speed, gradually add the flour mixture, mixing after each addition only until incorporated and stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. The entire process of adding the flour mixture should take about 2 minutes. Detach the paddle and bowl from the mixer, and tap the paddle against the side of the bowl to free the excess batter. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the lime zest. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly with the spatula.

Bake the cake until golden and a round wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean, about 1 1/4 hours. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for about 10 minutes while you prepare the glaze.

For the spearmint-lime glaze:

6 tablespoons (3 fl ounces/90 ml) water
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup lightly packed spearmint leaves
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (5 ounces/140 grams) powdered sugar
2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest

In a small saucepan, combine the water, lime juice, butter and mint leaves over low heat just until the mixture bubbles around the edges. Remove from the heat and let steep for 1 minute.

Without delay, tilt and rotate the cake pan while gently tapping it on a counter to release the cake sides. Invert a wire rack on top of the cake, invert the cake onto it, and lift off the pan. Slide a sheet of waxed paper under the rack to catch any drips from the glaze.

Press the mint leaves against the side of the saucepan to release most of the moisture, and then discard the mint leaves. Stir the sugar and lime zest into the liquid until smooth. Using a pastry brush, coat the top and sides of the warm cake with all of the glaze. Let the cake cool completely before serving. As the cake cools, the glaze sets up to form a shiny coating.

To serve, slide the bottom of a tart pan, a small rimless baking sheet, or a large offset spatula under the cake and carefully transfer it to a serving platter. Cut into thin slices with a serrated knife.

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