Before the snow began I found a great Bundt pan made by Wilton. It's shape was described as a bell on the shelf tag. I thought it would be perfect for a holiday dessert. In fact I had one particular dessert in mind when I splurged and bought it for myself with a 40% off coupon at a local craft store. I had seen a beautiful Chocolate Bourbon Cake at Simply Recipes just days before and I really wanted to try it. The post there credited Melissa Clark of the New York Times and her article "When Temperance Isn't in the Cards" as the source of the recipe. For someone who likes to cook with Bourbon as much as I do it seemed like the perfect festive holiday cake to share with friends.
With a new pan and a new recipe I lit a candle, turned on my Christmas playlist and dedicated the afternoon to baking. The recipe came together seamlessly and while the cake was baking I worked on finishing my long planned Kentucky Bourbon Balls.
I tested the cake at 1 hour and 10 minutes as directed but left it in an extra 5 to 10 minutes before it tested done from my oven. I removed the cake from the pan immediately and it came out perfectly. The detail from the pan was quite pretty.
The event where I had planned to serve this beautiful cake ended up being canceled because of the snow last Sunday. Even so I found a few willing tasters to gather at my house that evening. Just before serving I dusted the cake with powdered sugar sifted through a tea strainer. The powdered sugar settled along the ridges from the cake pan like snow dusting the tiles on the rooftops outside my window. The effect was simple and enchanting.
The cake itself was even better. Moist and dark the cake tasted rich and delicious. The flavor of the chocolate, espresso and bourbon balanced each other well composing a warmly spirited blend of holiday notes. Each bite was a feast of flavors on its own making it a dessert to be savored slowly, accompanied by a bold cup of hot coffee.
Bourbon Chocolate Cake
from The New York Times, December 3, 2008, by Melissa Clark
I cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups flour
5 ounces unsweetened dark chocolate
¼ cup instant espresso powder
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup bourbon whiskey + ¼ cup or so for sprinkling
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Grease and flour a 10-cup-capacity Bundt pan.
Melt the chocolate in the microwave or double boiler. Set aside to cool.
Put the expresso powder and cocoa powder in a large (2 cup or larger) measuring cup. Add enough boiling water to make the contents measure 1 cup. Stir until the powders dissolve. Add 1 cup of bourbon and the salt. Set aside to cool.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar, beating until well combined. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract, baking soda and melted chocolate, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally with a rubber spatula.
On low speed, beat in 1/3 of the bourbon-espresso mixture. When combined add one cup of flour beating just until combined. Continue adding another third of the bourbon-espresso mixture, the second cup of flour, and then the remainder of the liquid until the batter is smooth.
Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and bake at 325 degrees for approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the cake tests done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Invert the cake on a serving platter. Sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup or so of bourbon while the cake is still warm.
Allow cake to cool and dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.
Note: I'm not sure it would improve the cake but next time I think I will soak 1/2 cup of fresh pecan halves in bourbon, then add the nuts to the batter just before pouring it into the pan. They might make a nice occasional counterpoint to the melt in your mouth texture of the cake itself.