Saturday, September 1, 2012

Chocolate Pound Cake with Espresso Glaze

Let me tell you about my friend. He's a terrific, single guy who likes to cook. Being single, he doesn't bake that often, so when he does, he wants it to be special. Invariably, he calls me up for advice on what to take to a party, and I give him a recipe that I've made dozens of times. Does he take my advice? No, never. He always tries some crazy recipe with thirty ingredients and fifty-seven steps. And it's always off somehow - burnt or raw, runny or brittle, bland or sickly sweet. (Lucky thing all those parties involve alcohol.)

What's the best recipe for a party? One that you know is going to work. One that doesn't leave you so exhausted and broke that you can't enjoy yourself. One that doesn't have odd ingredients that may put off intrepid guests, i.e. anise. One that can be transported and left on a table. Obviously, the best recipe for a party is bundt cake.

How much do I love this cake?

Enough to clean the mixer head with a toothpick after making a triple batch.


Man, I was really hungry that day! Just kidding - we had three parties that weekend. I baked Thursday, and put two of them in the freezer. The babies were for us (quality control) and the neighbors (yeah, we'll cut the grass eventually).
Chocolate Pound Cake
1 cup cocoa powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons instant espresso or coffee
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 eggs
1 1/4 cups buttermilk

First, preheat the oven to 350 (325 convection), then sift together your dry ingredients (cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt, coffee).
 Cream the butter and sugar for about three minutes, until they are soft and fluffy. Add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, beating briefly after each addition.

Alternately beat in the the buttermilk and sifted dry ingredients. Then scrape down the sides of the bowl with your spatula to mix in any buttery lumps.

I am a firm believer in baking spray that has the flour in it, if only because you get an even coating in the pan. If you feel like greasing and flouring your bundt pan long-hand, knock yourself out. But try very hard not to leave extra flour in the bottom, or it will glue chunks of cake to the pan.

Fill your prepared ten-cup bundt, and use a spatula to pull the batter up the outer edge of the pan, making a circular depression in the middle. You are trying to make the sides rise more than the middle, so that it will sit flat on the plate when you invert it.

Bake for about 90 minutes, until the toothpick tester has only a few crumbs on it. Err on the side of more done, rather than less, since buttermilk can make baked goods gummy when undercooked.

Can you tell that I was out of Pam for Baking?
Let this cool before covering (up those bad spots) with any frosting your little heart desires. Espresso Glaze is a pleasantly bitter foil to the sweet cake.

Espresso Glaze
4 tablespoons cream
1 1/4 teaspoons instant espresso powder
2 cups powdered sugar
1-2 teaspoons milk, if needed

Microwave the cream in a glass bowl until it is just hot, but not boiling. Dissolve the espresso powder in it, and whisk out any lumps.

Gradually whisk in the sugar, adding the milk a few drops at a time.  You are aiming for something that clings to the whisk and then drips off slowly. Keep adding milk until you get there, and add a bit more sugar if you overshoot. Spoon the glaze onto the cake, nudging it down the sides as you go. If the first spoonful sits there like a lump or rolls into a puddle on the plate, scrape it off and adjust the consistency.

A few helpful hints:
  • You can substitute 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons milk for the cream, but you may have to adjust the quantities of sugar and milk.
  • You cannot substitute instant coffee for the espresso powder, or the glaze will be too bitter.
  • If the cake is hot, your glaze will melt off into a puddle.
  • Optimally, refrigerate the cake for a couple of hours to harden the glaze. If not, no big deal.
I think we'll be invited back.

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