CakeLove, How to Bake Cakes from Scratch by Warren Brown, shows you how make the best cakes with excerpts like The Secret to the Best Chocolate Cake and recipes like Chocolate Pound Cake and Chocolate Apricot Pound Cake.
Yield: one 12-cup Bundt cake or 24 Crunchy Feet
"The colors of this cake remind me of a tiger."
I love the speckles of orange and brown created by combining mini-chunks of apricot and chocolate in this cake. The colors make me think of a tiger, or of my hometown pro football team. You can see that my mind is easily entertained!
Combining dried apricots with bittersweet chocolate against a pleasantly moist yet crunchy butter cake is sinfully satisfying for anyone close enough to catch a whiff of this cake fresh out of the oven. Not too sweet, this batter is quick to mix and a perfect treat for starting or ending any day.
It's understandable if you don't want to use sulphured apricots, but I find the color and texture of unsulphured apricots are not as pleasant in baked goods.
Equipment: food processor, mixing bowls, standing mixer, one 12-cup Bundt pan or small brioche pans
Alcohol-free variation: Omit the amaretto and vanilla. Add the seeds of 1 vanilla pod to butter and 1 tablespoon alcohol-free almond extract.
Pulse the apricots, sugar, and cornstarch in a food processor to chop the fruit into 1/2-inch pieces. Add the chocolate and continue to pulse 2 to 3 times for three seconds each or until the chocolate is broken into small 1/2-inch pieces. Set aside to combine with the other dry ingredients.
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (conventional) or 335°F (convection). Set the rack in the middle of the oven. For Crunchy Feet, set racks in the upper-middle and lower-middle positions.
2. Set out the ingredients and equipment.
Sift the flour directly into a bowl on a scale for accurate measuring.
Measure the other dry ingredients into a separate mixing bowl, add the flour, and whisk for 10 seconds to blend. Set aside.
Measure the liquid ingredients into a separate bowl, whisk to combine, and set aside.
Measure the butter and sugar into separate bowls and set aside.
Crack the eggs into a small bowl and set aside.
3. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on the lowest speed for 3 to 4 minutes. Note that this combination won't become very aerated due to lower butter and sugar ratio. The extra fat and sugar in the chocolate means we need to use less during the creaming process.
4. With the mixer still on the lowest speed, add the eggs one at a time, fully incorporating after each addition. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl.
5. Add the dry ingredient mixture alternately with the liquid mixture in 3 to 5 additions each, beginning and ending with the dry mixture. Move swiftly through this step to avoid overworking the batter. Don't wait for the dry or liquid mixtures to be fully incorporated before adding the next. This step should take a total of about 60 seconds.
6. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl all the way down. Don't miss the clumps of ingredients hiding on the bottom of the bowl. Mix on medium speed for 25 to 30 seconds to develop the batter's structure.
7. Prepare the pans. For a Bundt cake, spray the pan well with a nonstick spray. For Crunchy Feet, place the brioche pans on sheet pans (16 per half-sheet pan is a snug fit) and spray them liberally.
8. For a Bundt cake, fill the pan about three-quarters full by depositing the batter with the rubber spatula in small clumps around the prepared pan instead of by pouring it into one spot. Level the batter with the rubber spatula. Bake any leftover batter as Crunchy Feet or cupcakes. For Crunchy Feet, use a 2-ounce, trigger-release, ice-cream scoop to deposit the batter into the prepared pans so they're three-quarters full.
9. Follow the approximate bake times listed below.
Item | Sea Level | High Altitude
12-cup Bundt | 45-50 minutes | 75 minutes
Crunchy Feet | 15 minutes | 25 minutes
10. Once the edges of the cake are browning and the surface appears dry, test for doneness by inserting a bamboo skewer in the center of the cake. When the skewer shows just a touch of crumbs except for the smears of melted chocolate, the cake is done. Remove the pan from the oven and place on a heat-resistant surface or wire rack.
11. For Crunchy Feet, carefully invert the brioche pans to release the cakes 3 to 4 minutes after removing them from the oven-well before they cool completely. You may have to tap each pan firmly—or even slam it—against the sheet pan to release the cake. Place on a heat-resistant surface or wire rack to cool. Immediately soak the pans to make cleaning easier.
12. For the Bundt cake, once the cake has cooled for 5 to 10 minutes, remove the cake by inverting the pan onto a flat surface. Allow it to cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes, before glazing.
I like to top the Bundt cake with the Apricot Preserve Glaze (page 176). The simpler alternative—and my preference—is to bake Crunchy Feet and serve them naked just minutes after they're out of the oven.
Store under a cake dome at room temperature, or wrapped in plastic in the fridge for up to 1 week. To store longer, label, date, and store the plastic-wrapped cake in the freezer for up to 1 month.
This page created August 2008
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