Lis of La Mia Cucina recently reviewed some Dorie Greenspan recipes and gave them glowing praise; I recommend you swing by to check out her baking efforts here. A friend at work recently celebrated a birthday and I knew I wouldn’t have time to bake her a cake unless I found one that could be baked in advance. When Lis told me about her brown sugar bundt cake my tastebuds were tantalised. That is, until I learned that it had pears and prunes in it also. I like both but somehow couldn’t imagine them together in a cake. I’m glad I decided to try the recipe because it was lip smackingly delicious and like the recipe said – it’s a good keeper. I baked it on a Tuesday evening and we didn’t eat it until Friday morning. It was still tender and moist. One person in my office who sampled the cake had 3 pieces. I guess she liked it.
In my typical style I didn’t follow the recipe as stated and here’s what happened. For some strange reason I thought it would be sensible to measure my bundt pan and I discovered that it certainly was not a 12 cup one. I decided that I still wanted to use it because the cakes turn out so pretty in a bundt pan and thought I could just halve the recipe. Well it’s not really that easy to half an egg is it! I used two eggs. I didn’t want to use nuts so followed the suggestion to use extra flour. My next hurdle was that I didn’t have any buttermilk so I substituted natural, unsweetened yoghurt (dairy is dairy in my recipe book) and finally, the lazy person in me couldn’t be bothered peeling and coring fresh pears so I used canned ones instead. Next time I make the full recipe I think I’ll try a 9”x13” pan and I’ll probably add some ginger to the mixture instead of the prunes. Perhaps I might try an apple and cinnamon version.
Brown Sugar Bundt Cake
Adapted from Baking: From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. ground hazelnuts or walnuts (or 1/4 c. more all-purpose flour)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 sticks (8 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 c. (packed) light brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. pure almond extract (only if you're using the ground nuts)
1 c. buttermilk, at room temperature
2 medium pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch dice.
1/2 c. moist, plump prunes, snipped into 1/4-inch pieces, or 1/2 c. moist, plump raisins (dark or golden)
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350º F. Butter a 9- to 10-inch (12 cup) Bundt pan, dust the inside with flour and tap out the excess. If your pan is not nonstick, dust the interior of the pan with flour, then tap out the excess. (If you've got a silicone Bundt pan, there's no need to butter or flour it.) Don't place the pan on a baking sheet - you want the oven's heat to circulate through the Bundt's inner tube.
Whisk together the flour, nuts, baking powder, baking soda and salt
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes
Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition
Beat in the vanilla and the almond extract, if you're using it
Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture and the buttermilk alternately - add the flour in 3 additions and the buttermilk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients)
Mix only until the ingredients are incorporated and scrape down the bowl as needed
With a rubber spatula, stir in the pears and prunes. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top with the spatula
Bake for 60 to 65 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted deep into the center of the cake comes out clean. (If the cake looks as if it's browning too fast, cover the top loosely with a foil tent.)
Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before unmolding, then cool to room temperature on the rack
When you are ready to serve, dust the top of the cake with confectioners' sugar
*Dorie's Note 1: Dorie suggests, if you have the time, to wrap the cake well and leave it on the counter to ripen the flavors for a day before serving.
*Dorie's Note 2: This cake will keep well for about 5 days wrapped well and at room temperature and can be frozen for up to 2 months, defrost still wrapped.
*Playing Around: For a nuttier cake, use 2 cups all-purpose flour and 3/4 c. ground nuts - hazelnuts, walnuts or almonds. Decrease the vanilla extract to 1 1/4 tsp., and use the almond extract. Omit the pears and prunes and stir in 1 cup of chopped toasted nuts - use the same nut as the one you ground.
*Lisa's Notes: I can't have nuts, so I omitted the ground and the almond extract, which gave me a very caramel tasting cake. I also substituted golden raisins in lieu of the prunes just because it's what I had on hand. I did eat this cake the day of baking as well as every freaking day after (5 days!) and it did get better with each passing day. *swoon*