I know you know about bundt cakes. You were schooled on Betty Crocker, same as me. You know that they’re round and undulating, that they look a little bit like a caterpillar chasing his tale. You know the creviced mold can be filled with anything from cake (perhaps a cinnamon-streuseled breakfast version or a booze-soaked after-hours concoction) to jello, marshmallows and mandarin oranges suspended therein, as if by magic. (Hello, church potluck of my childhood!)
You can open up your Betty Crocker cookbook (or, for most of you, I’m betting, a more up-to-date baking handbook), letting its weathered red spine fall open to your most-oft used page. Flip to the recipe index and slide your fingertip down the “B” section until you see the word “bundt.” Indented under that word (which, by the way, is a joy to let roll off your tongue—insisting, as it does, that you emphasize both its first letter (buh) and its last (tuh), which is no small feat for a monosyllabic word and gives the word a bit of a primitive, grunting caveman sound), in any American baking book worth its salt, you know you’ll find a goodly list of options.
But here’s what you might not know. You needn’t stop there, in that compilation of bundt recipes right there in the index. Because the bundt pan is a little like other kitchen slights of hand: a dallop of crème fraiche, say, or a dusting of flaky Maldon or a final pat of butter. Like these things, the bundt pan is a tried-and-true trick to transform a ho-hum recipe into something a bit more show-stopping. Take for instance this recipe for a Moist Chocolate sheet cake, which I doubt anyone would refuse (it’s chocolate cake, for heaven’s sake) just as much as I doubt anyone would remember it and request it for years to come. Until the bundt pan comes to the rescue, that is.
But I’ve gotten a bit ahead of myself. I should tell you that I’ve been on the hunt for a chocolate bundt cake for sometime. I was envisioning an ingredient list that included some just-brewed coffee, thick sour cream and, obviously, chocolate—preferably dark. In terms of texture, I sought something sturdy and moist, a bit like Devil’s Food Cake or, dare I say it, a chocolate-frosted, white-curly-qued Hostess cupcake. But I was also looking for some restraint, not a heavyweight, death-by-chocolate type recipe.
A recipe like this seemed like the kind of thing I should have on file, ready at the waiting when I need a dessert at a moment’s notice. Something simple, but stellar, open to being dressed up (draped with ganache, for example, or showered with a dusting of powdered sugar) or stripped down (served in wedges, straight up, or maybe with a glass of milk).
The absence of such a cake in my recipe file loomed large. And it remained unfilled as a I perused recipes and tried a couple unsuccessful candidates—some too rich, others too dry. But I kept at it and when I saw Ellie Krieger’s recipe for a Moist Mocha Cake, I immediately thought BUNDT!, even though she instructs us to pour the cake batter into a 9×13 pan for baking. It’s that kitchen slight-of-hand I mention above and, thankfully, it worked here like a charm.
When you’re converting a cake recipe into bundt form, be sure to consult a conversion chart, which will help you translate between various cake pans based on a recipe’s volume. As you’ll see, your best non-bundt recipe candidates are recipes meant for a 9×13 sheet cake or two round (8- or 9-inch) cake pans. You’ll also have to fiddle with the baking time. In this case, I suggest increasing the baking time by 10 to 15 minutes.
What I got by pairing Ellie’s recipe and my bundt pan trick was this: a dense, chocolatey, delicious ring (though one not particularly coffee-flavored, so I’ve taken the liberty of dropping the “mocha” out of Ellie’s recipe title below*) and an end to my search for a go-to chocolate bundt recipe. Call off the dogs, this is it.
Moist Chocolate Bundt Cake
Adapted from Ellie Krieger
3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch processed cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 egg whites
1 1/2 cups lowfat yogurt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon espresso powder, dissolved in 1 tablespoon of hot water
2 ounces good-quality dark chocolate
1 tablespoon powdered sugar, optional
Arrange rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a bundt pan with cooking spray and set aside.
Whisk together flours, cocoa, salt, baking soda and baking powder in a medium bowl, then sift ingredients through a fine mesh strainer.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together melted butter and oil. Add eggs and egg whites and whisk to incorporate. Fold in yogurt, vanilla, sugar and dissolved espresso powder. Melt the chocolate in the microwave for 60 to 90 seconds; do so in 30 second intervals, stirring between intervals and stopping when it’s melted and smooth. Fold chocolate into batter.
Gradually add sifted dry ingredients and stir until just incorporated; do not over beat. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until cake has risen nicely and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes on a wire rack, in the pan. Place the wrack, upside down, on the top of the pan (the open end) and carefully invert the cake onto the wrack.
Dust with powdered sugar, if desired.
* If you want more of a coffee flavor, I think you could drizzle the cake, while it’s still warm, with a bit of Kahlua.