It’s summer! My sweet little Wee is out of school after a May with a lot of moving parts – field trips, birthday parties, end-of-year activities and plans to get together over the summer. These kids are all such good friends that it feels a little unfair to keep them apart for three months, which is a great problem to have.
With that all wrapped up, it’s time to do some meaningful work here, and I’m stoked about that. I’ve been really thrilled at how this Baked Occasionally series has kept the blog actively in my mind this year. With everything else that’s gone on, it’s nice to have a place that I can head to that’s pretty chill and never changes (especially when I don’t post! Haha kidding – I mean that in a good way.)
This cake embodies everything I love, and have always loved, about blogging. I can do whatever the heck I want, with whatever recipe I want, and hopefully make it better. Remember, this series I do with Natalie is about trial, possible error, and fixes: we like to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
I picked our cake this month: the Black Cocoa Bundt with Whiskey Butter Glaze. I felt like this month had fewer choices that others did: a trifle, short cakes, icebox cake, and so on. This one stood out to me because of the color: it’s black. like onyx black, due to black cocoa, and BOY did I need a reason to buy a bag of black cocoa powder, finally.
Also, everyone knows by now how I love a bundt, so this one was a given. Natalie made it first: her only complaint was the major whiskey in the glaze. I shy away from using a ton of alcohol in baked goods because of that very reason: I think often it overtakes the flavor of the dessert its in. If I wanted a drink, I would have one with this cake, not on this cake. My job was to correct the problem (which technically may only be a problem for some.)
What I learned:
If your cake makes you accidentally drunk, what’s the best thing to do? Coffee up. So I worked the whiskey out of this and amped up the coffee instead, making this more of a companion to Natalie’s cake than a twist. They go together, one right after the other, depending on what you’re into. Some recipe notes:
- Pro Tip – dusting your bundt pan with cocoa powder versus flour is brilliant when you’re working on a chocolate bundt. Extra chocolate flavor bump plus no whiteness on top? Yes please.
- Go big – the Baked boys like big bundts, which means you better keep your fancy Heritage bundt pan on the shelf in favor of the largest one you have. This is a voluminous batter, which means your cake will need every ounce of space.
- Making a Baked cake means you just better get out all your big bowls and set them on the counter, because you’ll use every. single. one of them. This is true of all their cakes, period, so just be prepared. I lovingly refer to all Baked cakes as Four-Bowl-Productions, and that doesn’t even include the frosting/glaze part.
- Don’t, under any circumstances, take your bundt out of the pan until it is completely cool. Because this:
whoops. It’ll be fine! It’s fine; glaze fixes everything.
What I did:
I wanted major mocha coffee here; the original recipe has espresso powder and hot drip coffee, but I threw in a small heap of Nescafe, aka the secret ingredient in Greek frappé coffee drink. It’s delicious instant coffee, friends, and great for using in recipes where you want coffee flavor but you don’t want to add liquid. I balanced it with a bit more vanilla, just because.
for the glaze, I swapped brewed coffee and a pinch of salt for the whiskey: and I only used 2 tablespoons here, so go slowly with that last tablespoon of liquid, whatever you’re using. The pinch of salt is just because a flat confectioners sugar glaze annoys me unless there’s a bit of salt or acid in there.
What I may do in the future:
If you want a happy medium between the two cakes, I’d take the whiskey in the glaze down to 1 tablespoon versus 3; even 2 teaspoons would suffice. Fill in the remaining quantity with water or coffee, or even extra heavy cream, if you’d like. I’d also like to un-bowl this cake a bit by mixing all the wet ingredients together first – combining the brown sugar mixture step with the coffee/cocoa step just seems practical – and I’d even try not bothering to whip the cream before adding it. I get the science behind it, because I’m sure inflating the cream adds some lift to the batter, but I’m not entirely confident it translated into a fluffy cake. It’s really dense, so air bubbles or no…jury = out.
What it tastes like:
In a word, incredibly dark and chocolatey, with a deep coffee kick. it’s stormy dark: dense, rich and really satisfying, but not for people who lean at all towards a milky chocolate. As cakes go, this one really toes the line of bitter, but doesn’t cross it, and one of the most intense chocolate cakes I’ve tasted. The glaze was nice, but I’m a poor judge of glazes: confectioners’ sugar ones tend to, for me, be great for decoration but low on flavor add: this one is no exception. The original whiskey one would have been too overpowering for me, and actually taken away from the cake, so I’m happy I went this way. I’m wondering what a chocolate glaze would be like on this, though: it makes more sense. Add that to things I’d try in the future.
If you want to see the cake it its original format (and what Natalie thinks of it), head over to her post about it right here. Our glazing technique looks identical this time, which means we’ve finally succeeded in melding our brains together. Yay! She gets to pick our selection next time, and although she hasn’t chosen yet, I think I know which one she’ll pick. I know at least two she won’t pick, so we’ll see.
I’ve armed myself with some cookbooks for the summer. Also lots of glue sticks, art supplies, and a play tent, but that’s a story for a different day.
Adapted from Baked Occasions: Desserts for Leisure Activities, Holidays, and Informal Celebrations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito.
Black Cocoa Bundt with…Coffee Glaze
for the cake:
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/4 cup unsweetened black cocoa powder*
- 1 Tbsp espresso powder**
- 1 Tbsp Nescafe instant coffee***
- 1 cup hot brewed coffee
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 2 1/4 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp grapeseed oil
- 1 1/2 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
for the glaze:
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 2 Tbsp heavy cream
- 2 1/2 to 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 2 to 3 Tbsp brewed coffee
*if you have a Sur la Table or a story which specializes in specialty baking ingredients, pick King Arthur Flour’s black cocoa powder up there. Substitute with an equal amount of regular cocoa powder, but the color won’t be as drama.
**espresso powder is getting easier and easier to find; I’ve purchased it at Williams Sonoma, but I’ve seen it at Whole Foods and flagship local grocery stores in the area.
***Nescafe can sometimes be found in regular grocery stores, but definitely international food stores, Greek or Mediterranean aisle, I promise.
Make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter the inside of a 12-cup Bundt pan, dust with cocoa powder, and knock out the excess, making sure the pan’s nooks and crannies are all thoroughly coated.
Place both cocoa powders, espresso powder, and instant coffee in a medium heatproof bowl; pour the hot coffee directly over the powders and whisk until combined. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda; set aside. In yet another large bowl, whisk the brown sugar, oil, and vanilla until combined. Add the eggs and egg yolks and whisk again until just combined. Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the coffee / chocolate mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Stir each addition with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula gently to combine.
Whip the cream (either by hand – hahaha right! – or with a standing mixer) just until medium peaks form. Fold 1/3 of the whipped cream into the batter to lighten it. Fold in half of the remaining whipped cream until just incorporated, then fold in the rest until no streaks remain.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the middle of the oven until a small sharp knife or toothpick comes out with just a few moist crumbs, 50 to 55 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Gently loosen the sides of the cake from the pan and turn it out onto the rack so that the crown is facing up. Place a sheet of parchment paper underneath the wire rack for easy cleanup. It’s a sort of test, really: if you make your glaze perfectly thick, it’ll drip but not go past the bottom of the cake. The less drips, the closer you are to utter glaze perfection.
Make the glaze:
In a saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cream. In three parts, add 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, whisking to combine after each addition. Add 2 Tbsp coffee and whisk until smooth, adding more confectioners’ sugar or coffee as needed. The glaze should be thick and ropy, but pourable—not runny and thin. Pour the glaze over the room-temperature cake in thick ribbons – I like to use a moderately-sized serving spoon for this – it will slowly drip down the sides. . Let set for about 15 minutes before serving: if you’re me and you have the room, do this in your refrigerator, because this really solidifies the glaze rapidly.