Cake Walk

Always with the cake, right?  You’re thinking, “Geez, Sara, do you only bake cakes??  Can’t/won’t you do anything else??”  Of course I will.  But right now, I want to bake cakes.  Lots of them.  All the time.  I want to have a bake sale every day at my house.  Maybe even a cake walk, sort of like musical chairs.  Yes!  That is what I want.

Okay, so the cake you see above is one of two that I made in the same week.  No joke.  It is a brown sugar bundt cake with diced pears (and apples, if you want).  Oh boy.  It was gooood.

Scott and I are fortunate enough to live in a great neighborhood with awesome neighbors.  So, last Friday night, we were invited across the street to have dinner with our neighbors (and friends) Matt and Rachel.  Whiskey-marinated steaks were on the menu, so I wanted to bring a dessert that I felt would be a good follow-up to a delicious grilled steak.

Flipping through Dorie Greenspan’s Baking, I came across a recipe for a brown sugar bundt cake.  Oh yes, that was perfect.  It’s officially fall, and I wanted to do something to reflect the changing seasons.  I thought it would be a nice follow-up after the steaks, as well.

Oddly (luckily?) enough, I had most of the ingredients on hand; I only had to send Scott out for buttermilk.

Tell me, how could this not be amazing?  Two sticks of butter (not to get all Paula Deen on you) and two cups of brown sugar!?!?

The first time around, I baked this with two diced Bosc pears.  The second time, I used one Bosc pear and one Granny Smith apple.  Either way, it was delicious.  This is the type of cake that would support any sturdy fresh fruit, or dried fruits such as currants, apricots, or even dried pears.  The brown sugar really ties it all together.

The little flecks you see are ground hazelnuts.  I had a bag of Bob’s Red Mill Ground Hazelnut Meal/Flour in the cupboard because I used it for a batch of Gruyere and Hazelnut crackers.  This recipe calls for ground hazelnuts or ground walnuts.  I would strongly urge you to use one or the other.  The nutty flavor and texture was perfectly matched with the warm brown sugar and the almond extract used in the cake.

 

Brown Sugar Bundt Cake
Adapted from Baking by Dorie Greenspan

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup ground hazelnuts (hazelnut meal/flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups (packed) brown sugar (I used a mix of light and dark, but use what you have)
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
2 medium pears (or mix of pears and apples), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

Method:

Center rack in the oven and preheat oven to 350ºF.  Because I have Pam for Baking spray, I sprayed that all over the Bundt pan.  If you don’t have the spray, butter a 9- to 10-inch (12-cup) Bundt pan, dust the inside with flour, then tap out excess.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, ground nuts, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown 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 (seriously, I set a timer.  It’s worth it).

Beat in vanilla and almond extracts.  Reduce 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, mix in pears (and/or apples).  Scrape the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

Place in oven (not on a baking sheet) and bake for 60 to 65 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted deep into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Dorie says that if the cake is browning too quickly, that you should cover the top loosely with a foil tent.  I didn’t have that problem, but keep your eye on it, anyway.

Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for at least 10 to 15 minutes before unmolding, the cool to room temperature on rack.  Transfer to cake stand and dust the top of the cake with confectioner’s sugar.

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