Marble Dark Chocolate Vanilla Bean Bundt Cake

by Irvin on May 26, 2011 · 9 comments

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My mom’s a pretty darn good cook. But, as with all Chinese mom’s, she rarely, if ever, follows a recipe. Most of the time it’s throwing ingredients into a pot or cutting up ingredients to stir fry. Dash of this, pinch of that, splash of this, sprinkle of that. Magic occurs. But that doesn’t happen when you bake. You have to measure and be precise. You can’t just wing it. And like most Chinese mom’s she rarely baked. So when the DIY Desserts came around for 18 Reasons, I was a little concerned when the theme “Mom’s Best Desserts” was picked. Not that it was a surprise, as I had a hand in picking it with my co-leader Melanie. But I still had to ponder what to make. In the end, I opted for a variant of one of the few things my mom baked growing up, a Marble Dark Chocolate Vanilla Bean Bundt Cake.

marble Dark Chocolate and vanilla bean cake

We always joked that my mom was a fantastic cook, unless she had to follow a recipe. There’s an infamous attempt at making clam chowder, which I have no actual memory of, other than the entire family was horrified at how it ended up (incredibly briny, with way too much clam). I have a feeling my mom, who came from a world where you did not waste a single ingredient, read that you use a small amount of clams in the recipe. Not wanting to waste it, she used the entire can instead. My mom has never made clam chowder since.

my mom is gorgeous.

Yeah, my mom was drop dead gorgeous on her wedding day. I think she still is.

Growing up though, I rarely saw her bake. She would spend all day making steamed pork buns, or days on end making sticky rice dumplings. I adored her steamed radish cakes and she makes an amazing Taiwanese soup that, to this day, I still don’t know how to make or even call it (it involves a dubious ingredient called “fish paste” which, when I think about what it must be, is probably not the most appetizing). But baking was not her thing.

The family

This is not an instagram photo, it's the real deal. And yeah, that's me in the red overalls.

Once a month, my family had a gather of friends, a potluck, where the men played bridge and the women sat around and chatted. I have memories of my mom baking two different desserts to the potluck, a blueberry cheesecake (thin graham cracker crust, thin cheesecake layer and a gooey blueberry layer from a can or blueberry pie filling) and a marble bundt cake. I don’t know if the marble cake was made from scratch or made from a mix, but I remember every time my mom made it, the cake was beautiful.

marble cake

The brown and orange bundt pan that my mom used always seemed to symbolize upscale class to me. Sure other (non Chinese) moms made layer cakes (a lot of work and a lot of frosting) or sheet pans (boring), but a bundt cake was automatically fancy. Those ridges and dips, built into the pan, meant a cake that (if unmolded properly) would be dark, dense, with a lovely shiny crust. The marbling of the batters meant a slice would look as pretty on the inside as it did on the outside.

marble cake

Not my mom's marble cake. But inspired by it.

My marble cake that I made was from scratch. I haven’t made a cake from a box in a long time, nor do I even know if you can buy marble box cake. But I took a lesson from my mom and saved the wrapper of the stick of butter and used it to thinly grease the bundt pan, making sure that the butter grease reached into each crevice of the pan ensuring it releases properly.

marble cake

The DIY dessert event, as always, was great. Sabrina from The Tomato Tart brought an amazing vegan mousse that had everyone going back for seconds and asking her “Is this really vegan? Really?” – yes, really.

Vegan Mousse

Laura from CulturedSF brought some amazing carrot cupcakes with yogurt frosting. Two versions in fact; a taste test between the “regular” cupcake and the gluten free version that she had created. Verdict: I actually liked the gluten free version better (though the gluten free version was more difficult to make).

Carrot Cupcakes with yogurt frosting

My co-leader Melanie brought a fantastic Banana Sour Cream Cake with hazelnuts that was inspired by her mom’s dessert of bananas and sour cream. Moist and layered with amazing textures, the cake felt way fancy!

banana sourcream cake and hazelnuts

And Jo brought her mom’s custard. Simple, basic and homey, it was like spooning up a piece of edible nostalgia.

mom's custard

The DIY Desserts event is changing at 18 Reasons. We are no longer hosting it once a month. Instead we’re going to be doing them quarterly. That said our next one is Thursday, June 2nd. The theme is pie, tarts and galettes! In time for summer bring your favorite pie, tart or dessert galette. The next DIY Desserts isn’t going to be happening until September, so this is the last time to hang out with us and enjoy the season fruit!

Hope to see you guys there!

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Lauren at Keep It Sweet May 26, 2011 at 6:09 am

I love the old family photos! This bundt cake sounds amazing and has such a beautiful presentation!


Kelly May 26, 2011 at 7:54 am

I love how different people’s perceptions can be. To me, layer cakes were always upscale and class, maybe because we rarely had them. But bundt cakes just seemed homey and plain, perhaps because we had them a lot and they just seemed less fussy.

And your mother, totally gorgeous. I love the look of that era, it’s so sophisticated, classic, and sleek.


Shakila @ thirdculturekitchen May 26, 2011 at 2:49 pm

your childhood, at least this part of it, sounds alarmingly like mine! as does your mom. only move it to the south asian region. but the no-recipe cooking, the potluck parties and the only time she followed a recipe was when she made cake. any other recipe attempts were inevitably rejected by the whole family. haha, another one for the Moms From The East file.


JulieD May 27, 2011 at 12:49 pm

I love your family photos too! This cake looks amazing. I love bundt cakes with glaze icings, I’m going to save this one to try!


Juline May 28, 2011 at 10:20 pm

Love the theme! It’s going to get me thinking about what my mom used to make, and it’s going to inspire me to attempt to duplicate it.

The photos, as always, are great. Yours and your family’s.


Sabrina Modelle May 29, 2011 at 8:37 pm

Oh my goodness, your mom’s photo is so pretty- even prettier than your cake which admittedly is gorgeous. I will miss the monthly dessert parties, but I’m sure they’ll be awesome as quarterly events as well.


Karen May 31, 2011 at 11:10 pm

That is a gorgeous photo of your mom! I wonder if making bundt cake was a trend for a while in the Taiwanese community, because I totally remember my mother making bundt cake on a regular basis for social gatherings when I was around 5 or 6 years old. The detail about keeping the butter wrapping to grease the cake pan caught my eye, because I watched my mom do that with her bundt cake pans and still do that to this day when I have occasion to bake. Lovely blog post, and that photo of you rocking out the red (corduroy) jumpsuit is great!


amy September 29, 2011 at 12:41 pm

The cake is gorgeous and I love the family pics. Scares me to think about what people will say when K shows them her childhood photos.


Vera November 16, 2013 at 10:55 am

Hi 🙂
your pictures are very good very beautiful!! A very good Clam chowder is not easy to make! and you love ur mom!!
thanks to share


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