Even though Christmas was three weeks ago, the season always gets extended in my household because my own family tends to celebrate the holidays in January when we can all get together. I’m usually in Indiana with AJ celebrating Christmas on December 25th, while my sister and her husband are out in the east coast celebrating the holidays with her husband’s family. Mid-January is when my side of the family converge in San Francisco. AJ and I go into a frenzy making food as we host the “Christmas” dinner and are forced to go shopping after the holiday rush, which in theory sounds good, but just means the stress of getting presents for people is extended. Also our Christmas tree becomes a severe fire hazard. So, for our (late) holiday dinner, I decided to make a Sour Cream Blood Orange Bundt Cake with Cocoa Filling. A hybrid holiday dessert, not quite holiday seasonal specific, it is certainly suitable for the holidays with the hint of spice and orange. It’s the sort of cake that can be served after dinner, for breakfast if you are feeling rather sweet in the morning or for afternoon tea, that is, if you happen to be the sort of person who does that sort of thing (and if you do, please invite me over).
I’ve talked a lot about how our apartment is rather tiny, yet somehow AJ and I have been able to fit a large amount of people into the space. We love to entertain, and we always lament the fact that we can’t really do it properly here in our place, but in truth, we make do. If only we had a larger apartment or bigger house, everything would be so much more organized, less clutter! But I also know myself. Like a goldfish, I grow to the space that I live in, and if I were to get a larger place to live I would probably just fill it in more stuff (much to AJ’s chagrin).
In the end, despite the ridiculous amount of new cookbooks I received as presents (and yes, I received two more from my sister, bringing the number of cookbooks I got for Christmas to be NINE) I turned to an old classic by Flo Braker, The Simple Art of Perfect Baking. I made her sour cream cake before and it’s lovely, perfectly moist (a phrase I know many people hate, but I’m going to go with it) and just sweet enough for dessert yet not too sweet that you might find yourself serving up a second slice because one isn’t enough. Plus it has a gorgeous glaze on top that basically makes the cake look like it’s been lacquered.
After a day of cooking, the dinner was a success and my entire family seems to really love the cake, including my aunt who was also in town. She seemed astonished that we made the entire meal ourselves. “It’s all homemade!” she kept on proclaiming to us everything that she could, including our Sweet Potato with Maple Streusel casserole that her and my mom singled out as a highlight. It all made me wonder what she eats back east. More important than that though, as she left with my parents to go back to their vacation rental, she whispered something to my mom in Chinese quietly. My mom turned to me and asked “Could Aunt June bring some cake home with us? She really liked it.” That’s a reason to celebrate in and of itself.
Sour Cream Blood Orange Bundt Cake with Cocoa Filling
By Irvin Lin
A moist, flavorful bundt cake, this treat is fairly adaptable to any season that you wish, though the holidays make it seem especially festive, since the shiny glaze and orange addition makes it seem particularly Christmas like. That said, it’s not so specifically holidays season that you can’t serve it year round. There are a number of shifts that I did to the original recipe by Flo Braker, including increasing the cake batter itself, using Kamut flour and adding the blood orange. Kamut flour is an heirloom ancient grain, similar to wheat but with a lovely butter yellow color and a slightly sweet rich nuttiness. You can usually find it in natural food stores or high-end grocery stores, but if you don’t have it, feel free to substitute regular all-purpose flour in its place.
Adapted from The Simple Art of Perfect Baking by Flo Braker.
1/4 cup (55 g) dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon white granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa powder, natural
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Zest of 2 blood oranges
3 cups (420 g) all-purpose flour
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (150 g) Kamut flour (see headnotes above)
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
4 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup + 1 tablespoon (255 g or 9 oz) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 1/4 cups (450 g) white granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups (340 g or 12 oz) sour cream
1/3 cup blood orange juice (about 2 medium blood oranges)
1/2 cup apricot preserves or jam
1/2 cup (50 g) confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
4 teaspoon blood orange juice
12 cup bundt pan
1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F and generously grease a 12-cup bundt cake pan with 1 tablespoon of butter, making sure to work the butter into every nook and cranny. Dust with flour and set aside.
2. Make the cocoa filling by combing all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Mix with a fork until evenly distributed and set aside. Make the cake batter by combine the flours, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl. Using a balloon whisk, vigorously stir the dry ingredients together until evenly distributed and uniform in color. Place the eggs, egg yolk, vanilla extract and salt in a medium bowl. Beat the eggs until uniform in color and you can’t see any egg whites.
3. Place the butter in the bowl of standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream the butter at medium speed until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Add the sugar and cream again on medium speed until fluffy and aerated, about 1 minute. Slowly drizzle some of the egg (about a tablespoon) into the butter while the mixer is on medium speed. Beat until incorporated and then drizzle some more egg. Continue until all the egg is incorporated.
4. Measure the sour cream in a small bowl and add the blood orange juice. Stir to combine until smooth. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the butter and beat on slow speed until incorporated. Add 1/2 the sour cream and beat on slow speed until incorporated. Repeat with the remaining dry ingredients and sour cream, ending with the dry ingredients.
5. Spoon 1/3 of the batter into the bundt pan and spread with a spoon to cover. Sprinkle 1/2 of the cocoa filling over the batter (don’t worry if some touches the sides of the pan). Spoon another 1/3 of the batter over the filling and spread evenly. Sprinkle the remaining cocoa filling over that and then cover with the last of the cake batter. Bake in the oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the pan comes out clean, being careful not to overbake the cake.
6. Once the cake comes out of the oven, let it cool on a wire rack for about 7-8 minutes and then invert it onto your cake pedestal or platter. If the cake doesn’t come out try inserting a thin knife or spatula down the side to help nudge it out. Once out, make the glaze by first taking the apricot preserves and pressing it through a sieve to remove any big chunks. Then heat it up in a small pan until it has loosened up and starts to melt. Brush the apricot preserves all over the still warm cake, making sure to cover the inside of the bundt cake as well. Let the apricot glaze cool a bit on the cake (about 5 minutes) and then sift the confectioners’ sugar into a small bowl and add the blood orange juice. Stir to dissolve. With a clean brush, start to brush the sugar glaze over the apricot glaze. If the glaze is too thin, add a little more sugar. If the glaze seems to thick and turns opaque on the cake, add a teaspoon or two of water to the glaze. Brush the entire cake with the sugar water and let sit to cool for a few hours before serving.
Makes 1 bundt cake, serves 12 to 16 people.