Since we are in town for another Wednesday Treat Day, it sounded like a good excuse to go hunting around to find a cake recipe to use - after setting out three to choose from, Jeff thought this Brown Sugar-Nut Bundt Cake would be the best of the bunch.
This cake bakes with a deep golden crust thanks to the generous amount of moist brown sugar used in the batter. Made in the traditional fashion of smashing together creamy butter and sugar until the duo has lightened in color and the texture is fluffy, three whole eggs are gradually worked in. Being added one at time helps prevent the batter from curdling - however, that's not the only reason for this process. The batter is also mixed for a solid minute after each, which adds a bit of air and lift to the base, making for a voluptuous batter.
Along with the classic fragrant notes of vanilla, because this is a "nut" cake, we did add a few drops of almond extract. Unlike vanilla, where a little extra is rarely a bad thing, almond extract is fairly pungent and can overwhelm quickly - we used just a quarter of a teaspoon here. To keep the smoothness of the batter going, we alternately added the dry ingredients with the tangy uttermilk - if you don't happen to use buttermilk often enough to buy a carton (the extra does last for quite a long time and it even freezes well), you could use an easy substitution of adding a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to your measuring cup, then pouring in enough milk to reach the full cup needed. Just let the mixture sit for five to ten minutes to let the juice/vinegar do its magic.
Walnuts, hazelnuts or pecans would all do well inside this cake, but we went with almonds for one reason - I just bought a 5 pound bag (homemade almond butter is the best!). Well, that and I didn't have any of the others - walnuts don't last long here as we snack on them too quickly! The nuts are added twice - finely ground with the flour, then once again as the last addition, which I toasted first then chopped. Ground nuts can be fairly pricey, but I make them as needed for recipes with a food processor. Two hints to keep them from going from ground nuts to nut butter - freeze them first, then borrow a scoop or two of the sugar from the recipe and use the pulse butter. Freezing them just keeps them colder longer (as heat from the friction is what makes nut butter so easy to make), while the sugar absorbs any of their natural oils that start to come out.
As mentioned, all that brown sugar creates a wicked crust, but it also tends to make the top of the cake brown a bit too fast - if you notice this happening, tent it very loosely with a piece of foil to use as a shield. When it tests done, let the cake rest for only ten minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack and remove the pan to let it cool completely. A bit more work than your average cake for sure, but believe in the fact that you'll be well rewarded in the end. Between the buttermilk and brown sugar, the crumb of this cake is soft, tender and quite moist, yet it doesn't feel heavy or wet on the tongue. I did start to wonder if the cake would sway too sweet for a morning snack (Jeff usually sets out treats right away in the morning) before I had a chance to try a piece, but I found with the double dose of nuts, the balance fell into harmony.
And for those thinking that everything comes out our kitchen perfect, believe me, it doesn't - see this?
Yeah, that was the first try. I wasn't paying attention and used regular cooking spray (without flour added) and was saddened as I pulled the cake pan away to reveal only half a cake. The rest felt almost cemented to the grooved bottom! I was about ready to call it a day, but since I had enough of everything to make it again, I did, though there may have been a few choice words along the way. Don't worry, the cake won't go to waste... I see a trifle or several parfaits in our future!
Brown Sugar-Nut Bundt Cake