Some of my earliest memories of baking at home involved my mom, a box of cake mix, and a bundt pan. Now, to be completely fair to my mom and cake mixes, she came over to America at the age of 23, newly married, entering a foreign culture, knowing almost nobody. I don’t think she had baked a cake before she moved to the US. A little less than 3 years later, she had me – and then she really had a family to take care of.
In learning to run her new household, my mom became a stellar cook – I’m one of those people who can’t wait to dig into mom’s cooking when I visit home. Although my mom cooked mainly Chinese food – she learned to make the dishes she remembered and enjoyed herself – she did make attempts to learn about American cuisine, with her renditions of spaghetti and hamburgers and even meatloaf showing up on the dinner table. And once she realized how much we loved the birthday cakes from the local bakery, she took it upon herself to replicate them using the brightly packaged cake mixes emblazoned with images of fluffy yellow cake and thick swirls of frosting.
I used to be fascinated by the cake mix boxes (perhaps an early sign of my interest in pastry?) and would study each flavor in detail until my mom impatiently told me I had to make a choice. Although she was willing to indulge our desire for cake, she did have her maternal concerns for our health. Thus, no overly rich or gooey cakes, meaning chocolate, fudgy, or caramelly flavors were usually nixed – the most outrageous flavor we could get away with was the rainbow chip flavor with multicolored chips sprinkled throughout a white cake batter. Also, she found the two inch layers of sugary frosting entirely too sweet and (rightly) unhealthy, so our cakes were never frosted.
I’m not sure where my mom picked up the bundt pan or why she started baking all our cakes in it, but it’s what I’ve come to associate with cake making at home. Whenever we wanted a cake, she would pull out the bundt pan, we’d put the cake mix batter together and pour it in the pan, wait impatiently for it to bake, and then watch my mom unmold it and dust the top with confectioners’ sugar (her concession for the no-frosting decree).
Those memories have left me with an eternal soft spot for bundt cakes. When I learned that November 15 is National Bundt Day, I decided it’d been entirely too long since I’d pulled out the pan. This recipe, adapted from one of my tried and true favorites, is a rich combination of chocolate, coffee, and walnuts – a perfect fall palette, if I say so myself. It’s not too sweet (just like my mom likes it), and the mocha-nutty flavor makes a slice of this a lovely companion to a cup of coffee. It’s even better sprinkled with a bit of confectioners’ sugar (a la Mom) or a spoonful of chocolate sauce for the true chocoholic.
I also received a preview of a new, adorably-named cookbook Kiss My Bundt, by Chrysta Wilson, and didn’t have a chance to try the recipes yet, but with over 60 bundt cake recipes, including a Riesling, Honey, and Apricot Aphrodisiac cake and a Chocolate Bacon Cake, it’s definitely worth checking out! Wilson also sells her bundt cakes out of her Los Angeles shop – check out her luscious menu!
So I hope you celebrate National Bundt Day by baking up some sweet memories of your own!
Mocha Walnut Marbled Bundt Cake
adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup ground walnuts
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks plus 2 teaspoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/4 cup coffee
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup milk, room temperature
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 to 10 inch Bundt pan, dust inside with flour, and tap out the excess.
Whisk flour, ground walnuts, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.
Combine 2 tablespoons butter, chocolate, coffee, and espresso powder in a metal bowl. Place over a pot of simmering water and stir until melted and combined. Remove from heat.
Combine remaining 2 sticks of butter and sugar in a stand mixer and beat with paddle attachment on medium speed for about 3 minutes until smooth and creamy.
Add in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add in vanilla extract.
Add in flour mixture and milk in five alternating additions, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Mix on low speed after each addition just until combined.
Scrape about half of the batter into the bowl with the melted chocolate and mix to combine.
Pour the vanilla batter into the bottom of the bundt pan. Pour the chocolate batter on top. Use a knife to lightly marble the batter.
Bake for 65-70 minutes until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for about 10 minutes before unmolding.