Monday, March 30, 2009

Honey, why does the kitchen smell like a brewery?

The moment I laid eyes on the recipe called "Whisky-soaked dark chocolate bundt cake" on my new favourite food blog, Orangette, I knew I had to make it. The combination of whisky, chocolate and coffee was a siren call to my soul. I have a million chocolate cake recipes and a good number of those also include the combination of chocolate and coffee. But to find a recipe that combines the seductiveness of dark chocolate, the gentle jolt from caffeine and a sly nudge and wink from the alcohol ... well, it was begging to be baked.

But what's this? A cup of whisky? This was a serious, grown-up cake, not like the namby-pamby versions I've made before, with a tablespoon or two of alcohol to give a gentle kick in the aftertaste.

So I baked it. And we loved it. (In fact, the toddlers from my mothers' group would have cheerfully polished off slices if we let them!)

The smell of whisky permeated the kitchen when I was mixing the cake; the alcoholic fumes smelt stronger as the cake baked, making the house smell like a brewery. I was surprised at just how intense the whisky smell was but perhaps that's because I used Jack Daniels, which was all we had in the cupboard. Molly from Orangette suggests that you use something that you like to drink on its own, as the alcoholic flavour is the focus of the cake. I don't think I would attempt to drink Jack Daniels straight, but it nevertheless baked into a flavoursome cake. It is best to bake the cake the day before you plan to eat it, as the intense alcohol flavour softens and mellows, producing a dense, fudgy cake that doesn't punch you in the face with its intensity.

As an aside, how gloriously sexy are Bundt tins? They are the little black dress of the cake world, making even the plainest butter cake look impossibly glamorous. Although Bundt tins are more suited to a rich, intense coffee or walnut cake than a butter cake, the fluted ridges and gentle curves from a Bundt tin make cakes look extra special, far more than if they're baked in a round, or even a ring, tin.

Here is Molly's recipe, which she adapted from The New York Times, and which I've "Australianised".

Whisky-soaked dark chocolate bundt cake
(adapted from Orangette)

250g (8 oz) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pan
2 cups plain flour, plus more for the pan
150g (5 oz) bitter dark chocolate
¼ cup instant coffee powder
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup bourbon, rye, or other whisky, plus more for sprinkling
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
Icing sugar, for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 170°C. Grease and flour a 10-cup-capacity Bundt pan (or two 8- or 9-inch loaf pans).

Melt the chocolate (either in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, or in the microwave oven) and let cool.

Put instant coffee and cocoa powders in a 2-cup (or larger) glass measuring cup. Add enough boiling water to come up to the 1 cup measuring line. Stir until the powders dissolve. Add the whisky and salt. Let cool.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter until fluffy and pale. Add the sugar slowly, and beat until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract, baking powder and melted chocolate, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go.

With the mixer on low speed, beat in a third of the whisky mixture. When liquid is absorbed, beat in 1 cup flour. Repeat additions, ending with the whisky mixture. It may seem like there is too much liquid, but don’t worry; it’s okay. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top. Bake about 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean (loaf tins will take less time; start checking them after about 55 minutes).

Transfer the cake, still in its pan, to a rack. Unmould after 15 minutes and sprinkle the warm cake with more whisky. The easiest way to do this is to pour some whisky into a spoon and shake it over the cake.

Cool completely before serving, garnished with icing sugar, if you like.


Daniel said...

"a recipe that combines the seductiveness of dark chocolate, the gentle jolt from caffeine and a sly nudge and wink from the alcohol"

That is so perfect! You really have a gift for a good turn of phrase. And yes, this recipe truly begs to be cooked. Thanks for sharing.

Casual Kitchen

Arlette said...

this is a killer combination
nice cake.. must try one day

Andreas said...

I can hear that siren call too. :)

I've bookmarked the recipe for next fall, as spring has finally managed to wrangle one foot inside the door. There is some rhubarb cake waiting to be baked next weekend.

BC said...

The bundt brings me back to the scene in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" when the two families meet for the first time. Wonderful and fun.

Melinda said...

Thanks Dan for your lovely comment.

Hi Arlette - I would highly recommend making this cake soon if you can! It's definitely worth it!

Hope the rhubarb cake baking went well Andreas - sounds delicious! I love rhubarb. Let me know how you go when you make this cake recipe next fall.

Hi BC - I forgot about that scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding - thanks for reminding me!

Melissa said...

'OMG', 'this is amazing', 'this is the best thing you've ever cooked', 'you can make that again anytime'. These are just some of the comments I received after plating up this delicious cake at a recent dinner party. You're right, it gets better and better a day or two after baking. I'll be making it again!

Melinda said...

Hi Melissa - glad to hear that your cake was so well received! Sounds like it would be a perfect cake to cook for morning tea for your work colleagues! :)