Do you know what I love to bake in wintertime? Cakes that are rich, dense and full of warm winter spices; and I usually prefer the ones baked in a Bundt cake pan. I like that ridged and elegant shape given by the Bundt pan, and I always get such a thrill when I see the final product out of the oven. I feel that the Bundt shape makes the cake extra-special and so appetizing.
Truth be told, I wasn’t very versed in the Bundt pan world until a couple of years ago when I saw Giada De Laurentiis, one of my ultimate favorite celebrity chefs, bake this delicious Spiced Apple-Walnut Cake for a casual family Thanksgiving dinner. Still, the history behind the beautiful Bundt pan remained a mystery. But I’ve recently discovered an interesting article on Bundt cakes in Food & Wine (December 2012), which shed more light on this topic and enriched my knowledge of the famed tube pan.
Ella Helfrich, a Texas housewife, who won second prize with her Tunnel of Fudge Bundt cake at a Pillsbury bake-off in 1966, helped galvanize the Nordic Ware brand. And by the way, did you know that Nordic Ware created the Bundt pan as an economical aluminum version of the traditional European kugelhopf mold? I didn’t have the faintest idea and was even more surprised to learn that the Bundt cake is also popular in Romania.
We live and learn. Giada made her cake for Thanksgiving; but frankly you don’t need a holiday excuse to bake this stunning cake. Winter is still here and Bundt cakes are so entertaining and ideal for the cold season. And this cake will dazzle you from the first bite. It’s so moist, smoky, a tad citrusy, loaded with heady winter flavors, and studded with generous chunks of apples and toasty walnuts. This cake is a superb dessert on its own, and scrumptious with tea or coffee for breakfast or a lazy afternoon snack. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go devour a slice!
Spiced Apple-Walnut Cake
Adapted from Spiced Apple-Walnut Cake with Cream Cheese Icing by Giada De Laurentiis
Serves: 10 to 12 servings
· Butter for greasing the pan
· Flour for dusting
· 3 medium green apples, such as Granny Smith (or any other tart firm apple), peeled, cored and diced into ¼ to ½ -inch pieces
· 1 ½ cups maple syrup
· 3 large eggs, at room temperature
· ¾ cup light brown sugar
· ¾ cup vegetable oil
· 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
· Zest from 1 orange
· 3 cups all-purpose flour
· 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
· 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
· 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
· ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
· ½ teaspoon ground ginger
· ½ teaspoon fine salt
· 1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
· Confectioners’ sugar for dusting the cake
Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Liberally butter and flour a 10-inch fluted tube or Bundt pan. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix together the apples, maple syrup, eggs, sugar, oil, vanilla extract and orange zest. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt. In batches, mix the dry ingredients into the apple mixture. Stir in the walnuts. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake until a cake tester or skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean, 60 to 70 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes and invert on a plate or wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour. When the cake has cooled completely, dust it with confectioners’ sugar.
Note: Giada’s cake is covered in Cream Cheese Icing. I prefer my cake with confectioners’ sugar just because it’s less messy and the flavors shine without being overpowered by the sweetness of the cream cheese icing. But just in case you want to have that tangy sweet finishing touch, here are the ingredients and directions to prepare the icing:
Ingredients for the Cream Cheese Icing:
· 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
· ¼ cup heavy cream
· 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
· 3 Tablespoons water, plus extra as needed
· 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
In a food processor, combine the confectioners’ sugar, heavy cream, cream cheese, 3 Tablespoons water and vanilla extract. Process until smooth, adding more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the icing is pourable. Spoon the icing over the cake and allow to set for 20 minutes before slicing.