I had my doubts about this cake. First of all, it is not chocolate so that fact puts it at an immediate disadvantage in my book. Second, it is a bundt cake and sometimes I feel like all bundt cakes taste the same – no matter what is in them. Third, it has molasses in it which made it smell kind of burned when it came out of the oven, and the glaze has a lot of butter in it which made it seem kind of greasy. But I was truly surprised by how much I liked it.
Bundt cakes are nice because they feed a lot of people and they keep for at least a day or two wrapped well on the counter. They also freeze well which makes me forgive the fact that many of them taste pretty darn bland. So why is this one good? Oh, I don’t know. Lots of butter and sugar. Lots of bourbon and vanilla. And it turns out that molasses, while it doesn’t smell all that good – tastes pretty yummy. I hate to admit it but the pecans, usually a deal-breaker for me in desserts, added a lot here. A necessary crunch and a momentary distraction from the boozy flavor.
Now that I am officially in love with my ice cream maker, I almost always make an ice cream to accompany my dinner party desserts. This time, I thought that the cake and glaze were quite sweet so some unsweetened whipped cream would be a better partner. I was right. Truthfully, I’m still on the fence about the glaze. I loved it brushed over the cake, but serving it alongside the cake it was a little, well, buttery. I’d make the same cake and tweak the glaze next time – more caramel-like perhaps. But I’d keep the bourbon for sure.
(For those who are wondering about the cake plate – I got it from a local bakery years ago. Sweet, isn’t it? I have seen one in the Martha Stewart collection at Macy’s that looks similar. The plates are my grandmother’s china.)
I love that in typing out this recipe, I realize I did something wrong when I made the cake. The recipe tells you to mix the pecan filling into half of the cake batter. I just layered the pecan filling in between the two layers of batter so I got a more distinct, and powerful, dose of molasses and nuts. It worked well, but I’ll give you the original instructions here.
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
3¼ cups cake flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 tsp. vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 cup pecans
¼ cup dark corn syrup
¼ cup mild-flavored (light) molasses
½ tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. water
1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 tsp. dark corn syrup
½ cup bourbon
2 tsp. vanilla extract
For the cake
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Spray 10-inch (12 cup) Bundt pan with non-stick spray; dust with flour. Sift 3¼ cups flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat sugar, butter, and 2 teaspoons vanilla in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with milk in 2 additions. Transfer half of batter to prepared pan.
Stir pecans, corn syrup, molasses and 2 teaspoons vanilla in another medium bowl to blend. Stir in baking soda. Stir pecan mixture into remaining cake batter in bowl. Spoon pecan batter over batter in pan (do not swirl). Bake until tester inserted near center of cake come out with dry crumbs attached, about 45 minutes. Transfer cake in pan to rack.
Meanwhile, prepare the glaze. Stir 2 teaspoons water and baking soda in small bowl to dissolve baking soda. Bring sugar, buttermilk, butter, and corn syrup to boil in a heavy 6-quart saucepan over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar and melt butter. Reduce heat to medium-high. Stir in baking soda mixture (glaze will bubble). Boil until sauce is golden and slightly thickened, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in bourbon and vanilla.
Invert warm cake onto platter. Immediately brush 1½ cups hot glaze over cake, allowing glaze to soak into cake. Cool cake completely. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate remaining glaze.) Rewarm remaining glaze, stirring. Serve cake with whipped cream and warm glaze.