We have nine – count ’em – nine birthdays on my team this month. That’s in between Christmas parties and Hanukkah festivities and probably an engagement or baby or housewarming as well.
To celebrate nine people all at once I wanted to do something substantial, but quick. There’s a lot of other baking to do this month, after all.
When you think “fast and easy”, you think Betty Crocker, right? I saw Betty Crocker’s Candy Cane Cake recipe a little while ago and it looked simple and lovely. Just start with a white cake mix, set part aside and dye it red, and then follow the instructions for pouring it into your bundt pan in layers so you get a nice red ribbon through the middle. The most difficult part is finding a decent red dye. I tried a gel first and it came out more salmon colored, so then I added some liquid dye and that helped it to be a more vibrant red.
Make sure you spread the red batter all the way to the edges of the pan so that you have a full layer of color and not just a red circle in the middle of each slice of cake.
Betty recommends topping the cake with actual crushed candy canes, but they’re just so hard on the teeth. Instead, I got some Andes Peppermint Crunch Baking Chips. They aren’t as shiny as candy canes, but they have a nice flavor and aren’t going to send anyone to the dentist. You can use what works for you.
Since I had one white cake from a box, I decided to make my second cake as chocolately as possible and from scratch.
Luckily I just got the new cookbook from the Baked guys: Baked Occasions. I should review the book in another post because it’s beautiful and inspiring and my new favorite thing to flip through in the evening while I’m watching TV and planning my next baking adventure. The first thing that caught my eye in the book is a recipe for a Black Cocoa Bundt with Whiskey Glaze. To which I immediately said out loud, to myself, “Black cocoa? What the frak is black cocoa? And how have I never heard of it before?”
Because seriously, I’ve tried chocolates all over the world, from Tennessee goat’s milk white chocolate (not a favorite) to hoity toity French truffles. I have dozens of cookbooks and read all kinds of baking blogs, but somehow I didn’t even know that black cocoa existed. It’s like a whole part of my life has been missing up until now.
And what’s more, the brand the Baked guys recommend using is King Arthur Flour’s, and I was just there a couple of months ago when I was visiting friends in Boston and they wanted to roadtrip to Vermont for the day. I felt silly ordering baking ingredients considering how difficult it is to find anything in my already over-full baking cabinet, but I just had to try it. Also, it’s pricey (about $10 for 12oz.), but you only need a little to make a big impact, so it should last a while.
Well King Arthur delivered, and so I was ready to make this bundt cake. The cocoa really is black, and it’s so intense that it will almost stain your hands. I tried to get a good photo of it but my camera was struggling to pick up the color. Along with the cocoa in the recipe, I also used it to dust my bundt pan. (I almost never dust a cake pan with flour anymore. I use cocoa for chocolate cakes and sugar for other cakes, to give it a sweeter outside.)
You can see where I didn’t dust the pan as well as I should have – there are so many nooks and crannies! – but no matter. We’re going to drop some serious whiskey icing on this bad boy so nobody will notice.
See? Gorgeous. And so dark it seems to absorb light. You want to make one, right? Well, I don’t want to give away all of Baked’s secret recipes, but here’s a Black Cocoa Powder Cake they shared on their blog that you can try.
A quick warning about the black cocoa: I used it in place of regular cocoa for some cookies I made and they came out very, very dark and intense. Some people loved them but others wanted a lighter, sweeter cookie. So you may want to use some in your regular recipes, but I wouldn’t replace all the unsweetened cocoa with it.
And of course, when you take one of these cakes into the office you have to present it by saying:
It’s a bundt!