THE WASHINGTON POST – On more than one occasion, the Post food team has gotten into a discussion where we’ve had to draw a line in the sand: Are you Team Pie, or are you Team Cake?
My answer has been and always will be Team Cake. I will gladly eat any type of cake, though chocolate is at the top of the list. When I realised we didn’t have a straightforward chocolate Bundt cake in our recipe archives, I knew I had to get one in there.
Nothing fancy, mind you – just something that was pure chocolate to its very core and, even better, pretty simple to make.
The result is a deep, dark and plush cake dressed up mostly by the shape of the Bundt pan and a drizzle of the optional, but highly recommended, glaze. It’s so cocoa-forward it may remind you of a brownie. “Fudgy” was the happy reaction from several of my tasters.
I did a few rounds of testing before deciding I wanted to take an old Post recipe from cookbook author Marcy Goldman in a new direction. Her recipe was a riff on the famous Pillsbury Bake-Off Tunnel of Fudge Cake, and I had some ideas for how I’d go about using the framework to create my own ideal cake. Here’s what really makes my version click.
Dutch-process cocoa powder – an entire cup – brings rich, robust cocoa flavour. Blooming it in hot water with espresso powder further amplifies the chocolate. Don’t swap in natural cocoa powder, which is more acidic, as this recipe’s ingredients have been configured to work with Dutch. My absolute favourite is King Arthur Baking’s Double Dutch Dark Cocoa. I also tested with Droste, an excellent brand more widely available at grocery stores and online.
A mix of butter and oil gives the cake the ideal cross in texture between a pound cake and layer cake – not as dense or dry as the former or as open and wet as the latter. Instead, you get a fairly tight crumb that’s still very tender.
Cutting back the white sugar really lets the chocolate flavour shine through. I rely more on brown sugar (dark or light, doesn’t matter), which reinforces that moist texture I was after.
Many similar cakes use a ganache glaze made with heavy cream and chopped chocolate.
Neither of those were in my cake, so I set about creating one made with ingredients already in the recipe. My solution is basically a reverse-engineered ganache made with butter, milk and cocoa powder. The only extra ingredient is honey, which I assume is in most bakers’ pantries. The honey is ideal for making the glaze smooth, glossy and delightfully chewy without the risk of turning brittle as it sets. Heck, if the glaze is the only thing you take away from this recipe to use on other desserts, I would not be mad. It’s that good. I use vanilla extract to flavour it, but you can make it your own with other extracts (orange, almond, mint).
The Bundt pan adds instant flair, but if you don’t have one, the recipe converts beautifully to a loaf. And if you’re vegan, you will not be disappointed by the dairy- and egg-free version of this cake, which is arguably even fudgier and more tender than the original.
CHOCOLATE BUNDT CAKE
Chocolate lovers will rejoice at the deep, dark cocoa-forward flavours of this ultra-plush Bundt reminiscent of the classic tunnel of fudge cake. A full cup of Dutch-process cocoa powder bloomed in hot water with espresso powder accentuates the chocolate.
Instead of adding a filling, we drape the cake in an optional glaze made with butter, cocoa powder, honey and milk – no need to buy separate ingredients for a ganache.
This cake can also be made as a loaf, as well as vegan.
See the VARIATIONS below.
Active time: 45 minutes
Total time: One hour 35 minutes
Servings: 14 – 16
Storage: The baked and glazed cake can be stored covered at room temperature for up to four days. Freeze leftovers in an airtight container for up to a month.
FOR THE CAKE
One cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
One tablespoon instant espresso powder
One cup boiling water
One cup whole or reduced-fat milk
Two-and-a-half cups all-purpose flour
One tablespoon baking powder
Half teaspoon fine salt
One cup packed light or dark brown sugar
Half cup granulated sugar
Half cup neutral oil, such as canola
Eight tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but cool to the touch
Two teaspoons vanilla extract
Two large eggs
FOR THE OPTIONAL GLAZE
Three tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
Two tablespoons honey
Pinch fine salt
Two tablespoons unsalted butter
Two tablespoons whole or reduced-fat milk
One-quarter teaspoon vanilla extract
MAKE THE CAKE
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Coat a large (10- to 15-cup) Bundt pan with baking spray, or grease thoroughly with a thin layer of vegetable oil. Pay extra attention to the centre tube, where sticking is especially likely.
In a medium bowl or four-cup glass liquid measuring cup, whisk together the cocoa and espresso powders until combined. Pour in the boiling water, whisking again until thoroughly combined. The mixture will thicken and turn glossy, almost like pudding. Let cool slightly, then whisk in the milk until incorporated.
In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or using a large bowl and a handheld mixer, beat the brown and granulated sugars, oil and butter on medium speed until lightened in colour, creamy and fluffy, about two minutes, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl and attachment as needed.
Still on medium, beat in the vanilla extract, then the eggs, one at a time, waiting until the first is incorporated before adding the second. Scrape down the bowl again. On low speed, gradually add half the cocoa powder mixture. The batter may look separated or curdled, but not to worry. After the liquid has been thoroughly mixed in, stop the mixer, add half the flour mixture and mix again on low until the dry ingredients are incorporated. Repeat with the remaining cocoa mixture and then the remaining flour mixture.
Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl once more. Turn the mixer back on to medium and beat for about 30 seconds. Remove the bowl from the mixer, and do one last scrape-and-stir with a flexible spatula to make sure there are no dry pockets or slicks of unincorporated butter on the sides or bottom of the bowl. The finished batter will be thick and glossy, almost like a soft pudding or mousse.
Scrape the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and smooth the top with the back of a spoon or offset spatula. Gently tap the pan a few times on the counter to pop any air pockets in the batter. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a cake tester (or wooden skewer) inserted into the centre comes out clean.
When pressed lightly with your finger, the cake should spring back a bit, but it may still feel very soft. That’s okay; it will firm up as it cools.
Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let rest for 10 minutes. Use a small, flexible spatula or a round-edged knife to loosen the sides of the cake from the pan and then invert onto the rack. Let the cake cool completely.
MAKE THE OPTIONAL GLAZE
In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder, honey and salt. No need to stir, as it will come together smoothly once you add the remaining ingredients.
In a two-cup glass liquid measuring cup, combine the butter and milk. Microwave on HIGH until the butter has melted, 30 seconds to one minute. The milk may foam, so keep an eye on it, pausing the microwave and stirring as needed.
Pour the butter mixture into the cocoa powder mixture and whisk until glossy, smooth and well-combined. Whisk in the vanilla. It’s possible that after whisking, the glaze will cool and thicken enough to not be pourable. If so, just pop it back into the microwave for 10 to 20 seconds on HIGH, or until it’s glossy and thin enough to drizzle over the cake. You can heat it more or less depending on how much you want it to drip down the cake – warmer and it will go all the way down, slightly less hot and it will go slower and not as far. If it still seems on the thick side, thin with additional milk, as needed.
Drizzle the glaze around the top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides. If desired, use a spoon or offset spatula to push more of it over and down. Let the glaze set for about 30 minutes before cutting and serving, or storing.
This recipe can also be made as a loaf cake. For two loaves, use the ingredient amounts as written, but you can also halve them to make one loaf. We preferred the height of an eight-and-a-half-by-four-and-a-half-inch loaf pan, but a nine-by-five-inch pan will work, as well.
Grease the loaf pan(s) with a thin layer of oil, then line with a piece of parchment paper cut to form a sling along the long sides of the pan. Proceed with the recipe as written (if you do two loaves, each pan will need about 720 grammes of batter), baking for about 50 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before lifting the cake out of the pan using the parchment sling. Glaze, if desired, as above.
To make this vegan, substitute nondairy milk and vegan butter (one-for-one swaps) in both the cake and glaze. Leave out the eggs, and beat one-and-a-half teaspoons cider vinegar into the cake batter along with the vanilla. For the glaze, agave syrup can be used in place of the honey.
Nutrition information per serving, based on 16, with the glaze and using reduced-fat milk: Calories: 304 | Total Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 43mg | Sodium: 185mg | Carbohydrates: 40g | Dietary Fibre: 3g | Sugar: 20g | Protein: 5g.