I had an I-Can’t-Believe-I-Made-That moment when this cake slipped out of the new bundt pan. Its surface was like a helmet of crisp, melted sugar; it hit its final destination of a plate with a slight spring. A wave of warm, buttery caramel, with citrus and spruce filled my nostrils. It looked like an Art Deco sculpture of sorts. It was a real moment of victory. And I can’t wait for it to happen to you, hopefully, too.
While other, flashier citrus from the south migrates onto menus this wintry season — like Meyer lemons and blood oranges — I thought I’d play around with a plain old navel orange for this simple cake. So sweet and sizable, you’ll only need one of these baseball-sized fruit to zest and squeeze for a distinct tropical note. Fresh rosemary, not dried, gave it some more seasonal appeal and I just love adding the evergreen to sweets.
So my path was set: making this cake for a friend’s birthday. I don’t typically keep mounds of cookware and baking supplies, so when I found myself with a new bundt pan given by a friend, it stayed in the cupboard for several months. But birthdays are special, and the perfect occasion to give it a test-run, as well as this cake flavor idea.
I drew from various bundt cake recipes of the most basic kind in order to come up with this formula. But when it was all said and done, fresh out of the oven, I realized that a few traditional flairs were missing: to glaze the cake, or not to glaze? How about sprinkle with powdered sugar? A rich frosting seemed like it would soften the shell-like crust that I found so pleasing, achieved by preparing the bundt pan with a smear of butter and sprinkling sugar throughout. This was also key to getting the cake to slide out of the pan, a highly functional move. Don’t skip it, lest your cake stay in there forever.
I eventually dusted powdered sugar across the top of the cake, which looked like snow, then stuck a spare rosemary sprig in it for more foresty appeal. Maybe candied orange slices would have worked nice layered on top if I’d had the time. Well, didn’t matter. This cake looked impressive enough straight from the oven, and it was quickly consumed in any case. And come to think of it, compared to cupcakes, or layer cakes, making it was pretty quick, too. Who knew bundt pans were so useful? You’ve heard it from a convert: Danke she.
Orange Rosemary Bundt Cake
(makes one 8″ ring-shaped bundt cake)
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup juice from same orange
3 cups all-purpose or cake flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
extra butter and sugar to coat pan
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla. Beat in the eggs, orange zest and juice. Sift flour and combine with the baking powder. Gradually stir in dry ingredients to the batter, alternating with the milk. Stir in the rosemary.
Smear butter all over the inside of a 8″ bundt pan. Sprinkle sugar on the interior and tilt until the entire surface is evenly coated. Fill the pan with the batter and bake for about 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool a few minutes, and invert onto a plate.
(for 8-10 servings)
1 stick butter (at $7/lb): $1.75
1 cup sugar: $0.40
3 eggs: $0.75
1/2 tsp vanilla: $0.20
1 orange: $0.60
1/2 cup milk: $0.50
3 cups flour: $1.80
4 tsp baking powder: $0.30
2 tablespoons rosemary (from houseplant): $1.00
Seven brownie points: There’s no denying a dessert at times, but when you do indulge, best to keep it to known, and preferably few ingredients. I was amazed by all the strange, processed ingredients I found in cake recipes when searching online, from pudding packets to soda or cake mixes, which I thought were supposed to do the job alone. It’s simple: cakes are butter, sugar, eggs, flour and milk, plus whatever else you may do to them. Why not keep them fresh and natural, too, with some fresh herbs and citrus? Both additions add hints of essential nutrients, along with flavor.
Four maple leaves: Citrus fruits are such a gift from the south, and I don’t think there’s any locavore chef in town who can live without lemons. So while giving into its charms, this recipe’s ingredients can otherwise be found easily year round, like the homegrown rosemary, and eggs, butter and dairy from local farms.