It is a fact of life that you’ll eventually meet someone who claims to feel indifferent about cake. It’s not that I immediately distrust such a person, but it increases the likelihood the individual might treat fun like it’s a forest fire. Or have the soul of a dictator. They might save smiling for special occasions and say “fine” a lot. And they probably aren’t going to make a cake on your birthday.
Suffice to say, consider it a warning sign.
I mention this because a very good friend of mine recently turned the big three-O. It has been a long time since I’ve witnessed the kind of joy that a chocolate cake and three little yellow candles can bring. Too long.
Generally speaking, cake elicits a special kind of emotion. It is unmarred by pain and untethers pessimism. It brings you back to a time when a problem could be solved by rainbow sprinkles. This makes it non-debatable when it comes to significant life moments.
So when I asked my dear friend, David, what kind he would like for his birthday, he didn’t even blink before replying: chocolate. The man is thirty and knows what he wants.
He also claps his hands at the sight of a bundt. Even if it is unmolded a bit too early and it takes on a lumpy Quasimodo-esque vibe. It is hard not to love a person like this.
So, technically, I don’t have sprinkles for you today. But I’d like to gamble on a grownup equivalent involving salty miso caramel glaze. I’ve written about it here. And I think at the time I grossly undersold it. You’ll want to pour it over the cake only after it cools slightly, because it'll eventually get thick and sticky and, despite all its glory, might behave badly if you are trying to build drama with a glazed bundt.
Not that the cake needs any additional drama, mind you. It contains an entire cup of Grand Marnier. The original called for bourbon. Which would have been lovely too, but the bottle was empty due to my talent of acquiring friends with a fondness for after dinner whiskey drinking. Plus, turning thirty just calls for fancy.
As for the cake itself, it’s the type you can break off in husky, moist hunks. If you are also a partisan cake person, you know the kind. And you won’t be disappointed.
So today I am a lady with a milestone birthday bundt. One who is very fortunate to have a clatter of cake pans, a collection of solid recipes, and an incredible group of friends.
People who laugh when you make jokes about the dangers of unbundting too early. People who are so much more than “fine.” Who appreciate birthday cakes. And who know what flavor they want, without hesitation.
Grand Marnier Chocolate Bundt with Miso Caramel Glaze
5 ounces unsweetened chocolate
¼ cup instant espresso powder
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup Grand Marnier (or your favorite whiskey)
½ tsp kosher salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (plus more for the pan)
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted (plus more for the pan)
Click here for the miso caramel glaze ingredients and instructions.
Set the oven to 325 degrees. Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and place the chocolate in the bowl; stir occasionally until melted; set aside. Turn the burner back up and make sure there is more than 1 cup water inside; bring to boil.
Place the espresso and cocoa powder in a measuring cup and fill to the 1 cup line with boiling water. Stir until the powders dissolve. Pour into a small bowl and add in the liquor and salt; set aside. (You won’t need the bowl if you have a large measuring cup.)
In the bowl of a stand mixer, place the butter and beat until fluffy; add sugar and beat until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add in the vanilla, baking soda, and melted chocolate. Scrape down the sides with a spatula.
With the mixer on low speed, beat in a third of the liquor mixture. When fully incorporated, add half the flour and then another third of the liquor. When the liquor is incorporated, add in remaining flour and then remaining liquor. Mix until fully combined, taking care not to overmix.
Butter and flour a bundt pan; tap out the excess flour. Pour in the batter and smooth out the top. Bake for about 70 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle.
Transfer the cake to a wire rack and allow to cool for 20 to 30 minutes. Place the plate you plan to use to serve the cake on top and gently flip the pan to unmold the cake. (It might help to give the bundt a few thwaps on the countertop to loosen.)
Cool completely. When you are ready to glaze the cake, prepare the miso caramel as directed here. Let cool slightly (about 10 to 15 minutes). Pour over the top of the cake. You will use most of the caramel, but will likely have a little leftover, which you can serve on the side.
-The cake will be a boozier version of itself with the whiskey. (Just like we were with David on his 30th.)
-You can also drizzle a little more booze over the top as it is cooling. Maybe a tablespoon or so?
-Photo credit goes to my dear, talented friend Justin Burke-Samson. You should absolutely check him out ASAP with his pal Stephanie Cmar doing whimsical, line-forming pastry. (I mean, come on: poptarts and donuts!)