Nutty, Chocolaty, Swirly Sour Cream Bundt Cake
One of the nice things about having baked for so many years is being able to see sweets come into fashion, go out of fashion and come back again. That's the case with this sour cream cake. I saw it come into fashion in the 1970s (although it may have been fashionable — and then unfashionable — well before), fall out of favor and make a comeback recently.
I've seen lots of versions with variations on the amount of flour or butter or number of eggs, but they are all essentially the same: a fairly fine-grained Bundt cake with the characteristic tang of sour cream and the equally characteristic roundness of butter. Most have something swirled through them, usually in the middle and usually a mixture of cinnamon and sugar, sometimes with a few nuts chopped in for fun.
My version is traditional, but I've toyed with it slightly over the decades and have gone heavy on the swirls. The mixture I layer into the cake has the classic cinnamon-sugar base and chopped nuts, but it's also got raisins or currants and big bits of bittersweet chocolate.
When you taste this cake, you will understand why classics become classics.
Makes 12 servings
SERVING: This cake is good the day it is made, but, like many pound cake-ish cakes, it's even better the day after. The cake can be dusted with the confectioners' sugar to show off its curves, if you like, and cut into not-so-thin slices to be served with coffee or tea. I think the cake is just fine solo — no sauce, no whipped cream, no ice cream — however, it is awfully nice with a big spoonful of marmalade or berry jam.
STORING: Wrapped well, the cake will keep for about 4 days at room temperature or up to 2 months in the freezer.
FOR THE SWIRL
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, or 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
1/3 cup plump, moist raisins (dark or golden) or dried currants
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
FOR THE CAKE
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
Grated zest of 1 orange
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting (optional)
GETTING READY: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9- to 10-inch (12-cup) Bundt pan, dust the interior with flour and tap out the excess. (If you've got a silicone Bundt pan, there's no need to butter or flour it.) Don't place the Bundt pan on a baking sheet — you want the oven's heat to circulate freely through the Bundt's inner tube.
TO MAKE THE SWIRL: Put all the ingredients in a bowl and stir to mix.
TO MAKE THE CAKE: Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Working in the bowl of a stand mixer or in another large bowl, rub the sugar and zest together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and aromatic. Add the butter. With the paddle or whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat on medium speed for 4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the sour cream. Still working on low, add the dry ingredients and mix only until they disappear into the batter.
Give the batter a last stir or two with a rubber spatula (just to make sure all the dry ingredients are properly incorporated), then scoop about one third of the batter into the Bundt pan. Evenly sprinkle on half of the swirl mixture, then spoon in the rest of the batter. Make a shallow indentation with the back of the spoon in the center of the ring of batter and fill it with the remaining swirl mixture, then cover the mixture lightly with the batter on the sides of the indentation — the batter probably won't cover the mixture completely, and that's fine.
Bake for 60 to 65 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted deep into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and let the cake rest for 10 minutes before unmolding it onto the rack to cool to room temperature.
Just before serving, dust the cake with confectioners' sugar, if desired.
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