Friday, September 01, 2006

Fugly Contest Cake

So I read on another blog that Nordicware was having a 60th anniversary recipe contest called "Bundts Across America," and that they were looking for recipes that represented each state of the union. And though I have no doubt that some fancy pastry chef in NYC will win with, say, a black-and-white bundt, or a Brooklyn Blackout bundt, or even a Harlem brown sugar-sweet potato-pecan bundt, I thought I might throw my hat into the ring as well and try to represent another part of the state that is not the Big City. I conceived of a cake that celebrated our dairy industry (butter, milk and cream), the wild blueberries which are abundant, and both maple sugar and maple syrup. Sounds good, right? Little did I know that it would all end in disaster!

There has been a cataclysmic event in my life--that is, the loss of my oven. The gas man came yesterday to fix the problem, but after replacing both the tank and the regulator, it still isn't working. So it's probably the oven valve, which is very bad news. The part alone is $250, plus a couple hours of labor, so you might as well buy a new oven! And I'm not sure how my landlady is going to feel about that. UGH! Seriously, I am a food blogger, for cripes' sake! How long will I survive without an oven?? Plus, I am supposed to sell at the farmers' market again soon! AARRRGGGH!!

Anyway, back to the bundt contest. The deadline was today, so last night, I borrowed my next-door neighbor's oven to bake my cake. And as it turns out, his oven is almost as bad as mine! After baking for 45 minutes, it still looked like raw batter, so I cranked up the heat by 25 degrees. 15 minutes later, still not much was happening, so I crankled it up another 25 degrees. 15 minutes later, it seemed done, but now the top was burned! I didn't have the time--or the ingredients--to start over again, but I figured I could slice off the top, and it would be inverted anyway. Or would it? Though I had liberally greased and floured the pan, it stuck, and some of the cake's surface ripped off as I released it from the pan. Plus, it was still a bit underbaked near the center. Then the glaze I made, though tasty, came out pretty thick when cooled. The good part is, it tastes like maple candy. The bad part is, it kind of hides the detail in the cake, which goes against the whole point of the Nordicware baking contest! Of course, for this particular cake, more coverage may be a good thing, as it's just FUGLY. Below is the evidence thereof, and yes, tragically, the photo had to be submitted along with the recipe. [sigh] Oh well, you win some, you lose some. I'm losing this one. Too bad, as I really wanted the holiday tree pan and the sand castle pan :-(

Still, the cake was tasty, so if anyone out there would like to make it, here's the recipe:

Wild Blueberry-Maple Streusel Pound Cake

Maple Sugar and Walnut Streusel:
½ cup flour
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup maple sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, cold, cubed
½ chopped walnuts, toasted, chopped

Blueberry Pound Cake:
2 sticks butter, softened
1/3 cup shortening, plus extra for lubing the pan
5 large whole eggs
3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups all-purpose flour (measure on the 3rd and last sift)
1 cup whole milk or half-n-half
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups blueberries (preferably, wild)

Maple Glaze:
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 325. In a food processor, pulse together the dry ingredients for the streusel (the flour, sugars, cinnamon and salt). Add the pieces of cold butter and pulse 10-12 times or until the pieces are the size of tiny peas or it looks like coarse meal. Add the chopped walnuts and mix in gently with your fingers. Place the streusel in the refrigerator until the cake batter is prepared.

Grease bundt pan liberally with shortening and lightly flour entire surface. (Or the pan spray with flour for baking makes this even easier!) Cream butter and shortening together at slow mixer speed. Add sugar and eggs, one at a time, alternating with the sugar. Begin and end with sugar. Scrape bowl often. When all added, set mixer on high speed for exactly four minutes. Sift flour three times, adding baking powder and salt on last sift, then measure 3 cups. Add vanilla to milk and stir. Add milk and flour to mixer bowl, alternating ingredients, beginning and ending with flour, but reserve the last 1/2 cup of flour to toss with the blueberries before gently folding them into the batter by hand. Carefully spoon about one third of the batter into the prepared bundt pan and even out the top with a spatula, then top with about half of the prepared streusel mixture. Top that layer with another third of the batter and the remaining half of the streusel. Add the last third of the batter on top, and smooth again with a spatula.

Bake at 325 degrees for an hour to an hour and 15 minutes depending on your altitude, humidity and oven calibration. Test by inserting a knife or other cake tester. It's done when it comes out a little oily but no batter. Cool on rack precisely 10 minutes and turn immediately out on a plate.

To make the glaze, melt two tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan with the maple syrup. Remove from heat, add the vanilla, and whisk in a cup of powdered sugar until smooth. Spoon onto the top of the bundt cake and let cool until set. Cake may be served warm or cold.

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