complainte de la bundt

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that cakes look more exciting and complicated if they’re baked in a fancy tin. It just seems more impressive if it’s shaped like castle turrets or a giant rosebud or the Trevi Fountain. I mean, it’s not like you actually painstakingly sculpted the cake into this particular form with a palette knife while wearing a beret. But there you go.

I was predictably excited to buy on sale recently a good sized silicone bundt caketin. I feel as though a bundt tin falls comfortably between practical and largely dust-gathering on the kitchenware scale. It’s really just another cake tin, not as usable as a 23cm springform but not as confoundingly quixotic as, say, a madeleine tray (nothing against madeleines – every time I make them I end up wondering why humans haven’t evolved to make small, honeyed cakes a staple food). A bundt cake just looks so majestic with its undulating curves and waves and towering hilltop form, so much more than your perfectly serviceable but normal looking regular round cake.

I was initially going to make a fabulous sounding orange cake from Annabelle White’s Annabelle Cooks, which sported a large, fetching image of an orange bundt cake. However the recipe specified a 26cm springform tin and the disparity between instruction and image made me far too nervous. Not on my first bundt.

Instead I went for an equally lovely sounding Spice Cake from my charmingly eighties (if it moved, they set it in gelatine) Best of Cooking For New Zealanders cookbook by Lynn Bedford Hall (look for it in your local charity shop – I could use it every single day). As well specifically requesting a ring tin, it also used less eggs than the spurned orange cake. It was all going just peachy. You know me, always happiest when messing around with cake batter. I piled the cinnamon-spiced, nut-spiked batter into the tin, put it in the oven, marvelled as the house filled with the warm, happy scent of cinnamon…Oh how wrong I was. Fate (and possibly Annabelle White) were standing behind me, pointing and laughing the whole time.

Because then this happened.

What now? That’s just not fair. You know how there’s that saying? Pride goeth before a fall? Well with me it’s excitement goeth before a fail. If I had a dollar for every time… Seriously, I don’t know what went wrong. Half the cake just decided it wasn’t ready to leave home yet. Any guesses from seasoned bakers out there? The tin was silicone and everything. I wonder if I didn’t leave it long enough before turning it out? Maybe I left it too long? I’m in a quandary!

Aesthetics aside, the cake itself is really delicious though and very, very easy to make. Whatever I did wrong – presuming it was my fault at all – I definitely won’t take it out on the recipe itself. If you want to recreate this psyche-damaging disaster in your own home feel free, may you have better luck than I had…

Spice Cake

2 tsp baking powder
350g brown sugar
2 eggs
450g flour
345mls buttermilk
250ml (1 cup) plain oil, like rice bran or grapeseed
2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp baking soda
175g sultanas (I used currants)
125g chopped nuts (I used walnuts)

Set the oven to 180 C (350 F). Place all the ingredients except for the nuts and sultanas into a large bowl and mix with electric beaters for one minute.

If you don’t have electric beaters (like me), mix together the oil and sugar, then the eggs, then everything else till it’s incorporated good and proper. Then, fold in the nuts and sultanas.

Spread this thick mixture into a bundt tin and bake for an hour, covering loosely with tinfoil if it starts to darken too much. Stand for five minutes (which I did!) before inverting onto a cake rack.

As you can probably tell from the ingredients this makes a large, moist, delicious cake that keeps well and has a gentle warmth from the spices used. Which means I can overlook the fact that it had a total breakdown in front of me. And I will carry on bundting.

For my sake at least, so I don’t feel completely like what the French call les incompetents, here below is an example of something I actually achieved without a hitch.

I’ve made this caramelly, oaty slice before, blogged about it even, but whatevs. I’m calling upon it again. And at least you know it’s good.

Breakfast Bars

From Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson

1 can of sweetened condensed milk (roughly 400g)
250g rolled oats

75g shredded coconut
100g dried cranberries

125g mixed seeds (sunflower, linseed, pumpkin, etc)
125g unsalted peanuts

Preheat oven to 130 C, and oil a 23x33cm baking tin or throwaway foil tin. Warm the condensed milk gently in a pan till it is more liquid than solid. Remove from heat and then add the rest of the ingredients, stirring carefully with a spatula so everything is covered. Spread into the tin, even out the surface, then bake for about an hour. Let cool for about 15 minutes then slice up. I swapped the expensive cranberries for a handful of currents lurking agedly in the pantry and left out the peanuts because I just didn’t have any.

Nigella reckons this slice gets better with age and I agree – it just sort of settles into a chewier, nuttier, caramellier bite the longer you leave them. Super easy and good to have on hand to assuage any dips in blood sugar.

For what it’s worth, and I realise there’s little more nauseating than couples who start talking in their own cutesy language, but we’ve ended up pronouncing the word slice, as in oaty slice, “slee-che”, inspired largely by Dr Leo Spaceman (pronounced spa-che-man) from 30 Rock. It’s funny how many words you can start manipulating in this way. Face, place, rice, ice…it’s like a Dr Seuss book here sometimes. Actually I have a really bad habit of mangling words when speaking casually. Such as ‘whatevs’ instead of ‘whatever’ which is a bad enough word in itself. I like to lengthen the ‘i’ in chicken so it rhymes with ‘liken’ and drop the end of ‘decision’ so it’s just ‘decish’ and frequently substitute the letter ‘j’ with a ‘y’ or an ‘h’…it’s all a bit obnoxious really but I like to think of it as taking a simple joy in linguistics. Look at this, I haven’t even been tagged with an internet meme and yet I’m revealing a bizarre fact about myself. Is that allowed?
The big news in our lives right now is that Tim is walking around looking all medieval, as while I was in Auckland one of his teeth just crumbled on him like an uncooperative bundt cake. He didn’t tell me till six days later when we met up again as he couldn’t figure out how to explain it in a txt message. Fair enough, I guess. As per usual the dentists want him to mortgage the tooth against our house with his liver as bond (ooh, I’m typing all heavily just thinking about it, the prices dentists charge get me all fired up.) Because he couldn’t afford a root canal and I couldn’t even afford to support him for it, he instead paid a smaller (but still hefty) sum to have the tooth pulled altogether. It’s causing him no small amount of pain, and we’ve been eating very soft, liquidy dinners over the last couple of days – soup, long-simmered, falling apart stews, that sort of thing. Luckily it’s not an entirely visible tooth but nevertheless, I’d like to think he has the panache to pull off looking like a Renaissance-era minstrel.

On Shuffle whilst I type:

Amen by Jolie Holland from Escondida. We were lucky enough to see her in a beautiful, intimate gig earlier this year. If the idea of Appalachian folksy blues appeals to you then you would do well to look her up. This particular song is simply stunning.

John The Revelator by Son House from The Roots of The White Stripes, a compilation of the original blues and folk songs that the White Stripes have covered either live or in albums. Sounds tacky as hell but it’s not – it’s a fantastic listen packed with gems both dust-covered and well known.

Why Can’t I Be Like The Boss a song cut from the 2006 Tom Kitt musical High Fidelity. I kinda love this song, especially when the Bruce Springsteen character really gets going.


This blog title is bought to you by: Rufus Wainwright
Next time: I got it in my head that ice cream flavoured with palm sugar and kaffir lime leaves would be pretty sassy. So I think I’m going to make that this weekend. Hopefully Tim’s teeth, or lack thereof, are up to it. And one day, I will make another bundt cake.

10 thoughts on “complainte de la bundt

  1. Robin says:

    I can't say why your bundt clung to the pan, but for a later attempt, may I recommend the fragrant orange and lemon cake from Patricia Wells' “Trattoria”? Moist, rich, citrusy and simply yum. Non-bundt, but another keeper from that book is the Hazelnut Torte. Fragrant as all get out. My family gets weak in the knees from the scent alone.

    Thanks for sharing your cooking — I always enjoy it vicariously!


  2. Anonymous says:

    It`s a lovely tin but something must have gone wrong. I`ve thought of buying the tree shaped one which Nigella had last year, but with the high peaks, it may be even trickier to come out. But do try again.

    Karens Kitchen


  3. Adam says:

    Do you know what a busted bundt cake means? Frosting. Frosting works like an edible grout, and binds all broken pieces. Just spackle that piece right on 🙂

    I do the same thing with my words too. I think it's interesting how everyone has their own dialect and word accents. Some of us drop the “g's” on plural words, or make words up, or mix them together. I've never thought of chicken and liken though… that was pretty funny 🙂


  4. Anonymous says:

    You didn't mention whether you greased and floured the pan first before filling–even silicon requires this step. A spray on “Bakers Secret” type product works well, too.


  5. Laura @ Hungry and Frozen says:

    Robin: You may indeed recommend it! I'll google her 😀

    Karen: That tree shaped tin! I think it has a lot to answer for 🙂

    Adam: Aha! Frosting! (or icing as we say here) I was worried that if I tried to patch it up I might damage it further, eg accidentally plunging a knife into it, dropping it icing-side-down onto the floor, etc.

    Mum: WOW!

    Anonymous: I didn't grease it – I thought the whole point of silicone is you don't have to!

    Tartelette: I definitely ate the bits that fell off 🙂 cook's treat. And thank you. You have nice photos – to say the very least!


  6. HayleyB says:

    I actually thought I had commented on this post, but apparently not.

    I wish I lived in New Zealand so that I could go into the competition to win the year's supply of Kohu RoadIce cream!

    I find that greasing or lightly flouring a silicon bundt pan produces better results than when I don't do this. I have tried not greasing/flouring and there is always a layer of cake lining the pan when I turn it out. When I last used butter to grease it, my cake turned out beautifully, and left no lining of cake on the pan. Maybe try greasing it next time? I have also found that it is possible to turn the cake out of the bundt pan too soon; I tried one mudcake recipe that I thought would be perfect, but I didn't read that I needed to let the cake cool completely in the pan before I turned it out. So off I went to turn it out, too soon, and whole chunks came apart from the rest of the cake. Very disappointing. But if I'd had the thought to use icing to glue it back together (as Adam suggested), it still would have been yummy. Wish I had thought of that at the time, as it was a birthday cake and I could have still presented it, if it was also covered in icing as well as parts of the cake being iced back on!

    I love Nigella's Breakfast Bars! I must make these again! Last time I made them everyone asked me for the recipe.

    I make up funny words/do funny things to the english language too. You're not alone. Sometimes I order my sentences so strangely that it's a wonder english is my first language. It's not that I don't know how to speak proper english, it's just more fun not to sometimes. Like you, I also find it “taking a simple joy in linguistics”.

    I can empathise with your dentist-hatery. My husband had a particularly nasty experience with one last year, involving the removal of 4 wisdom teeth, and which lasted for about 8 weeks before he was completely better. We were both not happy about that!

    wow, just realised this has turned into a REALLY long comment. I hope you don't mind too much!


  7. Kay says:

    Congrats on the Sunday Star Times endorsement of this wee blog.

    The Kohu Road Ice cream prize went for over $500. *Sigh*

    Julian made fabulous muffins (Edmonds instant mix- gotta start somewhere) and the ants enjoyed about six of them. He learned one of the most important lessons in baking… ants will still find food covered by a teatowel.


  8. Anonymous says:

    Well I used to cook many cakes a week for a restaurant many years ago, and nearly worn out my bundt tins, and the photos seem to show a cake just a little too well too well cooked to me. I could be wrong of course. Lighting camera etc. I found cakes cooked in a bundt tin need less time than normal up to 20 minutes less. The hole in the middle means more heat is surrounding the mixture. I would try reducing the heat a bit and reducing the time by ten minutes at least. Testing for doneness with a skewer of course.

    Changing the ingredients would have made a difference as well. I think sultanas are more moist than currents. With cake baking I find walnuts less moist than almonds and other nuts for instance. I think changing the ingredients of a recipe does change the result. Changing one ingredient at a time is a better option when experimenting. But I understand the need to cook something in a new tin and try a new recipe, no matter what the the result. It sounds like a great recipe.

    I have not found it practical to line a bundt tin. Heavy buttering should be enough, silicon or not. Heavy batters are needed to hold nuts in place the mixture but they do have a tendency to be slightly drier, what about using some ground nuts like almonds to replace some flour. Just a 100g or so? Almonds make a cake more moist and do not affect the taste if only a small amount is used. Bakers make an almond cake for people who want a plain cake, not fruit for celebration cake as a real plain (butter cake) would be too dry by the time it was decorated. All without the customer even knowing about it, the marzipan under the fondant icing is almonds after all, and not many people would know the difference. Just a thought.

    Having said all that sorry, too much info. I have found bundt tins tricky. If I had the oven going for a while, and the bundt tins went in after a another batch of cakes were cooked they definitely cooked more quickly despite it being a good oven and having a good thermostat. Consequently they were harder to get out of the tin. I used to joke with my husband that the electricity was different today (slow/ too fast) when we ate broken cake for desert. A bit of sherry or other alcohol on a cake (drunk cake) served warm with ice cream has never been knocked here!

    I once dropped a large hot pecan pie on the floor (just after it had just been washed) so I sat in the middle of the mess with a spoon and ate as much as I could, it tasted great!

    Better luck next time.


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