A little over 12 months ago, I purchased a couple of new cake tins at a homewares sale (danger!). I immediately took my new pans home, washed them, put them in the cupboard and promptly forgot about them. A few months later when P was trying to find something in the mess that is my ‘general canning and cake tin cupboard’ the newly purchased tin came crashing to the ground. I blushed with immediate embarrassment, ‘have you even used this?’ he asked, slightly perturbed. Ah, no, I hadn’t. Determined to prove that I had indeed bought the tin with every intention of using it, I immediately set about baking a banana cake – about two hours before we were due to head out for a friend’s birthday.
And it was an utter disaster.
This is kind of representative of my approach to baking. I decided to bake macarons at 11.30pm on Christmas Eve for the first time ever (they were a disaster), I promised to bake lemon meringue pie for a friend’s birthday and attempted it for the first time about an hour before we were due at her place (it also failed) and then there was the Bundt cake. All was not lost in any of these scenarios, as I’m sure many of my fellow bakers will attest. The cracked, footless macarons made for a fabulous Eton mess, the meringue still tasted delicious, despite its rather horizontal finish and the massacred Bundt was delicious crammed into little jars with some icing and stewed raspberries.
As with the macarons and the meringue, it took me some time before I was ready to have another go. I read about proper preparation of the pan this time, for instance, and learnt that it’s important to let the cake cool for ten minutes before trying to remove it from the pan. Any less time than this and the cake will fall apart, any more and it will stick.
I’ve always had a fondness for Bundt’s, I can’t help but feel the need to re-enact ‘that scene’ from My Big Fat Greek Wedding (THERE’S A HOLE IN THIS CAKE!) when I think of them. I’m also a bit of a fan of the old marbled cake. I was a 9-year-old Girl Guide when I first attempted ‘a marble’ (yes, I was a Girl Guide…!). I was trying to get my cake-making badge (you know, to go with the bed-making and pasta boiling badges…) and I decided that the way to achieve this was to bake a marble cake. From a packet. Because that’s perfectly acceptable in Girl Guide law (and also, apparently in the QLD CWA).
I carefully prepared the mix according to the instructions and was miffed to see that I had to divide the batter in half, add cocoa to one batch and then ‘marble it together’ in the pan. The budding artist in me knew that by doing this I would in fact just create a brown cake with some faint white lines. So I decided to make less brown batter and more white and then spoon them in in a random manner so as to create the ‘perfect’ marbling. That was until Brown Owl intervened. ‘You must follow the instructions, Erin’. It was at that point in my tiny pre-teen brain that I fully understood that I was always going to be ‘that person’, the one who raged against the machine (or packet cake mix). I had a vision for this marble cake and no Brown Owl or cake-making badge was going to stand in my way.
Needless to say, I never got my cake-making badge but god damn my marble cake was awesome.
This recipe is pretty old-school; caster sugar, white flour and lots of butter. It’s an homage to not giving a damn about ‘the rules’ and just doing what feels right.
If you don’t have a Bundt pan then you can absolutely make this in a regular tin. You might need to bake for slightly longer because of the absence of the infamous hole in the centre.
- 175g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 175g caster sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 175g self-raising flour
- 1 tsp of baking powder
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1-2 tbspns milk
- ¾ tbspn of cocoa powder
- ⅔ cup icing sugar
- ½ tspn vanilla essence/ 1 tspn cocoa powder
- 4 tbspns of milk
- Heat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade.
- Prepare your cake tin by first greasing with cooking spray or melted butter and then add some flour or cocoa and shake around the tin until all coated. Shake out excess.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
- Sift together the flour and baking powder.
- Add one egg and then a few tablespoons of flour, followed by another egg and so on until you’ve added all the eggs and all the flour.
- Add the vanilla extract and mix well.
- Add a splash of milk to loosen the batter. It should be loose enough that it drops off the beaters when you lift them out of the bowl. If not, add another splash.
- Scoop out about a cup of the batter and place in a small bowl with the cocoa powder and another small splash of milk.
- Mix well until all combined.
- Pour a layer of vanilla cake in the bottom of the bowl, then add a couple of spoonfuls of the chocolate batter, followed by the rest of the vanilla.
- Add the remaining chocolate batter and smooth with a spatula.
- Grab a chopstick or skewer and ‘marble’ the batter using a figure-eight motion.
- Lightly rap the tin on the counter so as to remove any air bubbles.
- Put in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and allow to sit on the bench for exactly ten minutes (use a timer!).
- After ten minute, flip the pan onto a plate and tap around the top until the cake comes away from the pan. Resist the urge to dig in with your knife.
- Allow to cool on a cooling rack while you prepare the icing.
- When cake has cooled completely:
- Add the vanilla essence to the icing sugar and then add half the milk. Mix well and if too thick add a little more milk until the right consistency is reached.
- To make the chocolate icing use the same method but add a teaspoon of cocoa instead of the vanilla essence.
- Pour prepared icing into a zip lock bag and snip off the very end.
- Drizzle icing over the top until you’re happy with the pattern.
- Allow icing to set and store in an airtight container.