Thursday, October 23, 2008

Kentucky Butter Cake: A great tea cake for tea season

I love cakes like this one - pretty easy to produce and when it's done baking it's ready to go. Pair it with afternoon tea and you'll make whoever happens to be in your house at teatime (today it was a gaggle of girls) very happy.

Everyone should own a good bundt pan. I've got a 12-cup and a 6-cup one and think I might add a 10-cup to the fleet. This recipe, incidentally, calls for a 10-cup pan. I like my heavyweight ones from Nordic Ware, but regularly use lighter weight cake pans so don't sweat what you've got. The most critical thing is to really take care to thoroughly grease and flour the pan. And make sure to bonk the pan on the counter a few times to knock out all the excess flour. You won't be pleased to present a splotchy cake, even if your guests are oblivious minors.

A final note concerns the recipe's origin. My recipe is minimally adapted from the Baker's Cafe Cookbook. (The Baker's Cafe, of Katonah, NY, has been closed for several years.) A recipe search for Kentucky Butter Cake yielded many nearly identical recipes. The reason: the recipe won the Pillsbury Bake-Off contest in 1963 whereupon it became an instant classic and worked its way into many a recipe box.

Kentucky Butter Cake
Print recipe only here

Preheat oven to 350°

Grease and flour a 10-cup bundt pan.

Soften for 3-4 minutes in a mixer with paddle attachment:
• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

Add slowly (about 2-4 T at a time, over about 8 minutes, scraping sides and bottom of bowl at least once between additions):
• 2 cups sugar

Add one at a time, mixing thoroughly between additions and scraping the bowl midway between additions:
• 4 eggs

• 2 t vanilla extract

Sift together and reserve:
• 3 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 t baking powder
• 1/2 t baking soda
• 1/2 t salt

Measure out and reserve:
• 1 cup buttermilk

Add the dry ingredients to the butter/eggs alternately with the liquid. (Scoop in about half the dry and mix on low speed until nearly incorporated, then pour in half the liquid, mixing in the same.) Repeat. Finish mixing by hand with a large spatula, carefully scraping up from the bottom of the mixing bowl and not over mixing.

Pour into prepared pan and bake about 50 minutes or until it pulls away from the sides of the pan and passes the toothpick test.

Toward the end of baking, prepare glaze (recipe below). When cake is done baking, pierce it all over with a long skewer (while the cake is still in the pan). Pour the hot glaze slowly over the top, allowing it to saturate the cake.

• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1/4 cup unsalted butter
• 1-2 T Meyer's Dark rum
• 1T water

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over low-medium heat. Swirl until butter is melted, but do not allow to boil. Pour over warm cake. Allow cake to sit for 20-30 minutes to cool, then invert onto a plate. Alternately, you can use half the glaze while the cake is in the pan and the remainder once you've inverted it. Anther nice touch: use a mesh tea immerser to dust with powdered sugar just prior to presentation.

The cake keeps well, loosely covered at room temperature, for 3-4 days.

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