Taking Coffee Cake Literally: Sparkling Coffee-Marbled Bundt Cake

Abigail Dodge's cookbook The Everyday Baker is a hefty tome. It's more than 600 pages and filled with color photos -- mostly showing techniques and recipes in progress as opposed to finished baked goods, although there are several photo sections devoted to those as well. I finally had time to flip through the whole thing and I added so many recipes to my to-bake list that I didn't know where to start. So I decided to go back to basics and start with a nice Bundt cake, Dodge's "Sparkling Coffee-Marbled Bundt Cake."

This cake is "sparkling" because after buttering the pan you coat it with a generous amount of sparkling sugar. As the headnote states, "The sugar performs similarly to a flour coating and helps the cake release easily from the pan. It gives the baked cake a glamorous, sparkling exterior and adds a lovely crunch to each forkful, offering a distinct textural counterpoint to the egg-rich, deep coffee-and-vanilla-flavored cake."

The vanilla batter is a mixture of softened butter, sugar, eggs and an egg yolk, vanilla, cake flour, baking powder, and salt. You add half of the vanilla batter to some instant espresso powder that has been dissolved in KahlĂșa to make the coffee batter. The marbling instructions are somewhat elaborate. You arrange alternating scoops of batter into the prepared Bundt pan (four scoops of each flavor batter) and then add a second layer of another eight alternating scoops of batter that is offset from the bottom layer (i.e., each scoop in the top layer lays atop a scoop of opposite-color batter in the bottom layer). In order to make sure my dollops of batter were the correct size, I did a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation of the batter weights (it helps that Dodge provides all ingredient quantities in both metric and avoirdupois weights) and made sure each scoop of batter was in the ballpark of 80 grams.

To marble the batters together, Dodge says you should draw an offset spatula "once from left to right near the outside edge and once from right to left closer to the center edge." I assumed that by "left to right" and "right to left," she meant clockwise and counterclockwise. I was a little worried about my cake because the recipe says that the pan (specified to be a 12-cup size) "will be very full" before baking. Mine was maybe half full. But the cake baked up nicely and also released cleanly from the pan after cooling slightly.
The marbling pattern was quite pretty, although I don't think it was substantially different from cakes I've baked with simpler marbling methods. This cake was really good. You could clearly taste the two different batters, and the coffee flavor was quite clear and pure -- although I thought the cake possibly could have used both more vanilla and more coffee. The crunchy sugar coating (I used demerara sugar) was delightful. A co-worker commented how perfect this cake was with his morning coffee.

Dodge notes that this cake is delicious served "whenever the mood strikes -- breakfast, brunch, teatime, or dinner." I wholly agree. With a cup of coffee or without, this is a great cake.

Recipe: "Sparkling Coffee-Marbled Bundt Cake" from The Everyday Baker by Abigail Dodge.

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