I was fortunate to be able to participate in a wonderful group, the Peoplehood of the Traveling Swirly Pan, a community of bakers who are passing on a swirly bundt pan, Dorothy, accompanied by a journal filled with tales of cakes baked and shared, Toto. Thus begins (albeit, somewhat belatedly) my posts about my time with Dorothy and Toto. Here’s the first of four:
Dorothy and Toto, safely landed on my kitchen counter
Cake #1: Vanilla Bean Malt Cake
My back story: I’m a costume designer, and when I baked the cake, I was less than a month away from opening night of a new production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Mikado. I designed it for a company that presents G&S in repertoire, but because Mikado has become controversial in recent years, we took it out of Japan, and plunked it into Renaissance Italy. Hence, all new costumes, designed and built in the time normally alotted for a remount, and not much time for baking.
Sometimes, when you’re making costumes, a cutting table, just doesn’t cut it!
And now, back to our regularly scheduled recipe. This one is from one of three cookbooks from the Brooklyn bakery Baked. I’d never made it before, but was hoping to enjoy the leap into the unknown and to share the fruits of my labors with my costume volunteers and my performers (a definite upside to baking during the rehearsal process—many willing eaters).
Even though this recipe called for a 6-cup bundt pan, I went for it anyhow, as I was in the middle of a very crazy schedule, had all the ingredients to hand, and love malt flavor. And if I didn’t bake right away, I wouldn’t be able to bake at all.
The cake was very easy to mix up. The recipe called for scraping vanilla bean seeds into bourbon, but offered the option of using vanilla bean paste instead. I used the recipe from the Baked Elements cookbook by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, but the recipe on these pages is pulled from the Baked Sunday Mornings website, a baking community that uses their cookbooks, so there might be slight variations between the cookbook and the recipe from the website.
The batter and the baked cake, reposing in Dorothy, before emerging
This one turned out to be one of my top two cakes. I’d make it again, any time, and it was also the easiest to make.
Vanilla Bean Malt Cake
Yield: One 6-cup Bundt cake
Excerpted from Baked Elements: Our 10 Favorite Ingredients by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito.
For the Vanilla Bean Malt Cake
1 teaspoon good-quality bourbon
1 vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
1 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
1⁄4 cup plus 1 tablespoon malted milk powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
7 ounces (13⁄4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes
3⁄4 cup granulated sugar
1⁄4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar 2 large eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk
1⁄2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
For the Vanilla Glaze
2⁄3 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons whole milk, plus more if needed
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Make the Vanilla Bean Malt cake
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Generously coat the inside of a 6-cup Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray; alternatively, butter it thoroughly, dust it with flour, and knock out the excess flour.
Place the bourbon in a small bowl. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and, using the tip of a knife or a small spoon, scrape the seeds into the bourbon. Discard the vanilla bean pod or save it for another use. Stir the mixture to combine. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, malted milk powder, baking powder, and salt.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and both sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and beat again for 15 seconds. Add the bourbon mixture and beat until well blended, about 20 seconds.
Turn the mixer to low, add about half of the flour mixture, then stream in the buttermilk. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat until just combined. Do not over mix.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth with an offset spatula. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a small sharp knife inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 45 minutes. Gently loosen the sides of the cake from the pan and turn it out onto the rack to cool completely.
Make the vanilla glaze
Whisk all the ingredients together in a medium bowl. The glaze should be loose enough to drizzle. (If it is too thick, add a little more milk; if it is too loose add a little more confectioners’ sugar.)
Drizzle the glaze over the cake in a zigzag pattern. Allow the glaze to set for 15 minutes prior to serving.
The cake can be stored at room temperature, covered with a cake dome or in a cake saver, for up to 3 days.
The finished cake, in a couple of arty poses