Saturday, February 4, 2023
Feb. 4, 2023

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Citrus gives Bundt cake zing

This chocolate treat delicious way to clean out fridge

By , Columbian staff writer
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This rich chocolate Bundt cake gets a kick from three kinds of citrus.
This rich chocolate Bundt cake gets a kick from three kinds of citrus. (Monika Spykerman/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

I have a note tacked up next to my desk that says, “Go all in. The joy is the thing.” I suppose that’s a colloquial paraphrase of Ecclesiastes 9:10: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” Of course, no one ever mentions the depressing second part of the scripture, which says, essentially, that you might as well be enthusiastic about whatever you do while you’re alive because being dead is an extremely dull business.

Well, King Solomon may not have been known for his optimism (“Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!” is one of his more popular lamentations) but I take his point to heart. Whether it’s something I have to do or something I want to do, I try to do it with as much good cheer as I’m capable of mustering. That doesn’t mean that I don’t get prickly about things I’d rather not do. I can be pricklier than a porcupine hugging a cactus. But then I try to go all in, because that’s where I find the joy. A Buddhist interpretation might be that happiness comes from fully inhabiting the present moment. Or, as the Beatles put it, there’s “nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be.”

Often, where I’m meant to be is the kitchen, and “that’s all right with me.” (Now I’m quoting The Doobie Brothers, another indication of my age). A recent moment I was attempting to fully inhabit involved figuring out how to use up the many odds and ends in my fridge: lime wedges left over from taco night, extra lemon glaze from a cake, a nearly empty jar of marmalade and buttermilk a smidge beyond its optimum consumption date.

I was also itching to use the new Bundt cake pan that I got for Christmas. Also, I wanted chocolate. I decided to go all in and bake a citrus chocolate buttermilk Bundt cake. I made myself a pot of tea and got out my brightest yellow teapot and teacup. I put an Enya album on the stereo. I proceeded to make a massive shambles of the kitchen, and by golly, I had fun.

I zested one whole orange, one whole lime and one whole mandarin. The mandarin turned out to be difficult to zest because the skin is so thin. I zested what I could and chopped the remainder into little pieces, then I squeezed the juice out of the lime. The zest, juice and pieces altogether equaled about ¾ cup. The aroma was so invigorating that I paused to let my nose tingle.

Chocolate Citrus Buttermilk Bundt Cake

2½ cups flour

¾ cup unsweetened extra dark cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon cloves

Zest of one orange, one mandarin and one lime

Reserved lime juice

Mandarin segments cut into small chunks

1 cup room-temperature butter

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

¼ teaspoon lemon extract

1 tablespoon orange marmalade

1 tablespoon lemon curd

1½ cups buttermilk

Optional glaze: 1 cup powdered sugar and 2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice

Zest citrus fruits and chop mandarin. Set aside. Set oven to 325 degrees. Sift dry ingredients into large bowl. In another bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, then add vanilla, lemon extract, marmalade and lemon curd. Add dry ingredients slowly to wet, alternating with buttermilk. Mix thoroughly. Spoon into greased Bundt pan. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes; check doneness by inserting a knife into the middle. Let cool 15 minutes in pan. Cut off any cake that’s risen above the edges of the pan and eat before your family notices. Invert onto cake stand. Serve with lemon glaze or powdered sugar.

Next, I sifted the flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cloves into a large bowl. In another bowl, I creamed the sugar and the butter until fluffy, then added the eggs, one at a time, followed by vanilla, lemon extract, and all the zest, juice and mandarin pieces. I emptied the jar of marmalade (about 1 tablespoon) and added 1 tablespoon of lemon curd, although if you don’t have either of those things, I doubt it will make or break this cake. There’s plenty of citrus flavor from the zest.

I added the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients a little at a time. I alternated the flour-and-cocoa mixture with the buttermilk, adding ¼ cup at a time. (If you don’t have buttermilk, use yogurt, sour cream or even orange juice.) I put the hand mixer on high and splattered batter all over the kitchen, regretting that in my eagerness to go all in, I’d forgotten to put on an apron. In the end, I had a whole lot of relatively thick batter, both in my bowl and on my shirt and on my hands, which I happily licked clean. I spooned the batter into the greased Bundt cake pan.

The recommended temperature for Bundt cakes is 325 degrees. The idea is to bake it for longer at a lower temperature to keep the top (what will become the cake’s base) from forming a dome. Nevertheless, I got a sizeable dome on my cake and it was still raw and jiggly when I took it out at 55 minutes. I cooked it for an extra 15 minutes, which was perhaps a bit too long and made the cake slightly dry. The puffy top was a lucky problem. I cut it off, which allowed me to sample the cake while steam was still rising from it. Mmm, warm cake.

I let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then inverted it onto a cake stand. I drizzled it with the leftover lemon glaze and decorated it with orange peel rosettes. The smell was so lovely — all that warm chocolate cake and that bright citrus zing — I could have sung “Hallelujah.” Instead, I ate more cake. Even Solomon could see the wisdom in that.