Thursday Night Smackdown: Bundtasm!

apple bundt, cropped

Ever since I got this bundt pan, I’ve been bundt mad. Just add it to my list of diagnoses; at least the cure is an easy one – MORE BUNDTS.


Granted, yes, this is only the second bundt cake I’ve made since buying the pan, but it’s not like I can come home and bake a cake every night of the week. If I could, I probably wouldn’t need any of these psychiatric drugs. Then I would write a book about my experience, which would be optioned for a feature film where I’m played by Meryl Streep and Brian by Stanley Tucci – I don’t mind being seen as an older woman if it’s Meryl – and then I would spend my days baking bundts and my nights sleeping on giant piles of dollar bills.


Tonight is a home-alone night, which means cereal for dinner and baked goods in the oven. In this case, a brown sugar-apple bundt cake from Cook’s Illustrated. I like to make the most of my alone time. Later, I might fold some laundry. No no, DON’T TRY AND STOP ME.


Truth be told, there’s nothing inherently exciting about this cake other than the fact that you get to eat cake at the end of the process, and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want more cake in their lives. Well, except maybe Brian. But Brian also loves halvah, which I’m pretty sure is just an extruded block of sesame-flavored talc, so I don’t know that I trust his judgement in matters cake-related.

The batter is a pretty simple affair, although the method isn’t entirely traditional: the butter, sugar and flour are mixed together pie-crust style, until there are little pea-sized lumps of butter and the flour resembles “coarse meal,” something I never entirely understand although it’s certainly not as cryptic as macaron recipes that insist the batter must “flow like magma.” The wet ingredients – in this case eggs, heavy cream and vanilla – are then beaten in in 2 additions.

I will not lie, I was perusing cake recipes for tonight and the presence of heavy cream in this one definitely caused some sway-age on my part.

You know, if you take away the hyphen, “swayage,” looks almost like it could be a French word for something. Sway-AHJ. Make up a definition in the comments, and we’ll pick the best one and just start using it. We’ll make it a thing. It will annoy the French.

mele e zucchero

The apples are two unseasonable Granny Smiths, diced and tossed with brown sugar. I think you will agree with me that among apples, when they are in season, a really good Granny Smith is Queen of Apples. Better than a Honeycrisp. Than a JONAGOLD, even. It’s a bold statement, but I’m sticking by it.

Can I digress for a minute? Of course I can. Do you know what I’m doing as I type? I’m SINGING ALONG TO MUSIC. Do you know when the last time that happened was? A LONG, LONG TIME AGO, in a galaxy far, far away. Do you know what that means? Either the changes to my drug regimen are working and I am experiencing ACTUAL JOY, or bundt pans really do have magical healing properties. I’m willing to entertain either possibility, since they coincide somewhat in the timeline. I may buy more bundt pans in different shapes and sizes, just to hedge my bets.

Joy. Wonders never cease.

sugared apples

You should be very proud of the fact that I didn’t take the easy way out and just spray the damn pan with Pam, because all the little ridges make it a pain in my fucking ass to butter. But the directions said butter, so butter I did. I coated the butter with sugar – that’s another thing life should have more of, sugar-coated butter – sprinkled some brown sugar in the bottom of the pan and distributed the sugared apples.

Hold on for a sec, I’m experiencing this strange “joy” again.

Watch, now that I’ve told you I totally jinxed the whole thing. Know that if I relapse it was ALL YOUR FAULT.*

*“Don’t you put that on me, Ricky Bobby! Don’t you put that evil on me!”


I spread the batter over the apples and popped the pan into the oven.

One of the things I love/that cracks my shit up about Cook’s Illustrated is how earnestly they want you to succeed, so much so that they include step-by-step illustrations of how, exactly, to spread the apples evenly in the pan (picture of pan with apples and instruction “spread apples evenly”) and how to distribute the batter over the apples by dolloping it in by quandrant. Any time the word “quandrant” can be worked into a recipe, that is a good day. However, I have a challenge for the good people of America’s Test Kitchen: rhombus.

There. Consider the gauntlet thrown, Christopher Kimball. Now adjust your twee bow tie and get to it.

apple bundt

Despite my careful quadrant dolloping, my cake did not come out nearly as attractive as the picture in the magazine. But I do not consider this a failure, because hell, it’s still cake. Sprinkle some powdered sugar on that shit and call it a night, that’s what I say.

I cut a piece out while it was still technically too hot to be sliced, but like I mentioned, I am having a kicky and carefree alone night, so who’s going to stop me, you? I could totally take you.

This cake has a perfect crumb. Perfect. I almost couldn’t believe I had produced such a cake. It’s not appropriate for a layer cake, but for a bundt- perfect. Compact without being dense, fluffy without being too airy; those anal as hell America’s Test Kitchen get their shit down pat. Pat, I say. Aesthetics aside, this cake is a definite winner and is going to be awesome for breakfast tomorrow.

Unfortunately for you it’s not from the current edition of the magazine, so I suggest you spend 20 quality dollars and subscribe to Cook’s Illustrated online so you can get the recipe along with access to everything they’ve ever written ever. Seriously, you won’t be sorry.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go experience all the joy I can before the run ends.

21 thoughts on “Thursday Night Smackdown: Bundtasm!

  1. I subscribe to Cook’s Illustrated, as much for the rear cover as anything else.

    I’m not a big fan of “icing” on a cake, so lately I’ve been making cakes in an old fashioned spring-loaded pound cake pan (I envy you your lovely scalloped bundt) and refining my cream cheese frosting. I’ve had excellent luck with both vanilla and lemon so far.

  2. swayage – french for fancy pants food decorating after the fact, as in “some emerald blades of chive for swayage”
    whaddaya think?
    and it’s the the cake that makes you happy, silly! cake!

  3. Swayage – the single, extraordinary ingredient in a recipe that puts it over the top. Sorta Barefoot Contessa-ish. As in the the heavy cream in your cake. “If you would like to add swayage to your recipe, use really good cognac instead of whatever. Or just add really good cognac or other alcoholic liquid to anything and everything you make for swayage. Then you will also be swayage-ing after that much liquor!

  4. How about this …

    Swayage — the opposite of assuage. As in, “Jill totally flaked on me last night. I hope my passive-aggressive texts swayaged her guilt sufficiently that she bakes me a bundt cake for restitution.”

  5. I agreed with you about Granny Smiths for most of my life until I tried my first Honey Crisp. I have to say that unless I’m baking a pie, HC wins.

    I feared Bundt cakes for years. For some reason no cake recipe ever properly filled the Bundt pan. Few cakes ever rose to the occasion – yes, pun intended. I have met a few recently and fear them less. They get points for their simplicity.

    You could have gotten away with the Pam – just use the kind with the flour. It really works as well as butter and you don’t have to worry about the darned cracks!

    I’m highly suspicious of people who don’t like cake!

  6. Really? Better than a Jonagold? I call bullshit.
    But in conjunction with other apples, the GS does kick all kinds of ass.

  7. Granny Smith ALL THE WAY. For pies, cakes, eating whole, roasted, eating raw with cheese, whatever.

    Swayage: The measure of ability of one ingredient to sway your opinion of the whole recipe. As in the swayage factor of bacon when added to an otherwise disgusting recipe, like, say, oh, I don’t know, shepherdess pie…….

    And I have to agree with cinic1, sorry, that it isn’t the meds or the bundt pan, it’s the cake. Yup. Cake has long been known to cure all sorts of ailments including depression. Look it up. Also bacon.

  8. cake restores all – so does chips and dip! For your sake (and the blog, my God we must have the blog!) I hope it’s the meds.

    But all power to the bundt! the best one I EVER had was ginger spice – have a great weekend all – kath

  9. Maybe pharmaceutical companies should start looking into synthesizing bundt pans into pill form.

    This looks delicious, by the way, and I agree that for the purposes of baking, Granny Smiths are tough to beat. For just eating, though, I don’t really love them. Green varieties of apple never really do it for me.

  10. That cake roxxors, but I disagree with your opinion about Granny Smith overtaking Honey Crisp.

    Here in Bucks County PA, the Honey Crisp IS the apple. It dominates the apple “scene.” Seriously. Look it up ;)

  11. YOU ARE SINGING! I understand that so deeply, and I am happy for you. So happy, I think I will go back some sort of cake.

  12. GS apples are delicious, but I tried Winesap apples this year, and they may be my new favorite. Of course, they are also incredibly hard to find, so they may just have to be my special-time favorite, like a killer pair of stilettos or scratchy-but-gorgeous lacy knickers.

    Of course you had to put up a tasty-looking cake post, and of course I had to read it this morning, when I have to go to my niece’s birthday party this afternoon, and my sister will only use plain old box cake mix. Heaven forfend that I assist her in any way.

    Swayage: (1) noun: a certain undefinable something that calls to you. (2) also often used in a douchey manner to disguise one’s ignorance or disgust

    “This foie-chocolate-green olive terrine has a certain …swayage… that I just can’t put my finger on.”

  13. when it comes to baking, i kinda like an assortment of apples so you get a little different flavor, texture, and color in each bite. if i have to pick one, though, i’m a honey crisp guy. this looks like my kind of cake. i’m not a big fan of frosted cakes (or crosted cakes, which i typed first); i’m more of a pound & crumb cake kinda guy.

  14. I thought of a great definition of ‘swayage,’ so good I was cracking myself up. Then, the next morning when I wasn’t drinking vodka and Diet squirt with a twist of lime anymore, I couldn’t remember it, go figure. I also like the Granny Smiths, and anyone who quotes Talladega Nights.

  15. Mmm, cake.

    To add my vote on apples: I like Russets for eating, and Northern Spy for baking. Sadly, these are both pretty regional & heirloom, and thus somewhat difficult to find except in pricey greengrocers. They make me want to have an apple orchard, so I can grow them myself. I default to GS or Macs for both when the others aren’t available.

    Bundt pans are also awesome to make pull-apart bread. I suggest this one: It was amazing.

  16. Got to say, America’s Test Kitchen recipes may not always be simplest, but I have never, ever had one go bad when I did what they said. This cake sounds AWESOME. I think I even own a bundt pan!

  17. Better late than never…Swayage is the word that best describes the Carravagian perfection with which the hips of my favorite personal trainer move when she’s showing us a new set of dance steps in aerobics. And Granny Smith apples rock.

  18. This looks great. My husband bought me a bundt pan for Christmas two years ago in hopes that I would make his grandma’s apple cake.. It hasn’t happened yet, but I think reading this post inspired me. I LOVE apple cake/bread..

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