This month’s Test Kitchen recipe is the best cake I’ve ever made.
I bought a Bundt pan on a whim at HomeGoods last summer, in part because it was $7 and that seemed like a deal, and in part because I figured it was worth having around in case I was struck with an urge to bake a coffee cake. But until now, I’d only used my fancy pan to make monkey bread.
With Mother’s Day and Memorial Day looming, however, I decided to try my hand at a cake that seemed appropriate for both occasions.
For this month, I picked a buttermilk chocolate pound cake from Southern Living that’s topped with a chocolatey glaze and a buttermilk frosting.
The recipe had a nostalgia factor for me: It reminded me of Saturday mornings as a kid when my dad would come home from the grocery store with a marbled Bundt pound cake or other store-bought treat—something my mom hated but my sister and I looked forward to.
This cake got glowing reviews from my coworkers (including a, “You did good, kid.”) even after I announced it contained three sticks of butter.
The process takes a long time, but it’s not complicated. The only batter preparation note I’ve got is that I floured my pan with cocoa instead of flour so I wouldn’t end up with a white coating on the outside of my dark cake.
The consistency of the batter reminded me of brownie batter. I tried a bit—for research, of course—and it tasted just like the Hershey’s chocolate frosting made from the recipe on the box. (Sidebar: That frosting is incredible, and I highly recommend it.)
When I checked my cake after an hour and 15 minutes, the center was set, but the cracks in the cake showed the rest was still soupy. I was concerned about over-baking, so I gave it another 10 minutes and hoped it would continue to cook in the Bundt pan out of the oven.
(By the way, Southern Living says not to worry if your pound cake cracks—that happens because the batter is so dense and the top cooks first and then is pushed apart as the center of the cake bakes.)
The recipe only says to let the cake cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes before removing it from the pan. Since this was my first Bundt cake experiment, and since it was going to be photographed, I Googled some tips on how to complete the next few steps successfully.
The advice I found suggested using a knife to loosen the cake as soon as it came out of the oven, letting it sit for five minutes upright and then flipping it over and letting it remain in the pan upside down.
It worked. The cake actually fell out of the pan a bit when I flipped it, but I let it rest for another 10 minutes, and when I gently removed the pan, I still had a whole cake.
I let my cake cool for several hours before making the frostings, which I drizzled on using a whisk. If you’re not big on frosting (a sentiment I personally don’t understand), cut these recipes in half.
The finished product was dense, fudgy, crumbly and honestly, so rich I couldn’t handle more than a couple of bites at a time. I loved it.
One last note: The recipe time is listed as nearly four and a half hours, and you need to plan ahead to give the cake time to bake and cool and for the glazes to set. Either set aside half a day to make this cake, or do it over two days.
For the cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 cups butter, softened at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
2 teaspoons instant espresso
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate morsels
For chocolate glaze:
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For buttermilk glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Prepare cake: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Whisk together flour and next three ingredients. Beat 1 1/2 cups butter in a medium bowl at medium-high speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually add granulated sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until yolk disappears. Combine 1 1/4 cups buttermilk and next two ingredients. Add flour mixture to egg mixture alternately with buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed after each addition. Fold in bittersweet chocolate morsels. Pour batter into a well-greased (with shortening) and floured 12-cup Bundt pan. Sharply tap pan on counter to remove air bubbles.
2. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 20 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely on rack.
3. Prepare chocolate glaze: Combine semisweet chocolate morsels, 3 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of corn syrup in a microwave-safe glass bowl. Microwave at medium (50% power) 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until morsels begin to melt, stirring after 1 minute. Stir until smooth. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.
4. Prepare buttermilk glaze: Whisk together powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon buttermilk and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla in a small bowl until smooth. Add up to 1 tablespoon buttermilk, if desired. Drizzle warm glazes over cooled cake.