The venerable bundt cake is always safe at the plate


One of the most effective plays in baseball, the bunt, sacrifices the hitter and sends a runner on.

Its homophone, bundt, works pretty much the same way. In bundt-cake cookery, dessert advances without a lot of pain and strain in the kitchen.

Therein lies the joy of the bundt cake.

You can put one together in about the same time it takes a hitter to go the full count of balls and strikes. It travels well and is so distinctive-looking you don't have to take the time to frost it.

In the mid-'60s, a potluck or reception without a bundt cake was like a fielder without a mitt. By the late '80s, no self-respecting dessert was anything but a torte or a tart or a chocolate tortellini.

But now, we're witnessing the reprise of the bundt cake. Maybe you can blame the recession -- the bundt cake is not an expensive cake to make. Or maybe you could credit a rerun on comfort food. I'd feel fine about asking a single friend with three kids and a full-time job to bring a bundt cake to a holiday potluck.

The folks at Pillsbury say that the bundt comes from BUNDKUCHEN, a German word for a fluted cake pan.

The classic quick bundt recipe of these earlier years called for 1 cake mix, 1 small instant pudding mix, 3/4 cup salad oil, 3/4 cup liquid and 4 eggs. You combined the ingredients, beat like the dickens for 5 minutes and committed the cake to a 350-degree oven for 50 minutes.

But in 25 years, cake mixes have evolved. Would today's cake mixes, some of which do not require oil as an added ingredient, work in theclassic quick bundt recipe?

Cindy Young, a home economist with Duncan Hines in Cincinnati, gave her answer.

"It's safe to say that when making a bundt recipe using cake mix, you should buy a mix that calls for the addition of oil."

Oil provides moistness and tenderness to the cake, she said. The cake needs the extra oil to counteract the starch in the pudding mix and to bring out flavors.

To get the scoop on homemade bundt cakes, I talked to Jim Dodge, the award-winning baker and author of "The American Baker" and "Baking with Jim Dodge."

"The volume of the bundt pan and long baking period determine what kind of cake can be satisfactorily baked in a bundt pan," said Mr. Dodge.

He said to use recipes for cakes in which the butter and sugar are creamed. Any butter cake that would fill a 10-inch cake pan ought to perform in a bundt pan. Because devil's-food cake is particularly moist, it should turn out well. Look for a recipe with ample sugar because sugar is one of the ingredients that provide moisture in a cake.

Don't, he cautioned, bake a pound cake recipe in a bundt pan.

Here are more tips from Mr. Dodge.

* Grease the pan with butter instead of solid shortening or oil. Butter releases better, especially in a cake pan with as many crevices and corners as the bundt pan.

* Use butter, not margarine, to cream with the sugar. Butter that is softened in the microwave or allowed to come to room temperature will cream more readily with the sugar. Don't overheat. The butter should still be cool and your finger should beable to just glide through it.

* Once you fold in the flour, don't overwhip the batter. In fact, it's best to fold in the flour and continue combining the batter by hand.

* Bake a bundt cake on the lowest level of your oven. If too close to the top of the oven, the cake might brown prematurely or burn.

* Luscious Key lime cake

Makes 12 to 16 servings


1 package lemon cake mix

1 package (4-serving size) lemon instant pudding and pie filling mix

4 eggs

1 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup water

1/4 cup Key lime juice


2 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar, divided

1/3 cup Key lime juice

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

lime slices, for garnish

fresh strawberries, for garnish

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 10-inch bundt pan.

For cake, combine cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, oil, water and 1/4 cup Key lime juice in large bowl. Beat at medium speed with electric mixer for 2 minutes. Pour in pan. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 25 minutes. Invert cake onto cooling rack and remove pan. Return cake to pan. Poke holes in the warm cake with toothpick or long-tined fork.

For glaze, combine 2 cups confectioners' sugar, 1/3 cup Key lime juice, 2 tablespoons water and melted butter in medium bowl. Pour slowly over top of warm cake. Cool completely. Invert onto serving plate. Dust with remaining confectioners sugar. Garnish with lime slices and strawberry slices, if desired.

Tip: Fresh, frozen and thawed or bottled lime juice may be substituted for Key lime juice.

Chocolate almond cake

Makes 12 to 16 servings

1 1/4 cups chopped almonds, divided

1 package devil's-food cake mix

1 package (4-serving size) chocolate instant pudding and pie filling mix

4 eggs

1 cup dairy sour cream

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips

1/2 cup ready-made vanilla or chocolate frosting

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 10-inch bundt pan.

Spread almonds evenly on baking sheet. Toast in 350-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until fragrant. Cool completely. Arrange 1/4 cup almonds evenly in pan.

Combine cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, sour cream, oil and vanilla extract in large bowl. Beat at medium speed with electric mixer for 4 minutes. Stir in chocolate chips and remaining 1 cup toasted almonds. Pour into pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 25 minutes. Invert onto serving plate. Cool.

Place frosting in microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at high (100 percent power) for 15 to 20 seconds. Stir unto smooth. Drizzle over cake.

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