I like cake best, except when I like pie better. But pie, as so many have said ("SO MANY!") is something that I don't want to eat unless I can later bow down before it, chanting words of praise, haltingly, as I shudder with sobs. I like great pie - and sometimes I can't find it. But I will happily eat almost any cake, as long as it has frosting on it - thick swaths of frosting, crusted and sugary or silken and voluminous. A dark slick of ganache or crackled, membrane-thin glazes. I just like cake. I'll call cake first, every day of the week. I don't care about our weird mating rituals and rules when it comes to a layered tower, coddled in cream cheese icing.
So, for most of my life I've looked at Bundts as strange, unfortunate impostors. How can they be considered cake? Couldn't you bake Bundt recipes in regular pans, frost them and improve them MIGHTILY? SWIFTLY, even. I grew up in the eighties, when small children were introduced to Grocery Store bakery cakes and the pull between them, with their plastic pick-anchored decorations, palm trees and Hot Wheels and tiny ballerinas, and the homemade cake (often a Bundt) was fiery. I don't know if my ignorant prejudices come from watching a friend's mother slice up a bundt and offer it to us, unadorned, or if I'm just uncovering the depths of my own Cakecism, here but these long-held beliefs were SHATTERED this week when I made one of the best cakes I've ever tasted.
I've been obsessing over this recipe for some time, first mentioned and praised by Melissa of All Buttoned Up, and bought a pan specifically to remedy that. The Bundt is the one standard cake pan I don't own, and with plenty of rose-tinged rhubarb in the backyard, it was the only thing standing in my way.
The plushest crumb I've come across, almost custardy in the areas where unsweetened rhubarb melts into jammy pockets, with spring to each bite and that beautiful, golden crust - this Bundt is nice. And the glaze, enriched with just a Tablespoon of butter (made with a foundation of the usual suspects, powdered sugar and lemon juice), barely tinges the whole thing with sweetness as it melts down the just-warm, unmolded cake - this is a puckery one, deeply lemon, no overwhelming sugar punch.
My only suggestions are standard ones, my only adaptation borne out of not having lemon extract/oil around - do not overmix, overbake or manhandle the batter. Lube the hell out of your pan. Scrape your bowl often. Make sure your eggs, butter and buttermilk are all at room temperature, this affects the texture of the cake mightily. Fluff your flour before measuring it. And I doubled the zest and added a generous teaspoon of vanilla extract to the batter in lieu of the missing lemon oil. I think it was a good call. Also - you might, depending on your Rhubarb Feelings, want to toss the cut and chunked stalks with a pinch of sugar before the flour coat.
But make it. Make it today. Make it a week ago. Now make it again.
Lemon Buttermilk Rhubarb Bundt Cake
Originally from Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson
2 1/2 cups AP flour, fluffed before measuring, plus two separate Tablespoons
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup (2 sticks) of really good, really great unsalted butter
1 3/4 cup granulated white sugar
Zest of two large lemons
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 cups finely sliced (1/2-1/4 inch) rhubarb
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, lemon zest, vanilla, salt and sugar until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides and beater/paddle, 3-5 minutes. Then, mixer on low, add your eggs one at a time - plop, scrape, mix. Plop, scrape, mix. Plop, scrape, mix. Scrape again.
Whisk together the baking powder and 2 1/2 cups of flour, and add 1/3 of it to the butter/sugar/eggs, mixing on low until just combined. Add 1/3 of the buttermilk and mix, scraping down the bowl and beaters. Continue alternating the flour mixture and buttermilk, ending with the last of the flour. Give the bowl of the mixer and beaters/paddle one last scrape.
In another bowl, or on your counter or cutting board, toss the rhubarb with the remaining two Tablespoons of flour and a pinch of sugar, if you like. Once rhubarb pieces are well coated, gently fold them into the batter with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, until distributed evenly within the batter (the original recipe had a note warning of the thickness, and I agree).
Lube and flour your pan generously, or use that cooking spray that has flour in it (SCIENCE. IT AMAZES YOU AND I!) - I sprayed the hell out of my pan. Just really blitzed it, and thanked myself for it later. Of course you know your bundt pan better than I do, so use your own intuition. Maybe you just have to tell it you think it has pretty ridges. The prettiest ridges.
Plop your batter into the pan, using a spatula to gently spread and level it. Once you're set, slide it into the oven and bake for 30 minutes - open the door and gently rotate the pan. Bake for another 25-30 minutes, depending on your oven - I started testing at 55 minutes total, but it needed the full hour - the cake should spring back gently and no raw batter should cling to a pick or knife, when inserted.
Cool your cake in the pan for 30 minutes, while making the glaze, then tip out onto a plate or tray, whatever you're going to serve it on. Generously drape the still-warm cake with the glaze, slowly, but evenly. Take in the heady aroma. And then get weird with it.
2 cups (plus some) powdered/confectioners/icing sugar
Juice of one large lemon
1 Tablespoon cooled and melted butter
Whisk together all ingredients until satiny-smooth, thinning with lemon juice or thickening with more powdered sugar as you see fit.