Friday, August 6, 2010
So right off the bat, I'll tell you that when I was asked to review Warren Brown's newest book United Cakes of America, I didn't hesitate. For one thing? Cake. For another thing? Warren Brown is pretty hot. Both of these should be good enough reasons. So the premise of the book is that Brown traveled around the US, collecting and developing recipes that he felt represented each of the fifty states. Some are classics, closely associated with the state from which they come, like New York Style Cheesecake and Florida Key Lime Pie. Some states, however, lack such a storied culinary history. Colorado, for example. My home state.
But Brown didn't give up on Colorado, or anything, and he relates a story about visiting Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs and wondering at all of the "pebbles and chunks of rock everywhere." It's true, Warren Brown, the Rocky Mountains are called that for a reason. They really are an enormous pile of rocks. So he developed this cake in which "nuggets" of apple, banana and walnuts are suspended in the cakey batter. What he doesn't mention is that CO is actually kind of proud of its apples. At least, I always remember hearing about the orchards in Hotchkiss on Colorado's Western Slope, who sell their fruit at various farmers markets in Denver.
New York, as it happens, is also pretty proud of its apples. In fact, on the weekends, I often ride my bike out of the city and out to some apple orchards a few hours away. So this cake is a tribute to my home state, made with the wonderful produce from my adopted state.
Adopted from Warren Brown's United Cakes of America
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup walnuts
2 apples, whatever you have, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
3 large, very ripe bananas, peeled
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons brandy
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, slightly softened
2 1/4 cups superfine granulated sugar (if you can't find superfine, just wizz regular granulated sugar in a food processor to make it superfine)
4 whole eggs
3 egg yolks
For the Glaze (I found there to be far too much glaze, and would recommend cutting the below ingredients in half)
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon cream
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate
Oven preheated to 350F, with the rack in the middle. Butter a 12-cup bundt pan and set aside.
Place all of the dry ingredients except the walnuts into a bowl and whisk to combine. Measure out 1/2 cup of the dry mixture and toss it with the walnuts in a small, separate bowl. Set aside.
Slice the bananas into 1/3 inch pieces. Set aside 1/2 cup, and mash the rest of the banana slices in a bowl. Add the rest of the banana, the apples, and the rest of the wet ingredients. Stir gently to combine.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on low speed for about 5 minutes. The mixture should be light in texture. Add the whole eggs and then the yolks one at a time, allowing each to incorporate before adding the next.
Alternate adding the dry and the wet ingredients, adding them in fourths. Don't pause between additions. Remove the bowl from the mixer and gently fold in the walnuts. Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan and bake for about 60 minutes, or until it passes the toothpick test. Allow the cake to cool on a wrack for 20 minutes before inverting it onto a plate.
In the meantime, make the glazes. Whisk together all of the glaze ingredients except the chocolate and divide evenly between two bowl. Melt the chocolate either in a double boiler or simply in the microwave. Stir half of the melted chocolate into one of the bowls of glaze.
When the cake is warm, pour all three glazes over the top. Start with the white glaze, then the brown, then the pure chocolate. Slice and enjoy.