Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas Tradition: Eggnog Cake

A couple years ago I'd gone to pick up The Child from a playdate. The mom was busy in her kitchen, making a raft of eggnog cakes for her family gathering. The house smelled like heaven and made me fiercely hungry so even though I don't usually have sweets in the afternoon, I happily accepted her offer of a slice. The cake was wonderful. Moist and satisfying, but not too rich. I'm not even the biggest fan of cake, much preferring pie as a rule, but this cake was delightful. I begged for the recipe.

At first my friend was hesitant, possibly even a little shamefaced. I began to think she was one of those people who doesn't share recipes (rather a huge character flaw in my book but there are people like that). Then she looked around a little conspiratorially and softly said, "Well, if I give it to you, you have to promise that you'll never tell anyone where it came from".

An odd request, but one with which I was willing to comply. "But why?" I asked. "Did you steal it from the CIA?"

"No, it's just that...well..." and her voice lowered to a whisper. "It calls for cake mix".

Oh. Is that all?

Personally, I find nothing remotely shameful in using cake mix. In fact, as someone who has made her share of genoise and sponge cake from scratch, I don’t know why one would bother when a mix will do quite ably. (Health concerns, which are legit, can be addressed by purchasing one of the many natural/organic products on the market. Trader Joe’s has some excellent ones and no, they aren’t paying me to say that). There are times and places for mixing up a cake from scratch but I've compared notes with a number of very competent bakers and we all agree that the average and even above-average person cannot tell the difference.

I have a baking pan that makes 6 baby bundt cakes. They are more ample than a cupcake, just the right size for dessert. Or tea. Or breakfast. They are also very pretty, simply dusted with some confectioner's sugar. I've taken to mixing up several batches, wrapping them in cellophane with a pretty ribbon for gifts. It's my tradition to give them out to all the teachers and staff at The Child's school. Actually, the tradition was forced on me; after giving them out the first time I started being asked, ever so coyly, by various folks if they'd be getting another eggnog cake "this year". Hey, you give the people what they want.

These cakes also freeze well so there are always a few on hand for last minute gifts or unexpected guests. Which is a nice thing to have in your back pocket during the holidays.

So here is the recipe, sans the name of the angel who gave it to me. Which is really too bad, because she deserves the credit. But a promise is a promise.

Eggnog Pound Cake

1 package yellow cake mix
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups commercial eggnog
2 tbs. rum (or brandy or sherry, pretty much anything but tequila or gin)
1/4 cup butter, melted

Combine cake mix, nutmeg, eggs, eggnog, melted butter and liquor in a large mixing bowl.

Beat with electric mixer about 4 minutes or 450 strokes with a whisk. Pour batter into greased 10 " bundt or tube pan.

Bake in 350 oven 45-55 min. or until a long wooden skewer inserted in the thickest portion comes out clean.

Cool in pan 10 minutes: invert cake onto a rack and cool thoroughly.

Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.

Note: I am a sucker for bundt pans. Williams Sonoma carries a line of very beautiful ones, in all sorts of amazing designs. But the first few times I used them the cakes wouldn't release from the pan. (I made a number of trifles back then). You just can't properly grease and flour a pan that doesn't have straight sides. I have finally figured out the trick: those wonderful cooking sprays that include flour. You can cover all the interstices of the design, it's no where near as messy as fussing with oil and flour and the cakes pop out with their designs in sharp relief.


Anonymous said...

Oh this sounds deeeelish! And also, hello to you lady?! Spray oil with flour? I never would have guessed that about you. I feel closer to you somehow.
Excellent post.

Lorraine said...

See? Cake mix and baking spray. Who ever got the idea in their head that I was all Martha-Stewart-strictly-organic-make-it-myself is crazy!

Buck said...

Thank you!
I'll take one to Aunt Dixie and Uncle Nathan to wow them with.

Lorraine said...

You're welcome, Buck. Hope they enjoy it as much as we loved Uncle Nathan's fajitas!