Uncertain that Santa knew exactly what I wanted; I recently gave myself a preholiday gift: a new bundt pan to replace my 20-year-old pan that was too thin, too dark, scratched-up and barely nonstick any more.
My attitude toward my old pan began shifting when the top half of my Jump-For-Joy Gingerbread stayed in the pan when the bottom landed like a thud on my cooling rack. At the time I assumed I hadn't properly sprayed the pan with vegetable oil, even though it was nonstick.
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A lemon, blueberry-swirl bundt headed to a dinner party was the final straw when, once again, the cake split in half leaving the top firmly planted in the pan. Scratching the nonstick coating while prying the top half out turned a beautiful cake into an embarrassing disaster.
A little due diligence and I found the perfect high-quality, top-of-the-recommended-list, heavy-duty bundt pan: Nordic Ware's Anniversary Bundt Pan (about $27). This shiny, bright pan would resolve the issues I had with my old bundt pan's black exterior and interior that made the exterior of my cakes brown too fast before the interior baked properly. About the pan, one reviewer noted: "Heavyweight cast-aluminum construction and a silver nonstick finish combine to create a nicely risen, golden-brown bundt cake that released perfectly." Since my old pan's nonstick coating had lost its power, this pan had my name written all over it.
When the new pan arrived I couldn't wait to try it and pulled out the recipe for an old favorite, my Dark Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake. I wanted to test two changes with that recipe: using organic whole wheat pastry flour (looking to make the crumb more tender) and adding instant espresso powder to deepen the already rich chocolate flavor.
One problem; the nonstick coating on this pan was so good the spray ran down the sides and puddled in the bottom. Cooling the pan in the refrigerator for five minutes and rubbing soft (but not liquid) coconut oil inside solved that problem.
My chocolate cake experiment turned out wonderfully well, plus I learned that it took 10 minutes longer to bake my cake in that shiny, thicker-walled pan.
Next, I wanted to work my lean magic with a lemon poppy seed bundt.
The original recipe called for 9 ounces butter -- that's more than two sticks! -- that delivered more than 1,800 calories and 207 fat grams. I cut the butter in half and made up the difference with drained, unsweetened applesauce.
Although it makes a small difference, reduced-fat buttermilk delivers more than twice the fat of low-fat buttermilk (2.0 grams versus 0.8). If it's a calories-in/calories-out world, every calorie counts so out went the reduced fat buttermilk.
I left the eggs alone, since recent studies seem to indicate that egg's cholesterol is virtually a nonissue health wise and I wanted my cake to have a warm yellow glow.
How did it turn out? One word: spectacular. And, my new pan released the cake beautifully.
The ingredient list is long and there are several steps, but this cake is well worth the effort, especially for the holidays and especially if you own a solid bundt pan. Give it a try.
• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write him at email@example.com.