If you’d told me a few years ago that I’d enjoy anything about fall other than, say, eating pumpkin-y things and, nominally, wearing fluffy slippers, there’s not a chance I would have believed you. (This is how deep my fear of the cold runs.) But then we moved to a quixotic land where my Michelin Man puffer jackets are happily useless, so I no longer had the cold to dread; and shortly thereafter a very important fall birthday was added to our calendars that B2 and I are way more excited about celebrating than we’ve ever been about our own. A year later, here I am: recovering SAD-sufferer and cautious fall enthusiast.
B2 and I are scuttling around getting ready for Luke’s first birthday party with all the zeal of silly first-time parents who are fully aware of their ridiculousness and are choosing to ignore it; our parents are egging us on with the equal vim of first-time grandparents. We’re having a little party at home that is less little than we first thought it would be, with grandparents and aunties and cousins flying in to celebrate B3’s special day. Our apartment is filling up with things like B2’s craftsy dol towers and Post-It scribbles about cake and party favors waiting to be dropped into goody bags. Although this birthday is a bigger hubbub than usual because it’s his dol, I love the thought that fall is becoming, more than warm spices or cozy throws or anything else, a celebration of a trip around the sun with our little guy. I can’t think of anything better. (Not being cold, however, is close.)
Of course, all that said, I still like the warm spices — which is why these baby chai masala Bundt cakes (who got their name thanks to Nik!) are making an appearance this week. The recipe is part of King Arthur Flour’s Year of the Bundt celebration, and it is all my fall baking dreams epitomized. It’s the best recipe I’ve found yet for a simple pound cake — dense and moist with a close crumb and a rich texture that only gets better as it keeps — that’s made even better by an exuberant but not overzealous (unlike our birthday planning, say) dose of chai masala, which infuses it with a round, complex flavor, warm and fragrant from spices like ginger, cardamom, black pepper, and cinnamon. The cake is simple and not too sweet, carried as much by its brown sugar and honey undertones as its lively spices, but you can roll it in a bit of spiced sugar if you like, or drizzle it with a glaze. We wrapped two baby cakes up for a picnic and froze the rest for later; it’s wonderful either way.
I hope you’re all having good, cozy falls! Tell me if there’s an especially delicious fall thing I should be baking or making.
Recipe hardly adapted at all from King Arthur Flour.
- 1 cup (2 sticks, or 226 grams) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup (213 grams) light brown sugar, packed
- 1/4 cup (85 grams) honey
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons chai masala (like this one or make your own (see Notes)
- 2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 cup Greek yogurt (sour cream also works)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, beat together the butter, brown sugar, and honey until smooth and light. This will take about 2 minutes with an electric hand mixer or stand mixer on medium speed, or 4-5 minutes whisking vigorously by hand.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute or two and scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl between additions. Stir in the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and chai masala (or spices of your choice).
- Gently fold half the flour into the butter and egg mixture. Next, fold in the Greek yogurt (or sour cream) and vanilla extract. Finally, fold in the remaining flour. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and beat briefly, to incorporate any sticky residue.
- Thoroughly grease a large Bundt pan or mini Bundt tray that holds up to 9 or 10 cups (I used this fun one. Scoop the batter into the prepared pan, and bake until a cake tester, bamboo skewer, or long toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 50-55 minutes for a large Bundt cake, 30-40 minutes for smaller Bundts and 20 minutes or so for minis.
- Remove the cake from the oven, and cool in the pan for 15 minutes before turning it out onto a rack to finish cooling. Store any leftovers, tightly wrapped in plastic, at room temperature for several days; the cakes also freeze beautifully for months.
If you don't have a spice grinder, you can make your own chai masala with the following: 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, 2 teaspoons ground cardamom, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Of course, this pound cake works just as well with a mix of the fall spices of your choice -- a pumpkin spice blend would be great, too!