When I need an impressive dessert in a hurry, I pull out my bundt pan. Though the batter is no more involved than any other cake, the big, fluted finished cake looks like it took a lot of work or special skill. Even better, bundt cakes don't require frosting, layering or any other decoration beyond a dusting of powdered sugar and a dollop of whipped cream on each slice. This particular bundt cake replaces sweet icing with a heady mixture of whiskey, black coffee, butter and brown sugar, which is spooned over the still-warm cake to soak in and glaze it as it cools.
With its tender crumb and warm flavor of ginger, cinnamon, allspice and cloves, this cake can be served as a not-too-decadent dessert, a mid-afternoon coffee break snack, or even an occasional breakfast. (Though there is whiskey in the glaze, the cake itself is not boozy.) It is also just as good made one or two days ahead, making it a convenient option for any big holiday meal.
The original spice cake recipe is by the ever-reliable Dorie Greenspan, who flavors her cake with Chinese five-spice powder. I wanted a recipe that could be made without having to shop for any special ingredients, so my adaptation swaps out that spice mixture, as well as the almond meal she calls for, but if you happen to have those on hand, feel free to use the whiskey-coffee glaze with the original cake recipe.
The only potentially stressful aspect of making a bundt cake is turning it out of the pan; if it doesn't come out cleanly, there's no frosting to hide the mistake. I've found that using a heavy-duty pan helps — the pan used here is Nordicware's Heritage Bundt Pan — as does generously buttering and flouring every corner of the pan. Loosen the edges of the cake a little with a knife, take a deep breath and flip — then admire your fancy-looking, secretly no-fuss dessert.
For the cake: 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon ground ginger 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves 1/2 teaspoon allspice 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature 1 cup sugar 1 cup brown sugar 3 large eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (whole or 2%) 1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
For the glaze: 1/4 cup brewed coffee 1/4 cup American whiskey 1/4 cup brown sugar 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 1/4 teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar, for serving Lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter and flour a 12-cup bundt pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugars and beat until creamy and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each one until fully incorporated. Add the vanilla and yogurt and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture and beat lightly, just until flour is no longer visible. Fold in the cranberries and transfer batter to bundt pan.
Bake on the middle rack for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, place all the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer, whisking, until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat.
After the cake has cooled for about 10 minutes, poke 10 - 12 slits into the surface of the cake with a sharp knife. Spoon about half the glaze over the surface, or as much will soak into the slits. Loosen the edges of the cake from the pan with a butter knife and turn the cake out onto a rack. Place the rack on a baking sheet to catch drips.
With the point of a sharp knife, cut 10 - 12 slits into the top of the cake. Spoon glaze over the cake, soaking as much in the slits as possible, and using a brush to spread glaze over any uncovered areas. (You may have some glaze left over.) Let cake cool completely.
Just before serving, dust cake with powdered sugar. Top each slice with whipped cream, if desired.
Note: The cake can be made 1 or 2 days ahead. After cooling completely, wrap with plastic wrap or store in an airtight container at room temperature.