Monday, November 12, 2007

The Hickory and the Bundt: A Romance

There's something so wonderful about opening a plain brown box, packaged by hand, addressed to you with the handwriting of a person you'll never know. It's been years since the anthrax scare, but still, forced as we are to remove our sneaks just to get on the puddle-jumper to Tallahassee, most of us can't help but feel an irrational distrust of unclaimed luggage and lost packages. The occasional Ebay delivery, swaddled in an overindulgence of packing tape and blockily printed with a Sharpie, is a comforting reminder that not it's not all stranger-danger out there.

My special delivery was hickory nutmeats, of course. They arrived from Wisconsin in a quart-size Ziploc bag nestled in shipping popcorn. My first thought was that there may have been some mistake -- they look so familiar, like miniature walnuts, perhaps they mixed up the orders. But with the first bite -- very crunchy, sweet, with overtones of maple and not a hint of the bitter walnut aftertaste -- I realized that these nuts are better than any I've ever had and worth every penny. (I paid $12 plus $5 S & H for a 1/2 pound, shelled.)

Such a nut deserves a spectacular debut, and what better than the starring role in an Old Fashioned Hickory Nut Cake -- which also happens to be my creation in honor of National Bundt Day? After all, "off all the nut cakes there is none better than this old-fashioned one," or so says Hester Price, who published the recipe in The Good Housekeeping Hostess, 1904. I've heard it said that modesty is a virtue, but I don't believe that applies in cooking, and Ms. Price has reason to boast. I tried the recipe with hazelnuts -- delightful results, as you may recall -- but I've got to hand it to her, the hickory cake blew it out of the water.

Sure, I gilded the lily just a little -- I dribbled a chocolate glaze made with Lindt 70% with Orange and Almonds along the top of the noble Bundt crest, but the hickory nuts were center stage.

All I can say is: wow. I can't wait to make this cake again for my family for Thanksgiving. My advice: go to Ebay, splurge on some hickory nuts, play around, make the recipe below or give 'em a whirl in one of your favorite autumn yummies. Just try these nuts.

And don't forget, you've got a little less than 24 hours left to enter your Bundt cake to my Big Bundt Appreciation Bake-off. I can't wait to see what y'all have come up with! I'll post the results on Thurs, 11/15, National Bundt Day.

Old-Fashioned Hickory Nut Cake with Dark Chocolate, Orange and Almond Glaze

This recipe is big enough for a standard Bundt pan. Divide by half for a loaf pan. This cake is very dense, so you probably don't need to make this much for most occasions -- that is, unless you like big Bundts!

3 cups sugar
1 cup butter
1 & 1/2 cup full-fat milk
5 cups butter, sifted
4 tsp. baking powder
2 cups hickory nut meats, crushed just a bit (you want them to be just split into halves or quarters, not pulverized) and dredged lightly with flour
1 tsp. vanilla
8 egg whites, beat stiff
For the glaze:
1 bar Lindt 70% cocoa bar with orange and almond bits (we don't need the entire bar -- you get to eat one square!) OR 3 oz. dark chocolate with a 1/2 tsp of orange zest and 1 tsp. of slivered almonds, crushed a bit
3 tbsp. water
3 tbsp. butter

1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Cream together sugar and butter. Add milk, flour, baking powder, and nuts. Stir until blended after each addition, and then stir until smooth.

3. Fold in egg whites.

4. Pour into a buttered Bundt pan and bake for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick emerges good and clean. Let cool 5 minutes, then invert and let cool completely before glazing.

5. Put the chocolate and milk a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for about 2 minutes, stopping every 30 secs. to stir. (Or put in the top of a double boiler over medium heat.)

6. When it's just melted, remove from microwave/heat and stir in butter, 2 or 3 pieces at a time. When it's completely smooth, let cool until it'll pour in a slow but steady stream, then pour it over the top of the cake, slowly working around a few times, allowing it to drip prettily down the sides.


Kristen said...

That bundt cake looks amazing!

Ann said...

Gorgeous! Your family will love it!

Looking forward to seeing the rest of the entries!

Anonymous said...

love your recipes--and you are the HOTTEST food blogger out there!

Robert said...

This looks fabulous. I can't wait to make this...and yes I think I will make it for Thanksgiving too. My family will definitely enjoy.

laineylu said...

mmm... maybe I will get a piece at Thanksgiving. That.. and of course your loveliness.. is enough to make me jaunt the 6 blocks!

danny said...

the bundt cake looks really good! you said the hickory nuts have a walnuty taste, what if you just tused walnuts instead? i'm just curious, but i don't actually have a bundt cake pan to try it out.

Nora Leah said...


It WAS really good, lemme tell ya. And you def. don't need to use Bundt pan, any sort of loaf pan would do. Even muffins. Just cut the recipe in half.

You can definitely substitute another nut. I made it with hazelnut last month -- that was also delicious. You might try half-walnuts, half-hazelnuts, since walnuts can be slightly bitter.

Laineylu, I'm actually going to be across the street from your OTHER grandma this Thanksgiving. Any chance you're making 2 stops that day and want to join us on Mt Pleasant? I'm also making TRIPE SOUP ... yummy.

And finally: thanks, Anonymous!

xx N

Cakelaw said...

Found your site through the winner, Ann. Your bundt looks delicious - and the orange and chocolate glaze really makes it!

s.j.simon said...

lol. did you know that chocolate was banned in switzerland for many years. read this