Say what you will about the Martha Stewart culinary-industrial complex, but this much cannot be denied: The recipes always work.
Case in point: This lemon- and ginger-infused butter cake.
I was responsible for providing dessert for a birthday get-together on Sunday, and since I couldn't locate the recipe for my partner's mother's fabled chocolate chip cake (any recipes out there? toss them to firstname.lastname@example.org), and because my last few attempts at layer cakes have been, well, unsuccessful, I decided to keep it simple and go with a no-fuss (and blessedly single-layer) bundt cake.
There were lemons in the refrigerator, so I dropped "lemon" and "bundt" into the search engine at Marthastewart.com, and, presto-change-o, the following recipe appeared. Turns out, it has all kinds of good things going for it.
First of all, it came together in a snap. Preparing the batter is a 10-minute exercise, tops, making me wonder, once again, why anyone bothers with cake mixes.
After tasting the batter -- despite the raw egg issue, I always taste-test the batter, don't you? -- I snuck in an extra tablespoon of lemon zest (the original recipe calls for two tablespoons), and I'm glad I did; the boost gave the cake the lemony punch it needed. And because it's made with sour cream, because it requires six eggs and because I used a crazy-good butter, the 85 percent butterfat butter that Hope Creamery produces exclusively for Heartland Restaurant & Farm Direct Market (and so worth the $7/lb. price), the finished product was incredibly moist and rich.
The oven's heat transforms the crystallized ginger into a tantalizing brown, which gives the finished cake an appealingly speckled look, not unlike butter brickle ice cream. The golden exterior didn't really need any further embellishment, so I skipped the powdered sugar garnish. Another plus: The end results wowed my fellow partygoers, proving that favorable impressions don't require enormous time commitments.
In short, a winner, and a big hit at the birthday party. I'm so baking it when I play host to my book club next month.
LEMON-GINGER BUNDT CAKE
Note: Adapted from Marthastewart.com
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for pan
3 c. flour, plus more for pan
3 tbsp. freshly grated lemon zest (from 2 to 3 lemons)
1/3 c. minced crystallized ginger
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 c. granulated sugar
6 eggs, at room temperature
1/3 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 2 to 3 lemons)
1 c. sour cream
Powdered sugar for garnish, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a standard 12-cup bundt pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, lemon zest, crystallized ginger, baking soda and salt and reserve.
Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 to 6 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add lemon juice and mix until combined. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three parts, alternating with sour cream cream and beginning and ending with flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated; do not overmix.
Spoon better evenly into prepared pan and smooth top with a rubber spatula. Firmly tap pan on work surface to level batter. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes (if cake browns too quickly, tent loosely with aluminum foil). Transfer cake to a wire rack and let cool in pan for 30 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar, optional.
To store, wrap cake in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature for up to 3 days.