Its that time of year again, when each week offers a party of some sort, when all around our house you’ll find little pieces of paper scribbled with frantic ‘to do’ lists, when our kitchen becomes coated with a fine film of flour and the den floor is sprinkled with a confetti of wrapping paper, ribbon and tape. Our tree is up and decorated, a Christmas-themed Pandora station dialed into the iPod sitting in its dock, and my cravings for mulled cider and creamy eggnog are daily occurrences. There’s no denying it, the holidays have latched on to our life and won’t be letting go until January.
I am feeling particularly festive this year, I think because, for the first time ever, Brian and I are staying in Charlottesville for Christmas. In our own house with our own vintage-inspired silver tree and fresh wreath hanging on our door. We’re pretty excited, especially since we managed to convince two of our four sets of parents to come and visit. We’ll have my momma and stepfather for Christmas and Brian’s dad and girlfriend to help us ring in the New Year. Thats two big meals to host and we, who love to entertain, have already started planning the menus.
By now you’ve all probably figured out that I love to bake. Dessert is the first course of menu planning that I tackle, I can’t bring myself to buy bread from a store if we’re having guests over for a meal (unless its an Albemarle Baking Co. baguette, because they are magical) and whenever I am asked to contribute a dish to a dinner party I offer up a cake or pie. I’ve developed a bit of an obsession, and have been known to get downright giddy as I browse my cookbooks and magazines looking for the perfect cookie recipe. So, as you can imagine, I get pretty darn excited about holiday baking.
These days I'm leaning towards heavy, comforting desserts; dense cakes, thick custards, rich pies. I'm craving chocolate, in all forms, the darker the better. I've dog-eared pages to mark recipes for Spiced Ginger Cookies, Rum-Drenched Pound Cake and Dulce de Leche Bread Pudding. And for this Chocolate Bourbon Bundt Cake, which I actually made for a dinner with friends months ago. That was before the cold air hit Charlottesville and, while this dessert is really good no matter the time of year you make it, when I took my first bite I couldn't help but to think of December. And hot cider. And twinkling lights on trees. And snow.
This gem of a recipe will surely have a place on one of our holiday menus or perhaps as a take-along dish for a party. Dense and moist with a deep, dark chocolaty flavor laced with a hint of bourbon, the cake is easy to make, better when made a day or two in advance and, to top it all off...positively dreamy. I promise that not a crumb will remain after your party. But if I'm wrong and there are some leftovers, a thick slice makes a mighty fine accompaniment to your morning coffee.
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process) plus 3 tbsp for dusting pan
1-1/4 cups brewed coffee
3/4 cup bourbon (I used Maker's Mark)
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
confectioner's sugar for dusting
Position oven rack in middle of oven and preheat to 325*. Butter 10-inch bundt pan well, then dust with 3 tbsp cocoa powder, knocking out excess.
Heat coffee, bourbon, butter and remaining cup of cocoa powder in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, whisking, until butter is melted. Remove from heat then add sugar and whisk until dissolved, about 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and cool for 5 minutes.
As chocolate cools, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Whisk together the eggs and vanilla in a small bowl, then whisk into cooled chocolate mixture until combined well. Add flour mixture and whisk until just combined - the batter will be thin and bubbly. Pour batter into bundt pan and bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes.
Cool cake completely in pan on a rack, about 2 hours. Loosen cake from pan using tip of a dinner knife, then invert rack over pan and turn cake out onto rack.