If you haven’t noticed yet, I like mental gymnastics. You’ve seen my critical analyses and a handful of translations here on the blog, but I also really enjoy sudoku, detectives/detective stories, and, apparently, creating nerdy/geeky/fandom birthday cakes that require research and some level of technical difficulty.
After “The Great Game” cake, I needed a fix. Badly. How lucky for me that so many of my local friends are in need of birthday cakes this season!
The set-up for this cake: In addition to craft beer, my husband and I both love bourbon. While he was waiting on his visa two years ago, he had the opportunity to visit Kentucky’s bourbon distilleries with one of our other bourbon-loving friends, who introduced him to Blanton’s Bourbon. On the tour, he discovered that not only is Blanton’s actually sold in Japan but also that some varieties are only sold in international markets: Black, Silver, Gold, Special Reserve, Straight from the Barrel; Original Single Barrel is sold in the US and abroad.
In addition to collecting all six types, there are eight stopper designs (on the cork) to collect; each has a different letter molded into the design to spell out B-L-A-N-T-O-N’-S and features a horse and jockey in a different racing position from starting line to finish line. Our mission was to find and obtain all the international bourbons while in Japan, and we hunted these bourbons with Javert-like obsession. I even once dragged three bottles home from Kobe on the train.
At Thanksgiving, we served bourbon flights to our guests, which ought to be a separate post. One of our friends who also has an appreciation for good bourbon and good beer had a birthday coming up; since she had joked about using the small corks from the mini-bottles on cupcakes, I decided to make her a bourbon cake.
While I was hunting down a bourbon cake recipe, I stumbled upon The New York Times‘ “Apple Bourbon Bundt Cake.” The shape reminded me of the curve of the stave in which you can display your Blanton’s corks, so I decided to try to make the cake in that shape.
As far as flavor goes, the cake is one of the best cakes I have ever made. The directions are fairly easy despite having a lot of steps and quite a few ingredients.
As for the design, if I had stuck to the original presentation instead of attempting to replicate the shape of the display stave, it would have been perfect. The problem was the structural integrity, which was compromised by the chunks of ginger and pecans in the cake, as well as the glaze and the small cuts in the cake for the glaze; the shape of the bundt pan also had a more rounded curve than the stave does, which made the terminal points top heavy. Also, the cake had a nice crumb to it, which made clean cuts nearly impossible. If I were to do this again, I would either 1. serve the cake with glaze according to the directions and possibly stick the corks on top as decoration or 2. build a curved piece of plastic as a stand for the part representing the cask, as well as make at least half of the recipe to get a thicker, more stable wedge.
In short: make the cake. Do not attempt to construct the stave.
The original recipe calls for a 12-cup bundt pan, which I’m pretty sure would take up the entire moven. I did have what I measured to be a 3 (4?)-cup bundt pan (comfortably fit about 800 mL of water as a test) , so I made 1/4 of the recipe. It took the whole 60 minutes to cook, too. The cake was very small, but so was our party, so it worked out well.
Because the only thing I really changed was ratio and the original recipe actually includes metric measurements, I’m going to include the bilingual ingredient list below and just link to the recipe.
About the Ingredients
- I used yogurt instead of sour cream since it is easier to find, cheaper, and resembled the consistency of American sour cream more than the super-thick Japanese kind does.
- Normally I don’t make pecan recipes, but birthdays are special occasions. I got the pecans (pikanzu, ピカンズ) at the depachika (underground grocery store) in Daiwa in the baking goods section (with the flours), but other import stores like Diamond sometimes stock them. If you can’t find pecans–and it is worth the cost and the trip to a gourmet store for this cake–walnuts could be a good substitute.
- Candied ginger (shoga satozuke, 生姜 砂糖漬け, lit. “ginger preserved in sugar”) is usually stocked in larger supermarkets and gourmet stores with the dried/candied fruit near the produce section.
Yield: 1/4 of the recipe serves 4-5.
Time: Because I was using a moven, the cooking time took the full 60 minutes. If you are using a larger oven, check after 20-30 minutes.
Temperature: 325º F is 162º C (I baked at 160)
Butter (muen batâ, 無塩バター)
Bourbon (borubon, ボルボン)–I recommend Blanton’s original, but you could use your favorite bourbon if you aren’t going for a Blanton’s them
Candied ginger (shôgatô, ショウガ糖, or shôga satôzuke, 生姜砂糖漬け)
Light brown sugar (sanontô, 三温糖)
Eggs (tamago, 卵)
Baking powder (bêkingu paudâ, ベーキングパウダー)
Baking soda (jûsô, 重曹)
Ground cinnamon (shinamon, シナモン)
Fine sea salt (arajio, 粗塩)
Nutmeg (natsumegu, ナツメグ)
Yogurt (yogurutô, ヨーグルト)
Vanilla extract (banira essensu, バニラエッセンス)
Lemon (for juice and zest) (remon, レモン)
Apple (ringo, リンゴ)–I used Fuji (ふじ) but any firm apple should be fine
Pecans (pikanzu, ピカンズ)
Granulated sugar (guranyûtô, グラニュー糖)