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A small slice of this rich, moist cake studded with cherries and nuts is perfect for a winter afternoon, with a cup of strong coffee or tea: just the pick-me-up you'll need for a full evening of decorating or present-wrapping. It can be made ahead, wrapped well, frozen, then taken out of the freezer when you need it. Baked in a large tube or bundt-style pan, it's substantial enough to serve as the centerpiece of a holiday dessert table. By the way, if you have a nutmeg grater be sure to use fresh nutmeg; the flavor and aroma are vastly superior to the stuff you buy pre-ground.
Want to make eggnog cupcakes? See the tip at the bottom of this recipe.
1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) dried sweet cherries
1 tablespoon rum or brandy (or 2 teaspoons vanilla)
1/2 cup (2 ounces) chopped walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup (1 7/8 ounces) light or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup (1 ounce) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) butter, melted
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks, 12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups (14 ounces) sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1/4 cup (2 ounces) dark rum or brandy (optional)
3 1/2 cups (14 7/8 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) eggnog or light cream*
*Eggnog's out of season? Use 1 1/4 cups light cream or half and half + 1 1/4 teaspoons eggnog flavor.
1 cup (4 ounces) glazing sugar or confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons eggnog (or water, milk, or cream)
1 teaspoon rum, brandy, or vanilla, or 1/4 teaspoon eggnog flavor
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Filling: Mix the dried cherries with the liquor or vanilla, add the remaining ingredients, stir well and set aside. Stir occasionally so the cherries absorb the liquid evenly.
Cake: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease a 10-inch tube or bundt-style pan.
In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, nutmeg and salt until light and fluffy. .
Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until the batter looks fluffy. Beat in the rum or brandy, if you're using it.
Whisk the flour and baking powder together. Beat in one-third of the flour mixture, then one-third of the eggnog or cream. Repeat, being sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl occasionally. Add the remaining flour and eggnog or cream, beating well.
Spoon half the batter into the prepared pan . Sprinkle with the nut and cherry mixture. Top with the remaining batter. Smooth the top gently. Lift the cake pan several inches above the counter and drop it to the counter; repeat. This will eliminate any large air pockets or bubbles.
Bake the cake for 1 hour, 15 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and place on a rack. Let the cake cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then loosen the edges with a knife and return to the rack to cool completely.
Glaze: Mix all of the glaze ingredients together, adding a bit of water if needed. Drizzle over the cooled cake. Yield: 1 cake, 25 servings
This cake makes 2 dozen mini-cakes (cupcakes); our tulip muffin papers make an especially nice presentation. Increase the oven temperature to 350°F, and reduce the bake time to 24 to 26 minutes. Use about 1/3 cup batter per cake. Or use a level ¼-cup scoop (muffin scoop) for the first layer, adding a teaspoon cookie scoop of filling, then finishing with a tablespoon cookie scoop of batter on top. For extra visual appeal and taste, sprinkle the glazed cakes lightly with grated nutmeg.