Tunnel of love
The definitive chocolate Bundt cake revisited
Hunk of love: We can't think of anything better to mark Valentine's Day than a big slice of this cake with your sweetheart. (Alex Farnum /TMS photo)
Did you know that the tunnel of fudge cake put Bundt pans on the baking map? According to numerous accounts, in 1966, Ella Rita Helfrich submitted her recipe for a chocolate cake with a gooey, fudgy center to the Pillsbury Bake-Off contest. She came in second (though her cake remains much better known than that year's winner).
As Christie Matheson recounts in her new book "Cake Simple" (Chronicle Books, $19.95), the original recipe called for "lots of sugar, no actual chocolate, and Pillsbury's since-discontinued Double-Dutch Fudge Buttercream frosting mix. It was tasty, for sure, but overly sweet. While you do need a substantial amount of sugar to make the chemistry work right, it doesn't need to be quite so cloying."
Matheson's version is deeply chocolaty, made with bittersweet chocolate and spiked with cacao nibs, then topped with a rich, dark chocolate ganache with a touch of fleur de sel. (You can find cacao nibs in specialty stores, online or at your grocery store.)
And, yes, it still has the magical tunnel of gooey fudge running through the center. I can't think of anything better to mark Valentine's Day than a big slice of this cake with your sweetheart.
Tunnel of fudge redux
Prep: 45 minutes
Cook: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Cool: 3 hours
Note: From "Cake Simple" by Christie Matheson
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus melted butter for greasing the pan
3/4 cup cocoa powder, plus more for dusting the pan
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup boiling water
2 cups flour
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cacao nibs
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
Bittersweet chocolate ganache, see recipe below
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush the inside of a 12-cup Bundt pan with melted butter; dust lightly with cocoa powder. Tap out any excess.
2. Place the bittersweet chocolate in a small heat-proof bowl; pour the boiling water over the chocolate. Whisk until smooth. Let cool to room temperature.
3. Whisk together the 3/4 cup cocoa powder with the flour, confectioners' sugar, salt and cacao nibs in a large bowl until thoroughly combined.
4. Beat the butter with the brown sugar and granulated sugar on medium speed in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time; beat in the vanilla. Add the cooled melted chocolate mixture; beat until just combined. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture; beat until just combined.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan; smooth the top. Bake until the edges begin to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 45 minutes. (Don't use a cake tester for this cake — it won't come out clean.) Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack, 1 hour 30 minutes. Do not try to take the cake out of the pan any earlier than this!
6. Invert the cake onto the rack; let it cool completely, 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours. Drizzle with the ganache; let set 5-10 minutes before serving. The cake will keep in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.
Per serving: 566 calories, 33 g fat, 19 g saturated fat, 127 mg cholesterol, 72 g carbohydrates, 8 g protein, 212 mg sodium, 3 g fiber.
Bittersweet chocolate ganache
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup whipping cream
Pinch fleur de sel
Put the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Heat the cream in a small nonreactive saucepan over medium-low heat to scalding (when little bubbles form around the edge of the cream but before it begins to boil). Pour the cream over the chocolate. Cover; allow to sit until the chocolate has melted, about 3 minutes. Add the fleur de sel; whisk until smooth and uniform.