Raw, adjective: 10. not diluted, as alcoholic spirits: raw whiskey.
Bundt Cake Saturday!
Morning: not really
Music: the memory of RR's dulcet tones
Yoo-hoo, yahoos. It's actually not Saturday at all, kind of Thursday, a little bit of Friday, something for everyone. I've got a crazy-loaded weekend this week, what with an Upanishads workshop all day Sat. and Sun. and evenings shaking martinis, which means zero time to bake. But as I learned from the last time I ditched Bundt Cake Saturday for a yoga workshop, the MASSES will RIOT if I fail to bring a circular slab o' sugar and flour for their dessert pleasure. And since I'm not willing to endure any more bundt-less abuse, I decided to plan ahead this week and knock out a cake a day in advance.
So, Thursday night I found my way home after my last seminar on the history of yoga in the U.S., mind swimming with thoughts of Vivekananda and the World Parliament of Religions and commodification and ashrams in Rapid City. Our teacher is a Very Big Dude in the yoga scene, and thus naturally, as I have come to discover, he has this supremely quiet and humble and mellow spirit, which tends to rub off on you when you're sitting listening to him for a few hours. So, while RR's wisdom resonated in my cells, I quietly set out to mix a few eggs and some sugar for this weekend's bundt.
I'm a few days late with this idea, but thanks to the keen suggestion of Jason and Alexis the other night (thanks, guys!), we're having a little Mardi Gras action this week. Now, I know very little about Mardi Gras. Growing up Protestant in the Heartland, we were always much more focused on the Ash Wednesday rituals than any of the pancake-eating, liquor-swilling festivities that precede it. (You know, skip the decadence and get on with the asceticism and the self-flagellation, already!) So in terms of Mardi Gras, I'm a relative neophyte: I know it involves beads and breasts and pancakes and parades, but that's about it. But apparently there's this traditional treat called a "King Cake" that accompanies all the NoLa celebrations.
Thanks to some highly legitimate Wiki research, I quickly discovered that this cake is usually some form of breaded cream-cheese danish flavor, with fillings, ugly green/purple/gold sprinkles, and a little plastic baby baked inside. Yes, I said "little plastic baby." Apparently, this descends from an old French ritual in which whomever found the bean in their slice would be treated like a king for a year and then - gulp - be ritually sacrificed to Saturn. Read the full details in this charming article.
So it seems the modern-day incarnation of this is that, instead of being sacrificed, whoever finds the little baby is responsible for bringing the next King Cake. I can be down with that. The upshot of all this is that I spent a hilarious few hours in perpetual giggle the other day tracking down little plastic babies. Thanks to the insane SF Party Store on Post St. and the cute scruffy hipster dude behind the counter, I found a plethora of plastic (racially diverse!) babies, along with various tacky beads, masks and streamers. (See very professional photo illustration.)
Six hours later, after I'd finally stopped laughing, I came home from class to bake the cake. (Are we not even to the recipe yet? Sheesh, shut up and get on with it.) Because I am far too lazy to actually deal with yeast and bread-rising and whatnot, I made a somewhat amalgamated recipe based on a cream cheese cake from the past, added some homemade cinnamon streusel, and devised my own version of a King Cake. I think it'll actually be delicious. So pour yourselves some bourbon and let's get on with a belated
MARDI GRAS KING CAKE
No guarantees that this recipe will work, but it's got enough sugar and alcohol in it to keep your fairly comatose, so hopefully you won't really notice if it doesn't turn out so well.
1 yellow cake mix
1 large package instant vanilla pudding
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 (8 oz.) box of cream cheese, at room temp.
1 teas vanilla
1 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup bourbon
1 plastic baby!
The first thing you want to do is soak your raisins in bourbon. Pour the 1/2 cup into a Pyrex measuring cup (or similar bowl) and soak the golden raisins for several hours. I dumped them in at 4, ran to yoga and then to class, and came home to use them circa 11. That seemed to do the trick.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour your bundt pan. Blend the cake mix, pudding, eggs, vegetable oil, vanilla and cream cheese for several minutes with an electric mixer. Drain off any excess bourbon from the soaking raisins and mix that in as well. Finally, fold in the drunken raisins and stir gently until mixed well. Pour half of the batter into your greased pan.
Now you're going to layer in the simple streusel mix. I've come up with a nice little melange that has worked well in several cakes over the last year. It looks like this (but you can get away with adding or subtracting any of the minor ingredients):
6 T raisins or currants
4 teas unsweetened baking cocoa
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
4 teas cinnamon
a few dashes of nutmeg
a few dashes of cloves and/or allspice
Mix the streusel in a small bowl and set aside. Return to your bundt pan and layer the streusel in over half of the batter. Insert the plastic baby at this point, somewhere in the middle of the pan. (Don't forget!) Pour in the rest of the batter to cover the streusel. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean. Cool for ten minutes on a wire rack, and then invert and remove from the pan until it cools completely.
I let the cake cool overnight and frosted it with a simple cream cheese frosting the next morning. You're traditionally supposed to sprinkle three sections of colored sugar on top (purple, green, and gold, naturally), but I honestly really hate that look, so I just went for the cheesy shiny beads and masks instead. I also added the last bit of my edible silver glitter for an extra-sparkly touch.
Whoa mama. Cake's ready. Should taste fine. And there's a little baby waiting in there for some unsuspecting fellow to bite into. As for the ritual sacrifice to follow, well - we'll see about that.
Happy Mardi Gras.