Welcome to holiday baking season 2012.
This is not the type of cake I’d make for a pool party in July but it’s most definitely the type of cake I want to make and savor this time of year.
The cake combines some of my favorite flavors and ingredients including molasses, Baileys, medjool dates, with the dominant note being chocolate. Chocolate is incorporated twice, both from a hefty dose of cocoa powder and from semi-sweet chocolate chips stirred into the batter.
The chocolate flavor is enhanced by adding a couple tablespoons of brewed coffee to the batter. And no, the coffee doesn’t make the cake taste like a ‘coffee-cake’, but instead helps to accentuate the cocoa flavor profile. If you’re a coffee lover and do want the cake to taste like coffee, a teaspoon, or a tablespoon, of ground espresso added to the batter would do the trick.
Additionally, I added nearly a cup of diced Medjool dates to the batter, further complementing the chocolaty tones. Dates and chocolate are a natural pairing and since dates are like nature’s candy, they add a subtle sweetness to the cake as well as providing both moisture and chewy texture.
It’s safe to assume I love chocolate, but I have a penchant for the rich and robust flavor of molasses. I adore molasses in cookies, molasses in bread, in pumpkin banana bread, and also in cakes. It’s deep, it’s dark, and it’s potent. That potency can be both an asset and a detriment. In general, molasses is a flavor where more is not usually better; which is the opposite of how I feel about cinnamon or vanilla.
Too much of a good thing can cause bitter, pungent, or overpowering results. Plus, not everyone likes bold in-your-face molasses. I was mindful of those pitfalls and the molasses intensity is present and discernible, but this is a chocolate-molasses cake, rather than a molasses-chocolate cake. If you prefer enough molasses to put hair on your chest, be my guest and add more, and in doing so you may need to increase the amount of flour a bit.
I use unsulphered molasses in all my cooking and baking. Blackstrap molasses is too bitter of a brew and I would caution against using it in this recipe unless you know exactly what you’re doing and desire a very pungent bite. And make sure anyone else you plan to share this cake with wants to grow hair on their chest with you if that’s the type of molasses selected.
This cake is so incredibly moist, springy, bouncy, and soft. The tender crumb is achieved by using just the bare minimum of flour necessary to bind the batter, and it’s a very moist batter at that. Both sour cream and canola oil are used, and they both have a softening and tenderizing effect. Greek yogurt could likely be substituted in place of sour cream, although I haven’t tried it. I recommend sticking with oil, rather than using butter, as oil-based cakes tend to be softer than butter-based varieties.
I also used just enough baking soda to leaven the cake, and omitted baking powder entirely. I didn’t want to risk it drying out the cake with excessive leaveners and those choices allowed each bite of cake to melt in my mouth. It has the springy, bouncy, and moisture qualities found in a chocolate cake mix-cake, but has about twelve more layers of flavor complexities going on.
Because of the chemical reactions that happen between the molasses, sour cream, and baking soda during baking, if you’re an oven door watcher like I am, you’ll observe that the top surface of the batter will be bubbling like crazy, even foaming a bit, and you’ll likely wonder what in the heck is going on and wonder if the cake is going to boil over, explode, or turn out; don’t worry though. As the baking time draws to a close, the batter sets up, the bubbling stops, and all will be well.
After the cake is finished baking, allow it to cool in the pan for about fifteen minutes before inverting it. Invert it by placing a large cutting board over the pan, and then flipping it over so the cake releases onto the board, rather than just letting it plop out freefall-style. Some people say they have trouble with Bundt cakes or tube-pan cakes sticking and not releasing easily, but I use Pam for Baking floured cooking spray and I’ve never had an issue, knock on wood. If anything, my cakes release so well that I’ve had some come flying out of the pan with enough force to almost cause a cake-tastrophe, crashing out onto hard and unforgiving wire racks.
The best part of this cake, other than it being an easy and fast batter to whisk together and no mixer is necessary, is the glaze. I am a big fan of Baileys Irish Cream and decided what better way to get in the holiday spirit than to make a glaze with a favorite booze. Life doesn’t get much better than cake, frosting, and booze, all in one; a perfect trifecta.
You won’t get tipsy from the frosting, even though it sounds fun to try, because there’s only one-quarter cup of Baileys for the entire batch of glaze, to be distributed over the whole cake. The creamy Baileys complements the chocolate and molasses in the cake and pairs just perfectly with them. If you don’t happen to have Baileys on hand and don’t want to buy any for one-quarter cup, but do have rum or another whiskey, I’d try those. If alcohol is not appropriate for your situation, cream or milk may be used in its place.
This cake was my signature and favorite cake from the fall, and today’s cake will likely be my signature cake for the pre-Christmas season. It’s a cake I want to stand around eating at a holiday party, with a big piece of cake in one hand and a glass of champagne, or three, in the other.
The layers of both flavor and texture were rich and varied. In each bite, between the crisp chocolate chips, the soft and moist cake itself, the chewiness imparted from the baked-in dates, the richness from the molasses, and the final drizzle of Baileys glaze, I was in texture and flavor heaven.
‘Tis the season. Deck the Halls. Fa-la-la-la-la. Spin the driedel. Eat cake.
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For the Cake
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup unsulphered dark molasses (I use Grandma's Original
- 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup sour cream (Greek yogurt may be substituted)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed (light or dark may be used)
- 2 tablespoons brewed coffee, optional but recommended (leftover or cold is fine)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder, sifted
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, optional and to taste
- 3/4 heaping cup Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped (about 12 to 15 average-sized dates, chopped)
- 3/4 heaping cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
For the Baileys Irish Cream Glaze
- 1/4 cup Baileys Irish Cream
- 2 to 3 cups+ confectioners' sugar, sifted
- 1 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened; optional
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- For the Cake - Preheat oven to 350F degrees and spray a 12-cup Bundt or tube cake pan with floured cooking spray or grease and flour the pan; set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs, granulated sugar, unsulphered dark molasses (use Blackstrap molasses at your own risk as it's much more pungent and bitter), oil, sour cream, brown sugar, coffee (coffee brings out the flavor of chocolate and molasses and does not make the cake taste like coffee), vanilla, and whisk until mixture is combined.
- Add the cocoa powder and whisk to incorporate, noting that it may be a bit challenging to get every last bit of cocoa powder incorporated and it's is much easier using sifted cocoa powder. Even after whisking for a few minutes the batter may seem bubbly and slightly lumpy with trace bits of cocoa powder; this is okay and it will smooth out after adding the flour.
- Add the flour, baking soda, salt, and whisk to combine until batter is smooth. Add the dates, chocolate chips, and stir to incorporate. Pour batter into prepared pan and give it a few firm wraps against the counter to release air bubbles. Bake for about 45 to 48 minutes, or until top of the cake has set and is not jiggly. The edges will have pulled away slightly from the sides of the pan and upon close examination they are browned (different than the inherent brown color of the cake), or a cake tester or wooden skewer comes out clean. While the cake bakes, the top surface will look bubbly (a chemical reaction between the sour cream, molasses, and baking soda), and there may even be some rising and falling of the edges and center, which is not a concern since this cake will be inverted.
- Allow cake to cool in pan for about 15 minutes and then carefully invert it, and then place it onto a wire rack to finish cooling (Invert cake in a controlled manner by placing a cutting board over the Bundt pan and turning it upside down; rather than inverting cake directly over a wire rack and waiting for it to plop out, as it can release too quickly or too forcefully).
- While the cake cools, make the Baileys Irish Cream Glaze - In a medium sized-bowl, combine Baileys, confectioners' sugar, butter (optional but it keeps the glaze more satiny and prevents it from hardening into as crunchy of a glaze as it sets up over time), vanilla, and whisk until glaze is smooth and silky, playing with Baileys and sugar ratios to achieve desired consistency. Liberally drizzle glaze over cake and serve immediately. Extra glaze may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. Cake may be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 5 days; based on food safety preferences, you may wish to store glazed cake in the refrigerator.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 510Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 42mgSodium: 173mgCarbohydrates: 89gFiber: 3gSugar: 76gProtein: 4g
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Cinnamon Oatmeal Date Bars with Chocolate Chunks (no-bake, vegan, gluten-free) – Medjool dates, oats, cinnamon, and copious amounts of chocolate are blended together and for a healthier and perfectly portable no-bake granola bar, feel free to reduce some of the chocolate topping
Do you like molasses? Baileys? Medjool dates?
Do you have a signature holiday dessert or recipe you’re excited to make?
If you have any favorite recipes or favorite holiday desserts, I’d love to hear about them and feel free to include recipe links.