In the weeks before Christmas, my Tumblr dashboard and Pinterest feed were flooded by images of people hand-making gorgeous, rustic and earthy holiday wreaths. They made it look so easy, gracefully tying together carefully foraged branches and casually slinging the final product over their shoulders while moodily looking off into the distance.
Well, I optimistically thought to myself as I scrolled through image after image of beautiful people holding even more beautiful wreaths. That could be me!
Indeed, it seemed like the wreath gods had smiled upon me: a particularly windy day had left many perfectly rustic branches from my neighbor’s bamboo farm strewn across my front yard. I
40 minutes and one full cycle of 1989 later, I gave a roar of frustration. My hands were full of splinters and covered in tiny pricks from the pine needles. My dining table was covered in sticky sap from the branches. And worst of all, my wreath was beyond FUGLY. More circular in theory than in practice, it also appeared to have… antlers??? The metal floral wire that was holding the wreath together was very visible, as well as potentially deadly — picking up the wreath resulted in a host of new splinters and cuts in my hands. So much for throwing it over my shoulder. And just like that, there went my dreams of having a Pinterest worthy holiday wreath. The best my wreath could do was ceremoniously crown the paper mache wildebeest in my dining room; there was no way I was hanging that ugly thing on the door for the public to see.
Later, as I was baking this bundt cake, it occurred to me that maybe I’d picked the wrong medium for a holiday wreath. Why did I bother trying with boughs and branches, when I could have just used flour and sugar? I mean, bundt cakes are basically the wreaths of the cake world:
As gorgeous and decorative as a holiday wreath, but with the added bonus of being able to EAT it. So take that! all you hipsters with your beautiful wreaths and your beautiful lighting. I’ll take my edible wreath anyday.
In this particular case, this is a classic sour cream pound cake with a seasonal twist: tangerines. I’ve infused the sugar in the cake with generous amounts of tangerine zest, as well as made a cake soak from tangerine juice. It’s dense but manages to remain oh-so-moist and fluffy from the generous amounts of butter, sour cream and tangerine juice in the recipe. Feel free to substitute tangerines with any winter citrus you might find!
Some baker's notes:
- Traditionally, classic pound cake contains a pound of its four main ingredients: flour, butter, eggs and sugar. Although this recipe doesn't quite follow that ratio, it comes pretty close, meaning that it can end up too heavy and brick-like (because of all those ingredients!) if the cake isn't creamed properly. It's pretty important that you follow the recipe's instructions and cream the sugar and butter together on high speed for a minimum of 5 minutes, preferably the full 7 minutes. Creaming is the process of creating air bubbles in the cake batter, and those air bubbles are what makes cake light and fluffy in the end. If you don't cream this recipe well and then proceed to add the soak to the cake, you'll end up with a sad, heavy cake. Just be careful not to overmix it when you start adding the flour in — overbeating after the flour's been added results in the overdevelopment of gluten, which will make your cake heavy, tough and terrible.
(makes one 10-inch bundt cake)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- fresh grated tangerine zest from 4 tangerines
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 6 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup fresh tangerine juice
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
- 1/4 cup fresh tangerine juice
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 325 (F). Prepare a 10-inch bundt cake pan or tube pan by generously spraying with cooking spray and lightly coating with flour; set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt until well combined. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 3 cups granulated sugar and the zest from 3 freshly grated tangerines. Use your fingers to rub the zest into the sugar; doing so will release tangerine oil from the zest that will infuse the sugar more powerfully. Once the zest is fully incorporated throughout the sugar, add 1 cup unsalted butter to the sugar and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, at least 7 minutes.
- Once the mixture is light and fluffy, reduce the mixer speed to its lowest setting and add 6 eggs, one at a time, using a rubber spatula to scrape the sides of each bowl after each addition. Only add the next egg when the previous one has been incorporated.
- Once the eggs have all been added, scrape down the sides of the bowl one last time and turn the mixer back to its lowest speed. Add the dry ingredients (from the 2nd step) 1 cup at a time, mixing for 30 seconds after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add 1 cup sour cream and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, mixing until the batter is smooth. Be careful not to overmix — it's always best to continue mixing until there are one or two flour streaks left, and finishing the rest by hand with a rubber spatula.
- Transfer the batter to the prepared cake pan, using an offset spatula to spread it evenly across the pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean and the top of the cake bounces back when lightly touched. Cool the cake in its pan on a wire rack for 25 minutes, before inverting the cake on to the wire rack. Soak the cake while it is still warm.
- Place a baking sheet underneath the wire rack holding the cake to capture any drippings. Use a wooden skewer to poke holes evenly throughout the cake.
- In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together 1/4 cup fresh tangerine juice, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice and 1/4 cup granulated sugar until the sugar is fully dissolved. Pour slowly and evenly across the cake, using an offset spatula or a pastry brush to ease the liquid into the holes across the cake. Allow the cake to cool completely to room temperature before glazing with the icing.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar and 1/4 cup tangerine juice until it achieves a paste-like consistency. Immediately pour the glaze over the top of the cake, so it drips down the sides. Leave the cake uncovered until the glaze sets, about 20 minutes.