Though it’s not my typical choice, I’m no stranger to YA fiction. I like to pick them up for a quick read, and often - as with John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down - they bring difficult topics to the forefront and make them relatable, which I always appreciate. My latest YA read, Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything, tells the story of Maddy, a girl who lives in a bubble, and was captivating from the beginning.
Like many YA novels, it centers around a love story. Maddy watches from her window as new neighbors move in - one of them, Olly, a distractingly handsome teenage boy. That part of the novel was pretty predictable, in my opinion, but well-done and entertaining. Aside from the consequences of Maddy’s precarious health problem, it is with Olly - and through the window - that this novel touches on some darker real-life situations.
What made the novel worth it for me was the twist that came about two-thirds of the way through. I definitely did not see it coming, but I’m glad that it did. I won’t spoil it for those of you that haven’t read it yet, but I thought it added some welcome heft to the story.
One of the funnier series of events comes early on in the book, when Olly’s mom sends him over to Maddy’s house with what he describes as an “indestructible” bundt cake, which comes to be known as The Bundt. Olly and Maddy bond over this seemingly rock-hard inedible cake, and I found the whole thing endearing.
Obviously, I had to make my own bundt cake. Because of her illness, Maddy can only eat limited pre-approved foods and since vanilla cake is her go-to birthday dessert, I knew mine had to be vanilla as well. As funny as the cake’s indestructibility is in the novel, no one wants to fail that badly at baking. To capture the rock-hard aspect of the cake, I bought a beautifully structured hard-edged bundt pan to bake it in. (And now I have a bundt pan! I had to borrow my mom’s for the Tipsy Chocolate Cake a few months ago…) If you’re interested, I found it on Amazon here.
Like most cakes, this one wasn’t too difficult to make, but the recipe I chose has a very specific order in which ingredients need to be added, so make sure you read it through before you get started.
I preheated my oven to 350 degrees F and began mixing the batter. To start, I creamed the butter and sugar together in a large bowl. To that, I added the baking powder and salt.
At this point, I measured out the flour by scooping it into a 1-cup measuring cup and leveling it off before adding it to a medium bowl (for a total of 3 cups).
I added the first 3 eggs to the butter and sugar mixture, one at a time. Then, I added 2 Tablespoons of the pre-measured flour to that and mixed until just combined. I added another egg, mixed, and then alternated 2 Tablespoons of flour with one egg until all 6 eggs were incorporated.
I happened to have almond extract on-hand, so I added both that and the vanilla extract to the milk. To the batter, I added one-third of the remaining flour, mixing on low until combined. Then, I added half of the milk, mixing again, and began alternating with the remaining flour and milk, until all ingredients were incorporated. Finally, with the beaters on medium-high, I mixed the batter for another 30 seconds, until it became smooth and fluffy.
I used shortening to grease the bundt pan, taking great care to make sure I got all the nooks and crannies. Then, I scooped the batter - which is thicker than many traditional cake batters - into the bundt pan and leveled it off with a spatula.
I checked my cake at 50 minutes, but it wasn’t fully baked until an hour had passed. I turned it out onto a cooling rack, leaving the pan on top as it cooled for 10 minutes.
While it cooled in the pan, I made the glaze - combining the water, granulated sugar and salt in a small bowl. I used the microwave, heating it at 30 second intervals and whisking until the sugar was fully dissolved. Then, I added the vanilla extract to complete the glaze.
I removed the pan from the bundt cake and used a pastry brush to cover the cake with the glaze. (Be sure to put a plate or something else underneath the cooling rack to catch any glaze that might drip.)
I am happy to report that the finished product was not rock-hard and was actually quite delightful.
Did anyone see the recent movie version of Everything, Everything? Did The Bundt make an appearance?
Vanilla Bundt Cake
- 24 tablespoons (1½ cups or 3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1½ cups granulated sugar
- 6 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2¼ teaspoons baking powder
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract, optional
- ¾ cup milk
Vanilla Glaze Ingredients
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 5 teaspoons water
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Place the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat together at medium speed until the mixture lightens in color and looks fluffy. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.
- Add the baking powder and salt, mixing just to combine.
- Measure the flour by gently spooning it into a measuring cup, sweeping off any excess with a straight edge. Set it aside.
- With the mixer running at medium speed, add the first three eggs to the butter/sugar mixture one at a time. Wait until each egg is absorbed into the mixture before adding the next.
- Add 2 tablespoons of the measured flour to the bowl after the third egg, and mix until combined. Add the fourth egg, mix until absorbed, then mix in another 2 tablespoons of flour. Continue in this fashion with the fifth and sixth eggs, alternating the addition of the egg with 2 tablespoons of the flour from the recipe.
- Add the vanilla (or vanilla bean paste) and almond extract (if using) to the milk.
- Add one-third of the remaining flour to the batter, beating gently to combine. Gently beat in half the milk. Mix in another third of the flour, then the remaining milk. Stir in the remaining flour. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, then beat until the batter is smooth and fluffy, about 20 to 30 seconds at medium-high speed.
- Thoroughly grease a 10- to 12-cup Bundt pan, using non-stick vegetable oil spray or shortening (not butter; butter tends to increase sticking). Scoop the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula.
- Bake the cake for 50 to 60 minutes, until it's starting to brown, appears set on top, and a toothpick or long skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. (If you're baking in a dark-interior pan, start checking at 45 minutes.) If the cake appears to be browning too quickly, tent it with foil for the final 15 minutes of baking.
- Remove the cake from the oven, and gently loosen its edges using a heatproof spatula. Turn the pan over onto a cooling rack. After 10 minutes, lift the pan off the cake, and allow it to cool completely.
- While the cake is cooling in the pan, make the glaze. Combine the sugar, water, and salt. Heat briefly, just to dissolve the sugar; a microwave works fine. Stir in the vanilla. Once you've turned the cake out of the pan onto a rack to cool, gently brush it all over with the glaze.
- Just before serving, sift a shower of confectioners' sugar over the top, if desired. A garnish of fresh berries is lovely and tasty. Store leftover cake, well wrapped, at room temperature for several days. Freeze for longer storage.
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