Lemon Poppy Seed Bundt Cake worth the effort

Dec. 31, 2013 @ 11:52 AM

Before Christmas and uncertain that Santa knew exactly what I wanted; I gave myself a gift: a new bundt pan to replace my 20-year-old pan that was too thin, too dark, scratched-up and barely nonstick any more.

My attitude toward my old pan began shifting when the top half of my Jump-For-Joy Gingerbread stayed in the pan when the bottom landed like a thud on my cooling rack. At the time I assumed I hadn't properly sprayed the pan with vegetable oil, even though it was nonstick.

A lemon, blueberry-swirl bundt headed to a dinner party was the final straw when, at the party, the cake split in half leaving the top firmly planted in the pan. Scratching the nonstick coating while prying the top half out trying to save the cake turned a beautiful cake into an embarrassing disaster.

A little due diligence and I found the perfect high-quality, top-of-the-recommended-list, heavy-duty bundt pan: Nordic Ware's Anniversary Bundt Pan (about $27). This shiny, bright pan would resolve the issues I had with my old bundt pan's black exterior and interior that made the exterior of my cakes brown too fast before the interior baked properly. About the pan, one reviewer noted: "Heavyweight cast-aluminum construction and a silver nonstick finish combine to create a nicely risen, golden-brown bundt cake that released perfectly." Since my old pan's nonstick coating had lost its power, this pan had my name written all over it.

When the new pan arrived I couldn't wait to try it and pulled out the recipe for an old favorite, my Dark Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake. I wanted to test two changes with that recipe: using organic whole wheat pastry flour (looking to make the crumb more tender) and adding instant espresso powder to deepen the already rich chocolate flavor.

One problem; the nonstick coating on this pan was so good the vegetable oil spray ran down the sides and puddled in the bottom. Cooling the pan in the refrigerator for five minutes and rubbing soft (but not liquid) coconut oil inside solved that problem.

My chocolate cake experiment turned out wonderfully well, plus I learned that it took 10 minutes longer to bake my cake in that shiny, thicker-walled pan.

Next, I wanted to work my lean magic with a lemon poppy seed bundt cake.

The original recipe called for 9 ounces butter — that's more than two sticks! — that delivered more than 1,800 calories and 207 fat grams. I cut the butter in half and made up the difference with drained, unsweetened applesauce.

Although it makes a small difference, reduced-fat buttermilk delivers more than twice the fat of low-fat buttermilk (2.0 grams versus 0.8). If it's a calories-in/calories-out world, every calorie counts, so out went the reduced fat buttermilk.

I left the eggs alone, since recent studies seem to indicate that egg's cholesterol is virtually a non-issue healthwise and I wanted my cake to have a warm yellow glow.

How did it turn out? One word: spectacular. And, my new pan released the cake beautifully.

The ingredient list is long and there are several steps, but this cake is well worth the effort, especially for the holidays and especially if you own a solid bundt pan. Give it a try.


Holiday Lemon Poppy Seed Bundt Cake

3/4 cup unsweetened, unflavored applesauce (organic preferred)

3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice

Grated zest from 3 lemons

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3/4 cup low-fat (1 percent) buttermilk

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 egg yolk (from a large egg), at room temperature

9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 granulated cups sugar

4 ½ tablespoons poppy seeds


2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon low-fat buttermilk

2 cups (8 ounces) powdered sugar

Place a wire mesh strainer over a bowl sufficiently deep to keep the strainer's bottom from touching the bowl's bottom. Add applesauce; set aside.

Place the oven rack in the middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat a 12-cup nonstick bundt pan with nonstick baking spray with flour. Set aside.

Mince lemon zest to a fine paste and then combine with lemon juice, vanilla and buttermilk in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until thoroughly combined.

In a small bowl whisk eggs and yolk until combined.

Measure 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon of drained applesauce and add it, the butter and sugar to the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the flat beater; cream at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl's sides. Add half the eggs and mix at medium speed until combined, about 15 seconds. Add remaining eggs and mix 15 seconds; stop mixer and scrape down the bowl's sides.

Add one-third of the flour mixture and half the buttermilk mixture to the bowl and mix at lowest speed until combined, about 10 seconds. Add half the remaining flour mixture and all the buttermilk mixture and mix until combined, about 10 seconds. Stop mixer, scrape bowl and add the remaining flour mixture and mix at medium-high speed until well combined, about 15-20 seconds. Add poppy seeds to the batter and using a rubber spatula, gently fold seeds into batter until evenly distributed, about 15 seconds.

Scrape batter into prepared pan, smooth the surface and bake 45-50 minutes, until top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

For the glaze: While the cake bakes, add 2 tablespoons lemon juice, buttermilk and confectioners' sugar to a medium bowl and whisk together until smooth; gradually adding lemon juice until glaze is thick, but pourable.

Cool cake in pan on a wire rack set over a baking sheet for 10 minutes. Invert cake directly onto rack and pour half the glaze over the warm cake. Cool for 1 hour; pour remaining glaze evenly over cake's top and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours. Cut into slices and serve. Serves 16.

Nutrition values per serving: 342 calories (24.5 percent from fat), 9.3 g fat (4.6 g saturated fat), 62.3 g carbohydrates, 1.3 g fiber, 4.8 g protein, 71 mg cholesterol, 221 mg sodium.