A recipe for a quick and easy Czech-style vanilla-chocolate cake made in a kugelhopf or Bundt shape called bábovka.
This post is in partnership with Nielsen-Massey Vanilla. Thoughts, words, opinions, and recipe are my own.
I’d mentioned the cake briefly, as an aside to dinner plans, homework, and whether or not we could fit in a trip to the pet shop and bookstore, which seem to go hand in hand in our house. Still, she bounded through the door from school demanding to know where the bowls and ingredients were.
Her enthusiasm forced my hand. I gathered the ingredients, laying them out in a row. I set the recipe down with just one instruction: mix all but the cocoa. I placed the hand mixer in front of her, and then I turned to making a pot of tea as she tied her apron around her lanky body and started telling me about her day.
A knock at the door added a friend to the mix, and soon, with me directing from across the counter, a cake was made. We washed our hands and wiped down surfaces, and off they went to play while they waited for the cake.
Without me realizing it, the small child who needed help cracking eggs has become proficient. Last week she told me all about making omelets with her older sister, their attempts and successes, the trick to holding the pan just right. This week she made cake. When I took her picture, still standing on a bench behind the counter, I sighed at how tall she was, no longer able to fit in the frame. I pressed my back against our fridge to get her all in. I watch as she instructs her younger brother and her friends on how to mix, to scrape the sides of the bowl, to hold the beaters slightly away from the stream of milk.
Daily we cook eggs, make toast, fill lunch boxes, chop vegetables for dinner, and stir sauteing onions in large pots. These moments are constant, small bits that make up a day, but the memories are found in puffs of flour and the soft crackling of egg shells on the counter. They’re in the baking.
This is my grandmother’s kuglof* pan. A few years ago I asked my parents’ neighbor if she would gift it back to me, for it was to her my grandmother gave the pan before she passed, not to me. Until then I had to drive to my parents’ house 30 minutes northwest, steal – borrow – my mom’s kugelhopf pan, and then return 30 minutes to my home before I could make it. Sometimes I wouldn’t even do that. I’d simply show up early to Easter and whip up a cake that baked while we ate our ham dinner and searched for brilliantly-colored eggs hidden in the grey-brown grass.
This is not that cake.
That cake requires a bit more patience, an abundance of bowls with which to whip egg whites in, and golden raisins dusted in flour. No. This cake is a nod to my Czech roots on the opposite side of my family tree, where the same pan is used to make bábovka. It’s a cake that gets mixed in one bowl, tossed in the oven, and then can be served warm with coffee or tea within the hour.
The vanilla and chocolate are layered together in a dense crumb. I used Nielsen-Massey’s Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans, but I also made it using a tablespoon their vanilla bean paste, which worked well, too (more on choosing a vanilla). If you’re wondering about vanilla sugar, you can use the super convenient Nielsen-Massey vanilla sugar. Once I’ve used a vanilla bean, though, I usually make my own, adding a scraped vanilla bean pod to a pint jar of sugar and letting it sit for at least two weeks, shaking occasionally and letting all those little granules infuse with vanilla. It’s a great way to get a bit more out of your pod. Bonus: You can do this with powdered sugar and dust the cake with it, too.
You can spend time swirling the contrasting batter together for a marbled effect; however, the real beauty here is in the simplicity. One bowl’s worth of mixing – I mix the cocoa and a bit of the batter in the measuring cup for the milk – and into the oven it goes, fingers licked and dishes washed before it’s time to serve and eat. The dusting of powdered sugar and the fluted sides make this worthy of your Easter table, but it needn’t be more than a bit of sweet amidst your day, shared over cups of coffee with those you love.
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*I can never decide how I want to spell gugelhupf. Do we go with the Serbian kuglof where my grandmother grew up or the Austrian gugelhupf where she likely purchased this pan before heading to the States? Or perhaps we smash them together and use kugelhopf, which is what I did the time I shared her recipe (which was made in my mother’s pan, not my grandmother’s).