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Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

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Written by Carolyn Jung   
List of viewable recipes from "Baked: New Frontiers in Baking" by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafit

ImageWhen I was a teen, I remember many outings to A&W for big, frosty mugs of root beer with a giant swirl of soft-serve ice cream squirted inside.

As an adult trying to be more healthful, I long ago gave up root beer floats, and sodas for the most part. But when I spied the recipe and photo for Root Beer Bundt Cake in the new cookbook, "Baked, New Frontiers in Baking,'' I couldn't turn the page further.

A deep, dark chocolaty bundt cake smeared with a thick, dark, creamy frosting. And both with root beer in them. Who could possibly resist that? Not me.

The new cookbook is by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, two advertising industry folks who decided to leave the hustle-and-bustle of that business behind to start a bakery in Brooklyn. They've since been featured on "Oprah,'' the "Today'' show, the Food Network, and Martha Stewart's show.

I pride myself on being a bakery aficionado, but I admit I had never heard of this bakery before. So as I initially leafed through the book, I didn't expect much. But as I turned more and more pages, I lingered more and more. So many of the recipes just grabbed me, either because they had interesting combinations of ingredients (Almond Green Tea Cupcakes topped with fortune cookies) or because they had a twist on a classic (Red Hot Velvet Cake with Cinnamon Buttercream). These were recipes that had flair and whimsy.

But of course, the one I chose to make first was the Root Beer Bundt Cake. I even picked up a four-pack of award-winning, micro-brewed, artisan root beer at Trader Joe's just for the occasion. Virgil's Root Beer is a mix of anise, cloves, licorice, vanilla, wintergreen, sweet birch, molasses, nutmeg, pimento berry oil, balsam oil, and cassia oil. I'd never had it before, and what a wonderful surprise it was - almost syrupy in body, and with a mouthful of intense bitter, sweet, spicy flavors.

To ramp up the root beer flavor in the cake, you can substitute some root beer schnapps, according to the recipe. But I didn't go to the bother of hunting that down.

The cake batter includes 2 cups of root beer and 1 cup of dark unsweetened cocoa powder. The frosting has 2 ounces dark chocolate, ¼ cup root beer, and 2/3 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder. But you might find that you need to add a drop or two more root beer to the frosting to get a good, spreadable consistency.

I can't say that the root beer flavor in the cake and frosting sang out loudly. Mostly, the frosted cake tasted like rich chocolate with maybe a hint of subtle spices in the background. It was without a doubt, however, one of the moistest chocolate cakes I'd had in ages. And it stayed moist, even three days later, as we finished off the last slice.

If this cake is any indication of the other recipes in the book, I'll definitely be baking my way through each and every one of them in the days to come.

Note: You read more about Carolyn's cake and see what it looked like on her blog.

Root Beer Bundt Cake

From Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafit - Stewart, Tabori & Chang (2008).

Yield: 1 (10-inch) bundt cake       

If you can find root beer schnapps, replace ½ cup of the root beer in the cake with root beer schnapps for a more pronounced flavor.

For the root beer bundt cake:

  • 2 cups root beer (do not use diet root beer)
  • 1 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1¼ cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs

For the root beer fudge frosting:

  • 2 ounces dark chocolate (60% cacao), melted and cooled slightly
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup root beer
  • 2/3 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2½ cups confectioners' sugar

To serve:

  • Vanilla ice cream

Make the root beer bundt cake

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Generously spray the inside of a 10-inch bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray; alternatively, butter it, dust with flour, and knock out excess flour.

In a small saucepan, heat the root beer, cocoa powder, and butter over medium heat until the butter is melted. Add the sugars and whisk until dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs until just beaten, then whisk them into a cooled cocoa mixture until combined. Gently fold the flour mixture into the cocoa mixture. The batter will be slightly lumpy - do not overbeat, as it could cause the cake to be tough.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a small sharp knife inserted into the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Gently loosen the sides of the cake from the pan and turn it out onto the rack.

Make the root beer fudge frosting

Put all the ingredients in a food processor. Pulse in short bursts until the frosting is shiny and smooth.

Use a spatula to spread the fudge frosting over the crown of the bundt in a thick layer. Let the frosting set before serving, with the ice cream on the side.

About Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

ImageHip. Cool. Fashion-forward. These aren’t adjectives you’d ordinarily think of applying to baked goods. Think again. Not every baker wants to re-create Grandma’s pound cake or cherry pie. Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito certainly didn’t, when they left their advertising careers behind, pooled their life savings, and opened their dream bakery, Baked, in Brooklyn, New York, a few years back. The visions that danced in their heads were of other, brand-new kinds of confections . . .  Which is not to say that Lewis and Poliafito sidestep tradition absolutely. Their Chocolate Pie (whose filling uses Ovaltine) pays loving homage to the classic roadside-diner dessert. Their Baked Brownies will wow even the most discriminating brownie connoisseur. And their Chocolate Chip Cookies? Words cannot describe. Whether trendsetting or tried-and-true, every idea in this book is freshly Baked.

Available at Amazon.com

Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.

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chefjeff (Registered) 2008-12-06 22:59:13

I too am deeply invested in this bakery cookbook. To date I have made the "Baked Brownie" which was utterly sublime. I bring in treats to a particular sushi bar that I frequent. Normally it is a polite "thank you", and no emotion, although I know that I am appreciated. When I brought in the brownies, for the first time I saw the owner of the sushi bar break into a smile, and instead of saving them for a private moment, he proceeded to eat them right on the spot, and also going for seconds! I've also whipped up a batch of Chocolate Chip cookies---again top notch. The peanut butter crispy bars were one of the most delicious refrigerator bars to pass my lips. It is simply a wonderful cookbook. The Root Beer Bundt has been on my radar, as well as the flourless chocolate cake and the pumpkin whoopie pies.

So many recipes, so little time.
Brownies
CAJung (Author) 2008-12-13 17:20:36

ChefJeff, the brownies are high on my list to try next. I'm so glad you mentioned how awesome they are. That's so cute about the sushi restaurant owner devouring them on the spot, too.

I have made one other recipe from the book: the oatmeal-cherry cookies with cardamom. They also were quite good. I loved the addition of cardamom -- one of my favorite spices.
Valentine Day Cake Recipe
Shrey Patel (Unregistered) 2014-01-24 01:12:45

I love the choices you picked and I would be happy to make any one of them.
So many great Cake ideas! Everything looks so appetizing!Can’t wait to try it!
Beautiful!
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