Have your vanilla bean malt cake… and eat it too

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For faithful Neufangled Desserts followers, it’s no secret that I am not exactly the world’s biggest fan of malt.  I detest Whoppers malted milk balls and stick firmly to my guns that a milkshake is sullied by the addition of malt powder. Following along in Baked Elements with the Baked Sunday Mornings group has presented a slight challenge to me, with an entire chapter devoted to malted milk powder.

Surprisingly, I’ve learned to embrace the nutty flavor of malt a touch, and find that it definitely depends on what food the malt is incorporated into for me to appreciate it.  When Jake and I visited NYC in fall of 2012, I enjoyed sweet, delicious cereal milk from Momofuku Milk Bar that tasted like a faint throwback to childhood, when I had finished my cereal and all that was left in the bowl was milk infused with the flavor of the cereal.  Indeed, Momofuku Milk Bar’s cereal milk is just that: milk that has been steeped in cereal (such as Corn Flakes).  For me, malt in baked goods harkens to that same nostalgic flavor.  As a lot of cereals today have malt included in the ingredients, this makes complete sense.  Mind you, I’m still not about to down a box of Whoppers or sprinkle a couple tablespoons of malt into a chocolate shake that is purely delicious on its own, but I’m beginning to understand its appeal to malt fans (albeit in smaller doses).

Speaking of malted milkshakes, this week’s Baked Sunday Mornings assignment from Baked Elements can almost be considered a cake-form take on a classic vanilla malt: the Vanilla Bean Malt Cake.  Baked up in a fancy Bundt pan, it’s a cake simple enough to whip together for a fun get-together with friends or family, or simply enjoy on your own.

As Matt Lewis states in the recipe preface, this cake comes together fairly quickly. I opted for mixing Knob Creek bourbon whiskey with vanilla paste instead of fussing with a good vanilla bean in the first step.  I have to admit I’m intrigued by the bourbon inclusion, as I barely tasted the liquor in the finished cake, or perhaps it was there, but very subtle.  Aside from the bourbon and vanilla bean addition, the batter mixes up easily and isn’t too unusual.

Matt also mentions that if you do not own a 6-cup Bundt pan to bake this cake in, a standard 9- or 10-cup Bundt is perfectly fine – you just will have a shorter cake.  You could do as I did and make a recipe and a half.  It filled my 9-cup Heritage pan perfectly and didn’t rise over the edge.  It did require a touch more time baking in the oven (about 55 minutes over all), and be sure to check on it to make sure it doesn’t brown too much.  I tented the cake with foil in the last 10-15 minutes.

IMG_3431My fellow BSM bakers mentioned in their blogs that the glaze providing the crowning touch on this cake seemed too thin, so I was careful when whisking it together.  I didn’t think the ratio of liquid (milk/vanilla) to dry (confectioners’ sugar) was too outlandish, but I drizzled the milk in slowly just in case.  All told, I think I used about 1.5 tablespoons of milk instead of the listed 2, and I added a small splash of regular vanilla along with a touch more vanilla paste, as I wanted some specks of vanilla bean to show up in the glaze as well.  I achieved a thicker, glossy glaze that was nicely conducive to drizzling over the cake.  (Also note that if you are making 1.5 of the cake recipe as I did, there’s really no need to do the same with the glaze recipe.  A little goes a long way.)

This is really one of those Bundt cakes you’ll want to store under a cake keeper or IMG_3438glass dome on your kitchen counter, so you can slice off pieces at leisure to enjoy with a glass of milk or cup of coffee.  I think its buttery texture and flavor would only get better with age.  I like the airy, light crumb to this cake, and the nuttiness of the malt sneaks through at the end, almost accenting the vanilla and giving the cake a subtle tang when paired with the buttermilk (which also keeps the cake slightly moist).

While I enjoyed this cake, I felt it was lacking something.  I wanted the vanilla to be punched up more, perhaps.  Dare I even say that there could be a touch *more* MALT?  It didn’t strike me as a particularly memorable cake overall – just so-so.  I’m not sure I would rush to make it again any time soon, or label it a must-make, go-to cake.  It does lend itself well to being baked in a Heritage Bundt pan; with a good greasing and flouring, the cake plopped right out the moment I turned the pan over, and had a beautiful golden hue to it all around.  The glaze might be better and compliment the cake with a little bit of malt powder added to the milk as well.

To try your own Vanilla Bean Malt Cake, follow this link to Baked Sunday Mornings:

Vanilla Bean Malt Cake

My fellow bakers in Baked Sunday Mornings also had some interesting results with this cake, so make sure to check out their blogs as well before you tackle your own, and if you have any suggestions, please post them below!

Until next time, friends, and as always, Happy Baking!

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