Sometimes in life, we’re asked to do things we don’t want to do; other times, the requests aren’t so bad. In the category of “HELL YES”: when Baked Occasions tells me to put toffee in a cake, I listen. Toffee Coffee Cake Surprise was one of the recipes that I was very curious about when I first got my eager paws on the book last Fall, so I was thrilled to see it so soon on the Baked Sunday Mornings schedule. I mean, when is putting a ribbon of toffee in the middle of a Bundt cake NOT a good idea?
As Baked Occasions celebrates holidays throughout the year, this recipe is meant to represent Groundhog Day, what with the toffee tunnel hiding inside. While East Coasters cling to hopes and dreams of a short winter based on Punxsutawney Phil‘s fickle shadow, I have to admit that this holiday has never figured much into my consciousness, having grown up in California. (And I have to admit that I’ve never seen the eponymous Bill Murray film…) However, I am more than happy to commiserate with my cold-weather friends by baking!
This cake looks like any other unassuming, sugar-dusted Bundt cake from the outside– it’s a brown sugar, vanilla-scented cake that is delicious in its own right. But inside is the magical candy mixture that makes it special. Combining chopped toffee and toasted almonds with a sandy mix of butter, flour, and sugar (from the cake batter base) makes for a sweet, crumbly candy-nut filling that complements the cake beautifully.
You can make your own toffee, which I fully intended to do, or use Heath or Skor chocolate-covered toffee bars. I ran out of time (sadly, a frequent occurrence), so I had to settle for store-bought toffee. I used mini Heath bars, in the hopes that there would be a higher toffee-to-chocolate coating ratio than the larger bars. 😉 I’m curious to make the toffee recipe at some point, though it’s different than other toffee recipes that I’ve seen before, which generally contain baking soda to tenderize the candy. Whichever way you choose, make sure to chop the toffee with a knife. Tools such as mallets, sledgehammers, and battle axes are likely to yield a powdery texture, and you want discernible chopped bits.
As per usual lately, I thought I had messed up a few times, and I thought there was a high likelihood of re-baking. However, I was pleasantly surprised that the cake came out great! Also– DELICIOUS. Baked Occasions is the first BAKED book to include ingredient weights in addition to volume measurements. I always prefer using weight, which is more accurate, but for some reason I was hesitant to start– I guess because I’m so used to volume in BAKED recipes? Also, when testing for the book, we used volume, so perhaps I initially trusted that more. At any rate, I used weights for the first time with this recipe, and I needn’t have worried– it is so much quicker and easier, with way fewer dishes to wash! Won’t go back.
The cake batter is similar to a coffee cake, but the method is unlike any cake I’ve made– that I can recall, anyway. You’ll start by making a dry mixture of butter, all-purpose and cake flours, granulated and dark brown sugars, vanilla extract, and salt. (I used vanilla bean paste for its more intense vanilla flavor and pretty black flecks in the batter.) Combine all of these ingredients in a stand mixer to make sandy crumbs; it took several minutes to break down the butter cubes. Scoop out a small quantity and add the chopped toffee and almonds for the filling.
To the rest of the mixture still in the mixer bowl, add the leaveners, followed by an egg and 2 egg yolks. You are supposed to mix on medium until the eggs are incorporated, then scrape down the sides of the bowl. The eggs disappeared immediately into the batter on low speed, and when I ratcheted it up to medium, the mixture quickly turned into something resembling firm cookie dough– it balled up around the beater and knocked around fairly violently in the mixer! I kept expecting it to break down into some kind of creamy mixture, but it didn’t look like that was happening (nothing to scrape from the bowl), so I finally stopped after a few minutes and went ahead with the sour cream. Fortunately it returned to a batter consistency, and at that point I felt like it would be okay. The batter is very thick, but I think it needs to be in order to support the heavy toffee-almond filling.
You’ll spoon half of the cake batter into the Bundt pan, then spoon the filling over it. The tricky part is keeping it away from the edges– this is more difficult than it would seem. There is a LOT of filling, to the point that I thought about not using all of it, but I managed to get it in there clumsily. There’s no way to avoid it touching any edges, I think; although you can sort of carve a little “trench” in the batter before adding the filling, which helps to corral the crumbs. I scooped it away from the outside edges so that at least the exterior of the cake would look smooth. It was also hard to cover it up without smearing the chopped bits into the cake batter, but I managed to get a layer of batter to completely cover it after much maneuvering with my trusty offset spatula.
The third instance when I feared all was lost was at the end of baking. My BAKED recipes usually bake in the minimum recommended time. This time, it took about 52 minutes (45-55 minutes are suggested), and I still wasn’t quite sure if it was completely cooked through, but I pulled it out to avoid over-baking the exterior. It rose high in the pan with a level top (cake bottom), which made for a nice, level cake, and it popped right out of the pan in one piece. Happy joy!
Not knowing what to expect, the next morning I sliced into it, and I definitely felt the semi-solid filling hit my knife, so that was promising. I was so happy to see that my temperamental little Bundt was just fine– no re-baking necessary! The cake turned out just a smidge dense… at first. I don’t think I’ve ever had a cake get *less* dense over time, but in fact, it seemed that the texture softened over the few days that I ate it. As I mentioned, the cake needs to be somewhat firm to support that thick filling, hence it’s not a fluffy, open crumb like a true coffee cake, but it all worked really well together! (However, it’s quite possible that I over-mixed after adding the eggs, and that may have made it denser than intended.)
The sweet, crunchy filling was fabulous with the buttery, vanilla-y cake– it’s lovely for breakfast, brunch, snacking, or dessert! (I should know– I tested it at all times of the day…) My tasters at work asked if I still had some left the day after I brought it in, but I didn’t… because, um, I hoarded the rest for myself and my hubby at home! 😀 I like the look of a glazed Bundt cake, so I thought about making a brown sugar glaze, but I’m glad I didn’t– it was lovely just the way it was, and I think it would’ve been too sweet with a glaze topping.
Trust me when I tell you that candy enveloped by cake is what you need in your life. Check out the recipe for Toffee Coffee Cake Surprise over at Baked Sunday Mornings, and see how the other bakers fared with this somewhat tricky one. I’m excited to see some homemade toffee! 🙂
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2015.