When it comes to dessert, chocolate is king. It's hard to argue with the sentiment, whether it's a perfectly crafted bite from Godiva, a creamy hot cocoa or a rich chocolate ice cream packed with assorted goodies by Ben & Jerry's or Handel's.
But chocolate isn't the perfect flavor for every dessert.
Take cake for instance. Chocolate frosting is great; a thick chocolate ganache is even better. However, the cake itself seldom delivers the intensity of chocolate flavor that the ingredient provides in other forms. When one of those birthday party or going-away party sheet cakes shows up in the newsroom that's half chocolate and half vanilla, I always grab a piece on the vanilla side.
Tribune Chronicle / Andy Gray
The Butterscotch Swirl Cake from the 2008 Taste of Home Cookbook gets its flavor from multiple sources. The cake itself includes both instant butterscotch pudding mix and butterscotch syrup while the glaze uses that same combination of butter and brown sugar that give butterscotch its richness.
Also, chocolate is so ubiquitous that other incredible flavors get shoved aside.
The recipe, essentially butter and brown sugar, is so simple yet so divine. The marriage of the two ingredients is sweet, but the high ratio of butter to sugar gives it an earthier quality than most flavors associated exclusively with dessert.
Butterscotch Swirl Cake
TIME: Prep: 30 min. Bake: 65 min. + cooling
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons rum extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
1 package (3.4 ounces) instant butterscotch pudding mix
3/4 cup butterscotch ice cream topping
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup chopped pecans
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add 5 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in extracts. Combine the flour, baking soda and baking powder; gradually add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream, beating well after each addition.
Transfer 2 cups of batter to another large bowl; beat in the pudding mix, butterscotch topping and remaining egg until well blended. Pour half of the plain batter into a greased and floured 10-inch fluted tube pan. Top with half of the butterscotch batter; cut through with a knife to swirl. Repeat layers and swirl.
Bake at 350 F for 65-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
For glaze, in a small saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar and milk. Bring to a boil. Remove from the heat; add confectioners' sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth and creamy. Drizzle over cake; sprinkle with pecans. Yield: 12 servings.
It's a flavor I love, but also one I will go months at a time without tasting.
That's why the butterscotch swirl cake recipe jumped out at me the first time I flipped through the 2008 Taste of Home cookbook.
According to the recipe's creator - Marina Castle-Henry of Burbank, Calif. - it won first place and ''Best of Division'' at the Los Angeles County Fair.
Like a lot of Taste of Home recipes, the cake calls for a few prepackaged ingredients - syrup from a butterscotch ice cream topping jar, instant butterscotch pudding - that might make some pastry chefs sneer. That said, it does make the recipe a relatively simple one for home cooks to execute, and the end result doesn't have an ''artificial'' flavor.
The most complicated element of the recipe is the two different cake batters that go into the pan. The recipe requires cooks to mix up a traditional yellow cake batter (flavored with rum and vanilla extracts). Then the preparer removes two cups of the original batter and adds the butterscotch topping and pudding as well as another egg to the mix to create a more caramel-colored batter.
The two different batters are alternated in the bundt pan and swirled with a knife to create a two-tone effect in the finished product.
I followed the recipe as written except for cutting the fat ever-so-slightly by using light sour cream.
I used a 10-inch bundt pan as called for and set the timer for 65 minutes, despite the fact that most items take a little longer to cook than recommended in our kitchen's oven.
When I checked the cake, it had risen significantly above the confines of the bundt pan. It didn't make a mess, but I decided to trim the cake after it cooled and before I removed it from the pan so it would sit flat (that trimmed layer also made for a nice snack with a bit of whipped cream while everyone waited for the cake to cool and be frosted).
Also, the cake wasn't overcooked, but it would have been if I'd left it in the oven for the full 70 minutes. If I made the cake again, I would set the timer for 60 minutes (maybe 55 with an oven that runs hot) and check it earlier.
The cake did slip out of the greased and flour-dusted pan flawlessly after cooling on the stove for 10 minutes.
The butterscotch flavor is prevalent in the cake itself, and it's intensified by the glaze, which adds confectioners' sugar and a bit of milk and vanilla extract to the butter/brown sugar combo. The glaze, a little too sweet on its own, does pair well with the cake, although I'd be tempted to try to reduce the amount of confectioners' sugar if it wouldn't affect the consistency of the glaze.
Chopped pecans on top add a bit of crunch and produce a dessert that won't leave anyone missing their beloved chocolate.