Sometimes, decadent simply is the word of the day. More often than not, if I’m truthful, I crave something sweet that has a little bit of everything I love—chocolate, caramel, butterscotch, and cream—and that embodies everything about the word, decadent.
This cake is just what the doctor ordered for those cravings (and wouldn’t it be heavenly if doctors actually ordered us to eat these very desserts we probably should steer clear of entirely). Never mind, let’s not dwell on that; rather, you will want to make
this as your next dessert because it’s that good. I could have called it a “shortcut cake” since it uses cake mix and is easy, easy, easy to make. Or, I suppose it could be a “kitchen sink” cake since it has a hodgepodge of add-ins that are very versatile, based on your particular tastes. Whatever it’s called, it’s good and it’s yours to decide.
|Copyright, Doug Kapustin Photography, 2015|
One of my closest friends, Beth, is cookie-maker extraordinaire, and the thing I like most about her cookies is that each recipe focuses on one main ingredient, allowing me to truly taste whichever flavor takes center-stage in the cookie. Usually, I prefer that sort of spotlight on a key ingredient, as it promotes a sort of eating mindfulness that makes the treat all the more enjoyable. My Cowboy Cake takes a detour from eating mindfulness and throws all of your favorite flavors together to fight for the spotlight. Some bites will make you taste more of one ingredient while other bites will make you learn how the flavors work together to create a new flavor profile.
You might be of the mindset that cake mixes are for bakers who don’t know their trade, and I suppose I understand that mindset, at least on some level. That being said, sometimes cake mixes can be doctored nicely to create a fast and easy dessert that really is a crowd-pleaser. I always recommend a doctored cake mix recipe for people who want to try their hand as bakers for the first time. Using them gives more consistent results and works wonders for self-confidence when beginning in the kitchen. As the novice baker learns more about proportions and add-ins and how they change textures and baking times, he/she will begin to be more adventurous, armed with self-confidence, trying recipes from the masters, with success. It’s just a theory, but I have watched it work wonders.
I bake my Cowboy Cake in a Bundt pan, but if you choose to use a sheet pan or a 9x13, it should work just fine. Of course, you’ll have to adjust your baking time by checking the cake with a toothpick inserted in the center a bit earlier than you might with the Bundt.
I hope—no, I know— you will enjoy the richness and pleasing decadence of this one.
1 box Pillsbury white cake mix (with “pudding in the mix”)
1 cup buttermilk, allowed to sit out for 15 minutes before using
1/3 cup melted butter, slightly cooled
3 large eggs at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
1½ tsp. instant coffee
½ tsp. cinnamon
Seeds of one vanilla bean (optional)
½ cup semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
½ cup butterscotch or peanut butter chips
¾ cup caramel chips or square caramel candies, each cut into four small pieces
For the glaze:
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup dark chocolate pieces
1/3 cup milk chocolate pieces
1/3 cup granulated sugar
½ cup butter, completely softened to room temperature
In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, blend buttermilk and butter. Add eggs, one at a time, until smooth. Add vanilla, coffee, and cinnamon. Blend. Add cake mix and continue mixing until well-combined and few to no lumps are visible.
Put all chips/candies in a bowl and sprinkle a little bit of all-purpose flour over them, just enough to give them a dusting. Toss excess flour in bowl, then add coated chips to the batter, folding in with one or two mixer turns (or just use a spatula and fold-in by hand). The flour will help the chips be well dispersed throughout the batter as it bakes, rather than sinking to the bottom of the Bundt.
Pour into a greased and floured Bundt pan, and bake at 350 degrees until knife or toothpick inserted in center comes out clean of batter (there may be some melted chips residue, which is perfectly fine), usually between 35-45 minutes.
Allow cake to rest in pan for 5 minutes after baking, and carefully take a knife around all edges that touch the surface of the Bundt pan to loosen. Cool cake completely (at least a couple of hours) on wire rack, then use a toothpick to carefully poke holes throughout the top of the cake.
To make the glaze:
Heat 2/3 cup of heavy cream on medium-low, stirring constantly so as not to scorch, and add dark chocolate pieces. Continue to stir constantly, then add milk chocolate as you stir. Add sugar, stirring. Turn off heat and allow to rest for 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently. Add butter and stir until melted, still on burner with no heat. (A whisk might be helpful as you incorporate the butter.)
While warm but not hot, pour glaze over cake AFTER cake and rack have been placed in a sheet pan to catch the excess glaze and to avoid a big mess. The glaze will seep a bit into the toothpick holes, and the rest will glaze the top of the cake nicely. Allow to rest without touching in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or until the glaze has set. Serve immediately or store in cake container for up for 24 hours before serving. Keeps nicely for up to one week after cutting.
Note: The cake recipe is my own, but the glaze is from a traditional French ganache recipe, found at the following video link for Larousse Cuisine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbLWYzp1JRM#t=12