Have you ever tried baking (or bay-king) with bay? Bay is a subtle flavour that works well in many dishes. While most common in savoury food, its uses need not be so restricted. I've found it a great addition in many baked goods. Usually it is best used to accent and provide warmth. In this bay leaf cake recipe, however, the bay shines as the dominant flavour. The preparation takes a bit of patience, but the rewards are worth it!
Why Bake with Bay?
I've mentioned my epic bay tree before, but for those that are stopping by this page for the first time, let me explain. Essentially, the story is quite simple: I have a massive bay tree in the backyard. In practice, it blocks out the sun. A few months ago, a neighbour came by to help us cut it back. On a dark winter's night, armed with a hack saw, he climbed the tree and gave it a trim. It did the job for the moment, but left us with about 20 branches laden with bay leaves strewn in our back garden. I've slowly been working my way through these. I've tasked myself with creating as many bay bakes as possible!
The following recipe is a slightly tweaked version of my blackberry bay donuts, with more explicit emphasis on the bay and less on other spices and berries. The bay leaves in this are the centre-piece and not the supporting cast. In order to bring them to life, however, a little preparation is required in the form of the bay cream.
The key element to these bay leaf bundt cakes, is ensuring that you infuse the flavour of the bay as much as possible. While it is possible to grind and ingest bay leaf, you're more likely to find the whole leaves either fresh or dried in stores. As such, most recipes involving bay use the whole leaves during cooking to infuse sauces and remove these prior to serving.
Taking the same general principle as a sauce, the bay-infusion of cream is about simmering bay leaves in the cream to impart the flavour. For maximum flavour, I opted to use about ten leaves in a cup of cream. I slowly heated the cream over the course of an hour, stirring occasionally to avoid it forming too much of a skin. While these measurements are essentially just guidelines, I can confirm they brought a good strong (but not overpowering) bay flavour to the cakes. The fresher your bay leaves, the stronger the flavour they are likely to impart.
Once I had infused my cream for about an hour, it had conveniently reduced by about half. If you over-reduce, you can always top up the half a cup required for this recipe with some milk or cream. Similarly, if you find you have over half a cup, save the remainder - you could make a glaze with a bit of powdered sugar! In any case, set the cream aside to cool a bit before using.
What You'll Need for Bay Leaf Cake
For this recipe, once you've made your infused cream, the rest is super simple! Just some cupboard staples and a bit of optional spice.
- Plain or all-purpose flour
- Baking powder
- Ground cardamom - this is optional, but I found it complements the bay flavour without taking away from it.
- Unsalted butter at room temperature
- Sugar - for this recipe, I think white caster or granulated sugar is best for keeping the focus on the bay. Golden or brown sugars, with their more molasses-y flavours would bring richness but might take away a bit from the bay.
- Vanilla - I'll always highly recommend good quality vanilla and love Nielsen-Massey. For this recipe, I opted for simple pure vanilla extract. Again, as my focus here was to showcase the bay, I didn't want to get too inventive with the vanilla pairings! I think in future a Tahitian vanilla could also complement well for the light floral notes, but I digress into my vanilla obsession!
- Bay-infused cream - can't have bay leaf cake without it!
Making your Bay Leaf Cakes
The recipe for these bay leaf cakes is functionally also a recipe for baked donuts. You could make these either as a batch of 12 baked donuts, about 6 mini bundts or 1 large bundt cake. I opted for a few mini bundts and some donuts to test a variety of bakes.
First, preheat your oven to 350°F (175C/160C Fan) and prepare your chosen tins. For my bundt pans, I butter and flour these in preparation for cake and have usually had good luck with them not sticking. It is a messy process though to get into all of the cracks and crevices. You may prefer to opt for a non-stick cooking spray instead as this will be easier coverage. I'm a firm believer that nothing works as well as the classic butter/flour combo though!
For the mix, you will want to combine your dry ingredients in a medium bowl. This means your flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom. In a separate large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine your butter and sugar. Beat this on low to medium speed until well combined, light and fluffy. Then add your eggs one at a time and your vanilla.
Once this is mixed, slowly add your flour, beating until incorporated. The batter at this stage will be fairly dry so it is important not to beat too quickly or this will go flying everywhere!
Next add your cream. When I added mine, the cream had become extremely thick from the reductions (like clotted cream if you're an afternoon tea fan). Mix until evenly combined.
Filling the Tins
Dependent on the size of your cake tins, you may want to use a piping bag. This will assist you in more evenly and cleanly distributing the batter, especially as this may be relatively firm. You can also use a plastic sandwich bag if you don't have a piping bag at hand. Just fill the bag and snip off a corner to use for piping.
Once you've filled your chosen cake tin(s), place this in the centre of the oven. Bake for about 30 to 45 minutes. The size of your tin will have a massive impact on the time this takes. If you are baking donuts, you can expect these to be ready in about 20 minutes. If baking a single large bundt, this could take up to an hour. For the mini bundts, I would suggest watching these from about the 20 minute mark. Once a skewer, inserted in the thickest part, comes out clean, these should be ready. Remove the pan from the oven and all to cool for a few minutes in the pan. Tip out to cool completely on a wire rack.
Once cooled, the bay leaf cake can be eaten as they are, glazed or covered in a layer of buttercream icing. For some of my donuts, I opted for a bit of vanilla buttercream, just because!
Bay Leaf Bundt Cake
Bay Infused Cream
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 10 bay leaves
Bay Bundt Cake
- 1¾ cup plain flour
- 1¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 10 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup white caster sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup bay cream (from the above bay cream reductions)
Bay Infused Cream Instructions
- Add your heavy cream to a medium saucepan over a low heat. Crumple your bay leaves a bit to help release the flavour and add these to the cream. Heat and infuse over a low heat stirring occasionally for about an hour. This will reduce about by half to a thick cream. Take off the heat and allow to cool.
Bay Bundt Cake Instructions
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175C/160C Fan) and prepare your baking tin(s). I made this in mini bundt tins, but it would also work in a single large bundt.
- In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom.
- In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add eggs one at a time and vanilla, beating until well incorporated.
- Add the flour mixture slowly, beating until mixed. Then add the bay-infused cream, beating until well combined.
- Pour your mixture into your prepared tin. If you are using smaller tins or donut moulds, it will be easier to add the mixture first to a piping bag or plastic bag, snip the end and pipe around your mould until about ¾ full. If using a larger single tin, you can pour this in carefully and spread to evenly distribute. Place in the middle of the oven and bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until a skewer inserted at the thickest part of the cake comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and cool for a few minutes in the tin before turning out onto a rack to cool completely.