Black Hole Birthday Cake

I am terrified by the concept of a black hole. Massive collapsing stars with such a strong gravitational pull they are swallowing up surrounding stars out there in the galaxy. It makes me feel like such a little helpless speck on this Earth…. On the other hand, my now 10-year-old son loves thinking about the concept of a black hole- completely fascinating (but still scary!) for him. 🙂 He has such an interest in astronomy and things greater than we are here on our little planet.

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I am also frightened to have four 9-year-old boys sleepover at my house! Well, I recently had to conquer these fears in order to celebrate my son’s birthday. All he wished for was a black hole birthday cake and a sleepover party. We all survived! (The cake was tasty- not scary- and we had fun!) 🙂

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This vanilla bean bundt cake recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit, via Sweetapolita. The original recipe calls for lemon extract in the cake batter as well as a vanilla bean glaze over the top of the cake. I omitted the lemon extract because of my son’s preference for a pure vanilla cake. (Personally, I think it would have been tastier to include it!) After a bit of a struggle about how to create a black hole out of a vanilla cake, I replaced the vanilla glaze with a dark chocolate ganache in order to make the black hole “black“! The ganache was delicious, but I included the recipe for the vanilla bean glaze below because it sounds like a lovely alternative. The dark chocolate ganache recipe was adapted from Food and Wine. I melted the chocolate over a double boiler until it was completely smooth before drizzling. OR…Forget the glazes- this cake would be just as delicious simply dusted with confectioners’ sugar. I love how a simple dusting lets the beautiful shape of the cake steal the show.

I can’t believe my son is TEN!!! 😦 (For the second year in a row, he requested that his Birthday “Number Cookies” be Roman Numerals!)

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For the Vanilla Bean Bundt Cake:

  • 3 cups (375 g) all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon (4 g) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 g) baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon (4 g) salt
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons (2-1/4 sticks)(255 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1-3/4 cups (350 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 vanilla beans, halved lengthwise or 2 tablespoons (30 ml) vanilla bean paste
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 ml) pure lemon extract, optional but recommended
  • 1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk, at room temperature

For the Vanilla Bean Glaze:

  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped or 1 tablespoon 915 ml) vanilla bean paste
  • 2-3 tablespoons (30-45 ml) whole milk
  • about 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

For the Dark Chocolate Ganache Glaze:

  • 3 oz dark bittersweet chocolate,  finely chopped/shaved  (I used 72% cacao dark chocolate)
  • 1/2 T corn syrup
  • 1/2 T unsalted butter
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • 5 T heavy cream

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For the Cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (convection) with rack in middle. Generously butter pan and dust with flour, knocking out excess.
  2. Weigh and then whisk together dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Beat together butter and sugar in an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape seeds from vanilla beans with tip of a paring knife and add into butter mixture, reserving pods for another use, and beat until well combined, about 1 minute.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in lemon extract (if using) until well combined. At low-speed add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture, mixing until just combined.
  5. Pour batter into pan, smoothing and spreading evenly. Gently tap pan on counter to eliminate air bubbles.
  6. Bake until the tip of a knife or skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 40 to 45 minutes on convection, or up to one hour in a standard oven. Cool in pan 1 hour, then invert onto a rack and cool completely, about 1 hour more.
  7. Once the cake has cooled, drizzle glaze (vanilla bean glaze OR chocolate ganache glaze OR confectioners’ sugar) over top.

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For the Vanilla Bean Glaze:

  1. Split vanilla bean and scrape seeds into whole milk. Let sit in a spouted container, such as a large pyrex measuring cup, for about an hour.
  2. Add confectioners’ sugar gradually, whisking, until you get desired consistency–about 1 cup.
    You want to make sure that it’s not too runny, or it won’t dry white on the cake, and will run off too quickly. It should take a few seconds to whisk it, and it will feel too thick at first–keep whisking until you get desired thickness. If too thick, add a teaspoon or so of the vanilla milk.

For the Ganache Glaze:

  1. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil.
  2. In a heatproof bowl, combine the remaining 3 ounces of chopped chocolate with the salt, corn syrup, and butter. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let stand until melted, about 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth. (At this point, I had to gently continue heating the mixture over a double boiler while constantly mixing until smooth.)
  3. Briefly let the ganache glaze cool until thick but still pourable.
  4. Drizzle the ganache over the cooled cake. Let the cake stand until the glaze is set, at least 30 minutes, before serving.

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