Sundays with Dorie: Brown sugar bundt cake

I have an irrational dislike of the expression “more than the sum of its parts”. I can’t really explain it, I just find the phrase irksome and overused. So it pained me somewhat when I was forced to conclude last Sunday that, in the truest sense of the expression, this brown sugar bundt cake really is more than the sum of its parts.

The recipe doesn’t seem that impressive at first glance. Some fresh pear. Some raisins. A whole lot of brown sugar. But something magical happens in the oven – the brown sugar seems to infuse everything with its mellow sweetness and soft chewiness, and the cake becomes something… well, more.

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Brown Sugar Bundt Cake
From Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup ground hazelnuts or walnuts (or 1/4 cup more all purpose flour)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
225 g / 8 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups lightly packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp pure almond extract (only if you’re using the ground nuts)
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
2 medium pears, peeled, cored and diced (or substitute apple)
1/2 cup prunes, cut into 1/4 inch pieces (or substitute 1/2 cup raisins)

Preheat the oven to 350F / 175C. Butter and flour a 9- to 10-inch Bundt pan (I used a Kugelhopf pan).

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, nuts (if using), baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and the almond extract (if using). Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture and the buttermilk alternately – add the flour in 3 additions and the buttermilk in 2, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix only until the ingredients are incorporated and scrape down the bowl as needed. Turn off the mixer, and with a rubber spatula, stir in the pears and prunes. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 60 to 65 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted deep into the centre of the cake comes out clean. (If at any point the cake is browning too fast, cover the top loosely with a piece of foil.) Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before unmoulding, then cool to room temperature on the rack. Finish the top of the cake with icing sugar or a simple brown sugar glaze.