Mine isn’t a very traditional family. We celebrate Christmas on different days, in different states, with different people almost every year. There is no special breakfast or holiday carol… we just enjoy being together in the moment, where ever that happens to be.
However, when/if I have a family of my own, there is one recipe that I hope becomes a tradition. The Williams-Sonoma Snowflake Cake with Brandy Butter Glaze. I had this at a family gathering several years ago and I could not stop eating it. A moist, buttery cake (like a lighter pound cake, really) topped with a sugary, slightly boozy glaze that gets almost crunchy as it sets… it is the epitome of Christmas eating.
I dutifully copied the recipe onto a note card and took it home with me. I’ve made this cake every year since. It is always a hit, whether I bring it to a work pot luck, a family gathering or my own holiday party. This year, I topped a slice with leftover salted caramel from my thumb print cookies– wow. But it’s just as good on it’s own. No ice cream or fruit garnish required. Though it certainly wouldn’t hurt.
I’ve tweaked the original recipe slightly. And I make mine in a regular bundt pan, not the $50 “snowflake pan,” which I don’t think Williams-Sonoma even sells anymore. The key here is to use a pan with lots of nooks and crannies for the glaze to gather in.
Snowflake Cake with Boozy Butter Glaze
(adapted generously from Williams-Sonoma)
For the cake:
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
2 Tbs. cognac, brandy, bourbon or rum
1 tsp. vanilla extract
12 Tbs. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg yolk
For the glaze:
4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 Tbs. cognac, brandy, bourbon or rum (the same as you used in the cake!)
1/4 cup sugar
Confectionery sugar, for dusting.
– Pre-heat oven to 325ºF. Grease and flour a bundt pan. (Don’t skimp! You do NOT want this cake to stick in the pan.)
– In a small bowl, combine the milk, cognac and vanilla and stir. Set aside.
– In another bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
– In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy and smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes; stop the mixer occasionally and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs and egg yolk one at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, alternating with the milk mixture and beginning and ending with the flour. Beat each addition just until incorporated, stopping the mixer occasionally and scraping down the sides of the bowl. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and, using a rubber spatula, spread the batter evenly.
– Bake until the center of the cake springs back when lightly touched, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the cake cool upright in the pan for about 10 minutes. Then tap the pan gently on a work surface to loosen the cake (You may also need to run a butter knife around the edges). Invert the pan onto the rack and lift off the pan.
– To make the glaze, in a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, brandy and sugar. Cook, stirring, until the butter has melted and most of the sugar has dissolved, about 3 minutes.
– Brush the warm cake with the glaze. Do this slowly, allowing the cake to absorb the glaze before you add a new coat. Use all the glaze and then dust with confectionery sugar. (You’ll likely want to dust it again just before serving.)