Sunday, October 30, 2011

Philly Fluff Cake

Yesterday was a freakishly cold and snowy day here in NY.  It was the kind of day that begged for the oven to be turned on.  It would have been the perfect day to have something slow roast in the oven, adding a little extra warmth to the house.  We were meeting friends for dinner, so there was no need to cook.  If it were December, it would have been the perfect day to bake Christmas cookies.  But it was not December.  I sat in front of the fire for a while and read through a bunch of recipes I had clipped from magazines and newspapers.  I remember cutting out a recipe for Philly Fluff cake a while back, and was hoping it was in that file.  My memory did not fail me.  I found the clipping taken from the newspaper on May 10, 2000.  Seriously, I remembered that?  After reading the recipe, I realized it called for an odd sized kugelhopf pan???  Definitely don't have a kugelhopf pan.  I jumped on the internet to research an equivalent, and came across an updated recipe that called for a larger bundt pan.  That, I had.

When I do my grocery shopping, I am always on the lookout for good sales on baking staples.  I'm talking about butter, cream cheese, chocolate, nuts, different flours and sugars among other things.  Last week I picked up a bunch of cream cheese and some 60% cocoa, bittersweet chocolate.  As I was putting the cream cheese in the fridge, Philly Fluff came into my head.
Philly Fluff is a regional phenomena.  You can't come from this part of NY and not know what a Philly Fluff is.  If you live in western Nassau County and have never eaten Philly Fluff, you have lived a sheltered life.  Haven't you ever been in a bakery?  The original cake was a creation of Harry Zipes.  His son Bruce has made this his signature cake at Bruce's Bakery in Great Neck.  Philly Fluff can now be found in most neighborhood bakeries in the form of a bundt, loaf or even cupcakes.  Basically, it is a pound cake made with cream cheese, hence Philly, swirled with bittersweet chocolate.  The "fluff" part is somewhat of a misnomer.  Perhaps it is called "fluff" because the batter is so fluffy. You may be thinking, it sounds like marble cake.  It's like a marble cake on steroids.  Seriously, the bittersweet chocolate is directly swirled into the cake, unlike a watered down chocolate cake batter of a marble cake.  This cake is rich, moist and not something you would want to eat every day.  Well, you may want to eat it every day, but you shouldn't.   It's a big cake.  Make it for company, bring it to the office, offer passers by on the street a slice.  You will make people smile.

A few notes about the cake  before I start.  No, I do not believe you can make a low fat version.  It calls for cream cheese, butter and shortening.  If you are looking for low fat, make something else.  I really hate to use shortening and was tempted to use all butter.  Knowing that butter has more water in it than shortening, I feared the texture may suffer if I subbed butter for shortening.  I decided to go with the recipe as written. Use a good quality bittersweet chocolate.  Make sure you grease the pan generously and don't forget to flour it!  Be sure to have your butter and cream cheese softened and your eggs at room temperature.  Do not over bake.  It's a straight forward cake, nothing difficult about it.

From: Bruce's Bakery Cookbook, Bruce Zipes,
Serves 16

  • 10 ounces cream cheese, softened (brick, not whipped)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped (4 more ounces if you want to drizzle chocolate over top of cake after it has cooled)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Generously grease and flour a 12-16 cup bundt pan
  3. Melt chocolate and set aside.
  4. In a small bowl whisk together the sifted flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.
  5. Using a stand mixer, cream the butter, shortening and cream cheese together until mixture is light and fluffy.
  6. Add the flour mixture to the cream cheese mixture and mix on low speed until flour is blended.
  7. With mixer on medium speed, add 1 cup of the sugar.  Now, add eggs one at a time and while continuing to beat on medium speed.  
  8. Stop mixer to scrape sides of bowl, and add in the vanilla.
  9. Resume mixing on medium speed, and add in the last cup of sugar. Continue beating until batter is smooth.  Batter will be thick and fluffy. Scrape sides of bowl as necessary.
  10. Pour half of the batter into the greased and floured bundt pan. Smooth top.
  11. Spoon melted chocolate on top of batter.  Using a narrow knife, (like a steak knife) swirl chocolate through the batter.
  12. Spoon the remaining batter on top.  Gently smooth.
  13. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 60 minutes.  Test with cake taster or toothpick for doneness.
  14. Place cake on a wire rack and cool for 15 minutes.
  15. Turn cake onto a plate and allow to cool completely before serving.  
You can dust cooled cake with powdered sugar or melt some additional chocolate and drizzle it over the top of the cake before serving if you so desire. can be a purist and just cut a slice, and eat it as is.

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