chocolate chip bundt cake in caroll’s garden

sunday mornings are perfect for gardening.  there is a certain sense of peace that the demonstration garden has early in the day which i find comforting.  today i went out to the garden with a chocolate chip bundt cake and spent a few hours weeding the beds and chatting with my fellow master gardeners.
as master gardeners, we spend time preparing gardens for tours and on occasion,  those gardens are our own.  it is a chance to share our most prized possession with fellow gardeners.  this afternoon, i had the pleasure of visiting the garden of one of my fellow demonstration garden volunteers.

caroll has a backyard that consists of a large wooded slope.  the run off that was produced by the paved driveway, the house and the nature of gravity itself was eroding the slope.  over the last 3 years, she has spent countless hours correcting drainage and preventing erosion by building an intricate system consisting of perforated pipes to harvest the water.  the hillside now features beautiful rock walls that help sculpt and terrace the yard which is now home to many mature, shade loving perennial plants.  in a word, the view from the bottom of the slope up to the house, is jaw dropping.  thinking about how many hours she spent just observing the landscape at all times of the day and during each season as well as during heavy rain, leaves me awestruck.

there is nothing she has not considered.  there are features to attract and nurture wildlife and the yard is a certified wildlife habitat.  and because caroll is who she is, there is also a touch of whimsy and that blue bottle tree is just a small taste of all the accent pieces that are scattered throughout the yard.

her selection of plants was carefully considered.  these firepinks “pink coral” (silene virginica) combine beautifully with the native geraniums, cranesbill “tiny monster

here is caroll leading a tour of the area beyond her yard.  the area is actually woodland that contains a spring which is one of the area’s well known “seven springs” which also gives the area it’s name and helps form a wetland.  the nearby apple creek feeds into mill creek which is a major part of the watershed in this area and home to an endangered crayfish species.

visitors to the demonstration garden will recognize this guy.  he is a miniature version of jimi tindrix, the tin man who lives in the herb garden.  caroll saved many cans for fellow master gardener shirley, and in return, shirley made a tin man to hang in her garden.

just one of the many views from below looking up at the house.
the bear’s breeches were putting on quite the show for us.
the lady herself, in the garden with cake, as it should be.  we all snacked on cake as we walked around the various parts of the garden and listened to caroll tell the story of the garden.

for this part of the garden, caroll had 10 yards of topsoil delivered and she sculpted it to form a level area suitable for sitting and enjoying the landscape.  her plan is to add a fire pit to this area and if you ask me, that would be perfect for cold weather use of the garden.  nothing like a roaring fire to cozy up to and enjoy the evening in the fall.

love the blossoms on the bear’s breeches.
chocolate chip bundt cake

1 small bundt cake serving about 12
(or 40 if they are gardeners limiting themselves to tiny slivers of cake…)
2 ounces almond paste, buy the kind in an 8 ounce can and remove it from the can by opening both ends and pushing it through.  cut it into four equal pieces and save the remaining pieces by wrapping them in plastic and storing them in the freezer; thaw it as needed.
1 1/4 cup sugar
4 ounces unsalted butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 cup chocolate chips
2/3 cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons cinnamon sugar

preheat the oven to 350.  grease and flour an 8 cup bundt pan and set it aside.  place the almond paste and the sugar into the bowl of a food processor and pulse it to cut up the almond paste.  allow the machine to run so that the almond paste is finely chopped.

add the butter, vanilla, almond extract and the salt and process until a smooth paste is formed.  with the machine running, add the eggs, one at a time and process to combine.  scrape the bowl and run again until the mixture is smooth.  scrape the batter into a mixing bowl.

place the flour and the baking powder into a sifter or a mesh strainer and sift it over the batter.  sprinkle the chocolate chips over the flour and fold the mixture a few times.  drizzle the buttermilk over the batter and fold the mixture together until no streaks of flour remain.

using a large spoon, dollop 1/3 of the batter into the prepared pan.  resist the temptation to smooth this out and dust the top of the batter with 2 tablespoons of the cinnamon sugar.  repeat this process once more and then top it all off with the remaining amount of batter.  this time, smooth the batter out so that it is level across the pan-it will bake more evenly this way.

bake until a pick inserted comes out clean, about 55 minutes.  allow the cake to cool in the pan for 15-20 minutes and then turn it out onto a rack to cool.

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