Brandy-Orange Chocolate Bundt Cake
With vegetable shortening, thoroughly grease a 10 inch, heavyweight, bundt pan. Flour the entire inside of the pan, including the tube; knock out any excess flour (grease and flour the pan even if your pan is nonstick). Adjust rack to center of oven; preheat oven to 325 degrees F (if pan has a dark-colored surface, preheat oven to 300 degrees F). Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Combine water and brandy; set aside.
In large bowl of electric mixer (fitted with paddle beater if available), combine softened butter, sugar, vanilla, and orange zest. Beat for three full minutes at medium speed (I use speed 4 in my KitchenAid), stopping once to scrape down bowl and beater(s) with large rubber spatula. Add eggs, one at a time, beating in at a low speed. After all eggs have been added, scrape down bowl and beater(s). Beat creamed mixture at medium speed for one minute (mixture may look curdled—OK). During remainder of mixing process, scrape down bowl and beater(s) often to ensure thorough blending of ingredients.
Add about one-fourth of sifted dry ingredients (no need to measure); beat in at low speed until partially incorporated. Very gradually add one-third of water-brandy mixture, beating at a low speed just until incorporated. Continue adding sifted dry ingredients and liquid mixture alternately, in that order, scraping bowl and beater(s) often and beating at low speed after each addition just until it is incorporated. Because there is a lot of batter, it is often easiest to incorporate the last addition of dry ingredients with a whisk just until batter is well-mixed. Batter may still look curdled after all ingredients have been added—OK.
Turn into prepared pan and smooth top, making sure batter is well-pushed into all corners. With back of a large spoon, form a slight “trench” in the middle of the batter, pushing it a bit higher along the tube and on the edges of the pan.
Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 75 minutes, turning back-to-front once after about 35 minutes of baking. When done, a toothpick inserted in center of cake will emerge with only a few moist crumbs clinging to it; do not overbake. Cake will begin to pull away from sides of pan just at the end of baking time.
Cool on rack for 10 to 15 minutes. While cooling, cake will pull away from edges and tube of pan markedly. Gently but throughly loosen cakes from pan edges and tube (with plastic knife, if your pan is nonstick), and invert onto cooling rack. Cool completely at room temperature before serving or storing airtight. It may be necessary to loosen the bottom of the cake from the cooling rack with a broad-bladed spatula before removing the cooled cake from the rack (this may be true even if your cooling rack is nonstick!).
To serve, cut thin slices using a very sharp, serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion. Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream or dust top with a bit of sifted confectioners’ sugar just prior to serving.