Spice Cake

30 Jun

So I hunted for ages to find this recipe.  I found so many Apple Spice Cakes, Pumpkin Spice Cakes, Spice Bundt Cakes, Walnut Praline Spice Cakes… The list goes on, but I just wanted a very simple spice cake, which I eventually found on The Hungry Mouse.  I made it for my dad’s birthday and it went over marvelously.

I bought a new Murakami book today.  My boss recommended Kafka on the Shore, which I understand is one of his most famous.  But I went for Wild Sheep Chase because I thought it sounded more interesting.  I’m sure I’ll get around to Kafka eventually, since I love, love, love Murakami.  But let me tell you, I’m going camping this weekend and I’m going to read:

Wild Sheep Chase, The Obamians, and Factory Girls.  And Maybe Banzai Babe Ruth.  Mot of those are political books, so I won’t bother telling you about them.  But my recommendation of Murakami still stands, so you’re all aware.

Anyway, spice cake.  Back to your scheduled programming.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cloves (the powdered kind; ground, that’s it)
  • 2 tbsp ground ginger
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar.  Any gradient, but I think dark works best with spice cake because it’s more molasses-y than light.  It’s got a stronger kick.
  • 8 tbsp butter, or 1 stick, softened
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk.  I know, ewwwww.  It’s okay, you can make pancakes out of it later
  • 2 eggs

The best thing about this recipe is how easy it is to make:

Mix together all your dry ingredients.

I’m going to warn you now, I got a little camera-crazy when I was baking this.  Especially when I had the whole thing finished and frosted.

I like that.  Finished and frosted.  Hm.

I particularly love all the spices in this recipe.  I know, I know.  It’s spice cake.  What were you expecting?  But I believe that it’s not that easy to mix spices perfectly together.  These spices, for example, complement each other so well.  Ginger has a real bite to it, which would totally change the character of this cake, except that the nutmeg and cloves soften it beautifully.  And cinnamon brings such a great snap to the whole thing.  It’s a well-put-together recipe for sure.

I made a spice gradient.  Because that’s how cool I am.

So alright, mix it all together until it looks like that.

Next, add the butter and the buttermilk.

The classy Dean & Deluca mug has nothing to do with the recipe.  I was just too lazy to move it out of the way.

That’s something I miss about New York.  Dean & Deluca is part of my childhood, and it’s still treated as a beautiful luxury in my family.  That place is amazing.  We go there almost exclusively for things like sugar, honey, and chocolate, so I have very sweet memories of the place.

I just realized that it looks like the measuring cup looks like it’s floating.  How cool would that be?  So you didn’t have to hold onto thing while taking pictures.

So beat that until it’s smooth and fluffy.

Okay, not so fluffy, but that’s fine.

Then, add the eggs.  Beat until well-combined, and then pour into a greased pan.  The recipe says to use a square pan, but I wanted to make a layer cake.  The layers were small and two different widths, but it worked pretty well.

The recipe also said to trace the pan you’re going to use onto parchment paper, grease the bottom of the pan, lay in the parchment paper, and grease it again, which I found to work exceedingly well.

I’m sitting outside as I write this, and I’m pretty sure I’m being eaten alive.

No big deal.

(Ouch ouch ouch)

Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes if making one layer, or a bit less than that if making two layers.  Sorry, but I didn’t time it, so I don’t know the specifics.  But you should be able to stick in a cake tester and have it come out clean.

In other words, it should look like this.  The top will puff out like that, and it may crack, but that’s totally normal.

And I am very, very pleased to announce that I extracted my cakes perfectly.

Perfectly.

I took many pictures of myself holding the layers and smiling triumphantly, which I put on Tumblr and Facebook and the like.  Because do you know what?  This is the very first time in my life that I made a cake that turned out right.

Every other cake has fought to stay in the pan, broken in half, or crumbled oddly upon withdrawal.  But not this time!  I was so proud.  I’m still proud.

And now it’s time for frosting.  You can do what you want, of course, but cream cheese frosting is perfect for spice cake, so that’s what I’m going to show you how to do.

You’re going to need 8 oz of cream cheese (one of those square packages), 12 tbsp of butter, and a cup of powdered sugar.

Mix together the cream cheese and butter and DO NOT EAT because it is highly repulsive at this stage.

Trust me.

Then sift the sugar into the mixture.  I hate sifting, so I understand if you’re grimacing at the screen and going, “Helllll naw!”  But it’s important to sift in this case so that your frosting isn’t lumpy.  Lumpy frosting is not only unattractive, it’s hard to spread, and on a cake, that’s the last thing you need.

Just… sift.  Shhh.  Sift.

You can add more sugar if you need to to make it sweeter or stiffer.  There’s no exact science to making cream cheese frosting.

And then you frost.  I won’t tell you how.  Because I am miserable at it.  Trust me, you don’t want me trying to show you how it’s done.  I’m a total cake-frosting loser.

Sad, but true.  I almost never make cakes, so I don’t have a lot of practice…

But look!  I managed.  And the fact that this is what it should look like is all I can tell you about frosting.  You are on your own, young one.

I told you I took a lot of pictures, didn’t I?  I was so proud of how this turned out, and so nervous that I would fuck it up, which I really, really didn’t want to do, since it was my dad’s birthday cake.

And there you have it.

I have no new book to recommend, but I have music: Beach House.  I haven’t heard much of their new album, but I’ve been listening to their first one almost non-stop.  I’m particularly enchanted by Tokyo Witch.

And I mean, if you’re interested in Chinese economics: I most recently read Mr. China, by Tim Clissold, which I really enjoyed.  But it’s really only for people interested in Chinese economics.  Otherwise, it would probably bore the hell out of you.  #justthefacts

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