So I am extra sad I cannot post any photos right now because Sammy’s birthday party was this past weekend. A little more low key than her first or Alex’s third, but a splendid occasion nonetheless. So many of our (children) gift giving occasions are dominated by big gifts that they can share, but this time Sammy got loads of smaller gifts. Given that up until now, Alex technically owned most of the toys (and remembers that she does), the look on Sammy’s face at all of her presents was pretty priceless.
Last year I made her a pumpkin spice cake with cream cheese frosting, and while the whole autumnal spice theme still appealed to me, I wanted it to be at least a little different. So I took what is so far my favorite spice cake and instead of using a frosting, I served with a whipped cream frosting. Because Sammy is obsessed with pumpkins–and because I am short on time and energy right now–I tinted the whipped cream green and planted some of those Halloween candy pumpkins and candy corns on them for a pumpkin patch effect. Not as extravagant as Alex’s monkey cupcakes I will grant you, but I think Sammy loved them all the same. Actually, she and Alex have both been requesting (and not getting) candles in everything since then, which just goes to show you that you can make all the effort in the world and your kid will still find something storebought and artificial to obsess on. 🙂
As to the cake itself–the secret (as far as I am concerned) is the roasting of the spices in the browned butter. After I found this spice cake, I stopped looking for others. I am including Cook’s Illustrated’s frosting recipe, although I prefer it with whipped cream. When I served it both ways at my playgroup a month or so back, both versions were appreciated.
One last note: half of the keys on my husband’s keyboard do not work and while I have done my best looking for typos, I am sorry if I did not find them all!
Cooks Illustrated Jan/08
For the cake:
2 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour (11 1/4 ounces) plus extra for dusting pans
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 ground nutmeg
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs at room temperature
3 large egg yolks at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extrac
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar (12 1/4 ounces)
2 tablespoons light molasses or mild molasses
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 cup buttermilk at room temperature
5 tablespoons unsalted butter,cut into 5 pieces, softened
1 1/4 cup confectioners sugar (4 1/2 ounces)
8 ounces cream cheese cut into 4 pieces ,softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 coarsely chopped walnuts ,toasted (optional)
1. For the cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 13- by 9-inch baking pan. Combine spices in small bowl; reserve 1/2 teaspoon for frosting.
2. Heat 4 tablespoons butter in 8-inch skillet over medium heat until melted, 1 to 2 minutes. Continue to cook, swirling pan constantly, until butter is light brown and has faint nutty aroma, 2 to 4 minutes. Add spices and continue to cook, stirring constantly, 15 seconds. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
3. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. In small bowl, gently whisk eggs, yolks, and vanilla to combine. In standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream remaining 12 tablespoons butter with sugar and molasses at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down sides and bottom of bowl twice with rubber spatula. Reduce to medium speed and add cooled butter and spice mixture, ginger, and half of egg mixture; mix until incorporated, about 15 seconds. Repeat with remaining egg mixture; scrape down bowl again. Reduce to low speed; add about one-third flour mixture, followed by half of buttermilk, mixing until just incorporated after each addition, about 5 seconds. Repeat using half of remaining flour mixture and all of remaining buttermilk. Scrape bowl and add remaining flour mixture; mix at medium speed until batter is thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds. Remove bowl from mixer and fold batter once or twice with rubber spatula to incorporate any remaining flour.
4. Transfer batter to prepared pan; following illustrations at left, zigzag tip of metal spatula through batter, pulling it to pan edges. Lightly tap pan against counter 3 or 4 times to dislodge any large air bubbles; smooth surface with spatula.
5. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 32 to 37 minutes. Cool cake to room temperature in pan on wire rack, about 2 hours.
6. For the frosting: In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter, sugar, and reserved 1/2 teaspoon spice mixture at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add cream cheese one piece at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Add vanilla and beat until no lumps remain, about 30 seconds.
7. Run paring knife around edge of cake to loosen from pan. Using spatula, spread frosting evenly over surface of cake. Sprinkle cake with walnuts, if using. Cut into squares and serve.