Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Spice Cake with Maple Icing and Toasted Pecans
How can you not enjoy a recipe when it tells you to throw nuts at the sides of your cake? I didn't bother trying to be precise or tidy. I literally took handfuls of pecans and whirled them at the cake. Most of them stuck, but many of them ended up on the countertops and the floor.
I substituted the maple syrup cake from the original recipe for Flo Braker's spice cake. It was a good choice; the cake has a crumbly, rustic texture that reminds me of coffee cake. Combined with the maple syrup in the frosting, you could almost pass this cake off as a breakfast item.
I was quite proud of how pretty the cake looked. I carried it, umbrella covered, through the rain to my friends at Apple. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, though Peter didn't care for the texture of the icing. He described it as "stretchy" or "stringy." Meringue tends to be hit or miss with most people. I like it when it's well-made. It's lighter than buttercream and reminds me of marshmallow fluff.
This cake was fun to make, and I found myself smiling through the whole process. I find the flavors and textures playful and happy. It's an easy, elegant cake that would be good for birthdays or other occasions.
Spice Cake with Maple Icing
adapted from Nigella Lawson and Flo Braker
For the cake:
2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
For the icing:
2 large egg whites
1/2 cup maple syrup
7 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup or 4 oz pecans, lightly toasted
1. Preheat the oven to 350° and position a rack in the lower third. Butter and flour two 8-by-2-inch round cake pans. Sift the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt and cloves onto a sheet of wax paper. Combine the buttermilk and vanilla in a small pitcher.
2. In a standing electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy. Add the light brown and granulated sugars and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, stopping once to scrape down the bowl. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the flour mixture at low speed in 3 batches, alternating with the buttermilk mixture, just until the batter is smooth; stop the mixer occasionally to scrape down the bowl.
3. Divide the batter evenly between the pans. Transfer the pans to the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cakes begin to shrink from the sides. Let the cakes cool for 10 minutes, then turn each out onto a rack, invert onto another rack and let cool completely. Wrap each cake in plastic and store at room temperature overnight.
4. To make the frosting: Put everything except the extract and pecans into a glass or metal bowl that fits over a saucepan to form a double boiler. Fill the saucepan with enough water to come just below, but not touching, the bowl when it sits on top. Bring the water to the boil, set the boil on top, and using an electric mixer, beat the mixture vigorously for 5-7 minutes. It should stand up in peaks like a meringue mixture. Take the bowl off the saucepan, away from the heat, and add the extract, beating for another minute.
5. Using the icing, frost the middle, sides, and top of the cake. Chop most of the pecans finely, leaving some pieces larger. Sprinkle over the top of the cake, and throw at the sides. This cake is best eaten the day it's made. .
at 11:38 PM