Thursday, March 27, 2008

Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Spice Cake

Spice Cake

I can be skeptical about mise en place. I'll measure dry ingredients hours ahead of time, but i'll avoid prepping one thing or another. I tell myself that if I wait, the ingredient will be fresher, the preparation less cumbersome.

There is a reason you're supposed to prepare your ingredients: urgency while baking is dangerous. While carefully pouring eggs into your rapidly whipping stand-mixer, you'll realize that you're supposed to throw in a tablespoon of ginger that you haven't grated. In your rush to peel and grate the ginger, you'll make a bad decision.

In this case, I balanced the microplane over the top of a cereal bowl, figuring the grated ginger could fall into it. This took much more leverage than I anticipated, and the bowl slipped and flew into the air. I fumbled it for several seconds before launching it across the room where it hit the floor and shattered into a million pieces.

I cleaned up the mess, took a few deep breaths, and continued. The rest of the process was pleasant. My whole apartment smelled like brown butter and spices. I served the finished cake later in the evening for my friends who come over to watch Top Chef. They graciously brought montegrappa, apples, pears, crackers, chips, wine, and daffodils.

I'd definitely make this recipe again. It's best served at room temperature the day it's made. Don't be put off by the ginger and molasses; the flavors are subtle and complementary.

Spice Cake
from Cook's Illustrated

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 ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), 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 extract
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 cups confectioners' sugar (4 1/2 ounces)
8 ounces cream cheese , cut into 4 pieces , softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup 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. Zigzag the tip of a 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.


Aran said...

the smell of brown butter is definitely house warming! one of my favorite aromas for sure. the photo is so clean and bright!

Patricia Scarpin said...

The cake looks beautiful, Lisa. And I think that your house smelled great! :)

Rachel@fairycakeheaven said...

YUM sounds delicious altogether!

Anonymous said...

i was happy to see this as i was searching for a good cardamom recipe. am whipping one up right now. thank you for the lovely photo!

i am not sure if you know...keeping a nice bunch of ginger in the freezer is awesome for grating. it peels and grates much faster and isn't all slippery, etc. it stays for a long time, too!!


fkit said...

I just made this. What a fantastic recipe. I used whole spices. It can be tough to balance a spice mixture. Added a bit of dark rum with the vanilla.