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Life Is Sweet: Whiskey me away

VERA DAWSON

If you haven’t tried Irish whiskey, you’re missing something. It’s super smooth, much less assertive than most whiskeys, with a pleasant taste and a wonderful aroma. I look for ways to use it to flavor baked goods around St. Patrick’s Day. For the last several years, I’ve been perfecting the Irish Whiskey Cake recipe that follows; it showcases the spirit beautifully. The whiskey adds a very subtle flavor, one that is so soft it is often unrecognizable. The resulting cake is tasty, fragrant, not at all sweet, and very versatile. It can be served at brunch, with tea or coffee, or with the addition of Irish Whiskey Sauce, as a knock-out dessert.The recipe for the cake is adapted from one in “Mrs. Wilkes’ Boardinghouse Cookbook” and the sauce from a recipe in the 1997 “Joy of Cooking.”If you make this cake in one or more loaf pans, be sure not to fill the pan(s) more than three-fourths full. After measuring a number of them, I found that pans that claim to be a standard size (say 10-by-4) can differ from one another by up to an inch in length and three-quarters of an inch in width. So, don’t trust that your pan will hold all of the batter. It’s better not to use it all than to have the batter run over of the sides of the pan as the cake bakes.Irish Whiskey Cake(Makes 6 cups of batter; one 10-by-4 inch loaf pan; 12 half-cup individual bundt pans; two 7-by-4 inch loaf pans.)

1 stick of unsalted butter at room temperature1 scant cup of granulated sugar (superfine works best)2 cups of sifted cake flour (7 ounces; weigh it if you have a scale)3 large eggs, at room temperature, and well beaten in a small bowl1 teaspoon nutmeg1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder1/4 teaspoon salt1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons Irish whiskey1 1/2 cups of golden raisins1 1/2 cups broken or coarsely chopped pecans, toastedFor glaze:1 cup confectioners sugar2-3 tablespoons Irish whiskey

— Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, with the oven rack in the center position. If you are using a bundt pan or individual bundt pans, grease and flour it/them well or spray with Baker’s Joy and wipe with a paper towel to spread evenly. If you are using a loaf pan, line the pan with parchment or Reynold’s Release foil and then grease and flour or spray with Baker’s Joy.– Cream the room-temperature butter in a medium bowl with a mixer until light. Add the sugar gradually and cream until the mixture is very light and fluffy. This step determines the cake’s tenderness and texture. So, take your time and scrape down the bowl often.– Slowly add the beaten eggs, mixing well after each addition. If the eggs are too cold, the butter will re-solidify and all your careful creaming will be ruined. So, make sure the eggs are at room temperature.– Either sift or whisk 1 3/4 cups of the flour, the baking powder, nutmeg and salt together in a small bowl until well combined.– Set your mixer aside and make the rest of the cake batter by stirring by hand with a wooden spoon or a large rubber spatula. Alternately, add the whiskey and the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three additions. Gently stir until well combined after each addition.– Toss the raisins and pecans with the remaining 1/4 cup of flour until well combined. Stir these into the batter. — Scrape the batter into the prepared pans. Fill about three-fourths full. Don’t overfill; cakes rise higher at our altitude. Place the pan(s) on a baking sheet and put in the oven.– Bake until the top(s) spring back and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Start checking at about 45 minutes for large bundt or loaf pans, 25 minutes for individual bundt pans, and 40 minutes for a 7-by-4 inch loaf pan.– Remove the cake from the oven when done and cool completely on a rack. — When it is completely cool, glaze the cake: Mix two-three tablespoons of Irish whiskey with about one cup of confectioner’s sugar until smooth and the right consistency to brush or drizzle over the cooled cake.

— The cake tastes better and is easier to slice if it has cooled several hours. It freezes very well and is easiest to cut when cold. A serrated knife is the best utensil for slicing through the nuts and raisins. — When I serve the cake for brunch or tea, I present it with its simple glaze. For a company dessert, I add warm Irish whiskey sauce. I cut the slices I need from the frozen cake, reheat them in the microwave, for about 1 minute at level 3 (so they are just warm to the touch), place on serving plates and drizzle with the Irish Whiskey sauce. Vera Dawson lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day.Irish Whiskey Sauce(Serves 4-6; can be doubled.)4 tablespoons unsalted butter1/2 cup granulated sugar3 tablespoons Irish whiskey1/8 teaspoon ground nutmegPinch of salt1 large egg

— Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat.– Stir in the sugar, whiskey, nutmeg and salt and continue stirring until the sugar is dissolved. To test this, take a small spoonful of the mixture and rub it between your fingers. It should be absolutely smooth.– Remove the pan from the heat.– In a small bowl, whisk the egg until it is frothy. Slowly pour HALF of the beaten egg (about two tablespoons) into the butter mixture, whisking rapidly the entire time. — Return the pan to the heat and increase it to medium-low. Gently stir, bring the mixture to a simmer or very slow boil. Continue cooking and stirring until the sauce thickens, about 2-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve or set aside to cool and store covered in the refrigerator for up to three days.– Reheat the sauce over low heat. If it separates, take it off the heat and whisk in a small amount of warm water. Serve warm, over warmed cake.


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