High Country Baking: Fall flavors spice cake
High Country Baking
Cinnamon, nutmeg, apples and allspice — tastes strongly associated with fall. And, my goodness, they come together nicely in this delightful tube cake. Moist and not-too-sweet with complex flavors and a texture enhanced by chopped pecans and crystallized ginger, it’s as pleasing a spice cake as I’ve ever met and a fine way to end a meal. Serve it warm, with ice cream, topped with a drizzle of heated commercial caramel sauce, thinned with a splash of apple juice, apple brandy or dark rum.
Be sure to use a pan with a center tube with this batter as it needs heat from both the inside and outside to bake properly. I use a ring mold, but a Bundt or angel food cake pan will work just as well. We think the flavor of the cake is best a day or two after baking, so prepare it ahead if you can.
Fall flavors spice cake
Adjusted for altitudes of 7,800 feet and above. Make in a five-cup ring mold, Bundt or angel food cake pan.
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature (one stick)
- 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 1/4 cup bleached all-purpose flour, spoon and level
- 1/4 cup apple juice
- 1/3 cup toasted and chopped pecans
- 3 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut up
- 1/4 cup superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s
- 3 tablespoons apple juice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
- Powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Generously grease your pan with a baking spray that contains flour, even if it’s nonstick. Check and make sure your butter and eggs are at room temperature.
Cut the butter into eight pieces and put them in a mixing bowl with the brown sugar, all of the spices, the salt and the baking powder. Beat, with an electric mixer, until the combination is light and fluffy, scraping the bowl as needed. Break the two eggs into a cup measure, whisk them to combine and slowly drizzle them into the butter mixture, beating until the eggs are thoroughly combined and the mixture is smooth and shiny. Scrape the bowl as needed; the brown sugar-butter mixture is heavy and some may stay at the bottom of the bowl unless you do so.
With the mixer at low speed, add the flour in three additions, alternating with the apple juice, starting and ending with flour. Stop the mixer as soon as all of the flour is absorbed. Stir in the chopped nuts and the minced crystallized ginger.
Spoon the batter into the prepared tube pan, leveling and smoothing it as you go. Place the pan directly on the oven rack. (Don’t place the cake pan on a baking sheet as the air needs to circulate into the pan’s center tube.) Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. This takes about 34-37 minutes if using a ring mold, longer in a Bundt or angel food cake pan. Remove the cake to a cooling rack and let it cool for 15 minutes.
While the cake cools, make the glaze: Place all of the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until the butter melts and the ingredients are liquid and combined. Increase the heat and let the glaze boil for about a minute to melt the sugar. Remove from the heat. Invert the warm cake onto the cooling rack and carefully remove the pan. Using a toothpick, poke holes all over the cake’s top and sides. Gently brush about half to two-thirds of the glaze over the cake. Set the rest of the glaze aside.
When the cake is cool, whisk powdered sugar, one heaping tablespoon at a time, into the remaining glaze until it reaches a consistency that is thick enough to drizzle over the cake. Drizzle decoratively over the cake’s top and let the glaze set. Serve the cake, cut into fairly thin slices, at room temperature or warmed. Store, wrapped airtight, for up to three days in the fridge or at cool room temperature.
Editor’s note: This is a variation of a recipe published in King Arthur Flour’s “The Baking Sheet.“
Vera Dawson’s column “High Country Baking” publishes biweekly on Thursdays in the Summit Daily News. Dawson is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks. Her recipes have been tested in her kitchen in Frisco, where she’s lived since 1991, and altered until they work at elevation. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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