Holiday joy! I am so down with spice cake. So down, in fact, that were I ever to get married (HA!), spice cake would be my wedding cake of choice. Smothered in cream cheese frosting, with real flowers. But – I digress.
This week’s recipe for Baked Sunday Mornings is Baked’s resplendent Holiday Spice Cake with Eggnog Buttercream (from Baked Elements). In a flowery-phrased nutshell: warm, fragrant holiday spices of cinnamon, fresh ginger, and allspice perfume this 3 layer tower blanketed and filled with a creamy smooth, rum-spiked, nutmeg-enhanced ‘eggnog’ version of Baked’s famous buttercream. Sounds pretty delicious, huh? It is.
This is a recipe I looked very forward to making in spite of my grown-up repulsion to egg nog. When I was a kid, egg nog was a holiday treat – as an adult, eh… not so much. I don’t know whether it’s the fact I’m drinking something called a NOG (that word just reeks of ‘ewww’) or the usual overabundance of nutmeg (a spice I only like in smaller quantities), or whether it’s just the overall richness of it. Anyhow, in regards to this particular recipe, I think it’s the simple fact that it’s a spice cake that sold me on it… and maybe only slightly that the buttercream is merely flavored with standard eggnog spices and flavorings and isn’t made with actual eggnog. Enough on the eggnog hate. I know it’s a traditional favorite with the overall populace come Christmastime, in which case I have terrific news for you: you’ll love this cake.
My hesitation with Baked’s spice cake recipe really only came with the inclusion of – gasp! – a 1/2 cup of vegetable shortening. I know there are organic shortenings out there on the market, so I would always strongly suggest seeking them out if you are as skeevy on shortening as I am. I did, however, use Crisco with this recipe (I love the Crisco sticks. If only organic shortening came like that!). I read somewhere in one of the Baked books that they include shortening for a tender cake crumb, so, as much as I utter a little ‘eek!’ when my eyes scan the ingredients and fall upon ‘vegetable shortening’, I try to let it pass and trust the authors’ best judgment!
As this is a spice cake, the spices should take center stage – so I used really good spices. I always heartily recommend Penzey’s Vietnamese cinnamon for its extra heat. I also used Penzey’s allspice and nutmeg (the frosting does use freshly-grated; I did not, but used slightly less than the tablespoon the recipe calls for, as ground nutmeg is rather strong as compared to grated). I did go with freshly grated ginger root for the ginger, but you could, of course, use ground ginger instead. I liked seeing the little gratings of ginger studding the cake slices.
I know you all have busy holiday weekends, so I won’t elaborate on the actual steps and making of this cake, as it’s fairly straightforward. The fussiest steps you may encounter are in making the buttercream. I adore Baked’s traditional buttercream recipe, but it does take some practice and finesse, and because it involves a lot of butter, you want to do your best to get it right the first time. Just know that you’re not alone if you struggle with it! The important thing to keep in mind is to really whip up the cooked milk, flour, and sugar mixture good (after cooking, it should be the consistency of pudding when you put it into the mixing bowl) until it’s cooled to room temp. It should not still be warm. While it’s whipping/cooling in the mixer, cut your butter into small pieces; about a 1/2 tablespoon each. The butter should be close to room temp, but not mushy – as Baked typically says, ‘cool but not cold’. When the milk/flour/sugar mixture is at the right temp, start adding your butter, keeping the mixer going at a medium speed until all the butter is incorporated and the frosting is light, buttery, and all of the pieces of butter are completely blended in.
In a world that has exploded with – and gone obsessively over-the-top with, if you ask me – those cute little personal cakes called cupcakes, layer cakes often get a bad wrap. They’re actually not too difficult to make, if you follow the instructions in the recipe and – I find – have a good eye for when not to over-beat your batter and when to fold gently. I personally feel layer cakes are less fussy than cupcakes. With a layer cake, it’s once and done. You don’t need to frost and/or fill a bunch of mini cakes. I applaud my fellow bakers who attempt making any cake recipe into a cupcake – and I know a few of the bloggers this week have, with this recipe, and I am positive they’re beautiful, awesome, and amazing – but if you have busy holiday plans and still want to make this cake, keep it simple on yourself: make the layer cake. Freeze the layers ahead of time. Make the frosting when you’re ready to assemble. Frost, chill, you’re good to go. (The plus side, I will admit, with cupcakes is that they are much easier to travel with!)
I shared this cake with my co-workers for our holiday lunch and it was a hit. I enjoyed how the cake and frosting nicely complemented one another and truly played up the overall feel of holiday warmth with the spices. As someone anti-eggnog, the eggnog-flavored buttercream was just right and not too overpowering. I found that it was a difficult cake to plate; the layers are very light and crumbly, so the slices were not as clean and pretty as I would have liked, but no matter – they were eaten quickly once passed around! The buttercream also provides a beautiful, clean palate for decorating. When I wasn’t successful with finding some silver and gold glitter sprinkles for the edge of the cake, I opted for pearlized sugar beads instead, which resembled tiny snowballs and still went with the overall theme.
To wow your holiday guests with a dessert they will truly remember, make this special cake from Baked by following this link: Holiday Spice Cake with Eggnog Buttercream, and be sure to check out how the other bakers fared!
Finally, a very Merry Christmas to all of you! May you find much joy, delight, merriment, warm memories… and yummy baked goods surrounding you during this holiday season! I wish you the very best – today and every day of the year!