Archive for: spice cake
I have to admit that a vanilla bean angel food cake is my favorite, when it comes to these towering and cloud-like cakes. Vanilla can become very expressive when it is the main flavor on such a light and airy cake. That being said, angel food cakes are mostly flavored with vanilla alone and it has become quite uncommon to see them in other flavors. This is a shame, because as good as vanilla is, mixing it up with other flavors can make for a great angel food cake and a welcome change of pace from the usual.
This Chocolate Spice Angel Food Cake is a good example, incorporating not only a chocolate flavor into the cake, but a hint of spice to give it some depth and complexity. Angel food cake is leavened entirely with beaten egg whites, and that is why the cake is so fluffy. When adding chocolate to the cake, I think that you get the best results by adding cocoa powder into the batter, because it delivers a strong chocolate flavor while keeping the cake as fluffy as possible. I also added a bit of cinnamon and some ground cloves, both of which work nicely with the chocolate and deliver some unexpected flavors when you go to serve the cake! The finished cake is soft and airy, with a light sweetness and a nice cocoa flavor. The cinnamon combined with the cocoa almost reminds me a bit of spiced hot chocolate, too.
The recipe uses cake flour, and it calls for it to be sifted before you measure it. The best way to do this is to place your measuring cup on a large sheet of parchment or wax paper, then sift the flour over the measuring cup. Keep going until the cup is full, the level it off with a knife. Leftover flour can be funneled back into the container of flour with the paper. Measure the cocoa powder out the same way, then sift the two ingredients together with the spices and part of the sugar to combine them before they are added to the cake. It may seem like an extra step (or two), but getting any lumps out of the flour and cocoa is one of the secrets to a perfect chocolate angel food cake.
Pumpkin definitely benefits from the use of a little spice. On its own, pumpkin is slightly sweet with a relatively mild flavor. It is good, but it doesn’t necessarily stand out strongly when used on its own. AS a result, we tend to use spices to keep pumpkin a little more interesting and give it a little more complexity. Now, pumpkin and spice are so intertwined that you rarely see pumpkin without at least a few spices to keep it company, and there is a spice blend dedicated to pumpkin pie and pumpkin desserts in the spice section of the grocery store.
This Pumpkin Spice Bread is intended to highlight the spices, leaving the pumpkin as a nice backdrop to tie them all together, to create a fragrant loaf that is a great choice for cool autumn or winter baking. It’s a bit like gingerbread, but without any molasses so it has a lighter overall feel. It uses cinnamon, ginger and cloves, which are all commonly paired with pumpkin. It also includes cardamom and allspice. Cardamom brings out a bit of brightness from the pumpkin, and the allspice ties in really well with the rest of the spices. The result is a moist, tender and spicy bread that is a little more complex than your average pumpkin loaf.
One other thing to like about this loaf is that it keeps very well for a couple of days when stored in an airtight container (or when well-wrapped with plastic wrap). The pumpkin keeps the bread moist, and the spices blend together as the bread sits, mellowing the individual spices into a nice overall combination. This bread is sweet enough to stand in for dessert if you want something simple, rather than a big cake, but I like it anytime, served with tea or coffee. It also holds up well to toasting and is tasty with butter or cream cheese at breakfast.
Spices all have distinctive flavors and add a lot of character to baked goods (and other recipes). Sometimes we’ll encounter one spice on its own in a recipe, but often spices are paired up with other complementary spices to build a solid flavor base for a dish. A great example of this is pumpkin pie spice, a blend of cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg that really gives pumpkin pie its signature flavor. Pumpkin pie spice is a very common blend sold in most grocery stores and it is convenient because it allows you to add a lot of flavor with just one ingredient, rather than sorting through a bunch of jars of spices to get the ratio down. There are plenty of other spice mixes out there, however, and Penzey’s Spices Cake Spice is one that caught my eye not too long ago.
This Cake Spice is an all purpose spice mix that has cinnamon, star anise, nutmeg, allspice, ginger and cloves in it and promises to be good in just about all kinds baked goods, from cakes to muffins. Penzey’s is known for having high quality spices and this mix is no exception. It has a strong and spicy flavor, with a bright and peppery taste that you might not expect to get from this combination. It isn’t dominated by cinnamon, as many spice mixes that include a lot of cinnamon are. It is a lot more flavorful than the average spice mix you’ll find in the grocery store, and the addition of star anise – which is something that not everyone keeps in their spice collection - really makes it interesting. I particularly like this in coffee cake, in place of regular cinnamon, and it makes a delicious snickerdoodle variation.
Some of my favorite cookbooks are not slick hardbound volumes full of colorful photos. Some of them are old, well-used booklets of simple recipes that were put together decades ago for church and school groups with recipes from neighborhood mothers and wives. The colorful books are still wonderful, of course, but there is nothing like seeing some of the recipes that were popular – for better and for worse – just a half century or so ago. I like the entertainment value in some of the “bad” recipes and the nostalgia of the great ones – and I would put Tomato Soup Cake in the latter category. If you have a cookbook like the one I described, I can almost guarantee that a version of this recipe is in there.
Tomato soup cake was, and is, a secret ingredient cake. This means that while tomato soup is one of the main ingredients in the cake, you can’t really taste it in the finished product. Versions of this recipe appeared, at various times, on the backs of cans of tomato soup. Condensed tomato soup is what most of the older recipes called for. I never have condensed tomato soup in my pantry, so I’ve adapted my own version of the classic tomato soup cake to use tomato juice or V8 juice instead (I usually use V8 juice; both work equally well).
Tomato juice seems like a strange ingredient compared to other cakes, but what you end up with is a sweet and moist spice cake that has a great flavors from all of the cinnamon, allspice and cloves in the recipe. It does not taste like tomato soup or tomato juice at all, although it is reminiscent of a carrot cake or pumpkin bread. You can definitely feel good about getting at least one serving of veggies when you eat a slice! Cream cheese frosting is a good match for spice cakes, and just a little bit makes a very nice topping for the finished cake.