Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Spice Cake Caper

I'm a regular Nancy Drew. It all started out so innocently, a mother and a daughter baking and bonding. The spice cake itself was very "rustic" due to my increasingly fajangled oven, which burns the edges and doesn't cook the middle. We made a nice argument out of how much of the burnt edges to trim off, and the cake turned out a little lopsided, only accentuated by the drippy frosting which wouldn't stick to the cake. Never fear though, a nice coating of walnuts cleared all that right up. Below I provide a tried and true recipe for cream cheese frosting because I didn't really like the one that I used for this cake. Regardless of its "rustic" appearance, the cake turned out to be delicious...very moist.

Now, to the mystery. I bring in all of my newest delectables for my coworkers to weigh in on. This cake was clearly a success, because by the time I left the office at 7 that night, there was about 1/3 of a cake left. When I arrived the next morning, the cake had been eaten. Glowing with success, I cleaned up the plate and went about my day. During lunch, one of my coworkers, Kathy, walks into our workroom jonesing for another piece of cake. I tell her that it was cleaned off the night before, when she mentions how odd that is. She says that she left around 8:30 and there was still plenty of cake left. Dita also pipes up that there was definitely cake when she left after 9:30. So, where did the cake go? I interviewed a few others that would have been around at that time, and no one fessed up to taking the cake. At this point, I think the cleaning crew is the culprit. I mean, really, who takes the last piece of a cake that isn't yours? If you're going to be sneaky, why don't you take a small slice to enjoy in secret? Apparently, these cake robbers are not bashful. But that's ok; I have a little surprise in store for next time. Stay tuned....

Buttermilk Spice Cake
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

- 2 cups brown sugar
- 1 stick butter, softened
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 5 large eggs, separated
- 2 cups all purpose-flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- Pinch salt
- 1 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Lightly grease 2 (9-inch) cake pans. Cut 2 (9-inch) parchment paper rounds and line the pan bottoms. Grease and flour the parchment rounds.

In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, cream the brown sugar and butter. With the mixer running, add the oil in a steady stream. Add the egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt into a medium-size mixing bowl. Alternately add the flour mixture and the buttermilk to the batter, mixing well. With the electric mixer, in another large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, then fold them into the cake batter. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans.

Bake until the center springs back when touched, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks. After the cakes have cooled, invert them onto sheets of parchment paper. Slice the top off one cake evenly, and set aside.

Cream Cheese Frosting

- 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 pound confectioners' sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup roasted walnuts

In a large bowl, cream the cream cheese and butter. Beat in confectioners' sugar until fluffy. Beat in vanilla. (Optional step - you can stir in the walnuts now, or frost the cake first, then sprinkle walnuts on top and sides of cake).

Spread a layer of the frosting over the bottom layer of the cake (the one that you evened off). Place the other layer of the cake on top. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Slice the cake into individual servings.

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