May 31, 2009

Spice Cake with Peanut Buttercream Frosting - (RECIPE)

I've been longing for a new project ever since I finished the last bread in The Bread Bible. Rose has come to my rescue again, letting me have an advance copy of her new book, which is not a bible (because The Cake Bible was already taken), but is nevertheless heavenly. Heavenly Cakes, to be exact, which is due to be released in September.

I reminded Rose that although I felt like I was getting the bread thing down, I wasn't much of a cake baker. She said the book wasn't designed for professionals, and besides, it was supposed to be fun. So I am out to have a lot of fun. And bake a lot of cakes. I haven't counted, but I think there are about 100. The last recipe in the cookbook is a wedding cake. I don't think I'll be baking a wedding cake for anyone, but who knows?
I'm allowed to take photos of all the cakes I bake, but I can only give recipes for three. I don't know how I'll decide which ones to give recipes for, but if I go to the trouble of typing out a recipe, it's definitely a winner.
I must have gone through this cookbook 10 times, trying to figure out which cake to bake first. I finally decided on the spice cake with peanut butter frosting because peanut butter is one of Jim's desert island foods. (You know the old parlor game: If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have three foods - all miraculously flown in from somewhere - what would they be?) People try to cheat in this game all the time. They try to make some combination of foods count as one thing, but my rules are stricter than that). And, although spice cake is not a desert island food, I like it a lot. Also, to be honest, the recipe looked like one I would probably not mess up too badly.

No weird ingredients in this cake.
Rose has devised a totally new way to mix cakes. Instead of creaming the butter and sugar together and gradually adding the dry ingredients, this method mixes the butter with the dry ingredients first, and then the liquids are added to the flour-butter mixture. Based on my extensive experience of one cake, I'm sold on The Method. It's way easier, and it looks prettier.

And the batter ends up light and airy.

Observe my new cake pans, purchased for this occasion because my other 9-inch pans were battered and mismatched. This is a nice set from Fat Daddio's. Fat Daddio seems to make a pretty good product.
If you read this cookbook, you will be convinced of the value of cake strips, which apparently are effective in keeping cake layers even and preventing drying at the sides. I didn't do a side-by-side testing, but the cake certainly came out looking better than the ones I usually make, sans cake strip.

Frosting is even scarier than cake, although not as scary as pie. Many things can go wrong with frosting, but not with this frosting because all you have to do is put about five things in a food processor and process.

After whirring it around for 30 seconds or so, you get a creamy, professional-looking frosting.

My friend Karen dropped by while I was frosting the cake. She looked longingly at the frosting left in the food processor. I told her to have at it.

I have made some very ugly cakes in my day, so I had some trepidation when I started the frosting process, but the cake is only one layer, and all I had to do was frost the top and sides. Even for a novice, it wasn't difficult.

Karen got the first piece.

She didn't seem to mind that we were both staring at her as she ate it, and she gave it a big thumbs up. So did Jim and I, when we ate it later.
I was a little doubtful about the combination of spice cake and peanut butter frosting, but they worked very well together. The frosting is the show-stopper here; it's rich, creamy, delicious, and did I mention that it's absurdly easy? But Jim and I both agreed that if we had to choose either cake or frosting, we'd both choose the cake. It was tender and moist, with a lovely delicate crumb. The spice taste (cinnamon and cloves) was pronounced, but not so assertive that it battled with the peanut butter. I suspect that it's very versatile, and would go well with, say, coffee, maple, caramel, or citrus flavors. I am allowing myself one and only one piece of each cake I make, for obvious reasons. But cake #1 was so delicious that I'm eager to go on to cake #2.

I have assembled an intrepid band of tasters, all of whom have promised to be forthright in their assessments. This week's group:
Bridget: "I really liked the frosting. Both the peanut butter and the cream cheese were easy to detect and it had a nice texture. I think it would be better on a rich chocolate cake, but I suppose that would be too predictable. I think the spice cake was just ok. It was light and not dry, but it seemed to be a placeholder for the frosting. I think it was a bit short on spice flavor."
Karen: "A wonderful combination of spicy and creamy."
Rachel: "Yum. I tried one bite before my sandwich and then decided it was so good I'd just finish the whole thing."



2 large eggs (100 grams) (3.5 oz.) at room temerature
2/3 cup (160 grams) (5.6 oz.) low-fat buttermilk, divided
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups (200 grams) (7 oz.) cake flour (or 1 3/4 cups bleached all-purpose flour)
1 cup (200 grams) (7 oz.) superfine sugar
1 1/2 tsp. alkalized coca powder
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cloves
8 Tablespoons (113 grams) (4 oz.) unsalted butter (at 65-75 degrees F)

Equipment: One 9 by 2-inch round cake pan, encircled with a cake strip, bottom coated with shortening, topped with a parchment round, then coated with baking spray with flour.

Preheat the oven: 20 minutes or more before baking, set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 F/175 C.
Mix the liquid ingredients: In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, 3 Tbsps. of buttermilk, and vanilla until lightly combined.

Make the batter: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater, mix the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cloves on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and the remaining buttermilk. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Raise the speed to medium and beat for 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Starting on medium-low speed, gradually add the egg mixture in two parts, beating on medium speed for 30 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Using a silicone spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface evenly with a small offset spatula.

Bake the cake: Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a wire cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center. The cake should start to shrink from the sides of the pan only after removal from the oven.

Cool and unmold the cake: Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a small metal spatula between the sides of the pan and the cake, pressing firmly against the pan, and invert the cake onto a wire rack that has been coated lightly with nonstick cooking spray. To prevent splitting, reinvert the cake so that the top side is up. Cool completely.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1/2 cup (133 grams) (4.7 oz) peanut butter, preferably Jif, at room temperature
1/2 cup minus 1 Tbsp. (113 grams) (4 oz.) cream cheese (65 to 70 degrees F)
4 Tbsp. (56 grams) (2 oz.) unsalted butter
2 teaspoons sour cream
1/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp. (50 grams) (1.7 oz.) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Make the peanut buttercream: In a food processor, combine the peanut butter, cream cheese, butter, sour cream, powdered sugar, and vaniilla and process, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, until the buttercream is smooth and uniform in color.

Compose the cake: When the cake is completely cool, spread a little buttercream on a 9-inch cardboard round or serving plate and set the cake on top. If using the plate, slide a few wide strips of wax paper or parchment under the cake to keep the rim of the plate clean. Frost the top and sides with swirls of silky buttercream. If using the paper strips, slowly slide them out from under the cake.


Unknown said...
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Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

I just wanted to be the first to say, "WHAT.... AN ADVANCED COPY OF THE BOOK?"... you lucky duck! Okay... you get to pick 3 cake recipes to share with the world? How fun. I'm not a peanut butter fan, but hubby loves it so I'm glad to know Rose has a great peanut butter buttercream.

Rose Levy Beranbaum said...

congratulations marie--great first choice! the texture looks perfect.

funny coincidence: bridget commented that the frosting would be suitable for a rich chocolate cake and that's exactly what i'm doing this coming weekend for marie menegus's birthday party! she said she loves peanut butter and chocolate thus the inspiration.

let me know before-hand which recipes you decide to post and i'll send them to you as a word doc so you don't have to retype!

thanks for the wonderful as usual photos jim!

Anonymous said...

Cake looks great. I can't wait for the book to be released. I'm hoping you decide to make the Coconut Seduction Cake!

Anonymous said...

Hint Hint lol.

Marie said...

Butter Yum,
I am such a lucky duck! I've spent so much time looking at this cakebook that it already looks well-used. Sorry you don't like peanut butter. Tell me what you like and I'll try to bake something that will make your mouth water.

Hard to go wrong with a peanut butter - chocolate combination. Thanks for the offer of a word doc for the recipes. I hate to type them out, and I also worry about making a crucial mistake.

The coconut seduction cake is definitely on my list, although Jim doesn't much like coconut, so it will be useless for me in the seduction department.

Brenda from Flatbush said...

I am fainting with bliss at the thought of making the PB icing and putting it on the basic chocolate buttercake layer from Cake Bible. Thanks Rose, thanks Marie.
OBSESSED with PB (and RLB)in Brooklyn,

Anonymous said...

This is not a totally new way to mix cakes. I have a cookbook from 1948 that has recipes for cakes using this method.

Melinda said...

Marie, your cake looks just lovely and a great debut from the new book from your own fair hand. I love the peanut butter frosting. Sounds good to me.
Wish I could be on your panel of cake testers or spoon lickers! Someday, I hope soon.

I am sure Jim will be seduced by you no matter what. To be sure, tie a bottle of wine around your neck while making the coconut cake.
And while I am here...a small comment for anonymous. I don't have many cookbooks dating back to 1948. I don't think Rose has ever said she invented this method, but she has tested it thoroughly to prove it is a better method for cake results. And I like that.

Marie, I am looking forward to all the wonderful cakes you are going to make. I love this project and adore your unique and delightful write ups. Cheers and love to you. x

evil cake lady said...

It is going to be a hard summer reading about all of Rose's new cakes but not being able to bake them myself! Thank goodness you are a great writer and Jim a fantastic photographer; it is almost like I am there in your kitchen. If Jim doesn't want his slice of the coconut cake, I'll take it!

Anonymous said...

I agree that Rose has never said she invented this method but Marie did and I quote "Rose has devised a totally new way to mix cakes". I am an ardent fan of Rose and I greatly appreciate
all her hard work and I really love the way she lays out her recipes. I just wanted to correct the misconception that this is a "new" way to make cakes.

Anonymous said...

BTW the Cookbook is the 1948 version of " How to get the most out of your Sunbeam Mixmaster"
They call the method the "new short cut method of mixing cakes" and diagram the method on page 6.
Sorry to post annonymously but I can't figure out how else to post with the options given.

Roxanne said...

It would be nice if you could post the weights for the ingredients in oz (I KNOW Rose has them in her book, as she does this in every book). Not too many people outside of Europe weigh in grams.

That being said, I am definitely making this cake this weekend. Party time!

Marie said...

Sounds like a great combination--let us know how you like the frosting.

You are right. My mistake. Rose actually says that she adapted this method for The Cake Bible, and never claims to have invented it. The method was new to me.

Oh, I love the dangling wine bottle/seduction scenario. If it works out well, I'll share credit with you.

Thank you! Why don't you fly out to Minneapolis and be a guest cake baker?

You're right--Rose has the weight in ounces too. It was just my laziness that made me skip the ounces, but I'll try to add them.

Anonymous said...

Loving this new blog! I tried commenting earlier but couldn't work out how to send it, hope this gets through. good luck with the new recipes! Jeannette.

evil cake lady said...

That would be so fun! Earlier I forgot to mention that I just started using the magi-cake strips a few months ago and they definitely do improve the texture of the cake as well as keep the tops level. I haven't tried the silicone cake strips yet.

Unknown said...

Wow, an offer I can't refuse! I prefer almond, chocolate flavors. :)

Eventhough I'm not a peanut butter fan, I decided to make this spice cake with peanut butter BC for Father's Day... hubby LOVES peanut butter. We're doing a Father's Day Bake-Off on Rose's discussion forum.

Unknown said...

I lived in the Twin Cities area for 7 years. Sorry I'm not there anymore... would have been fun to meet you.

Kate said...

You've sold the book to me already, Marie ;-) I'm really looking forward to following your progress. I love your idea to collect comments from a panel of testers for each cake - I wonder which cake will be the overall 'winner' by the time you've all munched your way through the book!

Anonymous said...

Hi Marie,
Glad to know you are back baking Rose's recipes. I pre-ordered Heavenly Cake's as soon as it was available to do so. Is there a way we can print out the recipes easily, without all the comments?

Marie said...

I'm glad you were able to comment--I'm not at home with this new format yet, but if I bake enough cakes, it should feel like home to me.

There are some lovely-sounding chocolate and almond cakes (I can't remember if there's one that's both chocolate and almond, but I'll look.
Yes, too bad you're no longer a Minnesotan--hope you moved someplace with better winter weather!

After I baked the breads in The Bread Bible, I couldn't for the life of me name a favorite bread. I don't think I'll be able to choose a favorite cake either.

Sure, you can just copy and paste it into a new page on Word or whatever program you have, and then print it out. I'd love to hear from you again if you bake the cake!

Bunny said...

I was wondering where you went! LOL!! I can't wait to see all the cakes you're going to make, this is right up my alley!! The first one looks and sounds like a winner!! My hubby also loves pb so I need to try this frosting!

Marie said...

It's so easy your husband could do it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Marie,

I have been hoping you'd do another book of Rose's. Yay! I am so looking forward to following along as you review them. By the looks of this first recipe, I'm going to gain weight just READING about these lucious desserts.

Laura, NYC

Anonymous said...

Hi Marie,
How wonderful that you have taken on this project. It will be especially wonderful for me reading your great stories of your experience baking Rose's cakes and seeing Jim's mouthwatering photos.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to put my name on the last comment.

pinknest said...

Fun!! Is it very peanutbuttery? For some reason, I'm not that into peantbutter desserts, except for cookies. It seems like such an overwhelming and strong flavor to me! But this looks very lovely.

Goody said...

Your old cake pans were battered? I do hope you greased them first ;)

I really missed you, so glad you're working on a new project.


Anonymous said...


Imagine my delight and surprise when I checked into Breadbasketcase today and found this new adventure! I loved reading along as you did the Bread Bible and I am still working my way through it...sometimes when I try a new recipe I search for it on your site to see if you have any hints...and to see if there is a picture!

I normally try to stay away from baking cakes for fear of eating the entire thing but...I am pregnant this summer.

Plus I live in Minneapolis so I will bring my fork along on my walks in case I happen through your neighborhood and smell a cake baking! :)

All kidding aside, I can't wait to read more!!


Anonymous said...

I was starting to get worried when breadbasketcase was quiet for so long! Glad you have a new project. I look forward to reading all about it.


Marie said...

It makes me so happy to see that my wonderful BBC readers are making the transition to cake!

Peanut butter isn't my favorite either, not even in cookies, but I really liked the frosting a lot--more creamy than peanut buttery.

Me too--I love projects. As you might have guessed.

Well, if you're pregnant, you must eat cake! And it's so cold today, it feels like cake-eating kind of weather. Also, peanut butter has protein, so this frosting is very good for you, I'm sure. Congratulations! When are you due?

Thanks. I just posted cake #2, and now it feels like a real project.

Jim said...

Test post using IE.

Jim said...

Test post 4 using Firefox.

jini said...

i am a firefox girl and available for taste testing. :)

Unknown said...

Thanks for the recipe Marie. I made this cake for Father's Day. I wrote about it on my blog... would love it if you stopped by.

Unknown said...

Thanks for visiting my blog. Oh yes Marie - get yourself a heavy duty turntable. One with a cast iron base, and a smooth turning top. You will notice a dramatic difference in your cake decorating skills right away.

Marie said...

Since my cake decorating skills are nil, it wouldn't take much to improve them, but any little bit would help.

Anonymous said...

I just made this for a birthday last night and the spice cake was fantastic but the icing flopped. Too bad it sounded soooo good.