Birthday Spice Cake

Spice CakeCookies and cupcakes. I’ve got those down. I can scoop cookie dough and frost cupcakes in my sleep. But cake? I definitely need some practice. I’m okay with the making and baking part. It’s the frosting … well, let’s be honest here. I suck at frosting cakes. They’re always uneven, have crumbs stuck in it (even though I try that whole crumb coat thing), and most of the time I end up practically scalping the sides, pulling the majority of the frosting back off in an attempt to make it perfect. Those pictures you see of beautiful, towering, perfectly frosted cakes? Those certainly aren’t mine. Maybe that’s why I don’t usually make cakes. But when someone asks me to bake a cake for their birthday, I can’t just say no. What kind of monster would I be denying someone a birthday cake??

Spice Cake I was supposed to make the cake on Monday to bring in to work so a coworker could have it for her birthday on Tuesday. So I got up early Monday morning and got to work on it, baking it up in no time. And oh man, does this cake smell good! The smell of warm spices lingers for a long time after baking. Mmm… Then, it was time to frost it. I followed the recipe, thinking I would end up with the kind of beautiful thick, spreadable cream cheese frosting the picture showed. Wrong. I ended up with a drippy mess. Almost a cream cheese sauce. I knew it wasn’t going to work. I knew I should just throw it away. I knew I didn’t have time to go get more cream cheese, so I should just nix the cream cheese frosting idea altogether and go with a buttercream instead. I knew all this. But did I listen? No. I slathered it on anyway. And ended up with a disgusting sloppy mess. And to top it all off, I’d sliced my cake layers in half to make 4 layers instead of 2, and as I was topping the hideous monstrosity, I broke the very top layer into 3 pieces. This is why I don’t make cake.

Needless to say, the cake didn’t make it to work with me. I hit the internet to figure out where I had gone wrong, realizing too late that everyone agreed that full fat cream cheese is ideal, while I had used fat free. Spice CakeSo I stopped at the grocery store after work and made a whole new cake the next day (her actual birthday), with perfect full fat Maple Cream Cheese frosting. I left it at 2 thick layers instead slicing the layers and running the risk of another cracked layer. Since the cake wasn’t for me, I didn’t get to slice into it and eat a full piece, but from the scraps I cut off the top when I was leveling, and the amount of frosting I licked out of the bowl when I was done, I’m 95% sure that it came out really tasty! I wanted to use chopped pecans to decorate the sides of the cake, but I wasn’t sure if she even liked pecans, so I opted for crushed up gingersnaps instead. It wasn’t as beautiful as I would have liked it to be, but maybe with some practice, I can work up to becoming a star cake decorator too!

Spice CakeSpice Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Epicurious
Makes one 2-layer 9-inch round cake

2 ¾ cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 ¼ teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 ½ sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus additional for pans
1 ½ cups packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cups sour cream

2 (8-ounce) packages full fat cream cheese, softened
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon maple extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup gingersnap crumbs (from about 5 to 6 cookies)

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and cloves; set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, until combined. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low and add flour and sour cream alternately, beginning and ending with flour, mixing until smooth.
4. Divide batter between cake pans, smoothing tops and bake until pale golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 28 to 30 minutes. Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Turn cake out onto wire rack and cool completely.
5. Once cakes are cool, make frosting: In the clean bowl of an electric mixer, beat together cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add maple syrup, maple extract, and vanilla extract and beat until combined. Add sugar and beat until smooth. Reserve about a ½ cup of frosting for piping decorations.
6. Assemble the cake: With a serrated knife using a sawing motion, trim off the tops of each cake layer to make it level. Place the bottom layer, cut side up, on a serving plate or cake stand and spread with about ¾ cup of frosting across the top. Stack the top layer, cut side down, on top of frosting. Spread the top and sides of the cake with remaining frosting. Using a large star tip and the reserved frosting, pipe stars around the top of the cake. Sprinkle gingersnap crumbs over the top.

*Note: Instead of topping with gingersnap crumbs, you could use 5 ounces (1 1/3 cups) of chopped pecans, pressing them into the sides of the cake. Really like pecans? Add some to the cake itself, stirring in ¾ cup (3 ounces) at the end of step 3. You could also throw in some raisins at this point too, if you like that sort of thing.
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sarahe said...

i still think it looks lovely! and i am with you on hating the cake decorating thing. why can't people just be happy with one that tastes delicious!?!?

oneordinaryday said...

I think it looks great! I'm no pro at the frosting part either. I think because I'm never patient enough to do the whole crumb layer, refrigerate, frost thing. I kind of like the more "homemade" look anyway.

Anonymous said...

I agree w/ oneordinaryday, it has that homemade charm to it, and a lot of people really appreciate that quality. A big part of time when i was in school we had to flat ice cakes, scrap it off and do it again and again. I've gotten a lot better, but still have my bad days where I just want to toss the whole cake out and start fresh. You'll get get there!

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