Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Multilayered spice cake

I got the book Warm Bread and Honey Cake out of the library a month or so ago and immediately bookmarked a dozen recipes. I had to return it before I even got the chance to make anything, but I immediately ordered it from the bookstore and made this cake today. Today was actually a really busy day for me, as I supply taught, volunteered, did laundry and went to a book club meeting. That's more than I usually do in a whole week! Of course, I hadn't finished the book, so I spent the afternoon frantically reading, but a book is always better with a cup of tea and a piece of cake, isn't it?

I'm not sure why I chose this cake, because in the notes that accompany the recipe, the author, Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra, says that the layering can take up to 45 minutes. I made a half recipe in a 6" pan, and it was very rich, but delicious. The recipe calls for cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and nutmeg, but I replaced these with mace, tonka beans and sapote. These are the spices, along with vanilla, that make up the extrait antillais I wrote about earlier. Antilles extract just doesn't sound as good, does it? Here's a photo of the spices in the extract, which I used, along with freshly grated/ground spice:
Here's the recipe, but you really should get your hands on this book. It's got recipes for breads, cakes, cookies, pastry and savoury items from a variety of places such as Guyana, The Netherlands, Chile, Turkey and China.

9 oz/2¼ sticks butter, softened
7 oz/1 cup sugar (in 2 equal portions)
5 eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla extract
4½ oz/scant 1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon 
½ tsp ground cardamom 
⅛ tsp ground cloves
⅛ tsp freshly grated nutmeg 
1¾ oz/scant ½ stick melted butter, for brushing

Grease an 8" pan and preheat the broiler. Move the oven rack to the top beforehand. It's much easier when it's not hot!
Sift the flour with the salt and set aside.
Beat the butter until smooth. Add half the sugar and cream until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and beat well to incorporate. 
In a clean bowl with clean beaters, whisk the egg whites till foamy, then add the other half of the sugar gradually, beating until stiff peaks form. Add a spoonful to the butter mixture and mix well to lighten. Gently fold in the rest of the egg whites in 3 additions, alternating with the flour. Do not overmix.
Transfer half the batter to another bowl (the egg white one is already dirty...just saying) and fold in the spices. Spread a quarter of the contents of one bowl over the bottom of the greased pan and level it with a spoon or an offset spatula. It doesn't matter which batter you start with.
Place the pan under the hot broiler and broil until the top is puffy and the batter cooked through. The first layer always seems to take a little longer, about 5 minutes, depending how close it is to the heat source. Remove the pan from the broiler, brush with the melted butter and then add a layer consisting of ¼ of the other batter. Repeat the layering, broiling and buttering until all the batter is used up. Each subsequent layer will take about 3 minutes. FYI: you do not have time to check your email while broiling this cake. Just a bit of kitchen wisdom from me to you, learned the hard way.  You will end up with 8 layers. Eagle-eyed readers will notice that I only have 6.* Be careful about spreading the layers evenly and wiping any spills from the edges.
When you are finished broiling all the layers, gently loosen the edges with a knife and turn it out onto a cooling rack. Serve in small slices.

*Make sure your layers are fully cooked, as my second layer wasn't, and so the first and second layers separated from the rest of the cake when I removed it from the pan. Sad, but a nice snack! Next time I make this I am going to try it without the butter brushed between layers, as it's already very rich, and some layers had oozing butter. I'm also going to try this again with different spices, as I think the cardamom's in a snit now--I haven't used it in a week.
Oh, and what was the book club book? It was Speak Ill of the Dead by Mary Jane Maffini. It's a mystery set in my hometown, and I loved reading about many familiar places in Ottawa. Mary Jane was there and told some great stories about her inspiration for the book. As an added bonus, I won the door prize, which was a copy of next month's book: Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel.  


laurie said...

Wow!! Another great post! This cake looks really good!! Where did you find the spices you use for it?

Natalie... said...

Oooh wow this looks really delicious!

Mary said...

I got the spices at a great spice shop in Montreal called Epices de Cru. It's got every spice you ever dreamed of! Note that tonka beans are not allowed for sale in the USA. Tonka beans taste a bit like vanilla, and sapote is a bit almond-like, but they're hard to describe. Here's the link for the spice store:

laurie said...

Thanks Mary! I'll check it out!

twitcher said...

Yikes! Yet another cake I really want to try!! Thanks for all the helpful hints.


Valérie said...

This looks wonderful! And that book does sound like a good one, from what I googled up. Thanks for sharing!

msmeanie said...

Yum, I love spicy desserts. This cake sounds delicious.

Baking Addict said...

This looks delicious. Your spice substitution intrigues me. I'm not much of a spice person myself so I had to look up your spices! I checked out the book on Amazon and it looks quite interesting. So many cakes, so little time....

marla {family fresh cooking} said...

Your multi layered spice cake looks great! I love all those spices...especailly in cake form :)

Cakelaw said...

This looks and sounds delicious! I oewn this book but haven't had a chance to make anything out of it yet - must get cracking.

Anonymous said...

This sounds really interesting, but I can't imagine what it tastes like! I'll have to get a hold of those spices and try this myself.

Valerie said...

Multi-layered cakes are scrumptious! I love their texture. This one looks so soft and moist...much tastier than the Dobos torte.

Lori said...

Looks very yummy. I have never seen this kind of cake before.

I must ask you, where did you find the cookie letter stamp that you have in your blog header?

Mimi said...

Looks yummy. It's interesting that it's baked in layers. Much easier and neater than making individual layers.

tasteofbeirut said...

That cake is quite the showstopper! Very original! As is your choice of spices! I am glad I finally see tonka beans! I see a zillion recipes with these in French blogs so I have been rather curious about it!

Muneeba said...

Such an interesting cake! A lot of work BUT looks completely worth it!

misterrios said...

Amazing concept for the cake. And it looks beautifully mysterious! It reminds me of German Baumkuchen which is made the same way, but on a rotating spit.

All Our Fingers in the Pie said...

This looks great. And it does look rich.

Chanel11 said...

I have never seen anything like this - and the original spices are right up my alley, I shall have to give it a whirl