February 2, 2012

Spice Cake and Caramel Frosting for Birthdays

Will's birthday cake

I've been
asked several times for the Spice Cake recipe I use for my favorite cake
- My favorite birthday cake since I was a kid. I've been making it for
years from The Joy of Cooking cookbook. But, as usual, I don't do the exact recipe...

off, I have to say, I am not a cake person. I've never loved cakes for
dessert, preferring pies, cheesecakes, and now Tiramisu. Also, I rarely
eat desserts. I have to choose the types of carbs I consume carefully.
I'm pretty good at avoiding store bought desserts and processed flour
products. Since the only place my body can grow is out, when I take in
foods, they are nutrient rich, phytonutrient rich choices. I even have
to limit my homemade breads.

when it comes to foods with flour, I make everything from home-ground
grains. That way I know they are nutrient rich and at their optimal. So
I've made all my pie crusts, cookies, and cakes from ground whole grains.
For this recipe I use either pastry berries or white wheat, not the red winter wheat

I look at cakes, all cakes made from cake mixes have a plasticky sheen
to them. Maybe my baked
goods aren't as light and fluffy, but that's what's been built into our
likes from the era when processed flour was introduced as a 'rich mans'
food, just like processed white sugar was coveted in the same way.

In the Joy of Cooking, it's the Velvet Spice Cake

but here's my version:

I start by beating

4 lg egg whites 

1/8 tsp cream of tartar, till soft peaks form and gradually add in

1/4 c sugar, till peaks stiffer, but not dry.

I scrape this mixture into another bowl to add in at the end.

Next I beat 

1/2 sticks butter (12 Tb) in my Bosch mixer bowl, with the butter
(usually unsalted if I have it) sliced in pieces so the whips don't get
bent. And add in

1 1/4 c sugar

Beat in 4 lg egg yolks

Adding in the dry ingredients:

2 1/4 c whole grain flour (and I never sift either)

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (I do have a cute nutmeg grinder)

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp grd cloves

1/2 tsp salt

Fold in beaten egg whites.

(The eggs can be done whole, without mixing them separate if you don't mind the cake being denser.)

Pour into greased and floured tube or bundt pan, and it works in a 9x13, or round layered cake pans. Bake
at 350 degrees about 45 minutes (probably less for round cake pans) or until toothpick comes out clean.
Cool about 10 minutes to invert the cake out of the pan (or just leave
it in the 9x13 if you want).

I've loved
the flavor of spiced cake with caramel or maple frosting since I was a
kid. My mom always made it for me for my birthday, but from boxes and cans. I carried on that
tradition, making it for me from scratch for my birthday since I got

It's considered a Boiled or Cooked Frosting, and I've been making it from the Joy of Cooking
cookbook all these years. But when we moved to 8000 feet elevation in Colorado from Tucson, Arizona, the recipe did not work and I
had to do a lot of reading and figuring.

Old-Fashioned Caramel Frosting

In a medium saucepan heat and stir until sugar is dissolved:

2 c packed brown sugar

1 c heavy cream (or 1/2 C butter plus 1/2 C milk)

and cook for 3 minutes. Spoon down any sugar on the sides of the pan
and cook uncovered, hardly stirring, until the syrup reaches 238
degrees. Add:

3 Tb butter

Remove from heat and cool to 110 degrees, then stir in:

1 tsp vanilla.

238 degrees is where I had to change the recipe (and it has an optional
addition of rum flavoring which I don't like). It was in the Joy of Cooking's
"Know Your Ingredients" chapter, and maybe under making candy, and
maybe even canning, that I figured it out. Cooking and canning
temperatures and timings are set for sea level. At 8000 ft I had to
lower the temperature 16 degrees (At my elevation, boiling water temp is at 186, which
means 20 minutes of waterbath canning time stretches out to 46 minutes!) When making candy, that soft-ball stage at 238 has
to lower 1 degree per every 500 feet above sea level.

the frosting is cooled and vanilla added you beat it with a hand mixer
in the pan (or transfer it to a mixing bowl) till it gets
thick and creamy. If too thick you can beat in some cream a tablespoon at a time till spreadable.

recipe actually makes more frosting than the cake needs, but my kids
always wanted the extra to add to their cake slices or spread on ginger
cookies or graham crackers. Yummm ....

Ogema, Wisconsin, Monte's Aunt Ruby makes this cake and frosting. She always brings it to events and I recognize it and we talk about it.
She says it's everybody's favorite. Aunt Ruby is the only other person I
know who makes it. She raised her family on a dairy farm, so you know
her cream had to be the BEST ever! 


Just a side note: The Joy of Cooking
has changed over the years and I don't know what's still in the newer
versions. I heard it talked of on a program - mainly editing out some of
the details and maybe ingredients or recipes that people today don't
stock. Hopefully it's still making everything from scratch.
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