Thursday, October 26, 2017

Tessa’s Spice Cake

It’s always exciting to see a new book from the Ottolenghi group, and this latest, devoted to sweet treats, is another winner. I received a review copy of Sweet: Desserts from London's Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh. There are signature flavors you’d expect from an Ottolenghi book like rose water, saffron, and orange blossom water, and there are also classic combinations like rum-raisin, banana-caramel, and chocolate-peanut butter. The recipes span a range from simple to elaborate. There are cookies, cakes, cheesecakes, tarts and pies, desserts, and confectionery. I’m eagerly awaiting an upcoming occasion, or any sooner excuse, to make the Sticky Fig Pudding with Salted Caramel and Coconut Topping which would be perfect for Christmas dinner. The Saffron and Almond Ice Cream Sandwiches look like a lot of fun for a celebration too. There’s really not one thing in this book that I don’t want to try. A couple of recipes are intriguing because I’ve never tried making a rolled pavlova or a wide roulade that you stand on end and cut to see vertical stripes. Those are two adventures I look forward to attempting along with so many others. Custard Yo-Yo’s with Roasted Rhubard Icing, Cranberry Oat and White Chocolate Biscuits, Saffron Orange and Honey Madeleines, Banana Cakes with Rum Caramel, Coffee and Walnut Financiers, and Spiced Praline Meringues are all on my short-list. And, all the recipes come with straightforward information. If a specific pan is required, they let you know, and if there’s another size or shape that will work as a substitute, that info is provided. They also include good guidance on ingredients including the difference in texture between cream cheese sold in the US vs. that sold in the UK. It wasn’t easy to pick a first recipe to try, but it’s fall and spice cake sounded perfect. 

This is described as a simple spice cake, which it is, and as advertised the crumb is tender and lovely. The cake was originally made with Chinese five-spice, but mixed spice, pumpkin pie spice, or quatre epices are all suggested alternatives. It occurred to me that I’d never baked with quatre epices, and I quickly became fixated on it. Sadly, our neighborhood Penzeys is no more, and driving all the way across town to our local Savory Spice Shop seemed like too much. Instead, I gathered the individual spices that make quatre epices and made my own. I ground some whole white peppercorns, grated some nutmeg, and added ground ginger and allspice. I added a pinch of cloves as well. To start the batter, butter was creamed with dark and light brown sugar and orange zest. In a separate bowl, eggs, sour cream, and vanilla extract were whisked. In a third bowl, the spices, flour, and salt were sifted together. The wet and dry ingredients were added to the butter mixture alternately in thirds. Last, baking soda was mixed with apple cider vinegar, and that was added to the batter. The cake was baked in a small loaf pan for about 50 minutes. 

This cake belongs in a category of things you should bake to make your house smell wonderful. As promised in the head note for this recipe, there was enough going on here that no icing was needed. A quick dusting of confectioner’s sugar dressed it up nicely. For a sturdy pound cake, it did have a surprisingly light texture, and the spice mix was just right. Now, I’m faced with the challenge of deciding what to try next. 

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  1. It sounds like a very interesting cookbook. The spice cake looks perfectly dense and delicious. I am looking forward to your fig pudding, Lisa.

  2. Love the book, baked only a couple of things from it, not this spice cake, which is on my list to do very soon.. I cannot pass a spice cake ever!

  3. Oh gosh I didnt know they had issued a recipe book with sweets! I have loved every one of Ottolenghis recipes. This spice cake looks wonderful.

  4. this looks perfect! simple but sophisticated, and i'd love it. i need to get this book!

  5. This sounds like it smells wonderful! I love baking with spices because it really fills the house with a great aroma.

  6. Spice cake can be wonderful! And knowing the source of the recipe, I'll bet this is exceptional. Really nice -- thanks.


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