One year it was a firecracker apple spice cake---which turned out to be actually a little spicy-hot which took some getting used to. It was different, but quite amazing once you got over the shock of it. This year--surprise!--I ended up making another spice cake for Mark's birthday. We briefly considered having a maple cake, but you know a birthday wouldn't be a birthday without a little tradition.
In the end we went with a spice cake adapted from Cook's Illustrated. I added a little bit more spice, made it a layer cake, filled with with maple whipped cream and added maple cream cheese frosting. Maybe it's just me, but I'm pretty sure you can never go wrong with maple. Add maple cream cheese frosting to my list of favorites. You know I am a sucker for cream cheese frosting, but this really was fantastic.
Don't just trust me on this one--try it! You might inadvertently create a brand new tradition for yourself.
Spiced Layer Cake with Maple Filling and Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
For the cake: (I used slightly rounded measurements for all the spices and the ginger.)
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for cake pans
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground gloves
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 3 large egg yolks at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely grated
- 1 cup buttermilk at room temperature
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease (I like using the butter wrappers for this) and flour two 9-inch round cake pans. Combine spices in a small bowl and set aside.
- Heat 4 tablespoons butter in a small, light colored skillet or saucepan over medium heat until melted--1 or 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling the pan constantly, until the butter is light brown and has a nutty aroma, another 2 to 4 minutes. Add the spice mixture and cook, stirring constantly for another 15 seconds (this allows the spices to "bloom"). Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
- Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, whisk eggs, egg yolks and vanilla to combine. With a mixer, cream remaining 12 tablespoons of butter with sugar and molasses at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Stop and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl a couple of times during mixing. Reduce to medium speed and add cooled butter and spice mixture, ginger and half of egg mixture. Incorporate and scrape down sides before adding the rest of the egg mixture.
- Reduce to low speed and add one-third of the flour mixture. Add half of the buttermilk and mix until just incorporated. Repeat with half of the remaining flour mixture and the rest of the buttermilk. Scrape down the bowl and add remaining flour mixture. Mix on medium speed until combined, about 15 seconds. Remove bowl from mixer and fold batter a couple of times to incorporate any remaining flour.
- Divide batter evenly between the two prepared pans. To remove air bubbles from thick batter, drag a butter knife through the batter in both pans in a zig-zag motion. Tap both pans on the counter a few times as well.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans on a wire rack.
- Run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen. Put both cakes on a parchment lined pan and freeze for about a half an hour. (The cold cakes are easier to work with.) Using a long serrated knife, cut the top off of one of the cakes, creating a flat surface. Place cut cake on a large plate. This will become your bottom layer.
- 1 cup chilled whipping cream
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- Chill mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer. Pour whipping cream into bowl and beat on high speed until it forms soft peaks.
- Add maple syrup and continue beating until stiff peaks form.
- Spread a thick layer filling on bottom layer of cake. Top with remaining cake.
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
- 8 ounces cream cheese, cut into pieces and softened
- 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon maple extract
- 3/4 cup chopped and toasted pecans
- Beat butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add maple syrup, vanilla, maple extract and powdered sugar. Beat until well combined.
- Scoop out most of the frosting onto the top of the cake. It is easier to spread the frosting without picking up crumbs if you have a lot to work with. With an offset spatula, spread frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Coat sides and sprinkle top of frosted cake with toasted pecans.