Spice Cake with Walnut Cream Cheese Frosting

by Food Hound on January 5, 2011

in Desserts

The New Year! A fresh slate! A clean plate! And most of all… New Year’s resolutions!!

The gyms will be crowded for a month. The Lean Cuisine selection will be bare for a few weeks. Cigarette sales will go down for a few days. Which begs the question: have you ever met someone who successfully stuck to their New Year’s resolution?

Therefore, I am pioneering a new fad: pick something you love to do, and do more of it. It will make the world a happier place. Obviously, if what you love to do is make meth in your basement or steal little kids’ candy, this fad is not for you. But the majority of us have something we love to do and just don’t permit enough time to do it. I have loads of things in this category… reading, doing yoga, looking for my apartment on the Seine, etc. But what kind of Food Hound would I be if my #1 resolution didn’t revolve around food?
While many are trading in their wine for bottled water and their ice cream for carrot sticks, I am going boldly where no Hound has gone before. My New Year’s resolution for 2011 is to….
bake more.

Since the Booze Hound and I are science nerds, and success must be measurable, I will further refine my resolution to say…
bake something twice a month.

This stems from two things. First of all, I love baking. I love to look at the ingredients in front of me and see all my old friends: butter, sugar, eggs, maybe some molasses, maybe some melted chocolate. Like the Mama Hound, I am a baker first, cook second. True, Hounds cannot live on cake alone, so I’ll still be churning out savory nibbles, but I am going to make a conscious effort to indulge in my love of baking.
How will I do this without ballooning to an elephant-like weight? I have 2 strategies. First, I will be sprinkling my baked goods around my neighborhood, office, Junior League meetings, etc. So even if I wanted to, the stuff won’t be sitting on the counter, waiting for me to throw in the towel and eat out of the pan with a fork. Not that I’ve ever done that…

The second strategy is beyond brilliant, if I do say so myself. I have made two more resolutions, both related to fitness. The first one is that I will do all push ups for 2011 on my toes– no knees, no mercy. The second is that I will be able to do an unassisted handstand by Dec 31st, 2011. Therefore, if I indulge excessively in my baked goods, what my fellow CrossFitters will see is a lovely gut protruding as I effortlessly fling my legs into my handstand. And we can’t have that.
So there you have it, my three resolutions. For the record, the Booze Hound’s CrossFit resolution is to do 100% unassisted pull-ups all the time– it will be a lot harder with a spare tire made out of pound cake and chocolate chip cookies, non?
To start 2011 out with a bang, I present my first installment of my new baking resolution: Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.

What’s fabulous about spice cake? Nothing in particular except that… it’s fabulous. Mostly, the word “spice” accompanies cakes made with pumpkin, carrot, or applesauce. But this one can stand on its own two feet, without a supporting ingredient. If you’re like me, you’ve only ever had spice cake out of a box– and what kind of Food Hound would I be if I couldn’t make something better than its boxed version?? This cake is deeply spiced and rich, with a spiced cream cheese frosting to top it all off. It’s worth every step and every calorie 🙂 A perfect start to a resolution I will love keeping 🙂
Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
Serves 12 to 14
2 1/4 c unbleached AP flour
1 T ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp table salt
2 large eggs plus 3 large yolks, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 c granulated sugar
2 T molasses
1 T grated fresh ginger
1 c buttermilk, at room temperature
5 T unsalted butter, cut into 5 pieces, softened
1 1/4 c powdered sugar
8 ounces cream cheese, cut into 4 pieces, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 c coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted (optional)
Make the cake:
1. Adjust the oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 13×9″ pan. Combine spices in small bowl; reserve 1/2 tsp for frosting.
2. Heat 4 T butter in an 8″ skillet over medium heat until melted, 1-2 minutes. Continue to cook, swirling pan constantly, until butter is light brown and has a faint nutty aroma, 2-4 minutes. Add spices and continue to cook, stirring constantly, 15 seconds. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
3. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, whisk eggs, yolks, and vanilla to combine. In a standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream remaining 12 T butter with sugar and molasses at medium high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down sides and bottom of bowl twice with a rubber spatula. Reduce to medium speed and add cooled butter and spice mixture, ginger, and half of egg mixture; mix until incorporated, about 15 seconds. Repeat with remaining egg mixture; scrape down bowl again. Reduce to low speed; add about 1/3 flour mixture, followed by half of buttermilk, mixing until just incorporated after each addition, about 5 seconds. Repeat until all flour mixture and buttermilk are incorporated. Remove bowl from mixer and fold batter once or twice with rubber spatula to incorporate any remaining flour..
4. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 32-37 minutes. Cool cake to room temperature in pan on wire rack, about 2 hours.
Make the frosting:
1. Cream butter, sugar, and reserved 1/2 tsp spice mixture at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes. Add cream cheese one piece at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Add vanilla and beat until no lumps remain, about 30 seconds.
2. Using spatula, spread frosting evenly over surface of cake. Sprinkle cake with walnuts, if using. Cut into squares and serve. Enjoy!

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Rita January 5, 2011 at 11:31 pm

What a fantastic recipe; when I saw molasses I was hooked and with a cream cheese frosting. Keepiing this for my kid’s next visit.


Sara January 5, 2011 at 11:51 pm

This comment has been removed by the author.


Sara January 5, 2011 at 11:58 pm

I am drooling and wondering at the same time whether or not I could still do a handstand….Great post Food Hound! Doing more of something you love, rather than giving something up is a great, positive approach.

I’m following a blog series you might enjoy over at http://www.MealsMatter.org called New Year, New Approach (follow #NYNA on Twitter). It’s all about letting go of negative feelings about food and trying a different, more positive approach to eating and activity.

That sounds a whole lot more fun than resolving never to eat spice cake again. Thanks for the great blog!


Joanne January 6, 2011 at 1:17 am

LOVE THIS! My resolution last year was to give up buying bread and to bake all my own bread from scratch. And kept it, I did. It was awesome. And now I will never ever buy a loaf of bread. Ever. SO help me god.

Man this cake looks delicious. You are tempting me. Severely.


sweetpeaskitchen.com January 6, 2011 at 4:17 am

Ohhh..I am in love. You had me at cream cheese frosting. I have been eyeing this recipe my cooks illustrated for a couple months now. You just reminded me that I NEED to make it! It looks delicious! Good luck with your resolutions! 🙂


leaf (the indolent cook) January 6, 2011 at 10:23 am

I’ve actually been thinking about spice cake recently. This one looks like a tasty version!


Reeni January 6, 2011 at 3:21 pm

I love spice cake – I usually request it for my birthday. It never fails to please especially with cream cheese frosting!


Design Wine and Dine January 6, 2011 at 4:55 pm

And a good start that spice cake is! Looks great! I love your idea of picking something you love and doing more of it! That sounds like one I can stick to! 🙂


blackbookkitchendiaries January 6, 2011 at 6:51 pm

oh yum! spice cake is something that is so hard to resist.. love the sound of it..it’s just amazing. thanks for sharing this and have a great day.


katerina January 6, 2011 at 9:38 pm

I never, ever make resolutions for New Year because I fall into the category you mention. I never succeed in keeping them. So I take every year as it comes. This cake is a very strong temptation. It looks very moist and fluffy. That’s a good start.


Janice January 6, 2011 at 10:07 pm

That sounds sooo good. I only have one resolution a year. One year I resolved to floss every day and I am still doing it after years of starting and then forgetting. This year I have resolved to keep my email inbox cleared every day, now it’s early days but I am determined to keep doing it. Love how you have a SMART target resolution! I’m going to do more experimenting in my cooking rather than following recipes.


Chow and Chatter January 7, 2011 at 2:56 am

looks great what a fun way to start the new year yum


<br><br><br><br><br>Dr.Sameena Prathap January 7, 2011 at 1:32 pm


Amazing rice cake…:)




Erin January 7, 2011 at 6:45 pm

This comment has been removed by the author.


Erin January 7, 2011 at 6:45 pm

A. Food Hound, I’m thrilled to hear all three of your New Years resolutions since:
1. I’m a neighbor [resolution #1]
2. I’m a hungry, pregnant lady [resolution #1]
3. I’m one of your Crossfit coaches [resolutions #2 & #3]

B. Joanne, home-baked bread for an entire year?! Dang, girl. Impressive.


My Carolina Kitchen January 7, 2011 at 9:47 pm

What a great idea. I love it.

I’m also impressed with your baking resolution.


Mary January 8, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Your new year commitments sound doable and we will certainly cheer you on. I love your spice cake. The necessary balance of spice type and quantity seems in order and I’ll wager this cake is delicious. Have a wonderful day. Blessings…Mary


Jana May 8, 2014 at 6:30 pm

I’m making this right now! Yummy. I did notice that you put baking powder in Step 3 of “Make the cake”. But it’s not listed under the “Cake” ingredients at the top. I checked another similar recipe (David Loomis), and it said 1/4 tsp. baking soda with 1 tsp. baking powder. I was wondering how much baking powder to put in with your 1/2 tsp. baking soda. (I went to Cooks Illustrated website but the recipe is blocked, of course)!
Thank you so much for all of your wonderful recipes. I especially can’t wait to make the brown butter pumpkin layer cake with brown butter frosting! Sounds amazing!
Thanks again…….Jana


Jana May 8, 2014 at 6:33 pm

I’m making this right now, yum. You listed baking powder in Step 3 of Make the cake, but it’s not listed under the Cake ingredients at the top. Should I add an equal amount of powder as the baking soda? Thank you so much!!! Jana


Sonya November 18, 2014 at 12:04 am

I love your idea for resolutions and am officially adopting it! And I don’t have to wait until January, right?

Just made this cake today, and for fun I made it side-by-side to the Cook’s Country Spice Cake and an old recipe from Better Homes and Gardens that I made probably 15 years ago. I loved the BHG recipe then, but boy were these new recipes better! The CI version was the spiciest of the bunch, with a medium crumb, and I loved the frosting. The CC version had that perfect cake crumb that I’ve tasted before from this company, with a more mild spice flavor, but still a buttery delicious cake. I will definitely be making BOTH of them again! I just love Cook’s Country – Cook’s Ilustrated – America’s Test Kitchen!


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