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….
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!