I'm slowly making my way through all the recipes in my Mom's old recipe box as part of my Family Food History and Recipe project. Last week I came across this one.
You can see the title 'Spice Cake' on the left hand side, and the word 'Aunties' on the right. 'Auntie' was a pet name used for a lady named Margaret Piott Jones by her nieces. Although she married, she never had children of her own, but she had two nieces and five great nieces (and that was just on her side of the family). Actually, she has six great nieces, but I was not born until after she died. I’ve known a lot of folks who knew her, and I have never heard anyone speak of her with anything but the greatest of affection. Her desk, which she left to my Mom, sits in my library upstairs. I use it nearly every day. The vase she gave to my Mom for her twenty-first birthday is on a window ledge in our entry hallway. What I didn't realise is that my Mom's old recipe box also contains some of her recipes.
I never remember my Mom actually making this recipe, but then she rarely made cakes as she was always watching her weight. Having never tasted it before I was a bit concerned as it seemed like there was a lot of spices in it, but actually, it tasted beautiful - kind of like gingerbread, but with a much deeper yet somehow milder flavour. It fits perfectly in a nine inch square tin, and I iced it with buttercream. In fact it was so nice I took it to my in-law’s as a birthday cake for my husband.
The only thing I changed was to replace the sour milk called for with buttermilk because I like how it tastes in cakes and muffins, and I was never really that into the idea of adding a teaspoon of white vinegar to milk thing to make sour milk. However, if you don’t have any buttermilk you can always do that. The method of making this cake is different to the one used most commonly today but I highly recommend it. It gave a beautiful light texture to the cake.
Auntie Margaret’s Spice Cake
½ cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar (I packed it lightly)
1 cup buttermilk or sour milk
2½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon nutmeg (I used freshly ground, but the ground variety is fine)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat the butter, sugar and egg yolks together. Mix the milk and soda together and add to the mixture along with the vanilla.
Sift the flour and spices together and add to the mixture.
Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. (I used a whisk for this and it didn’t take all that long but you could use a mixer or food processor.) Fold into the cake mixture.
Pour into a greased and floured (or lined) 9 inch square baking pan. Bake at 350℉ (170℃ but my fan oven runs hot so I put it at 160℃) for about 25 to 30 minutes until a piece of dry spaghetti inserted in the cake comes out with no batter clinging to it. I watched the cake after 20 minutes so it didn’t over cook.
You could definitely serve this without icing, or even just sprinkled with icing sugar, but it was delicious with the buttercream icing. Just mix ¼ softened butter with 2 cups icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar) and add enough milk or cream to make a spreadable icing (usually about 1 to 2 tablespoons). Here’s how it looks ‘naked’ :)
And here's how it looked dressed up with a bit of frosting and some sprinkles.
If you want to frost the cake, cream ¼ cup softened butter with 2 cups of icing sugar (confectioner's sugar). Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and enough cream (usually about 2 to 3 tablespoons) to make a soft, spreadable icing.