Friday, April 13, 2012

Marble Spice Cake

It may be a bit surprising to learn that marble cakes have been around since the Victorian era when embellishment was the order of the day. Along with checkerboard cakes, they have great visual appeal and present a contrast of flavors all in one cake. There's nothing terribly complex about making them. It’s easy to achieve the marble effect by mixing a neutral cake batter, adding another contrasting ingredient like chocolate to a portion of it and then layering and streaking the batter before baking.

This Marble Spice Cake harkens back to the late 1800s in America when the marbling was usually accomplished by flavoring some of the cake batter with molasses and spice. Since I love to work with spice, I always welcome the chance to include a good blend in my recipes. I also like the interest that just a little bit of molasses brings to the whole flavor profile. To finish the cake, I decided to garnish it with a nut streusel sprinkled along the perimeter just to add a bit more flavor and texture contrast.

I’d put this cake in a category of pastries that would make a nice choice for a brunch table or whenever a simple old fashioned cake is desired. It's certainly not frilly but serves as a delicious reminder that some of the best pastries can be made with just a few basic ingredients and minimal effort and flair.

Bench notes:
- To toast the walnuts, spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes. They should brown slightly and give off a slight toasty aroma. Set aside to cool.
- Pecans would make a nice substitution.
- Cake flour is made from softer wheat and has about 6% - 8% protein, which produces a more tender texture. All-purpose flour has a 10-12% protein content. You can make your own cake flour with this method: 1 cup sifted cake flour can be substituted with 3/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch.
- I used a large ice cream scoop to portion the cake in the pan.
- Once the batter is in the prepared cake pan, make just a few swirls with a knife for a marble effect. It’s easy to overdo this and blend too much of the batter.
- This cake would also make a nice dessert served with a good vanilla ice cream.

Marble Spice Cake
Makes one 8” cake

1/4 C walnuts, toasted and finely chopped
1/4 C dark brown sugar
1 T flour
1 T butter

1 1/2 C cake flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
4 oz (1 stick; 8 T) butter @ room temperature
1/2 C granulated sugar
1/4 C dark brown sugar
2 eggs @ room temperature
1/2 C milk @ room temperature
1 t vanilla

scant 1/2 t cinnamon
scant 1/2 t cardamom
1/4 t allspice
pinch cloves
pinch nutmeg
1 1/2 T molasses

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8” cake pan and line the bottom with parchment.

For the walnut topping, place the toasted and finely chopped walnuts in a bowl. Add the dark brown sugar and flour and toss together. Cut the butter into small pieces and add. Using your fingertips, pinch and press the butter into the nut mixture until it clumps together in small and medium sized bits. Set aside.

Sift the flour with the baking powder and salt. Combine the milk and vanilla.

Cream the butter and sugars until smooth and light, about 4 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and add the eggs one at a time, mixing until the egg is completely incorporated before adding the next.

Scrape down the bowl and add the flour mixture and milk mixture to the batter alternately in 3 parts, starting and ending with flour. Beat on medium low speed until smooth.

Pour half the batter into a separate bowl and stir in spices and molasses. Scoop portions of the plain batter in the prepared cake pan leaving gaps to fill in with the spice batter. Take a knife and swirl a few figure 8s through the batter. Sprinkle the walnut topping around the border.

Bake for about 28 – 30 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cake pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edges and invert the cake. Remove the parchment and invert the cake right side up. Cool completely.


Elly McCausland said...

I haven't eaten marble cake in about a decade, not since I was a child. This looks like a more grown up version and as I'm a lover of anything involving baked goods and spice, I wish I could eat a piece now!

Redd H from Salted Spoon said...

This looks really yummy! Do you think I could make it in a Bundt pan?

pastry studio said...

Hi Redd! Yes, you can make it into a bundt cake. I would suggest you double the recipe if you're using a 10-12 cup bundt pan. Hope it works out for you!

Sujata Varadarajan (Sujata Malhan) said...

Thanks for your tip on making cake flour, it's not usually available in India. Sorry to read about the google goof ups.

saturday mike said...

First, sorry to hear about your troubles with Blogger. I always used the recipe index... I hope you can retrieve it!!

Second, and more importantly, this cake!!!
Holy Cow! I made it for dessert last night and 5 people pretty much polished off the entire cake. We kept going back for slivers until the whole thing was gone. Everyone kept talking about how perfect it was!!
The cake was incredibly light with a really nice flavor - the spices were really well balanced. With whipped cream and a cup of strong coffee, it was just perfect.

pastry studio said...

saturday mike, what a pleasure to hear you had such great success with this cake. I really like it, too. The nut streusel was a very last minute afterthought but I think it adds a lot to the finished product. And serving with whipped cream and strong coffee sounds like total perfection.

I so appreciate your feedback. I will do my best to get the Recipe Index back. It's pretty essential for ease of access.