Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sweet & Simple Spice Cake

I have a weakness for vintage cookbooks. They’re just fun.  SO fun.  For this blog post, I decided to give a recipe from a vintage cookbook a whirl.  The recipe, for an old-fashioned spice cake, was inspired by Green Mountain Kitchen Recipes (Elizabeth McWhorter, 1948).  I found this spiral bound collection of recipes in a community thrift shop in Vermont last winter. It has sweet illustrations and several wonderful recipes – and it cost a $1.

Some vintage recipes take a matter-of-fact-no-hand-holding approach with the reader. For example, Ms. McWhorter’s instructions for this cake: “Mixed and baked by the conventional method, the cake calls for the following ingredients…” The ingredients are then listed and the baker is expected – expected! – to know in what order to mix the ingredients and how to bake the cake. Yikes! 

Sure, sure, you and I both know to cream the butter and sugar together, add the eggs, add the molasses and then alternate adding the dry and wet ingredients. Of course we do! But a jumble of ingredients with no instructions may as well be a description of my pantry.  So, I’ve made sense of the original recipe, tweaked it here and there [Hello, touch of nutmeg! Hello, orange zest!], and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Sweet & Simple Spice Cake*

Makes one lovely bundt cake
Preheat oven to 350°

Prepare a 10” bundt or tube pan (butter and lightly flour the pan, shaking off the excess flour). Alternately, you may coat the pan with a no-stick vegetable oil cooking spray (I won’t tell).

Have all ingredients at room temperature.

1 cup (225 g) light brown sugar
1/2 cup (112 g) unsalted butter
5 large eggs
1/2 cup (170 g) molasses
1 cup (250 ml) buttermilk
2 tsp orange zest
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups (338g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated is best)
1/4 tsp salt

Sift dry ingredients together and set aside.

Combine buttermilk, vanilla and orange zest and set aside.

In the mixing bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, combine butter and sugar and beat well (the mixture will look like a grainy paste). Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down bowl twice. With the mixer on low speed, add the molasses in a slow, steady stream.  Scrape down bowl again. Beat until well combined. The mixture will look a little soupy at this point.

Alternate adding the dry ingredients and buttermilk/vanilla/orange zest, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.

Mix until just combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until cake bounces back when pressed lightly, and/or a cake tester comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.

Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then unmold and finish cooling the cake on a wire rack.

To finish the cake, when cool dust lightly with powdered sugar. Serve slices with a dollop of freshly whipped cream. Garnish with an edible flower or a pretty, slim slice of orange or both!

*Note: my Sweet & Simple Spice Cake recipe originally appeared as a guest post for The Fat Expat - a fun blog with interesting peeps and clever writing.


  1. I would love this cake, Michelle! I collect vintage cookbooks, and this one looks so neat. I am also a huge spice cake and bundt cake (okay, well, any kind of cake, but still!) girl, so this really appeals to me. Perfect for autumn. xo

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  3. Michelle, this cake evokes the sensations of breezy cool Fall evenings, cozzying up with a cup of tea and a slice of this cake:).

  4. Vintage cookbook sounds like the recipe book my great grandmother left behind. All it listed was the ingredients, not even the measurements many times (or, pinch of, dash of, scoop of). Glad you made sense of this recipe. It looks really good. Great for fall!

  5. Sounds so good! Love your addition of orange zest, ma'am!

    I enjoy old cookbooks too, although I don't have many. My favorite, though, is A Treasury of Great Recipes by Vincent Price. Yes, *that* Vincent Price! It is awesome:)

  6. Ahh, I love cooking from a vintage cookbook! I always feel like I am going to find some hidden treasure! Truly, I just follow the recipe, no interpretations..quite refreshing from the day to day analytical chef.

  7. Michelle, I love vintage recipes, too!! This looks delicious and I love the orange zest addition! Everything is better with a little zest. :) Lovely post. I do a monthly feature on my blog each month from my great grandmother's cookbook published in 1892. Love those old treasures.