Spice Up Your Cakes

Whether you prefer a light spice cake or a rich ginger cake, these desserts are perfect for the holidays.

By FamilyTime


There is no trick to making a spice cake, but once you include one or two in your cake-baking repertoire, you will find yourself serving them time and again.

You can add spices to a box cake mix with good results. Or you can put in a little more effort and make a tender, light cake from scratch.

What is a Spice Cake?
Spice cakes can be delicately flavored with cinnamon and nutmeg, or more richly infused with ginger, allspice, and fruits such as raisins, prunes, currants, and apples or, more commonly, applesauce.

Gingerbread is a simple spice cake. Applesauce cakes are popular spice cakes, and even Christmas fruitcake can be considered a spice cake.

Many spice cakes also include nuts and citrus zest - both perfect partners for spices and fruit.

Choose the Spices
Most spice cakes are made with the "sweet spices." These include cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, allspice, and mace. Some cake recipes call for spices such as cardamom or coriander.

Buy high-quality spices in small amounts. Replenish your supply every six or seven months because, as they stand in the dark kitchen cupboard, they will lose potency.

Nutmeg is best when grated from a whole nut. For some recipes, a cinnamon stick is preferred to ground cinnamon. In others, a vanilla bean is called for to provide more flavor than vanilla extract.

Make the Cake
Whether you make a butter cake or a quick bread (like gingerbread), begin by measuring and gathering together the ingredients. Let the eggs reach room temperature. Measure the flour by spooning it into the measuring cups. Pack the brown sugar into the cup.

Most cake recipes instruct you to beat the sugar and butter until lightened and fluffy. Be patient. It can take several minutes in an electric mixer to incorporate the needed air into the batter.

Add the eggs one at a time, incorporating each one before adding the next.

Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda (if using), salt, and spices in a large bowl and whisk with a wire whisk eight or 10 times to insure even distribution.

Bake the Cake
Once you prepare the pans and preheat the oven, baking is easy. Set the cake pan(s) as close to the center of the oven as you can.

Cakes are ready when the tops are lightly browned, the edges start pulling away from the sides of the pan, and the cakes spring back when gently pressed with a fingertip.

Test for doneness, too, by inserting a toothpick, slender skewer, or small, sharp knife in the center of the cake. If it comes out clean with no clinging crumbs, the cake is done.

Frost the Cake
Let the cake layers cool in the pans set on wire racks for about five minutes and then turn them from the pans to cool completely on the wire racks.

If you can't wait for the cake to cool, pour on a frosting designed to be used on a warm cake. These new Pour & Frost products are sold in supermarkets. Microwave them and you're set to go.

Serve spice cakes as they come from the oven, dust them with confectioners' sugar, or frost them with sweet icings. Cream cheese-based frostings are especially delicious with spice cakes.