We have entered one of my favorite times of year: autumn. By the time late September arrives, sunlight casts a warm, cheery glow on the cooling Seattle days, and it’s still perfectly reasonable to wear my favorite warm-weather dresses–though perhaps covered with a sweater or light jacket. The leaves brighten up a little as they begin their transformation into a fiery display of colors. Cozy pots of soup simmer on the stove, filling the house with aromas of onions, garlic, spices, and herbs. The last figs and tomatoes of summer mingle with the heartier produce of fall as one season gracefully topples into the next.
And of course there is cake.
The first cake of autumn this year was a spicy ginger cake from the Nordic Bakery Cookbook. Heavily flavored with cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and ginger, each bite of the dense crumb packed a wallop of spice hinting at the aromas and flavors that will be so prevalent in my baking in the months to come.
Oh, autumn. I love the gauzy fog that shrouds the crisp mornings and the way a hot cup of coffee feels between my hands on a cold, damp day. The falling leaves lend an artistic touch to the sidewalks. And there’s the cozy feeling of curling up with a blanket and a book while the rain beats on the windows.
I may be a bit early bringing such a spicy cake into the kitchen when it’s only September, but let it serve as an introduction to all the festive cakes, hot beverages, and cookies that will be baked in the months leading up to Christmas.
This recipe is adapted from the Nordic Bakery Cookbook by Miisa Mink. It is quite spicy, so if you prefer a subtler flavor, then reduce the spices, especially the clove and cardamom. If possible, bake the cake a day in advance to give the flavors time to develop. If you prefer a moister cake, feel free to brush a sugar syrup over the top of the cake, allowing the liquid to trickle down through the crumbs and infuse the cake with a soft sweetness.
2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter an 8-inch springform pan.
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then mix in the vanilla. Add each of the eggs, one at a time, beating well before adding the next.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, and spices together in a medium bowl and pour into the batter, folding it in until just incorporated. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake until the top of the cake is firm and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about one hour. Don’t just trust the toothpick test on this one–be sure that the top is firm as well or you will end up with a cake that’s undercooked in the center.
Let cool. Brush with a sugar syrup if desired.