Cake has not always been an overly sweet confection topped with a thick and offensive paste of tasteless fat and sugar. Nay, there was a time when civilized people sat down to tea and enjoyed a few scant bites of sweetness to awaken the senses and delight the tongue during the longest part of the afternoon.
Take heed and I will instruct you in this simple preparation enjoyed by both common citizens and wealthy landowners alike.
Revolutionary Era Cider Cake
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or 1 tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp nutmeg, ¼ tsp cloves, ¼ tsp allspice)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated or minced
½ tsp salt
½ cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
12 oz/ 1 ½ cups hard cider
½ cup dried fruit (optional)
¼ cup chopped crystallized ginger (optional)
¼ cup powdered sugar for dusting
To begin, heat your oven to 350F.
In one bowl, whisk together your flour, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, additional cinnamon, and salt. Set it aside. It’s purpose will be revealed soon enough.
While the first bowl awaits its mysterious fate, in another bowl, beat your butter, brown sugar, minced ginger, and eggs until they become as thick and gelatinous as a young boy’s nose. Drown that unfortunate choice of imagery in vanilla and your most mediocre locally produced cider. Whatever is in your basement from last fall’s pressing shall suffice. Save the best cider for drinking. Keep mixing until you achieve a frothy and aromatic brew.
In my day, cakes were made festive with the addition of chopped fruits or, for those with deep pockets, a handful of minced crystallized ginger. If, like altogether too many people today, you are unfamiliar with fruit in its dried form, I caution you not to substitute chopped gummy bears, cannibalistic “nerds” candy or fruity pebbles. The batter can stand on its own without interior adornment.
If you have dried, chopped fruits, toss them lightly in the flour mixture. Binding flour to the cut exterior helps prevent your fruits from sinking like angry souls to the nether regions of your cake. Once your fruits are floured, add the moist contents of your second bowl.
Prepare for some small measure of work, for if you are to blend these ingredients properly, your arm will tire. Alternately, you could use an electrical contrivance of some sort. Either way, continue mixing until your batter is smooth and free from unsightly lumps.
Coat a 9 inch round cake pan with a generous layer of butter. It not only adds to the flavor of the crust, but also prevents your cake from sticking. Pour in the batter, shake it to settle then place the pan in your oven to bake for 35 – 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Ignore any temptation to slather the surface of your freshly baked cake with the horrific concoction people today refer to as “icing.” Instead, sift ¼ cup of powdered sugar across the top to lightly enhance the flavor without overwhelming it.
HEART SHAPED SILICONE PAN REVIEW
Look, I’m not going to explain silicone to Ichabod. As far as he’s concerned, it’s some kind of futuristic leather. I told him we harvest it from the skin of fallen demons.
I know he loves his butter, but I had nightmares about renting a sand blaster to get his cake batter out of my cast iron skillet. Instead, I decided to finally try the heart shaped pan my ex bought before I was supposed to leave for Quantico.
It looks more like a round pan that was attacked by some kind of Japanese tentacle monster that took twelve bites out of the sides, but if you follow the diagram on the package, you can allegedly cut it into six identical heart shaped slices of cake.
If you misjudge a little, you end up with four hearts and four exclamation points. I kinda like it. It’s like punctuating how surprised you are to have a date.
I spritzed the pan with a little nonstick spray before baking Ichabod’s cake. When I took it out of the oven, the cake practically leapt out of the pan – no stickiness, no clinging in corners, no fuss. The whole thing cleaned up with a couple swipes from a soapy sponge.
I’m a big fan of this cake pan. It’s easy to cut into hearts if you’re all romantically inclined, but it’s also really pretty on it’s own. Try making two cakes and layering them up. You’ll get a lot more oohs and aahs than you would with a plain old circular pan. And you never know. If you bring it to a party where someone wants to flirt, it’s easy enough for them to get a heart on for anyone they fancy.