Monday, March 17, 2008

Mace Cake

With family visiting this week, and needing to get much bigger and easier dinners on the table every night, I flipped through the to-try recipes and this cake was the perfect solution. Easy. Made in a 9x13 pan with a oh-so-easy sugar topping. No frosting needed. I probably would have passed by the recipe except for the write-up about it. From Gourmet in 2005 (April), the brief blurb about it said that it’s a family favorite of Cynthia Knauer, the mother of one of Gourmet’s cross-testers, Ian Knauer.

I really, really liked the cake. Lovely, subtle, soft flavors of the mace. I don't think I've ever made a cake or anything where the predominant flavor was mace. You know what mace is, don't you, other than just one more little jar on your spice rack? It's from a covering on nutmeg pods. They're beautiful looking, these coverings, in a kind of whorly-swirl, a kind of husk.

I read the recipe over at epicurious also, as well as the reviews of the cake. All but one person liked it a lot. One person mentioned she'd made it with some new mace she'd ordered from Penzey's. Gave me an idea, since I'm certain my little jar of mace is many years old. The cake is nearly white-white, and with the sugar/mace icing, it's still a very light-looking cake. So serve it with strawberries (recommended by the author) to give the plate some color. She also said that it never lasts very many days in her house as everybody stops by the pan and has a little slice every time they go through the kitchen. I understand. I had to laugh - our family has done the same thing, slicing off just a little bite here and there. A tiny snack.

It comes together in a jiffy. You first make an egg and sugar batter, but you beat the heck out of it until it’s really fluffy and ribbony. Meanwhile, you melt milk with a cube of butter until piping hot. After adding a flour and mace mixture to the eggs, you stir in the hot, hot milk and butter, pour that into a pan and bake, after sprinkling the top with a mixture of sugar and mace. It probably took a max of about 15 minutes to prepare the cake, and another 25 minutes to bake.

Cook’s Notes: I used half Splenda in the cake batter, all sugar in the topping. Test the cake starting at 20 minutes, and remove when the cake tester comes out clean. It needs nothing else with it, unless you want to serve with fresh strawberries and either whipped cream or ice cream.

Mace Cake
Recipe By: Cynthia Knauer, mother of one of Gourmet Magazine's cross-testers, Ian Knauer
Serving Size : 12
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon mace
1 cup whole milk
1 stick unsalted butter -- (1/2 cup)
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon mace
1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 13- by 9-inch baking pan, knocking out excess flour.
2. Beat eggs with 2 cups sugar in a large bowl using an electric mixer at high speed until tripled in volume and thick enough to form a ribbon that takes 2 seconds to dissolve into batter when beater is lifted, 7 to 8 minutes in a stand mixer or 14 to 16 with a handheld.
3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and 1 tablespoon mace.
4. Bring milk and butter to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, then remove from heat.
5. Add flour mixture to egg mixture, stirring until just combined. Stir in hot milk mixture until combined (batter will be thin).
6. Stir together remaining 1/2 cup sugar and remaining 1/2 teaspoon mace in a small bowl.
7. Pour batter into baking pan and sprinkle evenly with mace sugar. (Sugar will form a crust as cake bakes.) Bake until pale golden and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.
8. Cool cake in pan on a rack until warm, at least 30 minutes. Cut into squares and serve warm or at room temperature. Cake keeps in an airtight container at room temperature 3 days.

Per Serving: 334 Calories; 10g Fat (27.6% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 56g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 94mg Cholesterol; 206mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 Grain (Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 2 Fat; 2 1/2 Other Carbohydrates.

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