Monday, January 14, 2013

Nutmeg Cake

On New Year's Day, I performed a ritual cleaning task. What I try to do every New Year's is clean something that never ordinarily gets cleaned. Any of my regular readers will know that this could apply to virtually any surface in our house. This year, it was the spice shelves. Our kitchen is approximately 25 years old, and in 25 years, spice shelves can accumulate a lot of ...grime.
 In the mid  80s when we moved into this house, the bottles of sesame seed oil and other exotic oils tended to leak. Add to oily surfaces, spices that spilled out of their tiny zip lock bags and random dirt and you wind up with a real mess. There was also a lot of duplication. Two bottles of anise? Three jars of nutmeg! Fennel seed. Two jars of coriander.  Two Tupperware containers, one filled with very old dried red peppers, the other with very old dried mushrooms. On and on it went.
Well, I started cleaning, and to give my brother something to do, I started cataloging the duplicates and asking him for recipes gleaned from the Internet. Some of them were unthinkable. Vegan eggnog? I beg your pardon. I think veganism is a perfectly respectable and healthy choice, but what drives me crazy is when vegans decide that what they need are fake meat, fake cheese and now, fake eggnog. If you want meat, cheese and eggnog, have it. If you want to be a vegan, there are plenty of cuisines out there to accommodate your choice. Leave the stuff you  have renounced alone.
Finally, I got all the grime scraped off, the oil mopped up and some of the duplicates, or triplicates fobbed off on the cooking club at my husband's office. Things that I either categorically didn't want, or were way too old got junked. Now, the spice shelves are lovely, clean, alphabetized, able to fit in the available space. However, I still had a lot of underperforming spices sitting up there. How to get rid of them?
With my brother's help in trolling the Internet, I conceived of the underperforming spice initiative. Make dishes that use these spices. Nutmeg cake seemed like a viable way to get rid of some of the nutmeg. This recipe is not from The New York Times Heritage Cookbook. I thought this might be a nice alternative to NYTHC, since this year, I plan to dedicate my time to trying to make all the recipes in the northeast, at least those where I can actually get the ingredients. On New Years Day, I counted 86 recipes left unmade. This is a manageable number, not something like it was two years ago when I calculated that it would take me 39 weeks of making two recipes a day, four days a week to clear up the backlog.
But, the leftover recipes are also the most unusual, not to say weird. There is a reason I haven't cooked them. So, since I have finally begun to acquire some readers, I would like to offer some more mainstream foods for the blog, and perhaps you will be sufficiently amused by my deathless prose to read the rest of it  even though you probably won't want to make many of these recipes.
I made this cake for a friend, and so have not tasted it. (It's also not gluten free.) I did taste the icing, which was astoundingly yummy. I would have eaten the whole thing, except for the fact that I was supposed to be fasting pending a medical procedure. It's easy to make, and uses two teaspoons of nutmeg. We'll be down to two jars in no time!
This recipe came from This website, although it has some delicious recipes, for some reason does not allow the user to print. A definite defect, in my book.

Nutmeg Cake

3 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup softened butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup buttermilk  (If you don't want the rest of the container of buttermilk lounging around your refrigerator for weeks or possibly months, use regular milk and put a tablespoon of vinegar in it.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven at 350 degrees. Grease and flour two nine-inch cake pans.  
2. Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and and beat thoroughly. Add the vanilla.
3. Sift the flour, baking powder and baking soda, nutmeg and salt.
4. Pour  one third of the flour mixture into the butter and eggs mixture and stir it to mix it in. Pour in another third of the flour and add half the buttermilk and mix together. Pour in the remainder of the flour and the rest of the milk and stir or blend with an electric mixer.
 5. Spread the batter into the cake pans and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck into the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pans for ten minutes and then remove and cool on a rack.

Caramel Icing

1/2 cup  brown sugar
3 tablespoons cream
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar

1. Put the  brown sugar, cream and butter in a heavy saucepan and melt over low heat. Gradually raise the temperature under the saucepan until the mixture boils. Let it boil for two minutes, then allow to cool.
2. Beat the confectioners sugar into the cooled icing. When the icing becomes stiff, add some cream and keep beating. Makes enough icing to ice the cake, but be sparing with the icing.

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