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Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Tale of Two Cakes: Apple Cider Spice Cake

My Apple Cider Spice Cake
was moist and flavorful.
I recently subscribed to Cook's Country because I enjoy the recipes from Cook's Illustrated and especially enjoy the more traditional and "down home" offerings through their specialty publication.

In the first issue I received there was a recipe for a Chiffon Cake with a variation for an Apple Cider Spice version. It looked very good and the apple cider and spice seemed perfect for Autumn. On top of that my friend Nora informed me at our dinner last week that I was to make her birthday cake. She wants a "spice cake" but when I tried to pry more specifics from her she told me that all the direction I got was "spice cake" - the rest would be up to me.

Since then I've been mulling ideas - my gingerbread cake which is spicy, a classic spice snack cake, maybe a spiced coffee cake. Needless to say when I saw this variation for a Chiffon Cake I thought I might have struck gold.

I decided to try out the recipe in anticipation of making it next month for Nora. I'm glad I did! It is one of those that looks great in the magazine and the photos, but leaves a good bit to be desired in real life.

The Cook's Country version was too crumbly and
dry for my taste.
Supposedly, it's a cross between an angel food cake and a pound cake. But this particular recipe yielded a cake that had neither of those great cake qualities. I found it to be rather shallow in the taste department and the texture was too fluffy and crumbly. I also didn't care for the glaze called for in the recipe because I found it at first to be a bit thin and when I adjusted the cream cheese a bit it was too thick.

So, after making this cake, I thought "why not adapt my favorite pound cake recipe to this?" So, I sat down with my classic "Gert's Mama's Pound Cake" recipe and went to work tweaking it here and there.

First, I knocked out the sour cream and substituted apple cider. I then dropped the lemon extract and added cinnamon and allspice to the flour mixture. Finally, I used a simple apple cider, powdered sugar and spice glaze. The results were everything I'd hoped for. The cake was luscious and moist without being too heavy. The apples and spices shown through beautifully in the taste profile while the buttery richness of the cake added nice round flavors that are the perfect compliment. Much, much better than the light and insubstantial chiffon cake from Cook's Country (if I do say so myself, sorry Christopher Kimball but catty cuts both ways sometimes).

Give this cake a try. I think you'll enjoy it. Michael, who isn't a cake fan by any stretch, even grabbed a piece this evening when we got home from our vineyard roadtrip (more on that later).


1 cup butter, softened
3 cups sugar
6 eggs
3 cups flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup apple cider

For glaze:
2 cups powdered sugar
2-3 tbs. apple cider
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. allspice

Preheat oven to 325°. Grease a 16-cup tube pan and set aside.

In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time mixing after each addition until incorporated. Add vanilla extract and mix.

In separate bowl sift together flour, baking powder, salt and spices. Add to butter mixture alternating with cider, beginning and ending with flour. Mix just until incorporated, scraping sides of bowl if necessary.

Pour into prepared cake pan and distribute evenly. Bake at 325° for 55-65 minutes or until top of cake is browned and begins to crack and cake tester inserted into middle of cake comes out clean.

Allow cake to cool in pan then gently invert onto cake plate. Prepare glaze.

For glaze:

Mix together sugar and spices in bowl or large mixing cup. Add apple cider and mix until glaze reaches desired consistency. (Adjust sugar or cider as necessary.) Glaze should be easy to pour but thick enough that it does not soak into cake immediately. Pour glaze over completely cooled cake.

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