Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Spice cake

As I get older I have a greater appreciation for simple cakes - the sort that wouldn't turn a head in a display case beside chocolate extravaganzas, towering layers of cream, or pretty pastel citrus showstoppers. These runners-up in the great beauty contest of the cake world are homely to say the least but what they lack in looks they more than make up for in flavour. This simple spice cake from Sweet is case in point, its boring brown exterior belying its complexity. Each bite contains so many different tastes - caramel from the brown sugar, tang from the sour cream, zing from the orange zest and peppery punch of mixed spice to round things off. Plain is perfect.

Spice cake
Adapted from Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh

I didn't want to make a full-size cake, so decided to let the number of eggs be my guide and made my loaf with two eggs and all other quantities reduced to two-thirds the below. With the smaller quantities, no need to be super precise by working out what two thirds of three quarters of a teaspoon of salt is. A good pinch will do.

180g unsalted butter, at room temperature
160g soft dark brown sugar
160g soft light brown sugar
finely grated zest of 1 large orange (1 tbsp)
3 large eggs
120g sour cream
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tsp mixed spice
225g flour 
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp bicarb (baking) soda
1 tsp malt or apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 190 deg C. Grease a loaf tin and line with baking paper.

Cream butter, sugar and orange zest til lightened and smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream and vanilla. In another bowl, sift together the flour, mixed spice and salt. In alternate batches, add a third of the wet mixture to the butter one, then fold in a third of the flour mix. Repeat another two times til both the wet and dry ingredients have been incorporated.

In a small bowl, combine the bicarb soda with the vinegar - it should fizz up - then mix in to the batter. Pour into prepared loaf tin and bake 50-55 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the loaf comes out clean.

Let cool on wire rack for 15 minutes before turning out of tin to cool completely.

Serve at room temperature.


  1. Hi Alice,
    I am so enjoying your recipes from "Sweet". Your next recipe is always greatly anticipated. I had the book out from the library for a short time and made mental notes of many recipes I would love to bake.
    Are you considering that show-stopper vertical striped cake? Looks sensational but I need to find a sheet pan to actually attempt it.
    Anyway, thank you for your wonderful recipes. I simply love your blog.
    Angela from Brisbane

  2. Angela! That's so lovely of you to write. Glad you enjoy the blog. That vertically striped cake from Sweet looks much more complex than is my natural baking inclination but never say never... I have a friend in Hobart I like to cook with when I visit and it may be a joint project sometime. Last time I saw her we spent a long time staring at that recipe and wondering how it worked!