Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Buttermilk Spice Cake

Not perhaps the most springlike of desserts I could have gone with, but after seeing this cake featured on Epicurious, I knew I had to make it. It's just the sort of cake I love to make for small gatherings - simple, just one layer, nothing overwhelming either in the baking or the eating of it - and I had a housewarming coming up.

pears up top...

The texture was lovely - perhaps a little on the dense side, but certainly still crumby and tender. I loved the flecks of lime peel throughout, with just a bit of the lime showing through on the pear topping as well.

As per the suggestion of one of the reviewers on Epicurious, I substituted Chinese Five Spice for Star Anise. I'm sure it affected the flavor profile, but I thought it also gave it a slightly musky, mysterious scent (and I mean musky in a good way, somehow). A few friends claimed it smelled like gingerbread. The pears definitely provided a nice contrast, transforming the dessert into something lighter and more playful. So there you have it: musky, mysterious, light, and playful. All in one dessert! Also - the original recipe called from creme fraiche, which I just wasn't feeling. I think a dollop of homewhipped cream might be a lovely addition though.

Buttermilk Spice Cake from Epicurious


Pear compote:

2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Large pinch of salt
3 Bosc pears (about 1 1/2 pounds total), peeled, quartered, cored, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Buttermilk spice cake:

1 C plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/4 C cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon (scant) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground whole star anise (or substitute chinese five spice...and I used a heavy hand)
1/2 C (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 C sugar
2 large eggs
1 3-inch piece vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/4 teaspoon finely grated lime peel
3/4 cup buttermilk
Powdered sugar*
1 1/2 cups crème fraîche*



For pear compote:
Mix sugar, lime juice, and salt in heavy large saucepan. Add pears and toss gently to coat. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until pears are just tender, stirring occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer mixture to bowl. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill until cold, then cover and keep chilled.

For buttermilk spice cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour 9-inch-diameter cake pan with 2-inch-high sides; line pan with round of parchment paper. Sift first 9 ingredients into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually add sugar, beating until smooth. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, beating to blend between additions. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean and add lime peel; beat to blend. Beat in flour mixture in 4 additions alternately with buttermilk in 3 additions, scraping down bowl occasionally. Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake cake until beginning to brown on top and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool cake in pan on cooling rack. DO AHEAD: Cake can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature.

Cut around pan sides to loosen cake. Turn cake out onto rack; peel off parchment and turn right side up onto platter. Sift powdered sugar over (optional, I don't think it needed to be any sweeter). Cut into wedges. Serve with pear compote and dollop of crème fraîche (optional).

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