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Bourbon Nutmeg Pound Cake

Lately, I’ve been on something of a snacking cake kick. Snacking cakes: hardly a new concept, they’re the loaf on the counter to enjoy with tea on a Saturday afternoon, or — in my case — the slices of sweet tucked into my lunch bag for when the 3 pm slump rolls around. The best snacking cake ever to leave my kitchen, for certain, is this number. I still make it at least monthly. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that I default to it, perhaps slighting other, equally wonderful cakes that deserve their moment in the sun.

When we visited Jess and Eli last month, Jess made a whole wheat cinnamon snacking cake from Melissa Clark that blew me away.  Here I was stuck on maple and yogurt, and Jess had whipped up warm, wheaty cinnamon magic.  I needed to  branch out.

I turned to my baking sensei, Alice Medrich, whose recipes are always perfect. I flipped past her page for kamut pound cake – I don’t have kamut, but would like to have some, and try it, one day – and landed on the page where Medrich offers some adaptations of her kamut cake recipe. And there it was: a cake that just had to be the next in my snacking cake repertoire. That would be Bourbon Nutmeg Cake. Bourbon? Check. Nutmeg? already on the table, as I was making this (and always add nutmeg). The one ingredient I might not have had – in fact, didn’t have until the day before – was spelt flour. Medrich says you can use either spelt or whole wheat, but I had a shiny new bag of spelt, propped on the counter. Check.

Now, I don’t want to mislead you. Despite the bourbon, this cake will not conjure nights at the bar, or the speakeasy. (Yes, speakeasy! We went to one for my birthday and I am now obsessed. More on that another time.) It and the nutmeg perfume the cake delicately. You’ll eat it with tea, or perhaps at breakfast. This is a civilized loaf. It’s for grown-ups.

But boy, is it delicious. And the texture, mostly smooth but a bit sandy, is perfect. Not like I’m surprised.

We’ll be nibbling on bourbon nutmeg cake tomorrow afternoon, along with a few other treats I’ve baked up. Enjoy the long weekend, and I’ll see you back here real soon.

Bourbon Nutmeg Pound Cake

Adapted from Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert, one of my all-time favorite cookbooks

2 tablespoons whole milk
1 tablespoon bourbon
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup cake flour (3.5 oz, according to Alice; my cup is about 5 oz, so I’m glad she noted the weight!)
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (1.75 oz) spelt or whole wheat flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
13 tablespoons (really) unsalted butter, softened (it’s important that the butter be soft; if you didn’t leave it out to soften, 10 seconds in a microwave will do the trick)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a loaf pan with parchment paper.

Whisk wet ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, mix dry ingredients together. Cut the butter into big chunks and add it to the flour mixture along with half the wet mixture. Mix on low speed just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase speed to medium and beat for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add half the remaining wet mixture, and beat just until combined. Add the remaining egg mixture and repeat, mixing just until combined.

Pour the batter into prepared pan, smooth the surface, and bake until a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 60 minutes. (Start checking at 55 minutes.) My cake didn’t brown excessively on top, but if yours does, Medrich recommends tenting the top of the loaf with foil.

Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes on a rack or the stovetop, then remove to the rack to cool completely.

Serve simply, with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream or as is.

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  • Anne February 24, 2012,

    Yay! A dessert post! This looks like a great brunch contribution option (the maple one, too), and I like the idea of making nutmeg an all the time flavor not just a Thanksgiving one. Don’t be surprised if you see me standing outside your office looking sad and hungry at 3pm…

  • Anne T. March 6, 2012,

    So, if someone wanted to make this without the whole wheat flour or spelt, would you recommend subbing all the flour with all purpose or cake?

    • rivka March 7, 2012,

      I’d probably do half and half. The spelt and wheat flour are pretty coarse, so even a 50% cake flour blend would probably make for a nice, downy cake. Report back!

  • Anne T. March 11, 2012,

    Delicious! The husband and all our cookout guests strongly approved, and I loved that it was a little less rich and a little more subtle than my usual dessert fare. The half cake flour, half all purpose worked well…the texture was lovely. The only thing I’d do differently next time is use my slightly smaller loaf pan or 1.5x the recipe, as this didn’t make a ton of batter and thus my cake was a little short. You’ll see tomorrow when I bring you a slice! At which point, you should also lecture me that I need to use freshly ground nutmeg next time I make this.

  • Anne T. March 17, 2012,

    So, I fixed my short cake issue! This time, I subbed the flour by volume, not by weight: 2/3 c. plus one tablespoon each of cake flour and all purpose. I also realized that I had used only 10 tablespoons of butter last time, instead of 13…so, I fixed that. And since I was using more flour than last time and didn’t want it to get dry, I subbed half and half for the whole milk to make sure it didn’t get too dry. And I doubled the recipe to fit my loaf pan. It took longer to cook (about 1h25m), and I had to do the tented foil at the end to prevent excessive browning on the top, but the end result is a full-sized, still moist pound cake. The crumb is very fine…I may try just all purpose flour next time, and I’m curious about the spelt or whole wheat versions as well.

  • Lillian March 30, 2012,

    This looks amazing. I’m becoming obsessed with cooking with bourbon. Lovely!