nutmeg

basic bundt series: spice cake

Hey guess what!
It’s finally officially fall, y’all!

basic bundt series | spice cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and again and again and again).

Fall is absolutely my favorite time of year. It’s clearly, obviously, indisputably the best season ever, and if you don’t agree with me, you’re wrong.
I told you it was indisputable okay?
The only negative thing I could ever say about fall, if I had to come up with something, is that it doesn’t last nearly long enough.

basic bundt series | spice cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Cooler weather means we can finally turn off the air conditioner and open up the windows. It means layered clothing, and finally giving up on the “beach body” I’m never going to have. It means beautiful brightly colored foliage, falling leaves, crisp fresh air, and spending as much time outdoors as possible before it’s too late.

It also means all of my favorite foods are back in season. Squash and pumpkins and root veggies and soups and stews and braises and apples and pears and fresh sweet cider and sugar-coated cider doughnuts and everything infused with warm homey baking spices.

basic bundt series | spice cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Now, I’m well aware that Martha Stewart thinks pumpkin spice is for basic bitches only, but I also happen to know that she has a thing for a well baked spice cake. And hey, this is the basic bundt series after all, so why not embrace the basic and just go for it?

Basic or not, the classic combination of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, & clove will never go out of style. I mean, can you think of any better flavor to usher in the best season of the year?

No.
You can’t.

basic bundt series | spice cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Anyways, not to toot my own horn or anything (toot toot), but this is one seriously delicious freaking cake!

It’s tender and moist with a soft delicate crumb, a refined subtle sweetness, and the perfect amount of spice. I tested this recipe half a dozen times to get it juuuust right, and I seriously couldn’t be happier with the results. My coworkers, for that matter, couldn’t have been happier that I baked so many cakes to get the recipe just right either. The poor dears.

basic bundt series | spice cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

My favorite thing about this recipe though, is just how versatile it is.

The whole idea behind the basic bundt series was to come up with simple and straightforward, but completely flawless, cake recipes that can either be baked and enjoyed as is, or gussied up and personalized with a few easy additions or substitutions.

basic bundt series | spice cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

When I did my recipe testing this time around, I didn’t just play with the spice levels to perfect them, I also experimented with different “liquid” ingredients to change the flavor profile. I started with and perfected a simple buttermilk-based spice cake, but then I tried swapping the buttermilk for other ingredients like unsweetened applesauce, grated fresh apples, and canned pumpkin puree.

Without changing a single other ingredient, swapping out the buttermilk for something else produces an entirely new and distinctly different cake! I promise that I’ve tried and tested all of these substitutions and they’re all equally delicious and perfectly spiced.
The pumpkin version was definitely a favorite with my (decidedly basic) coworkers.

basic bundt series | spice cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

The endless variations you can put on this recipe don’t have to stop with swapping out the buttermilk either. This cake is just screaming for a cup of toasted walnuts or pecans, or a bit of buttery streusel. Even changing the glaze could make a difference in the flavor profile. I decided that a tangy cream cheese glaze would pair perfectly with any one of the buttermilk, apple, or pumpkin versions of the cake; but I think that a thick caramel glaze would be heavenly too. You could also do a bourbon glaze, or maybe even just sprinkle the cake with cinnamon and granulated sugar.

No matter what variation you choose to bake though, this perfectly spiced basic bundt is sure to satisfy the basic bitch in all of us this fall.

basic bundt series | spice cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Spice Cake Bundt

3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
4 large eggs
1/2 cup peanut oil (or vegetable or canola oil)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup buttermilk *see note below for alternatives

Preheat oven to 350F.
Butter and flour a 10 to 12 cup bundt pan (or spray with a baking spray that includes flour), and refrigerate while preparing the cake.

Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, & nutmeg together in a bowl and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, & brown sugar together on high speed until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, scraping between additions. In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir together oil, vanilla, & buttermilk (or substitution). In the bowl with the butter and sugars, alternate additions of the flour and buttermilk mixtures at low speed, beginning and ending with flour. Mix just until combined and do not overwork the batter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure all ingredients are well incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan, smooth out the top, and firmly pound the pan against the countertop several times to tap out any air bubbles. Bake in the center of the oven for 50 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean from the center of the cake.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for about 20 to 30 minutes before turning the cake out onto the rack to cool completely. Once cool, drizzle with cream cheese glaze (recipe below) if desired. Cake should keep, in an air tight container at room temperature, for about 3 or 4 days.

*baker’s note:
Changing the flavor profile of this cake couldn’t be simpler.
Just omit the buttermilk completely, and substitute with one of the following:

  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
  • an entire 15 oz can (1 3/4 cups) of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 2 cups grated baking apples, well packed (peeled and cored before grating)

The applesauce cake should bake for the same time, and the pumpkin and grated apple cakes may take about 5 extra minutes or so.

Cream Cheese Bundt Glaze: 
4 ounces (1/2 package) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 to 6 tablespoons milk

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until it’s soft and smooth and light. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and 3 tablespoons of milk and blend until there are no lumps. If necessary, add more milk, a tablespoon at a time, beating after each addition until the glaze reaches the desired drizzle-able consistency. It should be about the consistency of melted ice cream to drizzle correctly.

Place a tray under cake and cooling rack to catch any drips. Pour glaze over cake and let the glaze work its way down the side, gently tapping the tray on the counter to smooth it out if necessary.

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holiday milk punch

I realize how snobby this will probably sound, but I’ve never been a fan of store bought eggnog.

holiday milk punch | Brooklyn Homemaker

I guess it’s because I was spoiled my whole life by my mother’s eggnog. Every year we’d have a big family Christmas party and she’d spend the whole day making cocktail sauce and big bowls of shrimp, layering trays of her famous taco dip, and whipping up two huge punch bowls full of her Christmas eggnogs (one them regular, the other chocolate, both spiked with plenty of hooch).

She used to save a little for us before adding the booze when we were really little, and when we finally reached double digits we were allowed just a tiny cup of the same nog as the adults.

When I was still pretty young I didn’t really like the taste of the adult version, but it was so thick and rich and heavy that even when I was old enough to actually enjoy the alcohol I couldn’t have more than a cup or two before feeling full to the point of bursting.

holiday milk punch | Brooklyn Homemaker

Right after college I decided to host a holiday soiree of my very own, and I thought a big batch of mom’s homemade eggnog would be just the ticket. It was every bit as rich and delicious as I remembered, but it was my first and last time making it. Once was enough for me to decide that it took too much time and effort to make something so heavy that people wanted only one or two cups. Of course, everyone loved it, but they all moved on to something else later in the night, and half of it went to waste.

holiday milk punch | Brooklyn Homemaker

Just before Christmas in the first year that Russell and I lived together I spotted a recipe on Smitten Kitchen that piqued my interest.

I’ve never been a huge fan of milk as a beverage on it’s own. I don’t even usually eat cookies with milk, and reserve it only for cereal instead. There was bourbon in this milk punch recipe though so I was willing to give it a shot.

It’s so much lighter, and so much simpler to make, that I honestly didn’t expect it to hold a candle to homemade eggnog. To my surprise though, I absolutely loved it! It’s doesn’t really taste like eggnog; it’s not nearly as rich and custardy and, well, eggy; but it does have a sort of similar flavor profile. A bit of milk, a bit of cream, a bit of sugar, a bit of vanilla, and a bit of nutmeg; all topped off with enough booze to make it taste exceedingly festive.

holiday milk punch | Brooklyn Homemaker

I was in love.

I may actually even like this better than eggnog. I mean, I still think homemade eggnog is the bee’s knees, but this is just as festive and you don’t want a nap after one glass!

I wouldn’t exactly call milk punch healthy, but I would say that it’s a heck of a lot healthier than eggnog. Much less fat and a bit less cream, and no raw eggs to worry about. You’d never know it though. This stuff is TASTY!

holiday milk punch | Brooklyn Homemaker

Recipes for versions of milk punch (very different versions from this one) actually date back to colonial times. Benjamin Franklin even had his own recipe that’s been making the rounds on the internet lately.

These days recipes similar to this one are very popular in the South, especially in New Orleans where it’s often served with breakfast or brunch. There’s even a scene in the film “The Help” where a milk punch is being prepared before a meeting of the ladies bridge club.

holiday milk punch | Brooklyn Homemaker

The first time I tried milk punch I made it with bourbon, following Smitten Kitchen’s recipe to a T.

Just before I decided to share it here with all of you though, I saw an an article about a taste test for the best hooch to use for eggnog. After tasting some nog spiked with various spirits, straight or in combination, they found that a mix of rum and brandy had the best, most quintessentially “holiday” flavor.

While I absolutely love bourbon 365 days a year, I decided that I could let rum and brandy have their turn for this holiday recipe. I’m so glad that I did, because it somehow made my milk punch taste even more similar to a homemade eggnog. Even if you’d still prefer bourbon though, this recipe is nice and strong, as any holiday cocktail should be.

If you have time, I’d recommend freezing your milk punch for a few hours until it gets slushy. It has a thicker, almost milkshake like texture this way, and it means you can make it ahead of your guests and take it out whenever they arrive. You can even make it a day ahead and keep it in the freezer, but you’ll need to stir it up and let it sit out for a bit if it freezes through.
The second best method would be to shake it in a cocktail shaker with lots of ice until it gets super cold and frothy. For an even easier presentation, you could simply serve it in a punch bowl with plenty of ice, or even a frozen milk ice ring. Either way, just finish it with a sprinkle of fresh nutmeg and you’re in holiday heaven!

holiday milk punch | Brooklyn Homemaker

Holiday Milk Punch

  • Servings: 6 to 10, depending on size
  • Print
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

4 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream *see note
1 cup good dark rum (not spiced rum)
1/2 cup brandy (or cognac) **see note
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish.

In a pitcher, whisk together milk, heavy cream, rum, brandy, sugar and vanilla.
This can be served a few ways. You can serve very well chilled in an icy punch bowl, or shaken with ice until frothy and frigid. My favorite way though, is to freeze it until slushy. This will take 3 to 4 hours, but you can leave it in there up to a day. Stir before serving it in chilled glasses, finished with a few gratings of fresh nutmeg.

notes:

*For a thinner, healthier version use more milk and less cream. For a thicker, richer version use more cream and less milk, equalling 5 cups total.

** You can use more brandy and less rum if desired, or all brandy, all rum, or even all bourbon. I think 1 1/2 cups of alcohol total offers the best flavor, but you can do less if you don’t like as much hair on your chest.