spice cake

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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roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt #bundtbakers

Whoa. I just realized that I haven’t baked a bundt cake since April.

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

This has been one hell of a year, both personally with the Maxwell’s build out and opening, and for the country as a whole. This election cycle really has consumed me, chewed me up and spit me out, and just when I thought it would all finally be over, it seems like we’re in for even more struggle and strife.

While things may feel a little disheartening right now, life must go on, and getting back into the kitchen and revving up the ol’ stand mixer certainly helps me feel centered and whole again.

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’m so so thrilled that Lauren from Sew You Think You Can Cook chose pears as our inspiration for the #bundtbakers this month. Thank you so much Lauren! Not only do I absolutely love pears on their own, there’s also something especially cozy and satisfying about baking with fall fruit pear-ed (har har) with warm homey spices.

With Thanksgiving only a week away, a pear bundt cake is just what the doctor ordered.

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

I have a confession to make though.
I haven’t always liked pears.

My grandfather has always had several fruit and nut trees on his property, and when I was little I thought pears were absolutely disgusting. I don’t know if it was the grainy texture, or the thick sandy skin, or what, but to be perfectly honest I didn’t care for a lot of the bounty of grandpa’s garden.

I was truly a child of the 80’s, and a lot of my culinary influence during my formative years came from spending time in my grandmother’s kitchen. She is a product of her generation, and Grandma’s food philosophy came from the atomic-age desire for shiny, new, packaged convenience foods rather than the back-to-earth approach many of us prefer today. As a kid in Grandma’s kitchen, packaged food was celophane-wrapped, sterilized heaven to me, and I couldn’t get enough of it. Give me a box of doughnuts, a bag of chips, a can of soup, a bottle of soda, and a grilled cheese sandwich made with plastic-wrapped processed “cheese food”, bagged sliced white bread, and margarine from a tub.
Who wants to have to pick and wash fresh fruits and vegetables from outside with all the dirt and bees and bugs, when the fridge is stocked with Cool Whip and Velveeta that’s clean and delicious and ready to eat?

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

Not me.
That’s who.

I did like Grandpa’s strawberries and plums, but even the strawberries had to be scrubbed and sliced and covered in sugar before I deemed them edible.

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

Obviously my tastes have changed over the years, and as an adult I’ll take a ripe juicy pear, still warm from the sun, over a tub of chemically Cool Whip any day of the week.

As a kid, trips to my grandparents house filled me with excitement because I knew the cupboards were bursting with store-bought chips and cookies and doughnuts. These days I still get excited when I get to visit my grandparents, but now it’s because I know grandpa will load me up with sagging grocery bags filled with dirty bell peppers, lopsided butternut squash, fuzzy warm peaches, or sun-ripened tomatoes when I get ready to leave.

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

When I was planning my bundt for this month, I knew that I really wanted the pears to be the stars of the show. My first instinct was to chop or cube or grate them just like apples into a traditional spice cake for flavor and added moisture, but somehow that didn’t seem like it was “enough”. My pears deserved better than playing second fiddle to cinnamon.

Determined to leave the pears whole (or at least halved) inside the cake, I decided to poach them in a bourbon ginger syrup. They smelled like heaven in the poaching liquid and I couldn’t help myself from sneaking spoonfuls of batter from the pan before it went into the oven. I was congratulating myself on a job well done before the cake even started to rise, and I couldn’t wait to get it out of the oven and see the autumnal perfection I’d come up with.

Aaaaaaand…

It was an absolute disaster.

The pears soaked up too much moisture in the poaching liquid, releasing it back into the cake to create a jiggly bundt with the weirdest almost blubbery texture I’ve ever had the misfortune to put in my mouth. As the cake cooled it sagged and the cake separated from the pears and slumped into a wobbly mess on the plate.

So, back to the drawing board. I knew I’d need a thicker, denser batter, and I obviously needed to find a way to pull moisture out of the pears before baking them into the cake. With poaching out of the question, I decided to try dry roasting the pears so they’d be tender but slightly dried out before going into the batter. Thankfully, it worked out beautifully and I think the pears are almost as happy about it as I am.

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

You’ll want to use the smallest pears you can find for this recipe, because if they’re too big or tall they’ll take up too much room in the pan. They might cause the batter to run over in the oven, or could stick out the top of the cake and cause it to sit unevenly when plated. I also think that Bosc pears are the only variety firm and sturdy enough to stand up to being roasted, handled, and baked in this way without turning to mush or falling apart.

The bit of extra effort in roasting the pears and toasting the walnuts really pays off when you slice down into the cake to reveal a perfect cross-section of a whole pear (depending on where you slice).
And the flavor? Fuggitaboudit. Warm spices, tender roasted pears, crunchy toasted walnuts, buttery tender brown sugar spice cake, and a thick and tangy cream cheese glaze.
I mean. Come on.

This is basically THE perfect fall cake, and it would make an excellent addition to your Thanksgiving spread to boot. If you’re looking for even more fall inspiration and pear-y wonderfulness, make sure you scroll down past the recipe to see what the other #bundtbakers came up with this month!

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

Roasted Pear and Walnut Spice Cake

  • Servings: 8 to 12-ish
  • Print
4 to 5 small firm Bosc pears, depending on the size of your pan
1 1/4 cups chopped walnuts
2 1/4 cups all-purpose Flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoons cardamom (optional)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs

Cream Cheese Glaze:
4 ounces (1/2 package) cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 to 4 tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter and flour a 10 to 12 cup bundt pan, refrigerate.

Peel pears, slice in half, and scoop out seeds with a melon baller or spoon. Place cut side up on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Flip and bake 15 minutes more. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Spread walnuts in an even layer on a small baking sheet and toast for 5 to 8 minutes, or until they smell toasty. Do not let them burn. Set aside to cool. Reserve 1/4 cup for topping the cake.

Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, & spices together in a bowl. Set aside. Mix vanilla into buttermilk and set aside.
In a the bowl of and electric mixer, beat together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute or two and scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl between additions.
Alternate additions of flour and buttermilk, mixing on low just until combined, and scraping the bowl between each addition. Start and end with flour so there are 3 additions of flour and 2 of buttermilk. Stir in 1 cup walnuts until evenly distributed.

Pour about 3/4 of the batter into the prepared pan, and tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles. Push pear halves into the batter, top side facing down into the bottom of the pan, arranging them so the cut halves face each other as a whole pear. Arrange pears so they’re evenly spaced around the pan. Spread remaining batter over the top, leaving at least half an inch of room for the cake to rise so it doesn’t overflow in the oven. It’s okay if the pears stick out of the batter a bit, as the cake should rise around them. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove the cake from the oven, and cool in the pan for 30 minutes before turning it out onto a rack to cool completely.

While the cake cools, make the glaze.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until it’s fluffy and smooth. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and 4 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 thick 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, tapping the tray on the counter if necessary. Top with toasted walnuts.

Well covered in an airtight container, this cake should keep at room temperature about 2 days, or longer in the fridge. Just make sure to serve it at room temperature if you refrigerate it.

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

The bundt bakers really outdid themselves this month, and all these perfect pear cakes have my mouth watering like crazy!

BundtBakers
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You can see all our of lovely Bundts by following our Pinterest board. Updated links for all of our past events and more information about #BundtBakers, can be found on our home page.

tomato soup bundt cake #bundtbakers

When I first started Brooklyn Homemaker, I hoped it would be an outlet for not only my love of food, but also for my love of food history and my off-the-charts food nerdiness.

tomato soup bundt cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

I used to post lots of recipes (especially cake recipes) with fun details and anecdotes about their histories, how they came to be, and why we were still making and eating them today. As much as I still love writing these kinds of posts, life gets in the way and the fact of the matter is that researching the history of a recipe is a lot more involved and a lot more time consuming than just whipping something up on a whim. I also thought that I’d sort of exhausted my supply of cool, iconic desserts with histories that I’d find interesting enough to write about. That is, I thought I had until this month’s bundt bakers.

tomato soup bundt cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Felice of All That’s Left are the Crumbs chose Retro Desserts as our theme this month, and I was all over it! You know how much I love an old cookbook, and I kind of feel like this theme was hand selected to appeal to me! Thanks Felice!

To me the word “retro” always inspires images of the 50’s and 60’s, the atomic era, the age of ambrosia salads and jell-o molds. The days of gas guzzling pastel land yachts, wall to wall pink tile bathrooms, and single story cookie cutter ranch homes. I prefer my “old fashioned” dessert recipes from the 30’s and 40’s though, so I decided to go back a little further. People were doing all sorts of inventive things with food back then, either just to stretch their scarce resources, or maybe even to make their lives a little lighter and brighter.

tomato soup bundt cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

My favorite (and most popular) dessert history post that I’ve written so far is Red Velvet Cake, which didn’t actually originate in the 30s, but did reach it’s wild popularity in that era. Long story short; a big food coloring and extract company started giving away a red velvet cake recipe, complete with color photos, to try to boost their struggling sales during the Depression. It worked like a charm and soon red velvet cake was on American tables, and in American hearts, where it’s managed to stay for almost a century.

Not surprisingly, the cake I’m posting today is another Depression era recipe, though not currently as well known and loved as Red Velvet. Originally called “Mystery Cake”, this spice cake contains a full can of condensed tomato soup. The “mystery” was that you’d never guess the “secret ingredient” if you didn’t already know.

tomato soup bundt cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

This recipe most likely originated in the 20’s, as the first printed reference to it comes from a September 1928 notice about cooking classes in the Los Angeles Times. “The opening of the fall season is observed on the menu arranged by Mrs. Mabelle (Chef) Wyman for her demonstrating this afternoon… Under the dessert classification are velvet cake and mystery cake, a culinary idea of Mrs. Wyman’s skill.”

Mystery cake didn’t really become well known though until the Great Depression. The use of egg, dairy, and butter substitutes was very popular during this time because these grocery items were expensive and scarce. Grated or pureed vegetables like zucchini or carrots were popular substitutions for eggs and butter, as was applesauce, which remains a popular substitution for health conscious bakers to this day. Along with it’s moisture content, condensed tomato soup had the added benefit of an acidity that works as a flour conditioner. This meant that it could not only be used in place of butter, but could also replace the buttermilk usually used in baking to ensure a moist, tender, and delicate crumb.

tomato soup bundt cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Mystery Cake really took off in the early 1940’s when Campbell’s started promoting their own recipe during World War II. The same ingredients that were too expensive for home bakers in the 30’s were suddenly being rationed for the war effort in the 40’s and were even harder to come by. Canned food companies all over the country were using wartime rationing as a way to boost sales, and Campbell’s didn’t miss the opportunity. They quickly developed a recipe for Tomato Soup Cake that included only two tablespoons of butter and no eggs to appeal to homemakers with limited resources.

tomato soup bundt cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

The American food writer and cookbook author M.F.K. Fisher even included a recipe for Tomato Soup Cake in her 1942 book on wartime rationing and shortages, How to Cook a Wolf. Her recipe varied just slightly from Campbell’s but the idea was the same. “This is a pleasant cake, which keeps well and puzzles people while you are cooking other things, which is always sensible and makes you feel rather noble, in itself a small but valuable pleasure.”

tomato soup bundt cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Tomato Soup Cake remained popular even after the war, and another version of the recipe was included in the Joy of Cooking in 1964. Modern homemakers in the 1960’s and 70’s, fascinated with convenience foods and time saving tricks, loved to make their Tomato Soup Cake with boxed cake mixes.

Eventually the cake did wane in popularity though, and today many people have never even heard of it. I myself only discovered it a few years ago, and had a really difficult time wrapping my head around the idea when I first saw it. Eventually I warmed up to trying it, and by the time this month’s theme was chosen I was full well ready to give it a shot!

tomato soup bundt cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Since the Great Depression and wartime rationing are now just distant memories, the butter and eggs have found their way back into most of the recipes you’ll find out there, including Campbell’s updated version. Of course, the tomato soup still remains as a way to add moisture, acidity, and interest to this simple spice cake.

Nuts and raisins have always been common additions to Tomato Soup Cake, and for my recipe I kept the nuts but skipped the raisins. Sorry raisin lovers. You can add them back in if you want.

tomato soup bundt cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Mystery Cake was definitely an appropriate name for this recipe. I was worried that the tomato soup would add a weird tinny chemical taste, but I really don’t think I could have figured out what was in it if I hadn’t baked it myself. The tomato soup concentrate adds a subtle sweetness and tang, and ensures that the cake is moist and keeps well for days. It has a perfect just-enough sweetness and a lovely touch of spice that doesn’t overpower the cake. The walnuts add a nice contrast in texture and a welcome touch of earthy bitterness.

Many older recipes for Mystery Cake were topped with chocolate icing, but cream cheese icing has always been popular too. I decided to go for a drizzlable cream cheese glaze that adds sweetness and tang, and helps keep the cake from drying on the outer edges. I don’t usually go for sprinkles, but this fun retro theme got the best of me and I couldn’t help but add a handful of bright red jimmies as a play on the iconic tomato soup can!

Although this recipe has been around for almost a century, it definitely still feels relevant and delicious in these modern times. Why not step back in time and see what other retro bundts the talented team of bundt bakers came up with this month? Please scroll down past the recipe to find the links.

tomato soup bundt cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Tomato Soup Bundt Cake

Adapted from several sources, mostly from Campbell’s

Cake:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoons ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Condensed Tomato Soup
1/3 cup water
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans)

Cream Cheese Glaze:
4 ounces (1/2 package) cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 to 8 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 350.
Butter and flour pan. Refrigerate.

Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, & cloves together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
In a separate small bowl, whisk together condensed tomato soup and water until smooth.
Cream butter and sugars on high speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Mix in eggs, one at a time, and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Alternate additions of the flour mixture and the tomato soup mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Mix each addition just to combine. Do not over-mix.
Stir in walnuts just until evenly distributed.

Pour into prepared bundt pan and bake for 45 to 55 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 15 to 20 minutes. Invert the pan and turn the cake out onto the rack to cool completely before glazing.

While the cake cools, make the glaze.
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 4 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, tapping the tray on the counter if necessary. Top with red jimmies if desired.

Well covered in an airtight container, this cake should keep at room temperature about 3 or 4 days.

tomato soup bundt cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Don’t forget to travel back in time with all the other retro cakes the bundt bakers came up with this month.

BundtBakers
 .
You can see all our of lovely Bundts by following our Pinterest board. Updated links for all of our past events and more information about #BundtBakers, can be found on our home page.

old-fashioned marble cake #bundtbakers

Are y’all ready for a very special holiday edition of #bundtbakers?

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

My mom recently renovated and moved into a new house, and a while she was unpacking she asked me if I wanted any of her old cookbooks. She was trying to downsize but the only one I asked for was a well worn book from the 1940s called “The Modern Family Cookbook” by Meta Given. She’d actually had it for so long that she couldn’t even remember where’d she’d gotten it, but thinks it was probably her Grandmother’s.

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

As soon as I got it home I started pouring over the recipes and wondering about all the funny old fashioned foods that no one eats anymore. It’s just filled with all kinds of things that I honestly can’t wait to try.

As you can probably imagine, I was most interested in the desserts. Surprise!

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

While flipping through the cakes section I came across a recipe that I instantly knew I needed to try. It was actually the caption under the title that really caught my eye.
“Old-Fashioned Marble Cake always has its dark part darkened with molasses and spices, because that’s the way Grandma used to make it.”

I’d never heard of a marble cake darkened with molasses. Have you?

In my mind marble cakes are always a mix of chocolate and vanilla, and to be honest, I’ve never really been a huge fan. I love chocolate and I love vanilla, but I prefer them as separate flavors. I feel like they sort of get lost in each other, and bring each other down rather than elevating one another when marbled together. But molasses and spice? Now that I could get into!

This version just sounded so terribly interesting, not to mention delicious!  I’ve always been fascinated by food history, and I just couldn’t resist the idea of making a recipe for a marble cake that pre-dates the one we all know today.

old fashioned marble cake | before chocolate, marble cake was darkened with molasses and spice | Brooklyn Homemaker

I find the very idea that the marble cake has evolved from one flavor profile to another completely intriguing. This got me to thinking about how and why this could have happened in the first place.

“Old-Fashioned Marble Cake always has its dark part darkened with molasses and spices, because that’s the way Grandma used to make it.” I soon realized that if this recipe was published in 1942, and it was the author’s grandmother’s recipe, then the recipe itself was probably from the late 1800s. Then it dawned on me that at that time in history cocoa and vanilla were rare, exotic, and expensive ingredients that many bakers just didn’t have access to. Molasses and spice were easy enough to find, so I’m sure that’s why they were used first.

Maybe it’s just the food nerd in me, but I find all this stuff to be so much fun and I just couldn’t wait to share this recipe and the story behind it with the bundt bakers!

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

I almost went ahead with this recipe back when I first saw it, but ultimately decided that I should wait until the holidays because it sounded so similar in flavor to gingerbread (just without the ginger). I was a little worried that I’d wait all that time and then my cake wouldn’t fit with the bundt bakers theme for December, but I decided I’d cross that river when I came to it.

Lucky for me, Liv of Liv for Cake played right into my hand and chose “naughty or nice” as the theme this month. How perfect is that? Richly spiced cake with dark, earthy molasses juxtaposed against an ethereal light and airy white cake. Naughty AND nice mixed and marbled together into one perfect holiday cake. Please make sure to scroll down past the recipe and check out all the other naught and nice cakes this month!

The original recipe didn’t call for a glaze but just said, “Frost if desired, but no frosting is required.” I thought I may as well go ahead and drive the naughty point home with a nice boozy rum glaze.

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

This cake lends itself perfectly to being baked as a bundt. The original recipe said to bake it in a tube pan like an angel food cake, but only because the bundt pan hadn’t yet been invented! They didn’t hit the scene until the 1950s.

I followed the recipe almost exactly, but did decide to add just a touch of vanilla to the white cake part. The original recipe didn’t call for it because it wasn’t readily available or affordable when it was developed, but now that it is available and affordable I saw no reason to leave it out. I’m sure it’d still be great without it, but thought it would really add a nice boost of flavor to the white cake.

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

It was sort of a a funny exercise rewriting a 70 year old cake recipe. The first paragraph was just about triple sifting the flour before measuring because flour back then didn’t come pre-sifted. The recipe was also sort of vague and inexact in some places, because most housewives back then already knew how to follow a recipe. It actually said to “bake in a slow oven for about an hour”.

I tried my best to update it and make it easier for the modern baker to follow. If the finished cake was any indication, I think I did a pretty good job.

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’m so glad to have the opportunity to revive a recipe that’s probably over a century old, and even more glad that it came out so absolutely wonderful! The cake is super light and tender, with a healthy dose of rich earthy molasses and a lovely bit of spice from the cinnamon and clove. When I first read the recipe I worried that the clove might be a bit overpowering, but I worried for nothing and wouldn’t change a thing. It tastes and smells just like the holidays, but if you want it to taste even more like gingerbread, you could easily add two or three teaspoons of ground ginger.

Ginger or no, this recipe is as fun and festive a holiday cake as you could ask for.

The rum glaze really adds another level of holiday cheer too, but if you’d prefer to keep this cake kiddo safe though, feel free to skip the rum and use an equal amount of milk instead.

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

Old-Fashioned Marble Cake

Adapted from Meta Given’s 1942 Modern Family Cookbook

Light Part: 
2 cups cake flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 egg whites
8 tablespoons butter (1 stick), at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla

Dark Part:
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons cloves
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
3 egg yolks, beaten
3 tablespoons molasses
3/4 cup buttermilk

Rum Glaze:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon dark rum
1 1/2 tablespoon milk

Preheat oven to 325F. Generously butter and flour a 10 to 12 cup bundt pan and tap out excess flour. Refrigerate pan.

Light Part:
Measure flour, baking powder, and salt for the light part into a bowl and whisk together until evenly distributed. Beat egg whites until they reach stiff (but not dry) peaks in the bowl of an electric mixer. Gradually mix in 1/4 cup of the sugar. Transfer to a small bowl and cover while you proceed.

In the same mixer bowl, cream butter and blend thoroughly with remaining 1/2 cup of the sugar. In a separate bowl (or measuring cup) mix buttermilk with vanilla. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to butter, beginning and ending with flour and beating well after each addition. Gently fold beaten egg whites into batter being careful not to overmix or deflate the whites. Transfer batter to another bowl and cover while you proceed.

Dark Part: 
Measure flour, soda, salt and spices for the dark part into a bowl and whisk together until evenly distributed. In the mixer bowl, cream butter until soft and smooth; add brown sugar and cream together thoroughly. Add beaten egg yolks and molasses, and beat until fluffy. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour and beating until smooth after each addition.

Drop alternating large spoonfuls of dark and light batter into the pan until all batter is used. Use a dull knife to make a swirled pattern in the batter for a marbled effect.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly with fingertips. Place on a cooling rack for 10 to 15 minutes to cool before inverting to remove cake and cool completely.

To make the glaze whisk the sugar, rum, & milk together in a small bowl until lump free. If too thick, add a drop or two of milk until you reach the desired texture. If too thin, add a bit more powdered sugar.

Drizzle glaze over completely cooled cake. Cake should keep, well covered and air tight at room temperature, for up to 3 days.

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

This month is filled with enough naughty and nice to make Santa’s head spin! Even the naughty cakes though, are plenty nice. I wish I could try each and every one!

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BundtBakers

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#BundtBakers is a group of Bundt loving Bakers who get together once a month to bake Bundts with a common ingredient or theme. We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme or ingredient. You can see all of our lovely Bundts by following our Pinterest Board.

Updated links for all of our past events and more information about BundtBakers can be found on our homepage.

Happy holidays y’all!