Friday, September 16, 2011

Buttermilk spice cake with cream cheese frosting

I'm a sucker for a good piece of cake. But sadly, like a decent man, this can be tough to find. Some cakes are absolutely gorgeous but underneath dry or flavorless. Some taste fantastic but look homely. Others lack frosting. Worse, some have bad frosting.

So when I come across a good cake--one that's moist and delicious, pretty to look at, easy to make, keeps well, and requires no special equipment--I get pretty excited. This lovely cake, courtesy of The Hungry Mouse, is all that and more. It's super simple and comes together in a snap. Inside, there's buttermilk (sheer magic), and loads of spices, like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and two tablespoons of ground ginger. Swoon!

I pretty much followed the recipe, even though the order of assembling ingredients was strange (mix the dry stuff together, then cream in the butter and buttermilk, then the eggs and vanilla...weird, right?) 

I did bake it in an 8-inch round pan instead of a square one, 'cause I think round cakes are cuter than square ones. And I skipped the spraying-with-oil-and-parchment business. I just buttered and floured the pan, old-school-style, and the cake popped out perfectly. And the third change is that I reduced the baking time. Hungry Mouse recommended 50-55 minutes, and I started checking mine at 40. At 46 it was borderline, and I made the mistake of putting it in for another 3 minutes. At 49, it was a little on the dry side.

So, as always, adjust the timing for your pan and oven, and, most of all--pay attention.

The cake turned out pretty rockin', though, even being a shade on the dry side. This was entirely my fault, not a reflection on the recipe. And you know, dry cake is an instance where frosting can play a practical role, adding a little (buttery) moisture.

Would you like a closer look? I have limited photography skills but I know my way around the Macro setting. Check it:

On a different note, you may have noticed I took a little hiatus from The Hungry Dog. It wasn't exactly intentional, it just sort of happened. I've had a lot of work to do, plus other stuff--fun stuff. I also haven't been cooking new and wonderful things, or even new and terrible things, which often make better posts. But basically, I sort of forgot about my blog. And when I remembered it, I didn't feel like posting anything. Sad, right?

And then I came across this post by good old cookiecrumb, and it really resonated with me. I'm starting to wonder if blogging isn't working for me anymore. It's starting to seem kind of repetitive, and sometimes like, well, a chore. As a result, my posts aren't as good. As a result of that, it appears my readership has really dropped off. If no one's reading this, what's the point?

I don't imagine The Hungry Dog will shut down overnight. But, I think I'm ready for a change.

As I ponder this and what the hell I'm doing with the rest of my life, I do have one problem you might be able to solve, which is what to do with an excess of cream cheese frosting. This cake made waaaaaaaaay too much, and that's from someone who slathers frosting like Ina Garten on steroids. Seriously, I have a ton left over. Is it freezable? Help me.


  1. Send the extra over to me! This looks amazing, and not too decadent for every day. I know what you mean about the blogging blues, but I hope you continue, I love your blog.

  2. Oh! Happy-sad for you. I can relate!

  3. I think you can freeze that extra frosting. I've done it, just using one of those blue Ziploc tubs, defrosted it in the fridge, even served it to others and thought it tasted fine. Now I want to bake something that calls for it!

    I can understand your feeling re: the blog. But I would still enjoy reading it even if you posted just once a year! - Pete

  4. I think I've been in a similar phase for several months. Though August was my best month in a year, and having new work projects on the horizon somehow invigorates me, in all segments of my life. I do think, though, that cultivating my actual, offline relationships is more important than providing a steady two-posts-a-week blog, so more and more I've been blogging when I feel like it, when I feel like I have something to say. These days, I have a pretty big list of things I want to write about, though work and social "obligations" come first. I'm still down to about one post a week, and I'm comfortable with that. To conclude this rambling comment, I hear you. Thanks for being honest. And don't stop blogging! I'd miss you!

    p.s. Buttermilk IS magic. And you could try beating an egg into the leftover frosting and baking it like a cheesecake. Just a thought. I've never tried it. :)

    p.p.s. I'm on my third glass of wine. Clearly it's making me chatty.

  5. Sue: Oh, thank you! I love your blog too.

    cookie: I figured.

    Pete: Thanks! Nice to have the family support. Maybe I'll try freezing my's still sitting in the fridge...

    Camille: I sure wish we lived in the same city (paris, not SF)--we could could inspire each other--and drink wine together :)

  6. Please don't stop writing the blog. I love it and it makes me happy every time I read it--but of course if the thrill is winding down for you I guess you've got to consider next steps. Like a winter trip to the East Coast.

    Extra frosting means you might just need to make a batch of muffins and frost those. Pumpkin cranberry pecan? I keep frosting in the fridge for about 5 days with a wet towel on the top. Eating with a (very tiny) spoon is always OK.

  7. Claire: "Winter trip to the east coast"--sorry, no. Spring maybe! In the meantime we need to catch up. I'll call you this week.

    ALY: totally.

  8. Extra frosting? How about dressing up some brownies or turning pumpkin muffins into cupcakes?

    Hope you don't give up the blog...we love to check it out!

  9. I have yet to make a good cake from a good recipe. I've tried a few times, thinking it'll be so comforting to have a freshly baked cake in my kitchen, and it always turns out flat. I might try this recipe, though, because it has all the flavors that I love.

    As for blogging, I think you're among many who started blogging five-seven years ago and am now going through a mid-life crisis (or should I say mid-blog crisis?). I can relate to how you feel, but I think the trick is to always find what you enjoyed about blogging and see if it's still there or if you can reinvent it. (That's actually happening to me right now, and I'm about to announce a big change on my blog next week!)

    In the end, you have to do what's best for you (not your readers) and what you're passionate about. If you're not passionate about food blogging, then don't do it.

    Although, I would be sad to not read your stories. They are so personal, touching, and funny! If you don't write about food, I hope you still write, and let me know where so I can keep up! :)

  10. I sort of go through the same phases with my blog. It's so hard to be diligent and keep a good steady flow of posts. In an odd way, it makes me feel better that you feel the same way. Thanks for your honesty. But please! Don't let hungry dog fade away...

  11. Jary: good idea on the muffin --> cupcake transformation.

    Ben: thanks for your kind words! I can't wait to see what you're planning for your blog. Maybe it will inspire me.

    Jessica: yeah, between thinking of ideas of things to make, cooking/baking them, taking pictures, editing them, and then writing a decent sometimes seems like a lot.

  12. Love the analogy of cake and men. Hilarious. The cake looks awesome, the crumb is absolutely beautiful and who doesn't love cream cheese frosting? As for the blogging hiatus, I totally hear you. Nothing wrong in taking a break or making change. If you continue to post though, (here, there or anywhere), I'll be sure to read it!

    p.s. cream cheese frosting is totally freezable. Thaws very nicely, GREAT on warm banana bread and the like. :)

  13. HD, thx for your candor about where you are at; I concur with P re even 1 blog/year! Your musings always make me smile + want to cook/bake. Ditto re magic of buttermilk, who knew? I made a huge batch of bright pink for RVcupcakes and froze the rest; just defrost and whip w/whisk. I kinda liked knowing it was just there, waiting to top something. Aloha, cwt

  14. Connie: Cream cheese frosting on banana bread...brilliant!

    Carole: Thanks for the tip. Hey did you guys already go to Hawaii?

  15. I would miss you terribly if you stopped blogging. Your writing style is witty and funny. Love your recipes, love your blog. Reconsider.

    I have taken note over the last two years that you like spice cakes. I do too.


  16. first of all, i've come across many a decent slab of cake, but they're mostly of my own making. i wish i could make myself a decent man. :)
    secondly, i echo your waning interest in blogging. my posts have become fewer and fewer, but i still enjoy it for the most part. i'll miss you if you go. :)

  17. Oh Velva, thank you! YOu are very sweet.

    grace: Your cakes DO always look fantastic. And I am glad to know, based on the responses to this post, that I am not the only one whose interest in blogging ebbs and flows.

  18. mmmm, I can just smell that delicious spicy cake... I agree it's very hard to keep inspired, but sometimes you just need to take a break for a while. I hope you keep up your ramblings tho, and that one of these days we can get together and go foraging! Did your father ever mention having Rob Minkoff as a student at Paly?

  19. Frosted spice cake always reminds me of the rare times we got a little wedge in the school cafeteria with our lunch when I was a kid. I've loved it ever since. ;)

  20. foodhoe: We should definitely meet for lunch or something sometime! Rob Minkoff sounds familiar, what year did he graduate? I can ask my mom.

    CJ: Me too!

  21. Oh dear, I come back from holidays to find you're contemplating putting a stop to blogging? What will I read? I do get what you mean though, I sometimes wonder what on earth am I doing this for, but then I always seem to want to come back to it again.

    Anyway, the cake sounds fantastic, will have to try it out. And I've often frozen cream cheese frosting, it seems to survive.

  22. 1980 same as me! look him up in wikipedia...

  23. shaz: I guess I can't give it up yet either, something keeps me coming back (I think it's having loyal readers like YOU!)

    foodhoe: Oh THAT Rob Minkoff!