Nigella's snow-topped spice cake, in the Christmas chapter of How to be a Domestic Goddess, was one of those recipes I've consistently ignored. Until I started watching Big Love, HBO's fantastic family drama.
Bill Paxton plays Bill Henrickson, a modern-day polygamist, juggling three wives (Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloe Sevigny and Ginnifer Goodwin), seven children, and his own business, all whilst trying to protect his family from the police and the prophet from the old Juniper Creek compound. Awesome. In one episode, the whole family sits around the (massive) dinner table, and tuck into spice cake for dessert. I'm not quite sure why, but it made me really want spice cake. After watching the show, it was a simple hop-skip and a jump to the kitchen to make my own cake.
The recipe is supposed to be made in a 25cm Bundt tin, but as my family is not nearly as big as Bill Henrickson's, I halved the mixture and made it in a 16cm Bundt tin. Perfect! Furthermore, the instant royal icing that Nigella suggests seems to be unavailable in Australia, so I made it from scratch using a recipe from Joy of Baking. As you can see in the top photo, I had a bit of trouble getting the icing to look good, but no-one seemed to mind. The finished cake was much lighter and spongier than I expected. The deep spiciness of the cake made me think it would be dense and dark, but as the egg whites are whipped, the result is very soft and light.
The cake was a huge success! It wasn't too sweet, despite the blanket of royal icing. In fact, I think that the cake benefits from the crackly sweet topping. It tastes quite like lebkuchen or pfeffernuesse, those lovely German treats. I also think this cake would make a great alternative to a traditional Christmas cake or pudding, for those who don't like fruitcake.
Snow-Topped Spice Cake with Royal Icing
How to be a Domestic Goddess (Nigella Lawson)
Joy of Baking (Stephanie Jaworski)
4 large eggs, separated, plus 2 extra large egg whites
125ml vegetable oil
2 tbsp runny honey
200g dark muscovado sugar
75g ground almonds
150g plain flour
2 tsps baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp all-spice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
zest of 1/2 an orange
100g caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 180c.
Whisk together the yolks and oil, then add the water, honey and dark muscovado sugar. Add the almonds, flour, baking powder, bicarb, salt, spices and zest, folding in gently. In another bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form and then gradually add the caster sugar. Fold the whites into the cake mixture, and pour into a well buttered 25cm Bundt tin. Cook for 45 minutes, or until the cake is springy on top and beginning to shrink away from the edges. Let the cake cool in its tin on a rack for 25 minutes before turning it out.
When it's completely cold, you can make up the icing. Beat the egg white with the lemon juice. Add the sifted icing sugar and beat on a low speed until well combined and smooth. The icing needs to be used immediately or transferred to an airtight container, as it hardens when exposed to air.