What are you baking this time of year? And are you baking from memories? To me, the answer to the latter question is a resounding yes. It could be the special mix of spices that brings the delightful memories home – or maybe it’s the warmth in the air, or perhaps the scent of the fir tree, alluring and caressing, or the Christmas lights embellishing the coldest of nights. Whatever the start, the result is the same: I search through my mom’s old recipe notebook, turn on the oven – and then, the magic happens.
The childhood carousel, the smiles, the carefree days may long be gone, but the memories live on – one memory in particular: my mom making spice cake in the kitchen of our tiny apartment, many years ago. Suspended between heaven and earth, the alluring aroma of cloves, juniper berries and cinnamon now permeating my kitchen is here to remind me of all that’s good and true, of sweetness and light, of gentle innocence. Oh, how I wish I could go back in time, even for a brief moment…
This spice cake is one of the very first recipes I posted on my blog on Christmas Eve 2013, a comforting sweet treat which means the world to me. I remember my mom struggling to find the ingredients for this cake, and making it with me by her side. Ultimately victorious, cake out of the oven, it was time for me to sink my teeth into the moist, honey- and spice-packed goodness – a step which was *not* to be delayed, especially since it also involved pouring some fruit preserve over the cake (the more, the better 😁)
These days, I add more spices than my mom used to, new additions such as Selefina Spices nutmeg and cardamom. I also like to “get fancy” and to use plenty of toppings, in addition to strawberry preserve, such as abundant freeze-dried fruits.
These are all mom-approved additions – but could I live without them? Absolutely. Sometimes you need to “get fancy” to understand the timeless value of the simpler things, encapsulated in the most precious of memories. I love these memories, this dessert – and I love you, mom…
Merry Christmas and happy holidays, everyone! See you in the new year 🙂
Delicious spice cake
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 eggs at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 5 tbsp milk at room temperature
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 7 juniper berries
- 10 Selefina Spices cloves
- 1 tsp Selefina Spices ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp Selefina Spices ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp Selefina Spices ground cardamom
- 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
- Zest of 1 large lemon
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup raisins (optional)
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Place eggs and sugar in the bowl of a mixer and mix for about 5-7 minutes, until the mixture is fluffy, airy, and a pale yellow color. Add the melted butter slowly, mixing well. Add the vegetable oil as well, mixing well to ensure smooth blending. Lastly, add the milk and the honey, mixing well (Note: Being heavy, honey tends to fall to the bottom of the bowl quickly)
- Crush the juniper berries and the cloves to a very fine powder in a mortar and pestle. Add them to the bowl along with the other spices (cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and vanilla extract) and the lemon zest. Mix to ensure even blending.
- Place the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl, and mix until combined. Add the flour mix to the main bowl, and mix until homogeneous (do not overmix!) At this point you can add raisins too, if you so wish.
- Pour the mixture into a baking pan covered with baking paper (note: I usually use a 9inx9inx2in square pan). Bake for around 40 minutes or until golden-brown. You can check for doneness by inserting a toothpick in the center of the cake. The cake is done if the toothpick comes out clean and dry.
- When done, take the cake out of the oven and let it cool completely. Serve sliced, with fresh/freeze-dried fruits, fruit preserve, and/or whipped cream.