December 9, 2011

Dutch Spice Cake

I made this unusual spice cake yesterday morning, in a pre-7am baking frenzy.  This happens more than you'd think.  I made a gluten and dairy free oat bread for my mom and slapped this together while the food processor was out, since it's darn heavy and I store it above my head...yeah, not so smart.  While I did think it was extremely tasty, it was missing two spices. (Both of which I had, but couldn't find until I wasn't looking for it this morning, doesn't that always happen?)  The original recipe is called a Dutch spice cake, the Dutch spice being speculaas spice.  It's a very addictive mixture of all your favourite holiday spices, plus a few you weren't expecting, like mace and aniseed.

When I took the cake to work I merely labeled it spice cake with almonds which is really not very special sounding, if you ask me.  But everyone loved it, I had a few requests for a recipe, which to me is the biggest compliment of all.  It's one thing to try something once, it's another to like it enough to try making it yourself.  I copied out the recipe onto a few index cards to hand out to those requested and I thought I'd share it here.  It's a very fragrant cake, crunchy along the edges, with little bits of toothsome almonds.  It's sturdy and dense, in the best way.  It's sweet and complex, truly a delicious cake.

To save yourself a few steps (or if you have to buy more than two spices) stop at your local Dutch food store and look for speculaas spice, it would be something they'd carry.  Just take out all the other spice and dump in 3 Tbsp speculaas.  If you buy pre-ground almond you may need add more beaten egg to make the paste malleable, just take a look, you don't want it runny either.

Dutch Spice Cake

Almond Filling:
150 g almonds
150 g (3/4 cup) white sugar
zest of 1/2 lemon
1 medium egg, beaten

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp aniseed (the seeds inside the star anise, pulverized in a mortar and pestle will do)
1/4 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp mace
250 g (2 cups) white flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
200 g (1 cup) brown sugar
175 g (3/4 cup) chilled butter
1 egg beaten

Almond Filling:
Place the almonds in a food processor to blitz them until they are just crumbs, it takes a few minutes.  Dump out into a bowl.  Stir in sugar and lemon zest.  Mix in enough beaten egg to make mixture malleable.  Shape into disk and wrap with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate until needed.

Sift spices, flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into a large bowl.  Cut in the butter with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs.  Add the egg and knead for a minutes or so, the dough will be quite soft.  Form into a disk, wrap with plastic and chill for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 340 F and grease a 9 inch circle pan.  Cut the dough into two parts, one making 2/3 of the dough and 1/3 in the other.  Between two pieces of plastic wrap roll out the larger dough into an 11 inch circle.  Transfer the dough to the pan pressing in at sides but leaving the extra hang over the edge.

Spread the almond filling evenly over the bottom later and fold the excess dough over top of the filling.  Roll out the smaller piece of dough into a small 9 inch circle and press the dough on top of the almond filling, into the over lapping dough to create a seam.  Prick the top all over with a fork and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top doesn't look very wet at all. 

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