I think I might have gotten a little bit ahead of myself. The first days of October are only just marked off the calender and already I've cracked open the cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg and we all know what they represent ... the 'C' word. Not that one ...
There's something about these aromatic spices that create that sense of festivity .... yes, they reek of Christmas. Add in a glug of bourbon whiskey and, sure, I might as well have been baking in a Santa suit. In an effort to validate my premature leap into winter baking, I should explain. Growing up in Wexford, October marks the beginning of the festive season. Our Opera Festival kicks off in two weeks and the buzz around town is always amazing. Once this wraps up though, it's mid November and sure then it's nearly Christmas! So you can't blame a girl for getting the cinnamon and whiskey ready!
Unlike most seasonal treats that pack quite a spicy punch, this cake is surprisingly delicate in flavour. For this reason, this bad boy is getting logged as an 'autumnal' recipe, a transitional cake to get us ready for the richer flavours needed on those cold, wintry nights! "A transitional cake" ... I like that!
I've used gluten-free flour and baking powder here but it works just the same with plain wheat flour versions.
310g Gluten-free Plain Flour
2 teaspoons Gluten-free Baking Powder
2 teaspoons Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/4 teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/4 teaspoon Salt
30g Butter or dairy-free spread, softened
80ml Organic Sunflower Oil
250g Soft Brown Sugar
3 Free Range Eggs
2 teaspoons Vanilla
300ml Milk or Dairy-Free Alternative Milk
Preheat the oven to 180'C and line a 9"x13" tray with baking parchment. If you don't have a tray exactly this size don't worry, just find something similar. Bear in mind however that if your tray is much smaller/larger, you will need to adjust the timing for baking.
Sift the dry ingredients into a medium sized bowl. In a larger bowl, beat together the butter, oil and sugar until fluffy and then add in the eggs and vanilla. You can do this with an electric mixer or with a wooden spoon (I did it by hand and it was perfect).
Add in some of the flour mixture and fold into the wet ingredients. Add in half of the milk and mix this through. Add in more flour followed by more milk , mixing after each addition and then add the last of the flour. Mix through and then pour the batter into the prepared tin.
Bake for about 25 minutes, until golden brown. If the centre doesn't seem quite cooked after 25 minutes but the top is browning, place a sheet of tin foil over the top of the tray and return to the oven for 5-7 minutes. This will protect the top of the sponge while allowing it to cook through.
Allow to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool fully before icing.
250g Icing Sugar
80g Butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Bourbon (I use Makers Mark) or Brandy
Handful Chopped Walnuts
Beat all of the ingredients together until light and fluffy. Boom - Buttercream!
Layer the cooled spice cake with the icing and cut into bite-size portions and sprinkle with chopped walnuts.