Brown Sugar Spice Cake

Two slices of brown sugar cake, one with apple butter spread on top, with a jar of apple butter open next to the plate

Kitra: Goals for today’s cake:

  1. Easy
  2. Can be eaten with apple butter/my hands
  3. Breakfast cake/snacking cake
  4. Small
  5. Did not require a trip to the grocery store

Jordan: This cake ticks all of those boxes and y’all, it is a Good Cake(™). It’s heavily spiced, soft but with a bit of texture, uses 1-2 bowls (depending on how much you follow the instructions), and goes from preheating the oven to eating cake in less than an hour.

This cake was everything I didn’t even know I needed, and I will make it again! No complaints, and I’ve already eaten half of it.

It’s also a pretty flexible recipe. The original recipe had plums (or other fruit) baked into the top.

I nearly swirled my apple butter into it, which I think would work! Or use up some leftover cranberry sauce!

Want more/less/different spice? Go for it. I dialed back the sugar for an even more breakfasty cake, which made it kind of like a well-spiced cornbread. (Not a bad thing!)

This seems hella adaptable. I’d make it again and serve it at a fall brunch with sauteed apples on the side.

We both made tiny cakes in loaf pans using a half batch, but you could double the recipe below in a round or square pan, or even in a loaf pan for a thicker cake.

This was the cake that my tired brain needed. (Even though I ran out of ground ginger and crushed up a tea bag instead.)

This is truly just a good cake to have in your back pocket. It works for any and all occasions: breakfast, dessert, tea, just because. It would make a lovely layer cake with a lightly sweet cream cheese frosting.

If you’re doing a lot of holiday baking, this is a chill-ass cake that will still fit the bill and also leave you enough energy for all the cookies in your holiday cookie timetable spreadsheet (is that just me?)

Whether you’re fitting cake in around cookie-baking (Kitra), errand-running (Jordan), or just general exhaustion (everyone), keep this one in mind.

A square piece of brown sugar spice cake with a dollop of fig jam on top.

Brown Sugar Spice Cake

Adapted from Everyday Dorie by Dorie Greenspan

Notes

As noted above, this is a very flexible cake but it doesn’t need any modifications to be great. The recipe here is for a very small cake; if you want to double it for a thick loaf or a standard round/square cake, use 3 eggs instead of 2 eggs and 2 whites. If you compare this to the original recipe, you’ll notice that the spice amounts are unchanged even with the smaller batch because we wanted it extra spicy; feel free to decrease the amount of each spice if you prefer a more neutral cake.

You can use whatever cornmeal you have on hand; a coarser one will give it more texture and a finer cornmeal will be softer and more cohesive.

Finally, you should whisk the dry ingredients separately, as written. However, Jordan just whisked the wet ingredients together and then added the dry ingredients straight into the same bowl.

Ingredients

  • 1 egg and 1 egg white
  • ⅜ cup (75g) brown sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup (65g) flour
  • 2 tablespoons (20g) cornmeal
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon coriander
  • a good amount of freshly grated nutmeg, or about ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°. Coat the inside of a loaf pan with baking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, egg white, brown sugar, and salt until smooth. Add in the vanilla and oil and whisk until it’s thick and well-combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and all spices. Add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients and whisk until just combined. Pour batter into the prepared pan.

Bake 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature, ideally topped with your preferred jam.

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