In Which the Blogger Gives an Italian Twist to a Simple Classic…

Sometimes, keeping things simple makes them fabulous…

Spice cake baked according to the recipe in the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook was one of the first things I learned how to make after I finished college and found myself out of the pressure of having to deal with teachers or pesky classmates looking over my shoulder whenever I worked in the kitchen.  It’s one of those cakes that is so utterly simple because all it really takes is to bung all the ingredients into a mixing bowl, whip them up, pour into a baking tin, bake – et voila.

There isn’t much one should do to make this cake even better than it already is.  On its own, it’s just sweet enough and has the right amount of stodge to it.  The spices are beautifully balanced: not enough to put off picky eaters but just enough to impart a lovely fragrance that tickles the nostrils and an equally lovely flavor to tickle the palate.  This makes it a perfect snack cake when paired with either milky coffee, tea, or cold milk.

The only way I’ve actually tweaked this treat was to give it a bit of an Italian twist by making the sour milk called for in the recipe with a bit of balsamic vinegar and swapping the butter in the recipe for an equal amount of olive oil.  Plus, I am also aware that many people in this part of the world don’t like the taste of either nutmeg or cloves.  (Here in the Philippines, most people’s palates remain uneducated with respect to spices because – and I learned this by experience – they have the mistaken notion that it’ll give them body odor!  The bloody barbarians…)  The end result was pretty much like an Italian cake which is to say that it yielded a sponge that was more dry than moist, but had a delicious, delicate flavor that made it the perfect thing to go with milky tea or plain cold milk.

Balsamic and Olive Oil Spice Cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar + enough milk to yield 1 cup liquid
  • 1/4 cup margarine or vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (not extra virgin)
  • 3 eggs

Grease a 13 x 9 x 2 baking tin and pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees / Gas Mark 4.

Cream together the olive oil, sugar, and margarine in a large mixing bowl until well-mixed.  Crack in the eggs, beating after each addition, then stir in the balsamic-soured milk and vanilla.  Add all the dry ingredients and mix into a smooth batter.  Pour into the prepared baking tin and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for about ten minutes before cutting into bars.

Makes 36 bars.