As the season begins to change from winter to spring, I find myself wanting it to hold off a little longer. I feel like I have unfinished business to attend to before those long stalks of rhubarb beckon me. Crocuses are starting to peak out from the ground and I know it won’t be long before the city bursts into bloom. Yet, I haven’t made that turkey minestrone soup yet or the pecan sandies like I intended. This spiced yeast cake has also been on my mind these last couple months.
Parenthood is the same way right? I feel the steady tick of the clock and I wonder if I’m ready for this season to end. I just got my feet under me. Nevertheless, I see the signs and know that we are headed into a new phase. Did we accomplish enough? The little one can tie his shoes and read chapter books. The older one can manage his school work and swim. I see them building friendships and managing their emotions. I see the signs and know that ready or not, here we come.
Spiced Yeast Cake
About a year ago I read an article about the long tradition of yeast cakes. Prior to 1843 when baking powder came around to give us our lift, yeast was used instead. I’m intrigued by the depth of a cake that uses yeast instead of baking powder or baking soda. This cake is a cross between cinnamon raisin bread and spiced coffee cake. It makes you want to slow down and curl up with a cup of tea. The recipe below is adapted from an old recipe for Election Cake, which is the American version of a yeast cake. If you are interested, read this article by Greg Patent to learn more about this old American tradition. I’d say we could all use a little cake right now, so go ahead and give this one a try and tell me what you think.
3 1/3 teaspoons instant dry yeast
1 1/2 cups milk
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sliced almonds
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup orange juice
1 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature and cubed
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon orange juice (or as much as needed to get desired consistency)
Warm milk in a small saucepan over medium until the milk is warm (around 110 degrees). Pour into a large bowl. Whisk in the remaining sponge ingredients and using a hand mixer, mix for 2 minutes on a medium speed. The sponge will thicken up. Cover and set aside to rise for 30 minutes.
In a small bowl combine orange juice, raisons and dried cranberries. Microwave for 45 seconds and set aside.
Generously butter a 10-inch bundt pan. Sprinkle almonds over pan and gently press into the pan in a single layer. Set aside.
In a medium bowl whisk flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Set aside.
Add butter and sugar to the bowl of your mixer and cream until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Reduce speed and incorporate eggs one at a time. Mix in vanilla extract. Add the sponge mixture and mix until well combined. Spoon in flour mixture in three additions. Mix on low after each addition to fully combine. The batter will be smooth and thick. Mix in dried fruit with their juices.
Using a spatula, distribute the batter evenly around pan and smooth top. Cover and let rise for a couple hours on a draft free counter. Resist the urge to rush this part. You can also stick this in the refrigerator and let it rise slowly over night and bake in the morning. The batter should fill about half the pan before rising.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place oven rack in center of oven.
After the cake has risen, place pan on a baking sheet (in case of overflow) and bake 40 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cakes comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let cool on a wire cooling rack for 30 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely. Whisk together powdered sugar and orange juice in a small bowl and spoon over cooled cake. Serve at room temperature.