I don't know about your house, but around here, it's canning time. This past weekend we made our yearly batch of seasoned tomato sauce, I'm getting ready to do salsa, and tomorrow I need to buy some peaches to try out jam or possibly peach butter. I'm totally inspired now that we have (and I know how to use) a pressure canner. We've actually had it for about a year, but I'm not gonna lie, I was scared of it. Steam is a scary thing. Steam inside of a closed vessel building up pressure is much scarier still. When I worked at the military academy at West Point, for our mechanical engineering program we had a steam lab that filled up an entire room and powered light bulbs, and I didn't even like walking in that room when the thing was running. I always envisioned it blowing up without warning, shards of light bulbs and steaming pipes flying. Same deal with the pressure canner. It doesn't matter that the thing has multiple safety mechanisms and redundancies, an exploding pot with burning hot jar fragments slicing through the air was all I could think of. Luckily my husband is very brave. Maybe because he has been shot at and I never have. Or maybe because he has 3 older sisters who tormented the hell out of him growing up. (My money's on the latter.) Whatever the reason, he fearlessly took on the pressure canner, and he won. And you know what? It was pretty anti climactic. But now I know how to use it, and I'ma be a canning fool.
I figured old timey books would be filled with preserves, jams, jellies and the like. They were, but while flipping through one of them, an old, yellowed newspaper clipping fell out and landed in my lap. It said Two Spice Cake, and I said, hells yeah. It had been quite a while since I sent any goodies with Marc to work, so I decided to put the canning adventures on momentary hold. After all, cake goes over better for a meeting than jars of peach butter.
This recipe was tucked inside the pages of one of the books I got from my grandma Marguerite, and was dated December, 1964. The only spices it had were cinnamon and ground cloves, both of which I love, so I was instantly intrigued. Spice cake that relies on the "everything but the kitchen sink" mixture of spices can be delicious too, but I liked the idea of letting those two basic ingredients take center stage. The recipe at its core seemed sound, so the only tweaking I did was to add salt and vanilla and adjust the mixing method a bit. The 1964 version was also baked in a tube pan and then dusted with powdered sugar. I opted for adapting it to cupcakes and then crowned them with a delicious (and lovely) cinnamon flecked cream cheese frosting.
Ok, enough slacking off with cake. Time to work on that salsa....
Two Spice Cupcakes
This recipe makes 24 cupcakes. I used a #24 portion scoop heaping full of batter to fill the pan.
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. ground cloves
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup butter (2 sticks), well softened
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
5 eggs, room temperature
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake papers, or grease and flour the pans very well, if you're so inclined.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cloves, cinnamon and salt. Set aside. Whisk the vanilla into the buttermilk and set aside.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer on medium speed until very fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add in the eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition. Add in about 1/3 of the flour mixture with your mixer on low speed. Mix in half of the buttermilk mixture, followed by another 1/3 of the flour, the remaining buttermilk and then the remaining flour, stopping to scrape down the bowl as necessary. Keep your mixer at low speed or you may get a flour facial.
Evenly divide the batter amongst the 24 cups in the pans; you will be filling them fairly full, close to the top of the cupcake paper. As I mentioned above, a portion scoop is nice here. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out with a few crumbs attached, rotating the pans about halfway through baking. Cool cupcakes in the pans for about 10 minutes, then remove them and put them on a cooling rack. Once they are completely cool a few hours later, you can finish them with the cream cheese frosting or frosting of your choice.
Cream Cheese Frosting
12 oz. cream cheese, well softened (this is 1 1/2 of the traditional block size)
6 Tbs. butter, well softened (3/4 of a stick)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups powdered (confectioner's) sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter together and then mix in the vanilla. With your mixer on low speed, mix in the sugar and cinnamon until creamy and slightly fluffy. Try not to eat the entire bowl before you can get it on the cupcakes. Enjoy!