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baking prep

spice cake with berry compote & coffee-cardamom frosting

Ok, I promise I'm not going to post about everything we served at our wedding. I'm done after this one. Although there were these herbed butters... we'll come back to those later.

This timing worked out perfectly, though. Our anniversary was on the 23rd and my friend asked me a couple months back if I'd be willing to make a cake for their wedding the following Saturday. She also gave me free reign on what kind of cake to make, so I jumped at the opportunity to finally eat a whole piece of my own wedding cake! I had so much adrenaline at the time that I only really had a bite of it - and apparently we either failed to remember who we assigned to pack-up-two-pieces-of-cake-for-us duty or everyone ate it all before that could happen. Regardless, I've been itching for the chance to have this cake again.

My sister Amy and I invented the cake between the two of us. We pulled bits of various recipes from here and there, tweaked them to the flavors we wanted, and nudged things around to suit the need. For about a month or so, the two of us baked more varieties of spice cake than I think either of us ever cared to try. But the end result was worth every bottle of cinnamon and allspice we went through. It was exactly the cake I'd hoped for - and my sister made my wedding cake, which had always been something I'd wanted. Not to mention she drove it 200 miles and then assembled it in a stranger's kitchen. She's kind of a badass.

And while we're on the subject of Badass Ladies Who Contributed to My Wedding Cake, take a look at that cake stand. My mom made that. I gave her the most general of instructions - basically "um... something out of a stump that's vaguely treeish... whatever you have on hand" - and she produced this masterpiece in her garage from a tree branch she found out back. Let's hear it for the Evans women!

So all that to say, I was thrilled to get a chance to bake this cake. My friend's wedding was less winter themed than ours, so I revisited the decorating side of things and was able to try my hand at some gold foil. I'd been wanting to try that ever since marathoning the Great British Bakeoff, so here was my chance! I was quite happy with how it turned out, if I do say so myself.


spice cake with cranberry-raspberry compote

& coffee-cardamom frosting

yield: two-layer 9" cake



3 cups all purpose flour 2 tsp baking soda 2 tsp baking powder 1 tsp cinnamon ½ tsp ground ginger ¼ tsp ground cloves ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg ¼ tsp ground allspice ¼ tsp ground cardamom 1 15-oz can pumpkin 1½ cups sugar 1¼ cups vegetable oil 4 large eggs 2 tsp finely grated orange peel


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

  2. Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans, tapping out any excess flour.

  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.

  4. In the bowl of a standing mixer pumpkin and sugar, then add the oil and beat until thoroughly combined.

  5. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating between each addition.

  6. Add the orange zest.

  7. While mixing on low, add the flour mixture one cup at a time until just blended.

  8. Divide batter between prepared pans.

  9. Bake cakes for approximately 35 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove the cakes from the pans and cool completely on a rack.



12 ounces cranberries (fresh or frozen) 5 ounces raspberries (fresh or frozen) ¼ cup sugar ½ packet of gelatin


  1. In a saucepan heat the cranberries, raspberries, and sugar over medium heat until the cranberries start to burst and the sugar melts.

  2. Mix in the gelatin, then remove the compote from the heat and allow it to cool to room temperature.

  3. Refrigerate for several hours (or overnight) for the gelatin to set.



3 sticks unsalted butter, cut into chunks and softened 3 TB heavy cream 2½ tsp vanilla ¼ tsp salt 3 cups powdered sugar 2 tsp cardamom 3 TB strong coffee


  1. In a standing mixer, beat the butter, cream, vanilla, cardamom, and salt in a large bowl until smooth, approximately 1-2 minutes.

  2. Turn the mixer down to medium-low, then add the powdered sugar a bit at a time. Beat until smooth, approximately 4-6 minutes, then add the coffee and mix to combine.

  3. Increase the mixer speed to medium high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, 5-10 minutes.


  1. Level the cake layers with a serrated knife.

  2. Place one layer of cake on the stand and cover with a thin layer of frosting. Pipe a thick ring of frosting around the edge.

  3. Top with a generous portion of cranberry-raspberry compote and spread it to fill in the area inside the frosting ring.

  4. Top with the second cake layer, being careful not to press down so much that the compote and/or frosting oozes out of the middle.

  5. Frost the cake according to your preference.

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Pick varieties and flavors that bring you joy. Not everyone is a baker and not everyone likes to cook. 


Enjoy the process. One of my favorite things while baking is to knead the dough and feel how it changes in my hands. I love chopping vegetables that came fresh from the farmer's market, brushing the dirt off the leaves, and creating with something that came from the earth.


Listen to jazz. I know this is a personal preference, but there are few things that give me quite the feeling of contentment as cooking a good meal with a glass of wine and a Thelonius record on in the background.

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