Tuesday night I bemoaned to my sisters about how I had run out of blogging material. I haven’t written enough to write knowledgeable posts on writing. People would see right through my facade to the glaring errors–or I would lie well enough to lead whoever read my advice hilariously astray. I’m looking to share something better with the world than bad writing advice. But I’m not widely enough read in popular fiction to write the ever popular posts about 10 Pitfalls to Avoid when Writing High Fantasy, or The 7 Types of Romance in Young Adult fiction. There’s nothing wrong with those. I enjoy reading them on a regular basis. But I just can’t bring myself to try.
My sister Rachel suggested that I put a spin on the recipes I’m already featuring and do book themed food. Sisters. Are. Golden. That is the bottom line. Those of you who follow me on Twitter will have seen my post asking about food in literature, (Thank you to everyone who answered, BTW.) and the reason I asked is because I was having trouble thinking of very many culinary mentions. (That goes back to the part about not being widely read.)
But the first one that came to mind was Elnora’s lunches in The Girl of the Limberlost. It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Gene Stratton-Porter. I need to re-read The Girl of the Limberlost for reviewing this year. There are so many things to love about that story. And the food belongs among them.
. . .And after long hesitation began creaming butter and sugar in a crock. An hour later the odor of the ham, mingled with some of the richest spices of ‘happy Araby,’ in a combination which meant nothing save spice cake, crept up to Elnora so strongly that she lifted her head and sniffed amazedly.
–The Girl of the Limberlost
Limberlost Spice Cake (with G-F option)
3 ½ oz. gluten free flour blend (recipe in link) or all-purpose wheat flour
½ tsp. baking powder
pinch of baking soda
¼ xanthan gum (this can be omitted if you’re not using gluten free flour.)
¼ tsp. salt
¾ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. cardamom
¼ tsp. ginger
¼ tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. allspice
pinch ground cloves
1 egg + 1 egg yolk, separated
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup full fat sour cream
1/4 cup vegetable or coconut oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 325F°.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, xanthan gum, baking soda, salt, and spices.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the egg white until foamy. Sprinkle in the sugar and continue to whip until stiff peaks form. Turn off the mixer.
To the two egg yolks, add the oil (be sure to melt it if you’re using coconut,) sour cream, and vanilla. Beat with a fork until emulsified.
Fold the egg yolk mixture into the meringue, then sift the flour and spices blend over the top in increments, folding it in as you go.
I baked mine in little 4-inch springform pans, greased and floured. If you don’t have them and you want to make the mini cake, you can double the batter recipe and cut out rounds with a biscuit cutter. Or you could just make cupcakes. This recipe will make 6.
Divide the batter evenly between your pans. Bake 4-inch springforms for 18-20 minutes, cupcakes for 16-18 minutes, or an 8×8 for 22-24, or until a toothpick comes out with a crumb or two sticking to it.
Allow to cool in the pans for a few minutes, then flip out onto a wire cooling rack to set until completely cool.
Brown Butter Frosting
I know the book said nothing of frosting, but let’s be honest. What good is cake without a little frosting? To put a twist on a more original saying, a cake without frosting is just quick bread. You may want to start this before you make the batter, so that the butter has time to re-solidify by the time you’re ready to frost.
1/2 cup butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. cardamom
pinch ground ginger
pinch ground nutmeg
2 tbsp. milk or half & half
In a wide skillet, melt the butter and allow to brown, swirling occasionally. Set the browned butter aside and allow it to come down to room temp and solidify. When it’s soft, but not runny or thin, place in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk and whip. It will look a little odd at first, but as it whips it will return to a more natural buttery state.
With the mixer running on medium-low, add the first cup of powdered sugar a little at a time. It will gather into little clumps (it’s a very thick frosting), so after the first cupful add the first tablespoon of milk or cream. Repeat. Take the bowl out of the mixer and fold in the spices and vanilla.
Frosts 6 cupcakes or the 3-4 inch springform rounds.
Recipes adapted from How Sweet Eats and the America’s Test Kitchen How Can it be Gluten-Free cookbook.
I leave you with one more enticing excerpt.
As she began closing it a breath of air swept by, lifting the covering of the cake. It was like an invitation, and breakfast was several hours away. Elnora picked up a piece and ate it. The cake tasted even better than it looked.
–The Girl of the Limberlost