Our New Years this year was so magical I actually hesitated to type about it for a few days because the experience of warmth and closeness with true friends seemed somehow challenging to properly articulate... This year, we didn't go "out," we didn't go to a party large or small, we didn't go downtown or uptown or any other of the myriad of possibilities from previous or hypothetical New Years celebrations. Instead, we were blessed to be able to spend the evening at home with our friends Emily and Aaron, who came to spend the weekend with us... and the laughter, hilarity, vibrant conversations, and feelings of warmth, camaraderie, and contentment that filled the weekend are sure to portend a beautiful 2011 indeed.
Somewhere prior to midnight I decided to bake a cake... and grand, 4 layer cake, worthy of an event as elegant as a New Years Eve celebration... and somewhere between midnight and dawn Emily and I glazed and assembled the cake... as a piece of asymmetrical, tired modern art!
The cake itself is remarkable, I'm proud to say, with alternating layers of smooth vanilla cake and richly flavorful spice cake, gilded with a gossamer vanilla glaze...
and it also makes a rather grand art project...
Four Layer Vanilla and Spice Cake
(Adapted from Southern Living, December 2010)
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup SmartBalance Light (or butter)
2 cups Turbinado sugar
1 1/2 cups 2% milk
1 1/2 T lemon juice
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cloves
Shredded, unsweetened coconut (optional)
~ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
~ Grease and flour four 9" round or 8X8" baking pans.
~ Toast the pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet for 5 to 7 minutes, until lightly toasted and fragrant, stirring once half-way through.
~ Cream together the SmartBalance Light and turbinado sugar until light and fluffy.
~ Add the eggs one at a time, beating until just combined after each addition.
~ Stir together the milk and lemon juice, and set aside.
~ Stir together the flours, baking soda, and salt.
~ To the egg mixture, alternately add small amounts of the flour mixture and the milk and lemon juice mixture, starting and ending with flour and beating on low speed (or stirring) until just blended after each addition.
~ Stir in the vanilla.
~ Pour half the batter into two of the prepared baking dishes.
~ Stir the cinnamon, allspice, and cloves into the remaining batter, then fold in the pecans.
~ Divide the pecan batter between the two remaining baking dishes.
~ Bake for 20 minutes - until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool for 10 minutes in the pans, then turn them onto wire racks to cool the rest of the way.
~ When the cakes have cooled, prepare the vanilla glaze and assemble by stacking alternating layers of vanilla and spice cake, spreading glaze between each layer. Drizzle layer over the top of the cake as well. If you fancy, sprinkle the top of the cake with some unsweetened grated coconut, and stir some additional unsweetened grated coconut into a little reserved glaze to make a fluffy paste, then serve slices of cake with dollops of the coconut paste!