Ginger Ale Spice Cake

I happen to have the first edition (1998) but if you click on the link you'll see she's republished it several times.

Our church just started a cultural studies series on the Feasts of Israel and I’m providing festive Jewish food to go along. Until we get into the specific feasts, I’ve been trying different cakes from the Shabbat chapter of Marcy Goldman’s A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking. This was the first recipe I picked out, since I figured it would go well with the coffee and tea we serve before the service.

Besamin Container: Altered Altoids 1

This cookbook includes nice sidebar explanations of different traditions or recipe sources, this one with a mention of the “besamin box,” a somewhat obscure tradition for the end of Shabbat, Havdalah, that involves opening a special container of whole spices and releasing the fragrance. This recipe, besides being a nice light recipe for spice cake, also plays on the associations of that tradition.

Besides the cultural and religious histories the cookbook author includes, there are lots of fun personal anecdotes and the explanations are very detailed and thorough. There are also lots of specialty recipes from Montreal, which makes me want to go back and explore more Jewish bakeries! This is definitely a cookbook that’s fun to read and one I’ll be using again and again.

For this recipe, I liked the use of ginger ale in the batter – it made it very light for a cake with this many eggs, but I should have watched it more carefully in the oven because it deflated a bit and I think I overcooked it slightly because it was dryer than I would have liked. Still, it was definitely eaten up quickly after the service!

Besamin Box Spice Cake

Cake Ingredients:

  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup ginger ale
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. dried mace
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Glaze Ingredients:

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. ginger ale
  • 2 Tbsp. orange juice

Preheat the oven to 350º F. Choose a cake pan: 9×13″ rectangular or angel food tube pan (the flat pan will take less time to bake, the angle food will look nicer). Lightly grease and set aside.

Cream the shortening with the sugars and add the eggs and vanilla. Sift together the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the batter alternately with the ginger ale, stirring well after each addition. Spoon batter into prepared pan.

Bake until the cake springs back when lightly pressed – 45 min for the flat pan, 60 min for a tube pan. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from the tube pan.

Mix up the glaze and add to the cake when it’s cooled (if you add it too soon it will melt and puddle or drip off. Top with chopped nuts or grated orange zest. Alternately, don’t use the glaze – just sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Yield: 10-12 servings.

1. The drippy icing mess is proof that I put it on too quickly, then had it melt into a central puddle, which I then tried to redistribute via slow tilts. It worked, for the most part.

2. If the slideshow below doesn’t appear, you can view the photos directly on my flickr account.

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