I first saw this version of Spice Bundt cake in Maida Heatter's Book of Great American Desserts. Maida was known as the “Queen of Cake” and lived to the age of 102; if you’re not familiar with her recipes, I highly recommend seeking out one of her cookbooks online. Maida’s original recipe is very good, but I found the amount of molasses in a tad overwhelming, and some of the instructions were a little time consuming (separating eggs and folding in beaten egg whites – too many dishes!) This is a more streamlined recipe but tastes excellent (maybe even better) It is a great dessert for the holidays, or during the winter months, as the spice batter is reminiscent of gingerbread.
*Note – it’s critical to bring the butter, milk, and eggs to room temperature before proceeding with recipe
FOR THE VANILLA CAKE BATTTER:
½ cup (3.4 ounces/93 grams) vegetable shortening, plus more for greasing the pan
3 cups (13.5 ounces/375 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
2 sticks (8 ounces/226 grams) unsalted butter, well softened
2 ¾ cups (19.6 ounces/560 grams) sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
FOR THE SPICE SWIRL BATTER:
2 cups of the prepared vanilla cake batter
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar mixed with 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees; position the rack in the center of the oven.
2. Thoroughly grease a 9-inch Bundt pan with some shortening, getting into every nook to ensure that the cake releases perfectly from the pan after baking. Dust the pan with the flour and tap out any excess.
3. In a medium bowl thoroughly whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder; set aside. Combine spices in a small dish and set aside.
4. Place the ½ cup (93 grams) shortening in a large bowl and, using a stand mixer, beat the shortening on medium speed until softened and spread around, about 30 seconds. Add the butter and sugar and beat together on medium low speed until the mixture looks fluffy, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and beat the ingredients until well combined, some graininess has softened, and the texture feels more cohesive and fluffier, 3 to 5 minutes.
5. With the mixer running, add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute between each addition. After the last egg, the batter may look slightly curdled.
6. Beat in the vanilla extract until combined.
7. Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter and egg mixture. Beat on low speed until just combined and a few flour streaks remain. With the mixer motor running, add the milk and beat until just combined. The mixture may appear curdled again. Add the remaining flour and beat until combined. Using a silicone spatula, scoop batter from the bottom and sides of the bowl to the top for any hidden pockets of flour. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute to fully combine.
8. Spoon 2 cups of the vanilla cake batter into a medium bowl. Stir in molasses and reserved spices until well combined.
9. Spoon half of the plain vanilla batter into the prepared pan. Using a large kitchen spoon, dollop half of the spice batter on top of the plain batter and gently smooth over with a small offset spatula. Add the remaining plain vanilla cake batter and the remaining spice batter on top of that. Smooth the top and use a butter knife or offset spatula gently swirl the spice batter down into the vanilla cake batter. Smooth the top and place on the middle rack in the oven.
10. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the cake is golden brown, has risen, and cracked across the top. Insert a toothpick to test the doneness of the cake; it should come out clean or with a few moist crumbs.
11. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes and gently invert the cake on a wire rack to cool completely.
12. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar and serve
13. Cake will keep wrapped at room temperature for up to 5 days.