Alice’s Adaptation of Laurie Colwin’s Spice Cake

Makes 1 10-inch cake

Total time: Approximately 1 ½ hours. 

    30 minutes (prep); 55 minutes (cook).


Laurie Colwin is one of my favorite American authors.  Like me, she loved to cook and volunteer at homeless shelter. Unlike me, Colwin also wrote columns for Gourmet magazine — along with two books of essays about food to her credit, Home Cooking and More Home Cooking.



Pan Preparation

·         Flour/butter spray for your spring-form pan.


Butter/flour/sugar mixture — which you later will divide in half (see note below):

·         ½ cup (1 stick) cold butter

·         2 cups all-purpose flour

·         2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar


Remainder of cake batter:

·         4 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg

·         1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

·         ¼ teaspoon ground cloves

·         2 large eggs

·         ¾ cup organic vanilla flavored yogurt

·         1 teaspoon baking soda

·         ½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts or almonds (optional)



NOTE: You might consider the mixing technique below a tad unusual because it’s not very precise.  Oh well!  It is what it is.  Begin by making the butter/flour/sugar mixture.  A portion of the butter-flour-sugar mixture — about half — will make a shortbread cookie-like base for the cake. Then use the remainder of the mixture for the body of the cake…  Once you blend it with the spices, yogurt, eggs and the baking soda. You’ll end up with a light, but rich cake top over a crisp cookie base. The cake stays moist, under a dome or wrapped in plastic, for many days.  But if you serve it warm, with some freshly whipped cream or some real vanilla ice-cream, I doubt you’ll have much — if any — left.

·         Prepare the spring-form pan by coating its sides with spray-on flour/butter coating.

·         In a large mixing bowl, cut the butter into 6 to 8 pieces.

·         Mix the butter with the flour and dark brown sugar.

·         Using a pastry blender, combine the butter into the flour and sugar until the mixture resembles corn meal.

·         Measure out 2 ½ cups of this mixture and spread it evenly in the bottom of the prepared pan.

·         With your hand flat, firmly compress the mixture evenly into the bottom of the pan to form a shortbread cookie crust.

·         Add the spices to the remaining dry ingredients. Mix well.

·         In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir the eggs and yogurt together and mix well.

·         With a wooden spoon, stir the wet mixture into the dry mixture.

·         Finally, sprinkle the baking soda over the surface of the batter and gently but thoroughly stir it in.

·         Spread this batter over the cookie crust mixture — that you earlier pressed into the bottom of the pan — and with a rubber spatula, smooth the top of the batter.

·         If you so desire, scatter the chopped nuts on top.

·         Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 50 to 55 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean from the center of the cake and the sides of the cake have shrunk slightly away from the pan.

·         Cool the cake in the pan, on a rack, for 5-10 minutes.

·         After the cake has cooled a bit, slid a thin-bladed knife around the circumference of the cake to make sure there are no spots still attached to the sides of the spring-form pan.

·         Remove the sides of the pan and cool the cake completely.

·         For presentation, you should be able to easily remove the cake from the bottom of the spring-form pan.



·         When serving the cake, you will need to cut down hard through the shortbread cookie bottom. 

·         This cake does not require icing.  If you serve the cake warm, it goes well with homemade whipped cream or soft (real) vanilla ice-cream.



Copyright 2007, Alice C. Dames,  All rights reserved.  This recipe cannot be published elsewhere without express permission.