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Joni Woolf: Sugar and spice makes nice cake

Another good Christmas cake comes from the pages of Southern Living, which is no surprise to readers of that classic magazine that features the best of Southern eating and cooking for generations of cooks. This cake is one I’ve planned to make for a couple of years. Well, a “couple of years,” it turns out, has actually been eight! When I looked at the date at the bottom of the page, I was somewhat shocked to see that I had been holding the recipe that long, planning every holiday season to prepare it. The cake that the magazine pictured was lovely to look at, and, reading the recipe, I was sure I would relish every tiny taste (is there any such thing as a “tiny taste” of a fine cake?). This year I am committed: I will make this cake. It isn’t that it appears to be especially difficult. Perhaps it is because the filling contains coconut, and the family that I live near chooses other flavors over coconut. No matter. Too much time has passed; this year, at last, I am going to make this cake. I hope you will, too.

Spice Cake with Citrus Filling
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground cloves
Citrus Filling (follows)
White Icing (follows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through. Let cool. Meanwhile, beat butter at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Divide batter into two equal portions (this is similar to last week’s Japanese Fruit Cake), about 3 ½ cups each, stir cinnamon, allspice, cloves and pecans into one portion. Pour plain batter into 2 greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans (about 1 ¾ cup each). Pour spiced batter into 2 greased and floured 9-inch cake pans (about 2 cups batter per pan). Bake at 350 degrees F. for 18 to 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire rack 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire rack and cool completely (about 1 hour).
Citrus Filling
2 10-ounce jars lemon curd
1 ½ cups sweetened flaked coconut
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
Stir together lemon curd, coconut and next 2 ingredients in a medium bowl until blended.
White Icing
2 egg whites
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pour water to depth of 1 ½ inches into a 3 ½ quart saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer. Combine egg whites, sugar, next 2 ingredients and ¼ cup water in a 2 ½ quart glass bowl (I use a double boiler for this process); beat mixture at high speed with an electric mixer until blended. Place bowl over simmering water and beat at high speed 5 to 7 minutes or until soft peaks form; remove from heat. Beat icing to spreading consistency (about 2 to 3 minutes).

Now, spread the Citrus Filling between the layers, and frost the top and sides of the cake with the White Icing. Readers may recognize this icing as something we have called 7-minute frosting for years. It is the same thing — as good as ever, and as dependable.

Now make this cake, and be ready for a festive Christmas dinner when the time comes. There’s no time like the present to eat dessert.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at indigojoni@windstream.net