Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Spice Cake with Blackberry Preserves and Cream Cheese Icing

My grandpa's birthday falls just a few days before Christmas.  And since I came back to North Dakota a few days prior to his birthday, I was able to make his birthday cake!

I had asked him what kind of cake he would like (or wouldn't like) and he gave me a few ideas of things he likes, but really told me it was up to me to make whatever I wanted.....  One of the ideas he gave me was for spice cake, so I started searching for spice cake recipes.

I found a recipe on that just seemed to click, even though it seemed an odd combination: Spice Cake with Blackberry Filling and Cream Cheese Icing.  See, my grandpa really likes spice cake, but he also really really likes blackberry and also likes cream cheese!  The recipe had good reviews, with nearly everyone saying they'd make it again.  So, I decided to give it a try!

I made a few modifications, however.....  With it being December in North Dakota, I couldn't find any fresh blackberries, and I knew frozen blackberries would be way too messy! So, I found a good (seedless) blackberry preserve and decided to use that between the layers instead.

Cream Cheese icing is one of my enemies, so I also decided to add toasted pecans to the sides of the iced cake.  After all, a mistake isn't a mistake if it can be hidden!  (Thank you, Chef Gronert for teaching me that!).  I just cannot seem to get cream cheese icing very smooth.... Guess I need more practice!

Grandpa pretending a candle from the table decor is his birthday candle.

Despite some issues icing the cake, most of which included me questioning and questioning why on EARTH I decided to use hateful cream cheese icing, I was pretty happy with the results of the appearance.

Thanks to my sister for photographing while I sliced the cake!

And my family was even more happy with the taste!  Although the combination of spice with blackberry and cream cheese does seem an unusual one (and a taste you can't really envision before you actually try it), it was delicious.  And I agree I would make it again!

mmmmm.... Cake with Kahlua 


For cake

2 cups cake flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups (packed) golden brown sugar

3 large eggs, separated

1 cup sour cream

For filling

3 1/2-pint baskets blackberries

1/4 cup sugar

**Note, I just used 1.5 jars of the Dickinson Spreadable Fruit Seedless Blackberry
For frosting

1 1/2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

5 cups powdered sugar (about 1 1/4 pounds)

2 tablespoons sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2-pint basket blackberries

Make cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides. Sift first 7 ingredients into small bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add brown sugar and beat until well blended. Beat in egg yolks. Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with sour cream in 2 additions. Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in medium bowl until stiff but not dry; fold into batter in 2 additions. Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake cake until top is golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool cake 10 minutes. Cut around pan sides; release pan sides. Cool cake completely on rack.

Make filling:

Mix berries and sugar in bowl. Mash fruit coarsely with fork. Let stand 20 minutes and up to 1 hour. **Note: I used preserves in place of this.

Make frosting:

Beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in sugar, then sour cream and vanilla.

Cut cake horizontally into 3 equal layers. Place bottom layer, cut side up, on platter. Spread 1 cup frosting over. Spread half of filling (about 3/4 cup) over frosting, leaving 1/4-inch plain border at edge. Top with second cake layer and 1 cup frosting, then remaining filling. Top with third cake layer, cut side down. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Refrigerate until frosting sets, about 1 hour. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover loosely; keep chilled until 1 hour before serving.) Garnish cake with 1/2 pint berries.

Laura's Variation:
  • Simple Syrup: I used a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water, with a splash of lemon juice, that was boiled and cooled to make a simple syrup. I soaked each layer with the syrup before adding the preserves, just to make sure there was enough moisture.
  • Pecan garnish: I toasted pecans in a low temp oven for around 10 minutes until they were fragrant. I then gently patted them on the sides of the cake after it was iced. I think next time, I may also add a sprinkle of nuts between the layers as well.
  • Blackberry preserves garnish: Instead of fresh blackberries, which I could not find, I piped little dots of blackberry preserves over the surface of the cake.
  • Chocolate writing: I melted some dark chocolate chips (I usually use Ghiradelli) and added a few drops of blackberry brandy to thicken the chocolate for piping. 
  • Assembly variation: I did crumb coat the cake and then do a second layer of icing, chilling between applications. I also added a reverse shell pattern around the top edge.
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  1. you know what my favorite part of this post is? your grandpa's picture with his cake. ;) what a cutie! :)

  2. Ohmy! How did you get all the nus so beautifully stuck to your cake? Mine always seems so fall off or just refuse to adhere. *ENVIOUS SIGH* Lucky grandpa! :)

  3. i miss you already, Miss Vein. I hope you can come visit me and we can enroll in a "tourist's culinary thing" overseas. Wouldn't that be FUN? :)

  4. Spice cake with cream cheese icing, that is irresistable! I have to bake one myself, the photo is stunning and delish. Thanks for sharing, Laura!

    Sawadee from Bangkok,