Spice Cake with Penuche Icing

Spice-cake

I love this old photo of a birthday cake I’ve been making for years – my mom and sister share a birthday, which was this week, and for as long as I can remember (since my mom was a kid, so far before that) they’ve had this spice cake with penuche icing. They’re the only ones in our family with a standard cake that cannot be strayed from – the rest of us jump from chocolate to cheesecake to ice cream cake to croquembouche – but they’re never even asked what kind of cake they want. I personally am a fan of the old-school wobbly layer cake slathered with buttercream. (We also have a tradition of making money cakes – with foil-wrapped coins between the layers. Is this a thing where you are?)

Penuche, if you’re not familiar with it, is a sort of fudge made with brown sugar, butter and milk – and this is it in spreadable form. It’s a bit sweeter than I normally like, but you can counter that with more butter – make it with soft or melted butter, then dissolve the brown sugar in some milk or cream to beat in along with the icing sugar – as long as you have something soft, creamy and spreadable, the ratios don’t much matter.

Spice Cake with Penuche Icing

AuthorJulie

Cake:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg and/or allspice
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
1 tsp. vanilla
Penuche icing:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup milk or cream
2-3 cups icing sugar

1

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, spices, and salt. In a larger bowl, beat the butter and sugar for 3-4 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each, scraping down the sides of the bowl whenever it needs it. It may look separated - that's OK.

2

Pour the milk into a measuring cup and add the vanilla. Add about a third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir it in by hand or with the electric mixer on low speed, just until it’s combined. Add about half the milk in the same manner, then another third of the flour, the rest of the milk, and the rest of the flour, mixing just until the batter is blended.

3

Divide the batter between two buttered or greased 8 or 9-inch cake pans and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the cakes are golden and the tops are springy to the touch. Invert onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

4

To make the penuche icing, melt the butter in a small saucepan (if you want browned butter, let it stay on the heat after it melts, until it foams, then starts to turn golden and smell nutty); pour into a mixing bowl and set aside to cool slightly. Put the brown sugar into the same saucepan along with the cream; heat, stirring, until it starts to bubble and the sugar has melted. Scrape it into the bowl with the butter, add half the icing sugar and beat until smooth.

5

Add the remaining icing sugar and beat until smooth; add a little extra sugar or cream if it needs it to achieve a spreadable consistency. Spread over the cooled cake layers.

6

Makes 1 cake; serves 12-16.

Category

Ingredients

 Cake:
 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
 2 tsp. baking powder
 2 tsp. cinnamon
 1 tsp. ground ginger
 1/4 tsp. nutmeg and/or allspice
 1/4 tsp. salt
 1/2 cup butter, softened
 1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
 3 large eggs
 1 1/4 cups milk
 1 tsp. vanilla
 Penuche icing:
 1/2 cup butter
 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
 1/4 cup milk or cream
 2-3 cups icing sugar

Directions

1

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, spices, and salt. In a larger bowl, beat the butter and sugar for 3-4 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each, scraping down the sides of the bowl whenever it needs it. It may look separated - that's OK.

2

Pour the milk into a measuring cup and add the vanilla. Add about a third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir it in by hand or with the electric mixer on low speed, just until it’s combined. Add about half the milk in the same manner, then another third of the flour, the rest of the milk, and the rest of the flour, mixing just until the batter is blended.

3

Divide the batter between two buttered or greased 8 or 9-inch cake pans and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the cakes are golden and the tops are springy to the touch. Invert onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

4

To make the penuche icing, melt the butter in a small saucepan (if you want browned butter, let it stay on the heat after it melts, until it foams, then starts to turn golden and smell nutty); pour into a mixing bowl and set aside to cool slightly. Put the brown sugar into the same saucepan along with the cream; heat, stirring, until it starts to bubble and the sugar has melted. Scrape it into the bowl with the butter, add half the icing sugar and beat until smooth.

5

Add the remaining icing sugar and beat until smooth; add a little extra sugar or cream if it needs it to achieve a spreadable consistency. Spread over the cooled cake layers.

6

Makes 1 cake; serves 12-16.

Spice Cake with Penuche Icing
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14 comments on “Spice Cake with Penuche Icing

  1. Jules @ WolfItDown
    January 23, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    I loooove spice cake! And that there icing sounds fantastic too 😀

  2. Sue
    January 24, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    Oh My! This sounds awesome. My birthday is tomorrow. My favourite birthday cake (and I’ve never had anything different on my birthday!) is angel food. I thought I’d make it from scratch this year – never tried it before – but in the end, I opted for the cake mix I had on had to save time. Turns out the cake mix expired last summer and the cake was a total failure! Now I”m wishing I had done this one. Looks delish!!

  3. Laura M
    January 24, 2016 at 6:35 pm

    I remember foil covered coins in my birthday cake as a little kid (In Northern BC). I love reading your blog because it’s a little taste of home…I live in Texas now. I especially love that you are caring on the Best of Bridge tradition!

  4. JL
    January 30, 2016 at 4:05 pm

    My grandmother would often make a double batch of this icing and spread half of it in a pie plate. She’d top that with chopped walnuts and call it “maple walnut fudge”. Sweet and delicious.

    • Julie
      February 7, 2016 at 9:43 pm

      Brilliant! that’s essentially what it is!

  5. nancy
    February 23, 2016 at 12:18 pm

    can`t believe you also put “money in the birthday cake“………when I was a kid, our cakes always had waxed paper wrapped coins in them and as the youngest in the family, someone always gave me theirs if I did not get any. I have carried on that tradition with my family birthday cakes and sometimes a paper bill gets put in the cake, which makes the recipient pretty happy! Love your blog and always like to read what you are doing!

    • Julie
      February 23, 2016 at 3:54 pm

      Yes! Money cake! always!

  6. Jane Herriott
    March 20, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    Hi! I am looking for the birthday cake I will bake for myself this year, but what I like is cake that is very fluffy and moist, not too dense. Is that what this cake is like? Thanks!

  7. Katherine W
    March 8, 2017 at 7:45 am

    Hi – for both frosting and cake, should this be salted butter or unsalted butter? This is apparently my stepdad’s favorite cake from his childhood, so making it for the first time!

    • Julie
      March 8, 2017 at 9:00 am

      I always use salted – you need some salt in a recipe regardless, and that’s what most people have in their kitchens! Either would work though.

  8. Orit Yaakobi
    January 5, 2019 at 6:38 am

    Made this for my husband’s birthday yesterday. The cake itself a as quite bland and very dense. Is it possible one of the measurements are off?

    • Julie
      January 11, 2019 at 4:58 pm

      Hmm… I’ll double check it when my mom and sister’s birthday comes up next week! thanks for the feedback!

  9. Christine H Flood
    June 23, 2019 at 4:55 pm

    I made this tonight for my son’s birthday. The icing is amazing. and the cake is good too. The whole family enjoyed it. I’m definitely bookmarking the recipe.

    • Julie
      June 24, 2019 at 7:34 am

      So great to hear it!

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