The Daring Bakers’ April 2012 challenge, hosted by Jason at Daily Candor, were two Armenian standards: nazook and nutmeg cake. Nazook is a layered yeasted dough pastry with a sweet filling, and nutmeg cake is a fragrant, nutty coffee-style cake.
I chose to start with the nutmeg cake, I was really curious about the technique and the recipe. This cake is actually baked on top of a crust, when you cut into it you get a crunchy crust topped with a spongy moist spicy cake on top. The best of both worlds if I may say so.
I followed the recipe except for reducing the amount of nutmeg to 1/2 teaspoon and adding 1/4 teaspoon cardamom and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon (hence the name spice cake in the title).
Making the cake was really smooth and easy, it smelled out of this world as it was baking and baked beautifully (You can sense a but coming up right?)I took the cake out of the oven and allowed it to cool for 5 minutes on a rack, I was in a hurry and had to leave the house so I decided to unmold it before leaving..Big mistake! The cake slipped while I was unmolding it, I tried to catch it but ended up burning my arm with the hot mold and I got to watch my cake fall , crumble and land face down!to add insult to injury, when I reread the instructions clearly stated cool in the pan!
I was furious at myself for my poor judgement, I should have been paying more attention and should have given it a little more time to cool. Crumbled or not the cake was amazing, the spices, the crust, the nuts were all an amazing combination. The only things I would do next time is reduce the sugar (we all found it a little too sweet) and dust the nuts with some flour before sprinkling them on top because most of the nuts sank into the cake.
I had plans to make nazook too but sadly I ran out of time but I will definitely make it soon because it got rave reviews from my fellow daring bakers who tried it.
Armenian Nutmeg Cake
The Armenian nutmeg cake is adapted from a recipe for the same in The Commonsense Cookery Book, by the NSW Cookery Teachers’ Scholarship Fund.
Makes one 9”/23cm cake which yields 12 servings
- 1 cup (240 ml) milk (I use whole, but nonfat or lowfat should be fine; non-dairy might work just fine, as well)
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking soda
- 2 cups (480 ml) (280 gm/10 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour (I suspect pastry flour or another low-gluten flour might even work better to achieve a light, fluffy crumb)
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) (10 gm) (⅓ oz) baking powder (I used single-acting, because it’s aluminum-free, and it turned out fantastic)
- 2 cups (480 ml) (400 gm/14 oz) brown sugar, firmly packed
- 3/4 cup (1½ sticks) (180 ml) (170 gm/6 oz) butter, preferably unsalted, cubed
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) (55 gm/2 oz) walnut pieces, I added pistachios
- 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons (5 to 7 ½ ml) (5 to 8 gm) ground nutmeg I used 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
- 1 egg
Directions – the Traditional Way (The Fast, Easy Way further down)
1. Preheat your oven to moderate 350°F/175°C/gas mark 4.
2. Mix the baking soda (not baking powder; that’s for the next step) into the milk. Set it aside.
3. Sift together the flour and the baking powder into a large bowl. One sift is fine
4. Add the brown sugar. Go ahead and mix the flour and brown sugar together. Or not.
5. Toss in the cubed butter.
6. Mash the butter with a fork into the dry ingredients (you can also use your fingers if you want). You’ll want to achieve a more-or-less uniform, tan-colored crumbly mixture.
7. Take HALF of this resulting crumbly mixture into your springform (9”/23cm) pan. Press a crust out of it using your fingers and knuckles. It will be easy.
8. Crack an egg into a mixer or bowl.
9. Toss the nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom in with the egg.
10. Start mixing slowly with a whisk attachment and then increase to medium speed, or mix with a hand whisk if you’re doing it manually. Once it’s mixed well and frothy (about 1 minute using a standing mixer, or about 2-3 minutes of vigorous beating with a whisk), pour in the milk and baking soda mixture. Continue to mix until uniform.
11. Pour in the rest of the crumbly mixture. Mix that well, with either a paddle attachment, or a spatula. Or continue to use the whisk; it won’t make much of a difference, since the resulting batter is very liquidy.
12. Pour the batter over the base in the springform pan.
13. Gently sprinkle the walnut and pistachios over the batter.
14. Bake in a preheated moderate oven for about 30-40 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when the top is a golden brown, and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
An Even Easier Way…if you have a Food Processor
1. Preheat your oven to moderate 350°F/175°C/gas mark 4 .
2. Mix the baking soda (not baking powder) into the milk. Set aside.
3. Put the flour, baking powder, and the brown sugar into your food processor. Pulse until uniformly mixed.
4. Toss in the cubed butter. Pulse until uniformly mixed into tan-colored crumbs.
5. Pour HALF of the crumbs into your springform (9”/23cm) pan. Press out a crust using your fingers and knuckles.
6. Crack the egg into the food processor with the rest of the crumbs still in it.
7. Grate 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg. Toss that into the food processor, too. Pulse until well-incorporated.
8. Pour in the milk and baking soda mixture. Continue to mix until a slightly lumpy tan batter is formed.
9. Pour the batter over the crust in the springform pan.
10. Gently sprinkle the walnut pieces over the batter.
11. Bake in a preheated moderate oven for 30-40 minutes. It’s ready when the top is golden brown, and when it passes the toothpick test (comes out clean).
12. Cool the cake in the pan, and then dig in.
Freezing/Storage Instructions/Tips: Armenian Nutmeg Cake will also freeze fairly well if completely sealed up to 3 months.