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French Four-Spice Cake with Browned Butter Spice Frosting

Photo: Yunhee Kim; Styling: Karen Shinto
Total time 1 hr, 45 mins
Yield 12 servings
This cake starts out tasting like citrus and sweet spices, then builds to a gentle pepper glow if the quatre epices is made with white pepper, or a good kick if it's based on black pepper.

Ingredients

  • CAKE:
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • Zest of 1/2 orange
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons quatre épices
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • FROSTING:
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon quatre épices
  • 2 tablespoons half-and-half
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2/3 cup chopped toasted walnuts

Nutrition Information

  • calories 490
  • caloriesfromfat 44 %
  • protein 4.5 g
  • fat 24 g
  • satfat 13 g
  • carbohydrate 68 g
  • fiber 1.3 g
  • sodium 348 mg
  • cholesterol 85 mg

How to Make It

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 9-in. square pan.

  2. Make cake: Beat butter, brown sugar, and zest in a large bowl with a mixer until fluffy. Add eggs and beat until well blended. In another bowl, combine flour and other dry ingredients. Add flour mixture to butter mixture one-third at a time, alternating with buttermilk half at a time, and beating on low speed after each addition until blended. Spread batter in pan.

  3. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool on a rack, 10 minutes. Loosen cake from pan with a slender spatula, then invert onto a rack. Re-invert onto another rack; cool completely.

  4. Make frosting: Cook butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, swirling pan occasionally, until deep golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Pour into a mixer bowl, let cool, then chill until firm enough to beat, about 30 minutes. Add remaining ingredients except for nuts and beat until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes, occasionally scraping inside of bowl.

  5. Split cake horizontally with a long serrated knife. Lift off top layer with 2 wide spatulas. Set bottom layer on a platter, then spread with half of frosting. Replace top layer. Spread top of cake with remaining frosting, then sprinkle with nuts.

  6. quatre épices

Cook's Notes

Note: Nutritional analysis is per serving.