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Mondays with Martha: Spiced Snacking Cake

Cooking My Way Through This Month's Martha Stewart Magazine

Volume: September 2020

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Mood Music: Spice Up Your Life - Spice Girls

This month's Martha Stewart magazine has a serious emphasis on spice, and I am here for it. So many of my favorite things about Fall foods include spices. Not just vanilla cake... make it spiced cake! Not just cider... make it spiced cider! Adding some extra fragrant spices just makes everything feel a little more warm and cozy, and this spice snacking cake (love that name, and all things related to snacking) is no exception.

The primary theme of this month's spice section was saffron, a notoriously expensive spice. This particular recipe only required saffron oil, an ingredient that is definitely not in my cooking repertoire. I googled what it tasted like before I sought it out and found that it's described as "a mild, unobtrusive oil that has a high heat tolerance and very little flavor..." so... I decided to swap it out since apparently no one would miss it! Avocado oil is also high heat and low flavor and I buy it in bulk as Costco, making it the clear winner here. The cake still turned out delicious, so no harm no foul.

This batter turns out quite thick, as the instructions warn, so I just dolloped it into little blobs on the baking pan and spread it out the best I could. (Side note to those who lick the spatula: this batter is very, very tasty! the spices! yum!). Then, off to the oven, and once my knife came out clean, I poured the vanilla* and lemon zest glaze over it and left it to set and cool. My house smelled amazing while this cake was baking!

*note: I did use Trader Joe's Vanilla Paste instead of a vanilla bean (I have yet to use an actual vanilla bean in any of my cooking, but vow to someday!) and it was a perfect substitute in my opinion. It has incredible flavor and gives you those little vanilla flecks that look beautiful and delicate. Also, it's only $4.99 and a little goes a long way.

The spice mixtures in the glaze and the cake were so complimentary and yummy. And not overly sweet, too. Definitely the perfect little afternoon snack to go along with a cup of tea.

Recipe: Spiced Snacking Cake - Martha Stewart


  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons safflower* oil, and more for pan (*I used avocado oil)

  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

  • 1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk, room temperature

  • 3/4 cup sour cream

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

  • 4 1/2 tablespoons whole milk, room temperature

  • 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar

  • 1 vanilla bean*, split and seeds scraped (* I used a tsp. Trader Joe's Vanilla Bean Paste)

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest, plus 1 to 3 tablespoons fresh juice


  • Step 1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with oil. Line with parchment, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides; brush parchment. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom.

  • Step 2. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg and yolk, sour cream, oil, vanilla, and 3 tablespoons milk until combined. Add egg mixture to flour mixture; stir until smooth (batter will be thick). Transfer to prepared pan, smoothing top with an offset spatula.

  • Step 3. Bake until lightly golden and top of cake springs back when lightly pressed, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack; let cool 30 minutes. Using overhangs, transfer cake from pan to rack; let cool completely.

  • Step 4. In a small bowl, whisk together confectioners' sugar, remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons milk, vanilla seeds, 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest (or up to 1 tablespoon, for a zesty bite), and 1 tablespoon lemon juice until smooth and pourable. (If glaze is too thick, add up to remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice.)

  • Step 5. Pour over top of cake, spreading to edges with offset spatula. Allow to set before slicing, about 30 minutes. Cake can be refrigerated, wrapped in plastic, up to 3 days; return to room temperature before serving.

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