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This week’s TBT recipe says to throw away the calendar. Unless you are in Australia. It’s spring here and a long way from the flavor and intensities of fall. But isn’t maple syrup really a flavor for all year. And spices are always welcome. So, here maple syrup and spices combine with buttermilk for an unbeatable comfort food dessert.

This cake is not gingerbread. Now, I personally love gingerbread, the spicier the better, but some folks have a different palate, one that does not appreciate the assault of too much ginger on the tongue.

For those of you, and I respect you ginger sensitivity, here is a subtle substitute. “Subtle” by way originally meant “finely woven” and I think the flavor of this cake is just that, a texture of spices that are delicately combined. You will get flavor here, but it slides up on you rather than marching directly into your mouth.

From the Maple Syrup Cookbook by Ken Haedrich, the flavor here comes from a host of directions: the tang of buttermilk, the sweetness of syrup, and the bites of cloves, nutmeg, cayenne, and molasses. No one flavor note dominates. They all hold hands and cooperate in making you smile.

You can eat this cake on its own, but a little whipped cream is nice flavor addition. And, a maple or spice buttercream would transform this cake from subtle to bold. Which path you select depends on your preference for flavor aggressiveness.

Ken created this recipe in time for the 1989 publication of the Maple Syrup Cookbook. How old is gingerbread? An Armenian monk, Gregory of Nicopolis, introduced his gingerbread to France in 992. It took a few centuries, but gingerbread spread throughout Europe, slowly, century by century, country by country. Today, Nordic countries, Germany and England are homes for gingerbread in a multitude of shapes, sizes and textures.

You may be one of those who are gingerbread fanatics. Still, you may want to try this variation, equally lovely, to expand your ginger portfolio.

Swiftly made, this is an ideal dessert for those times when you “want dessert” but want it simple, easy, and immediately. If you have kids, this would be fun recipe, letting those little ones first find all the spices in the cupboard and then ever so carefully measuring out those ¼ teaspoon dollops.



Buttermilk Maple Spice Cake

Yield: 9-12 servings


  • 1 cup unbleached or all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten

  • ⅔ cup buttermilk

  • ½ cup pure maple syrup

  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil

  • 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses


Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan.

Sift the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt, cloves, nutmeg, and cayenne into a large bowl. Set aside.

In another bowl, blend the eggs, buttermilk, maple syrup, oil, and molasses.

Make a well in the dry mixture and stir in the egg mixture, just until smooth; do not beat. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan.

Source: Maple Syrup Cookbook by Ken Haedrich

Photo Information: Canon T2i, 18-55mm Macro Lens, f/4.5, 1/50th second, ISO-3200