7.07.2011

My middle name

There’s a new cake in town, and its name is Whole Wheat Cinnamon Snacking Cake. I’m going to pause right there for a moment so you can take that in: Whole Wheat Cinnamon Snacking Cake. Whole. Wheat. Cinnamon. Snacking. Cake. WholeWheatCinnamonSnackingCake. What a name, eh? Don’t you just want to sing it? You think I’m kidding, but seriously, think fiddle, or maybe banjo, get Pony Boy going in your head, finesse the final cadence a little, and toss in the name of this cake for the last lyric: Giddy-up, giddy-up, giddy-up, whoa!... Whole Wheat Cinnamon Snacking Cake. Do you hear it? Yes? No? Are you, as I fear, backing slowly away from your computer screen and the girl who sings cake names? Oh dear.


Whole Wheat Cinnamon Snacking Cake has been following me around now for almost a month. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to tell you about it. I’ve never needed any help figuring out that some cakes are meant for snacking (and that’s just what I’ll do… Oh lord. Send help.), but it made my day to stumble upon a cake that comes right out and says it. A cake with a built-in directive. I like that. Its middle name is “Snacking,” for heaven’s sake! That alone sold me on this recipe, not least because, lately, that’s my middle name, too.

As of last week, I’m officially in my third trimester, which means that my growing belly is now quite intent on squeezing my stomach out of its prime real estate. That leaves me with limited options – precisely two, by my count – for packing away those all-important calories in a manner that does not immediately set my chest and throat on fire. The first: long, leisurely, pause-and-digest-as-you-go meals that laze on for two or three hours and involve, say, a wild mushroom salad that tastes of the forest and makes your body go all quiet and still between bites. It helps to take these meals with friends, so that you have several extra mouths at the ready when you need help cleaning your plate. I’m very fond of this strategy. Unfortunately, it’s not exactly compatible with the everyday life I find myself living most days of the week. Hence, the second option, my fallback position, which is to give up altogether on the traditional notion of “meals” and, instead, to eat more or less constantly, a handful of walnuts here, a few spoonfuls of yogurt there, throughout the day. In other words, I have become a diehard snacker, thoroughly committed to the art and practice of snacking. So when a cake like Whole Wheat Cinnamon Snacking Cake announces itself, I switch on the oven, grease up a pan, and get right down to business.


I discovered this cake one morning at breakfast, while paging through Melissa Clark’s In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite. I mentioned this book last week – it’s the same one that brought us those lemon curd squares with rosemary – and I’ve been looking forward to telling you more about it, despite the fact that it came out a while ago, now. You’ve probably already read all kinds of nice things about Melissa Clark, her recipes, and her writing, but I can’t help but add my voice to the chorus. What I appreciate most is how she invites you not only into her kitchen, but into her workshop of a brain. She tells you what went wrong and what went right (and what went wrong that turned out so very right!) on her way to the recipe you’re about to prepare. She explains what she was aiming for and what was on her mind when she, for example, replaces the corn syrup with honey and lemon in one recipe (she was inspired by a Luden’s cough drop), or nudges tarte Tatin over into cake territory. Reading this cookbook makes me feel bold and creative in the kitchen, willing to make a mess of things and see where it takes me. Above all, In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite reminds me to be on the lookout for inspiration at all times. Because, as Melissa Clark shows us, it’s everywhere.


This cake is actually a variation on another cake from Clark’s book, something called Chocolate Chip Pecan Loaf Cake, which Clark says is “almost like a big, soft chocolate chip cookie in sliceable form.” I keep meaning to try the original, but every time I open my book to the recipe, I get distracted by this snacking cake and make it instead. That a humble snacking cake trumps a recipe rumored to produce a big, soft chocolate chip cookie in sliceable form just about says it all.

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Snacking Cake is yet another specimen that lives at the intersection of quick bread and pound cake. It’s rich like a pound cake, but not heavy like one which, I’m guessing, might have something to do with the fact that you melt the butter and then fold it into the well-whisked batter (as opposed to creaming room-temperature butter and beating it in). The word that keeps popping into my mind when I think about the texture of this cake is “hearty.” That sounds like some kind of euphemism for describing a cake that’s heavy or overly dense (it’s not fat, it’s big boned!), but that’s not how I mean it at all. With almost a one-to-one ratio of white to whole wheat flour and the mellow, earthy flavor of a full cup of brown sugar, it is hearty. And yet, despite all of that whole wheat flour, there’s a lightness to it, too. More like a bread is light than a cake is light, but a lightness just the same.


The caramel-like flavor resembles nothing more closely than a Biscoff cookie. Remember those? The cracker-like cookies in flat, red packets that Delta flight attendants hand out? I’m not sure I would have recognized it if I hadn’t just flown back to Boston on a Delta flight a few days before I discovered this cake, but there it was: that magic combination of vanilla, cinnamon, and brown sugar that tricks you into thinking that there must be something else in there (oats? nuts?), something more complicated going on, when in both cookie and cake, there's nothing of the kind. Whole Wheat Cinnamon Snacking Cake. It’s supple, and warm, and everything good. And as it bakes, a mahogany lip of a crust creeps up along the perimeter of the loaf. I should warn you right now that I will fight you for an end piece with its crisp, perfect edges.

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Snacking Cake, people. You’ve got to try this one.

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Snacking Cake
Adapted from Melissa Clark’s In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite

I like to eat this cake plain, or with a thin layer of raspberry jam, but you can dress it up if you want, maybe with some fresh berries and loosely whipped cream.

1 c. brown sugar (the original recipe calls for light brown; it’s great with dark brown, too)
2/3 c. plain yogurt or buttermilk (I’ve only tried it with buttermilk)
1 T. vanilla extract
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
1 c. all-purpose flour
¾ c. whole wheat flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
2/3 c. unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over the lowest possible flame. Meanwhile:

In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, buttermilk (or yogurt), vanilla, and cinnamon. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition.

In a separate, smaller bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk the dry ingredients into the egg mixture until smooth.

Use a spatula to fold the melted butter into the batter in 3 additions. The batter will look very slick and oily at first, and you might wonder whether you’ve made a mistake somewhere along the way. Keep folding. It will be okay.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50-55 minutes, until the cake is a deep golden brown, and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in its pan for 5 minutes. Then, run a knife around the perimeter of the loaf, and turn it out onto a wire rack to cool to room temperature.

50 comments:

Lisa said...

That would make one delicious snack. Love the cinnamon. I have a sweet treat linky party on my blog every Friday afternoon (3pm) till Monday and I'd love it if you'd come by and link your cake up. http://sweet-as-sugar-cookies.blogspot.com

sophistimom said...

Mm, this is sooo close to being okay for my new diet. Yum.

Rebecca Martin said...

I don't comment often, but I sure do enjoy reading here! I'll repeat what I said last time I piped up (one? two years ago?): You are one hell of a writer. Great, just great, images and transitions and flow. Inspirational to me as a writer. I really enjoyed reading this. And will enjoy making - and snacking on! - that cake. Thanks. :) And big wishes for a good third trimester for you. I was there half a year ago. What you're working toward is SO good.

linda said...

you had me @ whole wheat & cinnamon &... the fact that my library just emailed that i can p/u "mc: in the kitchen w/a good appetite!"…how lucky am i!
continue to feel inspired & the need to snack... as we seem to be reaping wonderful benefits.

Lisa said...

Oh, Jess. You're always coming up with exactly the sorts of food I'm in the mood for, just as I'm about to realize I'm in the mood for it. I am totally in the mood for loaf-y cakey things right now. Except I don't have a loaf pan, so it'll probably end up in a pie dish or some other random shape. I'll let you know how it goes. Happy snacking!

danielle said...

just pulled this out of the oven. it looks happiness. golden, perfect happiness. cannot wait to commence snacking. :)

Rogue Unicorn said...

Great. Now I've got The Snacking Cake song stuck in my head. I want to make this cake now. *Rethinking the whole wheat chocolate chip cookie plan*
xo

Luisa said...

Ooh, this sounds so good and perfect for the sort of miserable, autumnal weather we've been having over here in Germany this week. In July. UGH. But! We can turn on the oven, at least, and eat cake, so there's that.

THIRD TRIMESTER ALREADY! xx

Jess said...

Hi, Lisa. Thanks for your note and the link to your site. I'll check it out.

So close, sophistimom? That has to count for something, right? If you decide to go for it, I hope you'll enjoy. It's the kind of cake that's worth a little splurge, if you ask me.

Rebecca, hi! It's great to hear from you. Your kind words mean more than you know. Really, thank you so much.

I was just thinking about you, Linda, because I made my latest batch of this cake in your lovely mini loaf pans! Thank you again. Since I know that you'll probably go the mini route, too, I'll tell you that the batter filled three pans, and that the bake time was... shoot, I'm suddenly drawing a blank... 30-35 minutes, I think.

Liiiisa! Hello, friend. Oh, you need this cake in your life. I will hook you up.

Hi, Danielle. The thought of this cake cooling in your kitchen has me inching my way over to mine on this rainy Friday morning. I think it might be time for another round... (Enjoy!)

Hey, Tiki. I have a hunch that you and this cake will get along swimmingly. Speaking of whole wheat chocolate chip cookies, I've actually been meaning to try Kim Boyce's recipe.

It's pretty miserable here in Boston this morning, too. Though it's been so hot, I don't really mind the rain. Also, I know - THIRD! My belly is almost constantly shaking and undulating from all of the break dancing she's doing in there. You should see it. It's awesome. (And yes, make this cake.)

Michele | Cooking At Home said...

Yum. You had me at "snacking cake." This is just the cake to satisify a craving I've had all week. Definitely on my to-do list for tomorrow. Thanks, Jess.

Sara said...

One whole cup of brown sugar? How could this not be delicious? And, I'm really into mixing in whole grain flours into baking recipes these days, thanks to Kim Boyce. And yes, those whole wheat chocolate chip cookies of hers are ah-mazing. I will have to try this cake this weekend.

Congratulations on hitting the third trimester! I always found that so comforting, psychologically.

linda said...

S-o-o-o-o happy that you enjoyed the minis…yes!!

art and lemons said...

I'm packing for vacation, but this snappy cake is begging to be baked as I belt out your little ditty to an imagined fiddle. So, yes I'm going to make this cake.

Miss T said...

yes, but if I eat the WHOLE cake in one sitting - is it still considered a 'snack'? Im down with that!
Miss T x

Sarah said...

Your writing is just brilliant. I especially love what you said about the mushroom salad... your words transported me like I'm sure the dish did for you. Perfection! A congratulations, too, on your pregnancy :)

Meg said...

I adore that you mentioned those cookies - my mom still remembers to sneak them to me from the plane when she visits. This cake looks beautiful, and Melissa Clark is phenomenal. Can't wait to try it!

squirrelbread said...

Sing its praises all you want -- what a marvelous specimen! These are the types of treats I'm into right now, though I've always had a soft spot for "healthier" desserts. Must be the registered dietitian in me. And on that note, I began a new career in WIC nutrition this week and am surrounded by pregnant moms and infants all day long. Truly my favorite population to work with. Very exciting that you're entering trimester three -- so close!

Cheers and all the best for a healthy mom + little one,

Heather

P.s. That purple smoothie concoction in the background could be post-worthy as well, don't you think...

megan said...

That's how I like to eat all the time! What's gonna happen if I ever end up in The Third Trimester?

She breakdances, too? I like her better and better every minute, is that even possible?

xx
megan

Rogue Unicorn said...

It is of those exact chocolate chip cookies that I speak. They are truly the Platonic ideal of a chocolate chip cookie.
xo

Anya said...

I'm going to make the cake and I'm going to buy the book! Irresistible writing, Jess!

Happy third trimester (hee)!

megcjones said...

yum, this sounds delicious. i've had clark's book on my shelf for awhile and flip through it often, but haven't made time to actually make any of the recipes yet - gotta get to it. i just love cinnamon - this looks amazing.

Jess said...

Hi, all. I hope your week is off to a great start.

First of all, Luisa, if you're reading this, the last message in my reply a dozen comments up was intended for you! I just forgot to type your name... Whoops! Sorry, friend.

Michele - I hope by now that craving is history.

Sara - I know, right? I love that the brown sugar gets to shine in this cake. And thanks for your congratulations. The time has really flown...

You've converted me, Linda!

art and lemons - Happy trails to you! I've packed up this cake for several departing visitors over the last few weeks, and rumor has it that it's quite satisfying mid-flight or mid-bus ride.

Miss T - Ha! You know what, why not? If my "meals" can take the form of a few measly bites here and there, then surely we can play a little fast and loose in the other direction, too. So sure, it's still a snack. A big, fat, whopping snack.

Thanks so much for your kind words, Sarah. I appreciate it!

Meg - Yep, those cookies! I shamelessly asked our flight attendant for a second pack for the road. So good!

Congratulations on your new career, Heather. How exciting! I imagine it's wonderfully rewarding -- and challenging. About that smoothie: Post-worthy, indeed! See here, from a couple of years back.

You'll be a natural, then, Megan! Yes, she's a dancer, alright. But I get the feeling she could learn a thing or two from you. xo!

Tiki - I MADE THEM. My sister was visiting over the weekend, and after I responded to your comment on Friday morning, we made the dough, scooped it onto sheets, and left it to chill. We baked off a few on Saturday night, and we were just... speechless. What the WHAT?!. I have never in my life had a cookie like that. Never.

Thanks so much, Anya. I think you'll like this cake. And the book, too! Can't wait to see what you bake from it.

megcjones - There are so many gems in there. I've only made my way through a few of the recipes I flagged, but every one of them has been a winner. Happy baking!

redmenace said...

Oh pregnancy snacking. I sort of miss the freedom of that, but NOT the heartburn. I feel you on that. This cake looks wonderful. I'm marking it. Maybe tonight after the wee one sleeps my hands will start the kitchen dance. We'll see.

And, yes, I've said this before. I'm so delighted for you! xo

Ashley said...

Third trimester?! Glorious.
I'm so happy to have landed on your blog tonight. Currently I'm sitting down in a quiet house that is usually punctuated with loud shrieks from three little ones running amok. They are sleeping now and in this quietness I've found peace and rest in your blog and this is only the first post I've read. Looking forward to reading more from you tonight as I scour the archives.

Julia's Bookbag said...

So I have this cookbook! And I was taken by the recipe title because I am strangely obsessed with the words 'SNACKING CAKE'. But I have yet to make it! Then I saw your post. Clearly the universe is giving me a sign! I love yo blog BTW, I recently discovered it!

Sasa said...

Snacking cake sounds like a friend to all the hangry people of the world. I am an inveterate snacker and I like anything that caters to my needs. I see snacking cake, and the accompanying songs (I'm also a keen singer of nonsense) in my future.

linda said...

glancing through "in the kitchen with…." i found MC's rhubarb "big crumb" coffee cake intriguing…& certainly her writings that led to that recipe…& MC's blood orange olive oil cake is one i will give a try…mini style... as a shout out to SA's olive oil citrus cake…which is a staple in my repertoire…love it jess!

Jess said...

Thanks so much, Robin. Not that I have any experience with this sort of thing (yet!), but I think that this cake is the perfect post-baby-bedtime bake. It comes together in no time, and you can make the whole thing by hand, so there's no need to turn on a noisy mixer. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I do.

Hi, Ashley, and welcome! I'm so glad you found us here. Thank you for your kind words. I just clicked over to your site and it looks like I'm the one who has some digging around in archives to do. Lucky me!

Julia - Yes, exactly! Those words immediately drew me in. "Snacking cake, snacking cake, snacking cake." I could say it out loud all day. Very happy to have you here. Thanks for piping up to say hello!

Ha ha! Yep, Sasa, I think you're right. This cake is one for the Hangries. For sure.

Hi, Linda. I also marked that rhubarb cake, but I haven't yet given it a go. As for the blood orange olive oil cake, I think that Deb over at Smitten Kitchen posted about it a while back, and that it was met with many cheers.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Sally said...

Jess, congratulations on entering your 3rd trimester! A huge milestone (viability!) and hopefully you're feeling some great baby movement. I've officially entered my 2nd and am thrilled.

Question for you - would this be as tasty w/o the whole wheat flour? I don't have any in the house but would love to make this with my daughter... Thanks!

linda said...

me again…early sunday...i purchased the king arthur flour bake & give mini loaf pans & they are nestled in my oven coveting your w/w cinnamon snacking batter…glad you noted to keep stirring the batter after the melted butter additions!
i went back to smitten kitchen to review deb's cake & comments. thanks.
have a great sunday…mine is off to an awesome start with a wonderful aroma from the oven!!

Jess said...

Hi, Sally. I hope I'm not too late to be helpful here! I was away from my computer yesterday and I'm just now seeing your question. As I mentioned, this snacking cake appears in Clark's book as a variation on a recipe for something called chocolate chip pecan loaf cake. (Back in September, The Amateur Gourmet posted that recipe here, if you'd like to take a look.) The chocolate chip pecan loaf cake contains only all-purpose flour (1 3/4 c.), so I would assume that the snacking cake would also work with white flour only. The thing is, I have a feeling that it will be a noticeably different cake without the whole wheat flavor and texture. Not bad, just different. I say, go for it. If you do, I'd love it if you would report back!

And thank you for the congratulations. Yes, she is constantly on the move in there. It's the best. And the second trimester for you! That's wonderful, Sally. I hope you're feeling well.

Good morning, Linda. You know how to start the day off right! Enjoy the cakes, and happy Sunday to you.

anya said...

Hi Jess,

Made the cake yesterday. It.Is.Wonderful. And it is even more so the next day, when all the flavors sink in further into the crumb, and the cinnamon takes on a headier note, almost prune-y. The cake is a keeper.

I'm thinking of making it with browned butter next time. Overboard? :)

Thanks again for posting the recipe!

Jess said...

Prune-y! YES! That's brilliant, Anya. I know just what you mean. Like, in a buttery, stewed prune kind of way, right? You just made my night with that description. Thank you! And I love the idea of making this cake with browned butter. You're good. Very, very good.

molly said...

You do realize that I've been singing a bastardized (pardon my french) version of Pony Boy all week now, yes?

That this song is on our nightly lullaby queue?
And that I can no longer sing along with the proper lyrics?? And that my children look at me as though I've gone completely off?

Which probably means I'll just have to get around to baking this. As if it's a burden.

Happy third to you, Jess. It's a good one.

anya said...

Oh Jess, it's this cake. It's very, very good! :)

Madeleine said...

Looks delicious!
As I'm half Flemish, I have to speak up for speculoos (which is what the cookies on Delta are). They are the national cookie of Belgium and are associated with the feast of St. Nicholas in December. Love these cookies, excited to try the recipe!

Sally said...

Jess - thanks so much for the feedback on the AP flour. It was too hot here this weekend to bake, so no go... But I just bought some white whole wheat flour - would that work for this cake? Thanks for being so patient with my questions :)

Jess said...

Oof, so sorry, Molly. I feel your pain. I've been humming the whole wheat cinnamon snacking cake song for weeks now. Just wait until you bake the thing. It gets worse.

Anya - You and the cake both, I think.

Yep, Madeleine, those Delta cookies are speculoos. Thanks so much for speaking up. I should have mentioned it! Does Belgium have a national cake, too? If not, maybe this cake could be it. You know, in honor of the cookie...

Hi, Sally. It's my pleasure to discuss all of this stuff with you here! I've only baked with white whole wheat flour once before. I swapped it in for the whole wheat flour in a bread recipe, and while it came out beautifully, I missed the heartier flavor and texture. I'm going to stick by my earlier response and say that, yes, I think white whole wheat flour will work for this recipe. But you'll lose some of the wheaty-ness that helps define the cake. Try it, if you're so inclined, and let me know how it goes. (And then maybe try it with the "regular" whole wheat flour one day, too. It's wonderful!)

Upholstery Cleaning said...

a nice cake! lovely!

Sally said...

Jess - the cake was a HUGE hit - with adults and children alike. I agree with you that it would be better with WW flour - it was tasty with the white WW flour, but I felt like it needed more depth. I'll definitely try it soon with WW flour...

ameanderingmango said...

What a sweet blog! I just found it and I simply have to try this cake. Looks delicious and anything with a 'caramel-like' flavour is an absolute must!

Erica said...

Irresistible writing! Love it!

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Julie said...

Looks delicious! I've been on a cinnamon kick lately,too- putting it in everything from homemade yogurt to marinades and barbecue sauces. Usually, my go-to whole wheat bread of choice is a chewy zucchini loaf. Perhaps I'll mix it up and try your cinnamon take! Thanks for the post :)

Valerie said...

Jess, this is a real winner. Just made it and my husband and I have wolfed down half the cake in one sitting (nota bene: after dinner!). After reading this post and your reference to the chocolate chip pecan cake I've decided to add a cup of roasted chopped pecans to the cake, some on top as a crunchy topping and we really like it this way. Thanks again for posting this recipe. Fingers crossed that all is well with the three of you!

Anonymous said...

We have been in love with Biscoff and similar biscuits since we began going to Ireland for my husband's work at least 10 years ago! They were always with the tea setup left in the B&B rooms. You could also get them at Bewley's, which had their own brand, but has since, (sadly) closed.
Now Biscoff biscuits are actually available at local grocery stores in NJ.
I will definitely try any recipe with a similarity to those wonderful cookies. :)

Silviya Brown said...

Thanks for the recipe, my family don't like cinnamon, but I will put a little bit and hopefully they will not find out about it. Jessica Smith

pRiyA said...

Well after reading the post and mulling over all the comments I finally made it. It IS all that has been promised - choc chip cookie in sliceable form, hearty, snack cake, Biscoff...I've just had my first slice. It is excellent. Goes into my permanent files this one.

Ana said...

Your recipe is great! I am very passionate about healthy food, that is delicious at the same time. Can't wait to try it out :)

Ruby said...

Great post, you won me with this recipe. I am definitely trying it out this weekend. Love from London :)

MyCleanersCamberwell said...

Great blog, wonderful recipe :) Definitely trying it this weekend, after I clean my oven.