Happy Birthday Cakes: Spice Cake with Lemon Thyme and Cream Cheese Icing

| October/November 1998

Serves 15

A hint of thyme combines with spices in this tasty cake. I like to use lemon-scented thymes, orange balsam thyme, or Provençal thyme for their sweeter, milder flavor. The icing is deliciously soft and gooey.

Lightly toasting the nuts enhances their flavor: spread them on a baking sheet and bake at 325°F for 6 to 8 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice. Cool before using.

• 2 1/4 cups unbleached flour
• 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
• 1/4 teaspoon ginger
• 3/4 teaspoon salt
• 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
• 1 1/2 cups sugar
• 3 extra-large eggs, separated
• 1/2 cup milk steeped with 15 to 20 sprigs of lemon thyme 2 to 3 inches long
• 3/4 cup nonfat buttermilk
• 2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme leaves
• 1/3 cup chopped black or English walnuts, toasted

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan and dust it lightly with flour. Sift the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt, and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whip the butter with an electric mixer for a minute. Add the sugar and beat until fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition and occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl.

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