This rich, moist cake from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce was one of the very first recipes to catch our eye. It calls for a flour we've never worked with before - amaranth flour - and combines it with dark muscovado sugar (our new love) and thick apple butter (an old love). This combination just sounds too good to pass up!
The head notes for the chapter on amaranth flour describe it as having a strong grassy flavor. It's ground from amaranth seeds and gluten-free, so this recipe mixes the it with whole wheat and regular all-purpose flour to give it structure. If you have trouble finding amaranth flour (or its seeds, which can be ground), Boyce suggests substituting quinoa flour.
Muscovado Sugar Cake
Makes one 9-inch round cake
Butter for the pan
1/2 cup amaranth flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup muscovado sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 ounces (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons apple butter (homemade or store-bought natural apple butter)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup crème fraîche, optional
1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Rub a 9-inch round cake pan lightly with butter.
2. Sift the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl, pouring back into the bowl any grains or other ingredients that may remain in the sifter. Add the cubes of cold butter. Rub the butter between your fingers, breaking it into smaller and smaller bits, until it feels as coarse as cornmeal.
3. Place the egg whites into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whip attachment and the yolks into a bowl large enough to hold the milk and apple butter. Whisk the egg yolks with the milk and apple butter until thoroughly combined. Scrape the milk mixture into the dry mixture with a spatula and stir to combine.
4. Whip the egg whites on the mixer's highest speed until they're softly whipped. Add the sugar and continue to mix until the whites are shiny and hold their peaks, about 1 minute. Use the spatula to scrape half of the whipped egg whites into the flour mixture and gently fold them in. Add the rest of the egg whites and gently fold them into the batter until the pockets of white have been incorporated. Scrape the batter into the pan, smoothing the top with the spatula.
5. Bake on the middle rack for 32 to 36 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. The cake is ready when a light press in the middle causes it to spring back lightly and the edge of the cake is pulling away from the side of the pan.
6. Cool the cake in the pan. Once the cake is cool enough, slice it into wedges, whip the cream into soft peaks that barely hold their shape, and dollop a spoonful over each wedge. Any leftover cake can be wrapped tightly in plastic and kept for up to 2 days.
Buy the Book: Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours by Kim Boyce with Amy Scattergood, $20 on Amazon.com
(Image: Quentin Bacon/Stewart, Tabori & Chang)