Thursday, March 1, 2012

Guess Again! (Loveless Cafe's Tomato Spice Cake)

The Setting: String of pretty days over. Gloomy outside, but feels like Spring is waiting in the wings.

The Soundtrack: Definitely, Maybe.

Steaming up the Oven: Nada.

The Scenario: When I made out the menu for Music City in the Midwest, there was one recipe I knew I had to include even though it wasn't my own.

Tomatoes are a pretty big deal in Nashville. East Nashville even boasts the annual Tomato Art Fest, where tomato cake is often an attraction.

I conceived my own version of tomato cake once for a tomato-recipe contest in culinary school...but let's just say the recipe needed some fine-tuning.

So when Hoosband and I received Alisa Huntsman's Desserts from the Famous Loveless Cafe cookbook for Christmas this year, I new I had to give the Guess Again Tomato Cake with Pecans and Raisins a try.

I figured the quirky Southern recipe featuring Tennessee's state fruit would be perfect for my Nashville-themed meal.

I didn't figure I'd be able to share the recipe, but Artisan Books was nice enough to grant me permission to pass along this little tea-time treat, from the Loveless Cafe kitchen to yours.

Guess Again Tomato Cake with Pecans and Raisins
Use fresh spices--it makes all the difference! When I was getting everything ready for Saturday's big dinner, this cake, with its deliciously holiday-like aroma, was the one I most had to restrain myself from cutting into before the guests arrived. It makes a great breakfast cake, for those of us who just can't wait till after dinner.

1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup pecan pieces
2 cups cake flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 stick (4 ounces) plus 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup tomato juice
Vanilla Glaze (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 6- to 8-cup tube pan. Place the golden raisins in a small saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let the raisins plump in the water until they cool; drain well.

Meanwhile, toast the pecans on a baking sheet in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, until lightly colored and fragrant. Transfer to a dish and let cool.

In a mixing bowl, combine the cake flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and nutmeg. Set the dry ingredients aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter on medium-low speed for 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg and mix completely, scraping the bowl once. Sift one-third of the dry ingredients over the butter mixture, fold a few times by hand with a rubber spatula, and add half of the tomato juice. Fold a few times; sift half of the remaining spiced flour over the batter, add the remaining juice, and fold a few times. Add the remaining flour, and fold the batter gently until no streaks remain. Add the raisins and pecans. Fold gently to incorporate evenly. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the thickest part of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then unmold and and cool completely on a wire rack. Using a large spoon, ladle the glaze over the top of the cake, completely covering the top and letting the excess drip down the sides randomly.

Excerpted from Desserts from the Famous Loveless Café by Alisa Huntsman (Artisan Books). Copyright 2011.

Vanilla Glaze
In the interest of full disclosure, I should report that I accidentally measured out 1 1/3 cups milk instead of 1/3 cup milk when making this glaze and (after compensating with more powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla) ended up with enough glaze for this cake and four batches of cinnamon rolls. I used about twice the amount of glaze called for on the cake, and I loved how it turned out, so I will probably double the glaze recipe in the future.

2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Sift the confectioners' sugar into a bowl. Add the melted butter, milk, and vanilla. Whisk until smooth and creamy. Use at once.

Excerpted from Desserts from the Famous Loveless Café by Alisa Huntsman (Artisan Books). Copyright 2011.

Guest Feedback:
Average Score on a scale of 0-5, 0 being "Never again. Need to set my mouth on fire to extinguish the memory" and 5 being "Woohoo! When can I eat that again?" 4.5
Comments: "Pleasantly surprised! would have seconds." "I wasn't expecting that tomatoes were good in cakes" "Yummy"

This recipe was featured in a post called Music City in the Midwest for's 24x24 event, for which 24 food bloggers from around the world are selected to host dinner parties within the same 24 hours and blog about them.

Thanks for reading! Here's to Being the Secret Ingredient in your life.

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