Here is a cake I created as a tribute to one of my favorite seasonal treats. As the holidays near, I find myself anxiously awaiting the arrival of egg nog — anticipating its rich, creamy sweetness and the way it signals the new year on the horizon. For me, one of the best ways to celebrate something delicious is not simply to eat or drink it, but to transform it into a dessert. So why settle for having a glass of egg nog when I can eat it, too? (Actually, I admit I’m even more satisfied by a slice of this cake than I am by sipping the drink that inspired it. And whenever I’ve brought this cake to parties, I’ve witnessed it being devoured with great delight, even by those who are otherwise egg nog averse.)
- 4 egg whites
- 1 cup sugar, divided
- 1.5 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1.5 teaspoons ground nutmeg
- 3/4 cup butter, softened
- 3/4 cup egg nog
- 1/3 cup spiced rum*
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 whole vanilla bean
- 1/3 cup powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter and flour sides and bottom of an 8″ round cake pan that’s at least 2 inches deep**, or butter and line bottom with parchment. Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites with 1/4 cup sugar until opaque and stiff (about 5 minutes); set aside.
Whisk together the egg nog, rum and vanilla extract; set aside. In a separate, large bowl, cream the butter and remaining sugar, then sift the flour, baking powder, soda, salt and nutmeg over it. Begin to mix; batter will seem dry. Slowly pour in the egg nog mixture, gradually mixing until batter is smooth and even in consistency. Cut the vanilla bean lengthwise and carefully scrape the seeds out with a knife. Add seeds to batter and mix until evenly distributed.
Finally, fold the egg whites into the batter gently, a little at a time, until just mixed and even in texture (batter will be frothy). Quickly spread the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake for about 40-50 minutes, removing from oven when center tests clean with a toothpick, does not jiggle, and top is golden brown (don’t worry if there are some cracks on the surface).
Let cake cool in the pan at room temperature for at least an hour. Loosen sides of cake with a knife, then invert it onto a plate. Using a sieve or sifter, dust the top of the cake with about 1/3 cup powdered sugar. If desired, decorate with cranberries and peppermint leaves. Wondrous still warm or a bit heated up, this cake is best eaten within a day or two of baking. For premium texture, store at room temperature (not refrigerated), covered.
Spicy and sweet, this cake overflows with the goodness of the holiday season. Its speckles of vanilla bean and nutmeg are a luxurious offering within the creamy egg nog batter, while its tender, moist crumb provides warm hints of rum in every bite. A sweet slice of egg nog to savor bite by bite: this is merry!
*Maybe next time… If you’re one who prefers brandy or bourbon over rum, feel free to substitute your liquor as you please. The boozy flavor in this cake is detectable but mild; if you like a stronger flavor, lightly brush another tablespoon or two onto the top and sides of the baked cake before dusting with sugar. Or if you don’t want to use alcohol, freely substitute milk or apple juice.
**If you don’t have an 8″ pan deep enough, or if your pan just really seems too full of batter, go with your intuition. You can take out some batter (use it to make a cupcake or two!), or use a 9″ pan. If you use a bigger pan than 8″, be sure to check the cake for doneness earlier, since the thinner-spread batter can bake faster.