Nutmeg Feather Cake

This is an old-fashioned cake that I first made more years ago than I care to admit. I remember serving this cake to friends when I first had a place of my own.  In those days I was experimenting in the kitchen, finding recipes in magazines and newspapers, cooking and baking, then calling up my extended family and co-workers to sample the results of my efforts.  I took this cake to work on many different occasions and eventually it ended up in a cookbook that was published by my co-workers to raise money for our Intensive Care Unit.  I have misplaced that little cookbook, so I set out to search for the original recipe.  Of course I found it, and some new variations of the original*.  It seems that it was from Southern Living magazine and the broiled topping is what made it so special.   The recipe calls for a 9×13-inch pan but I prefer to make two 8-inch layers.  It makes more sense for our small family.  And it’s nice to have a layer cake in the freezer for those times when a quick dessert is needed.  The topping is a mixture of softened butter, brown sugar, coconut, heavy cream and a little vanilla.  It gets spread on the warm cake and broiled until bubbly and golden.  As it cools the topping takes on a caramel-like chewiness and the coconut adds just the right amount of texture.  I think it’s the perfect partner to the feather light and nutmeg-intensive cake.   
Nutmeg Feather Cake
(makes one 9×13-inch cake or two 8-inch layers)
Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Butter and flour your choice of cake pan(s).  In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large mixing bowl with a sturdy hand mixer), cream together:
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
When light and fluffy, add, gradually:
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
Beat until the mixture is very well blended and light in color.  Add, one at a time, beating until incorporated:
3 large eggs
In a medium bowl whisk together:
2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
Add the flour mixture to the butter and egg mixture, alternately with: 
1 cup buttermilk (or soured milk)
Mix on low speed until just combined, then stir in:
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
Spread the batter in the prepared pan(s).  Smooth the top into an even layer.  Place in the oven and bake until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes.  While the cake is baking prepare the topping.  (If you have made the 8-inch layers and are only using one, cut the following ingredient amounts in half.  Wrap and freeze the remaining layer for future use ).  In a medium bowl combine:
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup flaked coconut
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
When the cake is done allow it to cool on a rack until it is warm to touch.  Preheat the broiler and set a rack in the upper third of the oven.  Spread the topping evenly over the warm cake  and place under the broiler until golden brown and bubbly all over.  You may have to turn the cake pan to ensure even browning.  Watch very carefully, it will burn in an instant if you are not paying attention.  Allow to cool to room temperature then slice and serve.  Leftovers can be covered loosely and stored at cool room temperature for a day or two.
*I found some versions of this cake that used a cream cheese frosting.  Good, but not as good as the broiled topping, in my opinion.
(From a recipe originally published in the October, 1981 edition of Southern Living  magazine)


  • Steph

    Love it! My aunts would make this all the time growing up. A great alternative to a coffee cake for brunch.

  • Deb

    We made this from the Betty Crocker red & white cook book when I was growing up. Made in a 9×13-inch pan which had a travel lid, it was made before a long car trip as it traveled well and provided breakfasts / lunch desserts and snacks alike.

    • donna

      Deb, Thanks so much for your kind comment. Sometimes the old recipes are still the best, right?

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