A month or two ago, my sister-in-law Emily gave me the sweetest housewarming gift. We had shared some homemade ice cream at a family reunion last summer that tasted SO GOOD and couldn’t figure out why it reminded us of horchata. My mom informed us that what we tasted was Mexican vanilla. Emily, thoughtful person that she is, remembered how much we’d loved that flavor and got me my very own bottle of Mexican vanilla, plus a pretty cake stand to go with it.
I have the best family.
Since that horchata flavor was what introduced us to Mexican vanilla in the first place, I thought I’d attempt an horchata-inspired cake. It was definitely an experiment, and I’d probably make some changes to the icing next time (see my notes below) but I thought it was delicious. Mila apparently did too, given that she snitched a bite while the cakes were cooling and then downed a slice all by herself after it was all put together.
That little stinker is getting too tall and too smart for her own good.
David, our resident horchata fiend, also approved. It’s almost unheard of for all three of us to like something that’s not entirely made of and smothered in chocolate, so I’m claiming this one as a victory.
Mexican Vanilla Cake
from Martha Stewart
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 8-inch
In a medium bowl, whisk flour,
baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and
sugar until light and fluffy. With mixer on low, beat in eggs and yolks,
one at a time. Beat in vanilla. Alternately beat in flour mixture and
buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until
Divide batter between pans; smooth tops. Bake until cakes
pull away from sides of pans, 32 to 35 minutes. Let cool in pans 10
minutes. Run a knife around edges of pans and invert cakes onto a wire
rack. Let cool completely.
Make icing and assemble cake.
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons (7 oz) sweetened condensed milk
2 Tablespoons whole milk
a pinch of coarse salt
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Spice Mix Ingredients:
1 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat together butter,
condensed milk, whole milk, and salt until smooth. Add in confectioners’ sugar,
1/4 cup at a time, and mix until combined, then beat on high speed until thick
and smooth. Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of Spice Mix (to your taste) and mix until combined.
Bear in mind that this icing is only inspired by horchata. It obviously has a few extra spices in it, and contains zero rice, which is the main ingredient in that beverage. Still, with the sweetened condensed milk and the cinnamon (plus the other spices), it’s definitely reminiscent of horchata. It’s quite sweet, though, and the consistency was more like a glaze than a frosting. Next time I will probably thin it out even more, pour it on top and let it drip over the sides, rather than trying to spread it with an angled spatula.
If you’d prefer a less sweet, more traditional frosting, I suggest the Chai Spice Buttercream from Gimme Some Oven instead. It’s delicious, and still gives you that hint of spice that horchata has without the distinct sweetness of the condensed milk.