Why Buttermilk Is Crucial To Any Spice Cake

Can we tell you what we really, really want when fall makes its crisp, cool debut? Spice cake. This delicious dessert is filled with all the tastes and aromas we associate with the season, including cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, and nutmeg. Not to mention, this cake goes perfectly with a cup of coffee in those early morning hours after getting everyone out of the house or with a freshly brewed cup of tea in the afternoon or evening.

According to iFood.tv, the origin story of this autumnal favorite is a little murky, but the English are generally given the nod for creating it. The site goes on to share that there are many versions of this tasty cake, and notes that a spice cake can include fruits and vegetables: Applesauce, raisins, zucchini, and even sweet potatoes can be added to customize this confection. There's even a spice cake that uses Campbell's Tomato Soup (via Campbell Soup Company). 

But the traditional spice cake that excites our palates is the recipe that uses buttermilk. This ingredient plays a stealthy and crucial role that may have you thinking twice before you skip it or replace it with another.  

It provides symmetry to the flavor

According to Southern Living, buttermilk's role in the spice cake is critical and not something you should take lightly. After all, buttermilk imparts what is described as a "tanginess" to baked goods and its presence in the spice cake is no different. Its sharp, acidic flavor helps to keep the spiciness and sweetness of the cake all in line so that neither overpowers the other. However, as Well Plated explains, buttermilk is also subtle: You may not immediately detect its flavor, but it's there. Additionally, buttermilk is a tenderizer, making your spice cake moist while also helping to create the kind of fluffy cake you want to sink your teeth into. 

Of course, if you are like most people, you may find it difficult to use an entire carton of this thick, milky liquid before it goes bad — and no one wants to waste. Bon Appétit recommends trying a powdered version called Saco Cultured Buttermilk for Cooking and Baking. The cooking site explains that you can mix this substitute with water or milk and get the same outcome as you would if you had used the liquid form.