March 5: National Absinthe Day
As we were looking ahead to find green-colored recipes on the Internet to try for our upcoming St. Patrick’s Day festivities, we found a loaf cake made with “The Green Fairy”—also known as the alcohol Absinthe.
The legendary licorice/anise/fennel tasting spirit was a popular drink in Europe in the 18th century. The fluorescent green liquid’s strong flavor and aftereffects are believed to have inspired “creativity” in artists and writers like Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh and Oscar Wilde.
Absinthe developed a reputation for causing hallucinations and was thus banned in a few countries such as France and America, especially during the Prohibition years. However, the crazy claim has been exaggerated, only adding to the alcohol’s mystique. It was just as recent as 2007 that America lifted its ban on the purchase and consumption of Absinthe.
Now we are legally able to try a recipe for Absinthe cake, the glaze topping of which follows the traditional style of serving the drink: place a sugar cube on a special slotted Absinthe spoon over a glass filled with a shot of Absinthe and slowly pour ice water over the sugar cube to dissolve and sweeten the beverage. The glaze itself is a mixture of sugar and Absinthe. Overall, it is definitely an adult dessert! Though the cake is not green, its ingredient “The Green Fairy” can give the leprechaun some serious competition this month. Go crazy and bake a boozy cake containing Absinthe on National Absinthe Day.
(Adapted from “The Sweet Life in Paris” by David Lebovitz)
For the absinthe cake
- 1 ¼ teaspoon anise seeds, ground fine
- 1 ¼ cup cake flour
- ½ cup stoneground yellow cornmeal (see Notes)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (1 stick/8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- ¼ cup milk
- ¼ cup Absinthe
- orange zest
For the absinthe glaze
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup Absinthe
Grease a 9-inch loaf pan and line the bottom with wax or parchment paper. Set aside. Grind the anise seeds with a mortar and pestle or spice mill. Add the ground anise seeds to a bowl of cake flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Combine well.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs. In a small bowl, mix the milk and Absinthe. Stir in about a teaspoon of orange zest.
Beat the eggs into the butter mixture. Gradually add the flour mixture into the butter mixture, alternating with the milk mixture. Blend well but do not overbeat. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes, testing for doneness with a toothpick. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack over a foil-lined lipped pan to catch any glaze drips. Use a toothpick or skewer to poke several holes in the warm cake.
Make the glaze by mixing the sugar and Absinthe in a cup but do not let the sugar dissolve completely. Spoon the glaze over the top of the cake, letting it drizzle down the sides. Sprinkle additional orange zest on top (optional). Let cool completely. Slice and serve.
- Cornmeal adds a bit of a crunchy texture to this cake. Substitute with ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons of pistachio or almond meal, if preferred.
- The green color from the Absinthe alcohol bakes out. So tint the batter with a tiny bit of green food coloring, if desired. Author David Lebovitz suggests adding chopped candied angelica (looks like green licorice sticks) to the batter before baking.
- Learn more about Absinthe from Wikipedia.