New England Spider Cake

A unique and rustic cake that works any time of day.

New England Spider Cake isn’t quite like any other cake I’ve ever had. Started in a hot skillet and finished in the oven, it’s a dense and lightly sweet cream-topped cornmeal cake that makes just as much sense for breakfast (with a drizzle of maple syrup!) as it is does as a rustic after-dinner dessert. And believe me, it’s good news that it fits in any time of day, since just one bite will have you wanting to eat it over and over again.

It’s a two-bowl cake, but only because you need a separate bowl to pour vinegar into some milk and set it aside to clabber. That process is often used as a substitute for buttermilk, but every Spider Cake recipe I’ve seen uses vinegar or lemon juice to curdle regular milk instead.

The rest of the batter is a simple mixture of flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking soda, and eggs. While you whisk everything together you melt some butter in a cast iron skillet and pour the batter into the sizzling butter. Then, before anything sets up too much and before it heads into the oven, you pour cream right into the center.

As it bakes, the cream just sets on top and ‘spiders’ out into the cornmeal crumb, which is where it gets its name. It’s a sturdy, totally unfussy cake, and the unique combo of the cornmeal bite and creamy topping is hard to get enough of.

New England Spider Cake

Serves 6  Prep 10m  Cook 45m

Ingredients
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Maple syrup, for serving
Preparation
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine milk and vinegar in a bowl and set aside to let sour.
  3. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking soda, and salt.
  4. Add eggs to milk and whisk to combine. Stir into dry ingredients and set aside.
  5. Melt butter in a 12-inch cast iron skillet. Pour batter in, then pour the cream into the center. Gently slide skillet into oven and bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes.
  6. Serve in wedges with maple syrup, if desired. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from New York Times Cooking.