This dish, based on a recipe in James Oseland's cookbook, Cradle of Flavor (W. W. Norton, 2006), is also great when you bake it as one whole square, without the layers (just eliminate the extra three tablespoons of butter).
- 1 1⁄2 cups plus 3 tbsp. butter, softened
- 2 cups plus 1 tbsp. cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
- 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
- 1⁄2 tsp. baking powder
- 1⁄2 tsp. ground cloves
- Pinch of salt
- 1 2⁄3 cups sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325°. Grease an 8" × 8" × 2" cake pan with 1 tsp. of the butter, then lightly flour pan with 1 tbsp. of the flour, discarding any excess. Set aside.
Sift remaining flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, cloves, and salt together into a medium bowl. Repeat and set aside.
Beat 1½ cups of the butter in a large bowl, using a wooden spoon, until it is soft and very pliant, about 4 minutes. Add sugar and beat together until pale and fluffy, 5–6 minutes. Beat in whole eggs, one at a time, until mixture is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add flour mixture in 3 equal parts, stirring with a wooden spoon after each addition, to make a smooth batter. Add egg yolks and vanilla and continue to mix until well combined, about 30 seconds more.
Pour one-quarter of the batter into prepared pan, spreading it evenly over bottom, and bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Remove cake from oven, brush cake with one-third of remaining butter, and carefully top with another quarter of the batter; repeat the baking process. Repeat the process 2 more times to use up all the batter and remaining butter. The cake will have 4 layers.
When its final layer is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into it comes out clean, remove cake from oven and set aside to let cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife carefully around edges of pan to loosen cake, then invert it onto a large plate. Invert again and let cool completely.