French Four-Spice Cake with Browned Butter Spice Frosting


1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
Zest of 1/2 orange
2 large eggs
1 1/3 cups flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons quatre épices
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk

2/3 cup butter
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon quatre épices
2 tablespoons half-and-half
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 cups powdered sugar
2/3 cup chopped toasted walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 9-in. square pan.
2. Make cake: Beat butter, brown sugar, and zest in a large bowl with a mixer until fluffy. Add eggs and beat until well blended. In another bowl, combine flour and other dry ingredients. Add flour mixture to butter mixture one-third at a time, alternating with buttermilk half at a time, and beating on low speed after each addition until blended. Spread batter in pan.
3. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool on a rack, 10 minutes. Loosen cake from pan with a slender spatula, then invert onto a rack. Re-invert onto another rack; cool completely.
4. Make frosting: Cook butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, swirling pan occasionally, until deep golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Pour into a mixer bowl, let cool, then chill until firm enough to beat, about 30 minutes. Add remaining ingredients except for nuts and beat until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes, occasionally scraping inside of bowl.
5. Split cake horizontally with a long serrated knife. Lift off top layer with 2 wide spatulas. Set bottom layer on a platter, then spread with half of frosting. Replace top layer. Spread top of cake with remaining frosting, then sprinkle with nuts.

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