Baking for Bookworms: Cinnamon Cake from Kate Forsyth’s Bitter Greens


So this post is late, obviously. I haven’t been keeping up with my baking for bookworms posts very well, even though they’re one of my favorite features. But I’m working on getting everything back on track. If you have a book you want me to cook or bake from, be sure to leave it in the comments.

The food in the book is used to contrast situations with love and warmth and a feeling of home as well as harsh realities all the characters confront. Forsyth builds worlds with her dishes, uses them to denote status and place. Her food descriptions tend to be really evocative; she doesn’t just drop food in, she makes it stick to the character’s ribs.

This cake is one of the last things that Margherita, soon to be known as the Italian form of Rapunzel, Petrosinella, eats in the warmth and safety of her family for one of her birthdays:

“Margherita was carrying a small, warm, precious, cake in her hands. It smelt fragrantly of cinnamon and sugar. She lifted it to her nose, then quickly licked the edge of the cake. The taste was an explosion of sweetness and richness in her mouth.”                       72

It’s mentioned a couple times, and anything that has cinnamon is enough to make my mouth water, so I knew I had to make it.


Cinnamon cake recipe slightly adapted from An Italian in the Kitchen.

  • 5 tablespoons brown sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened, plus 1 tablespoon melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar or lemon juice) added to 1 cup of milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 325F.

Mix 3 tablespoons of sugar with the cinnamon (save the rest of the sugar) and set aside.

Sift (or whisk) flour with the other dry ingredients.

Beat the softened butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and beat until well combined.

Add the liquid and flour in stages, starting and ending with the milk, beating well between each addition. Add the vanilla and beat for 30-60 seconds.

Add one third of the batter to a greased springform pan. You can use a regular cake pan, but it’s better if it’s deep.

After spreading out the batter, sprinkle a thin layer (a little less than half the mixture) of the cinnamon sugar mixture. Then add another third of the batter, another layer of the cinnamon sugar and finally the rest of the batter.

Bake for about one hour or until a skewer comes out clean.

Let cool and place on a cake plate. Brush with butter and dust with the rest of the cinnamon mixture mixed with the remaining two tablespoons of sugar.


Serve generous slices and enjoy!

Do you have a favorite cake that reminds you of a special birthday or occasion? Or is any occasion the right one for a good cake? Let me know your thoughts on cake in the comments.