New England Spider Cake

December 19, 2014

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: This is a two-bowl, all-of-the-ingredients-are-already-in-your-pantry sort of cake. It belongs on your post-holiday brunch table—and not only because you can make it at 8 A.M. on December 26. Throw together the batter when you realize you spent so much time fussing over holiday meals that you forgot about feeding your guests the next day. It will slow your mind—anxious from dolling up pretty candies—and your body—strung-out from digesting sugary treat after sugary treat—but it's not so virtuous as to be annoying.

This recipe comes from Jonathan Reynolds at the New York Times (http://cooking.nytimes...).
Sarah Jampel

Serves: 8
Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 45 min


  • 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
  • 1 splash maple syrup, for serving
In This Recipe


  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Combine the milk and vinegar in a bowl and set aside to sour (wait 5 to 10 minutes—you'll see the milk get lumpy).
  2. In another bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Whisk eggs into the soured milk. Stir into dry ingredients and set batter aside.
  4. Melt butter in a 10- or 12-inch cast-iron skillet. Pour in the batter. Pour cream into center, then slide the skillet into the oven and bake until golden brown on top, about 45 minutes.
  5. Slice into wedges and serve warm, with maple syrup if you'd like.

More Great Recipes:
Cake|New England|Maple Syrup|Milk/Cream|Vinegar|Grains|Cornmeal|Cast Iron|Bake|Quick and Easy|Fall|Thanksgiving

Reviews (101) Questions (3)

101 Reviews

Julianna March 20, 2019
This recipe was tasty on a cloudy cool day. I made a half batch recipe with less sugar in an 8 inch pie pan. The flavor was good, but I might tweak it slightly to have more of the custard layer.
Jenn C. March 14, 2019
I made this with bob’s red mill GF apf and it turned out great! I agree with others that it could be a little less sweet. And I actually liked it better the next day after spending time in the fridge. The flavors meld into custardy corny sweet goodness and it becomes almost like edible pudding. It makes me want to experiment with corn and cream in fancier formats. Simple and delicious.
Kurtis K. March 24, 2018
Does anyone know why it's called a spider cake?
Tara C. March 24, 2018
It used to be cooked on one of those cast iron things with “legs” that sat over a fire that resembled a spider
Jeannine D. March 2, 2018
Just made this. I had some maple sugar from Vermont which I used instead of regular sugar. Had no cornmeal, but did have polenta. Used a 12” nonstick skillet. It turned out great!!!!! I love it and I have been looking for a use for the maple sugar and thought this would work. It did.
Hannah January 27, 2018
This was really good, thank you so much! So delicious and heartening! I didn't have a cast iron skillet, so I made it in a ceramic baking dish - still turned out well for my taste. Next time, I will choose a little wider dish, so the spider cake will be a little flatter - better for the custard. Great excuse to make it again! Thank you so much for sharing this!
Curlytexan January 22, 2018
I made this as written. Such an interesting cake. It was good - like a sweet cornbread with a custard layer through the middle. The batter was very thin, but it turned out fine. I poured the whipping cream directly in the middle as directed. It was interesting how it perfectly separated out into custard like layer in the middle. I see lots of places where you could experiment and expand on this recipe, but start with it as written and go from there. You won't be disappointed.
Tracy December 27, 2017
Reading these comments are making me want to make this straight away!! Yummmm!
Crystal H. March 22, 2017
I wish the instructions were clearer about the middle part being normally jiggly. I only found out when I went to the NYT original recipe and a commenter mentioned that. I added an extra ten minutes and I finally took it out. The outside was a bit too brown -- the part that touched my cast iron pan. The middle was jigglier than the pics. But it was good. I think I would decrease the sugar next time.
jungli_beleza February 8, 2017
So delicious! I had to make some variations because of pantry & dietary reasons but I can't wait to try it as is next time. I used aquafaba instead of eggs, and pureed canned creamed corn because i didn't have any cream. and it's still so yummy and i'm sure it's going to be oh so good with the cream filling, too. maple syrup on top of course (used less sugar because of this plus the canned corn is already sweet :).
Archibald K. January 25, 2017
Just made this for the first time tonight since I had milk I needed to use up. Oh man, so good! Thing is, I didn't have heavy cream, but I DID have strawberry-banana drinkable yogurt. Dropped that in instead and BOOM, amazing. I think I would rather use the yogurt than cream in the future as well.
Tara C. January 25, 2017
Now that's an idea worth trying! Make this all the time & can't wait to try this variation:)
Jeffrey B. January 18, 2017
I make this last weekend. It was OK don't know if I'll make it again.
cpc November 28, 2016
@Lisa Hill, I would recommend refrigeration. This isn't really a display sort of cake. It is good though.
Lisa H. November 28, 2016
I'm eager to try this recipe. Any comments on storage? Does it need to be refrigerated or can i leave it in display in my fabulous covered cake stand?
Linda November 20, 2016
What kind of pan can you substitute for the cast iron one?
Author Comment
Sarah J. November 20, 2016
You can use a regular 10- or 12-inch cake pan. If it's not stovetop-safe, just melt the butter in a small pot and pour it into the pan. The results might not be quite as crispy because the cake pan will conduct heat a bit differently, but it should still be delicious!
Eva October 14, 2016
Isn't this the same as the Custard-Filled Cornbread in Marion Cunningham's 'The Breakfast Book'? (photos and recipe here on Lottie + Doof: I've made it many times, and it's wonderful... but I think the recipe is identical, no?
Bridget November 2, 2016
This recipe seems to be a good bit sweeter than that one (3/4 cup sugar vs. 3 tbsp in the recipe you linked). Also, this recipe requires souring the milk before combing with other ingredients.
mayte September 23, 2016
Does anyone have thoughts on how to make a gluten free version?
Natalie R. September 24, 2016
Since it's essentially decadent cornbread, I would use flour combinations from any gluten free cornbread recipe that looks somewhat fluffy. I looked around, and most appear to use a gluten free all-purpose blend in place of the all-purpose flour. One used half white rice flour, half sweet white rice flour (mochiko), and some xanthan gum.
mayte September 24, 2016
Thanks Natalie R!
Natalie R. September 22, 2016
Easy recipe, even for a first time attempt! It came together last minute indeed. I used cider vinegar because my white vinegar is for cleaning and is stored with harsh chemicals, but I followed the recipe exactly after that (even used the same cast iron skillet, from the looks of it). The two tablespoons of butter was an estimate. I think you can easily use less, since its for coating your pan, if your skillet is well seasoned.

Remember to make sure you can finish the cake or you have enough storage containers! I barely had enough. Don't store it in your cast iron since that can hurt the seasoning.
mayte March 20, 2016
Does anyone know if you can use coarse cornmeal or must it be fine?
mrslarkin March 20, 2016
I've used both. It's a little more crunchy with the coarse cornmeal. Both delicious.
EL February 10, 2016
I was stalked by this recipe and finally made it from another site (where they call for fresh berries and buttermilk). I happen to like the fresh berries but did think that the cake as stated on that website needed more sugar and also more eggs (they called for 2 Tbsp. honey and 1 egg, but it appears to be half this recipe so maybe that is actually accurate). I've now made it twice and really like it with the berries. I do think that I would use a bit more sugar .
Kerry G. January 27, 2016
Yummy! SO glad I had a cup of cream I needed to use up. Lovely with maple syrup.