In previous weeks I had been feeling a little low, a little overwhelmed with the relentlessness of time as it barreled past me without a care for the terror that the imminent prospect of graduating struck into me. But luckily for you, Dear Reader (have been force-fed far too much Romantic/Victorian prose lately), I recently had a small epiphany in which I basically decided to enjoy life again. I wasn’t depressed before, don’t get me wrong – I just wasn’t quite getting the balance of anxiety and no anxiety right. And when I’m happy, I tend to bake, and generally bake better than I do when I’m stressed – I’m sure that’s the same for everyone. This lovely loaf cake here, displayed in rather artsy photographs (sometimes you just have to run with it) is consequently the first bake in a while I’ve been properly pleased with. It was fun and simple to make, something a little bit different and turned out pretty much the way I wanted it 🙂
Cardamon is a somewhat lesser known spice I think (unless you’re an actual chef or baker, obviously) and is, to my knowledge, usually used in savoury, especially Indian, cooking. I found this unusually flavoured cake in my wondrous Hummingbird Bakery book, ‘Cake Days’ – I never get tired of flipping through its pages and have tried about 5% of the recipes in there so far, so there’s always the promise of a new recipe that catches my eye. You use the round black seeds from the cardamom pods here, scraped out the pod and ground in a pestle and mortar (or approximation of that if you don’t have one like me) to a powder. Crunchy chunks of cardamom would not be a good thing; it has a pretty fierce kick whole, a bit like a whole black peppercorn does, but when ground and mixed into a smooth cake batter, the whole cake is infused with an amazing hum of spice and the smell is unbelievable! Have I sold it to you yet? Thought so, here’s the recipe so you can recreate it yourself now!
- 190g unsalted butter (as usual, I used a substitute spread and it worked fine)
- 190g caster sugar
- 10 cardamom pods; split them open, take out the seeds and crush these in a pestle and mortar. Discard pods.
- 3 eggs
- 190g plain flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 25ml cream (recipe asked for soured, I used double which I thought was fine, soured would add a bit of a tang to it)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Step 1: Cream the butter and sugar together with the crushed cardamom seeds until light and fluffy. Break in the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each egg. You could beat the eggs separately beforehand to make this easier.
Step 2: Sift the flour and baking powder together into the liquid mixture. Add the salt and combine. Remember to scrape down the sides of the bowl and your spoon to get all the flour incorporated.
Step 3: Stir in the cream and vanilla. Prepare your loaf tin by greasing it with butter and then dusting with flour (sprinkle some in then tap the tin upside down to remove excess).
Step 4: Pour the cake mix into the loaf tin and bake at 170C/Gas Mark 3 for 50-60 minutes. I know this is eons but it needs it – mine took about an hour and 5 minutes, because my oven is very uneconomical and pours heat into the kitchen instead of keeping it sealed inside to bake my cakes. Grrr. We do have a very warm kitchen, though.
Step 5: When your cake is cooked, a skewer pushed into the middle of the cake should come out clean and the top of the loaf will be springy but firm. Leave to cool for a bit in the tin, then turn out (mine came out perfectly!) onto a wire cooling rack. Store in an airtight container, slice to serve. Great with any nice herbal/fancy teas. My tea preference is peppermint 🙂
Source: the hummingbird bakery ‘Cake Days’ baking book. Honestly, this will impress people with how unusual but amazingly tasty it is. My housemates liked it a lot. Enjoy!