Hot and Fresh from the Cake Sauna (a.k.a. my Oven)
A wise little bird once told me you should never heat the oven for just one thing – if there’s space you might as well fill it, or else you’re just being wasteful.
So last week, while cooking Zucchini Nut Bread Cookie Sandwiches with Lex Leafy, we decided to use the heat to make a Swedish Cardamom Cake as well. Two recipes, one burst of the oven. Ace.
We found the recipe in a rather yellow copy of ‘Cakes, Pastries and Bread’ – one of those classic M&S recipe books from the seventies, handed to me by the Books for Free initiative, which is run by Healthy Planet (a fabulous group, if ever there was one).
After further research, I discovered that Cardamom is pretty popular among the Swedes – and who can blame them? It’s such a fragrant, powerful spice – excellent for freshening breath, not to mention jazzing up Hot Chocolate and Crumble toppings.
It’s one of those flavours that always appeals to my taste buds – and as for the smell of it wafting through the house? Bliss.
The recipe in question was happily simple: a sponge cake containing single cream and two teaspoons of ground cardamom.
Preferring something more aromatic, Lex and I opted for whole green pods instead, and spent a good five minutes de-husking them, covering the worktop in perfumed dots.
Going by the normal rules of herbs (where fresh isn’t quite as powerfully-flavoured as powdered), we finished at three teaspoons’ worth and tried to grind them down. Fat chance – they were like bullets – so we threw them into the mixture intact.
In hindsight, we may have added a touch too much – the flavour was so strong it almost verged on soapy. Nor did the pods soften much after their spell in the oven, so every other bite contained a wee bit of spicy crunch.
Now, of course, I have twigged that the Cardamom pods we used weren’t fresh at all: in fact, although they were whole they were unmistakably dried. So no need to up the dosage then. Lesson learned…
Not that the cake was inedible. In fact, it was quite the opposite: dense but soft and mellow – delicious served warm with a drizzle of cream. We made Lemon Icing for some of it too (as advised by M&S). Personally, I preferred it without, but it certainly added a lot of zing and made the sponge look… well-loved (we didn’t nickname it Bukkacake for nothing. Ahem).
On a less seedy note, the iced version would probably be better for various people who aren’t too sure about their spices.
Not that we gave them a chance to try.
Now, copyright law prevents me from putting the recipe we followed on this blog. However, now I’ve tried it myself, I can give you a new and improved version.
Everyone’s a winner!
Swedish Cardamom Cake with Optional Lemon Icing (serves 8-10)
Master baking, if ever I saw it
- 100g melted butter/vegetable spread
- 200g caster sugar
- 2 tsp ground cardamom or 1-2 tsp whole cardamom pods (ground with pestle and mortar, if you can muster the strength)
- 1 medium-sized egg
- 125ml single cream
- 300g plain flour (or 300g sr flour – just make sure you minus the baking powder if you don’t go plain)
- 3 tsp baking powder
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (gas mark 4)
- Grease/line a 20cm cake tin (springform, if possible)
- In a large mixing bowl, beat together the melted butter, sugar, egg, cream and cardamom until the mixture is smooth
- Sift and fold the flour into the sugar mixture until fully incorporated, keeping the batter as light and airy as possible
- Pour into the tin and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden
- When cooked through, turn out on to a wire rack. Serve warm with cream, or wait until the cake is cool to pour on icing (see below)
For Optional Lemon Icing:
- 50g icing sugar
- 2-3 tsp of lemon juice
Sift the sugar into a bowl and add the lemon juice, beating until it is lump-free. If you find your icing becomes too liquid, either add a touch more sugar, or prick the cake and pour it over as a kind of drizzle topping.