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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cardamom Tea Cake...slight disaster

Alright, so usually, I'm good with cakes; they're my comfort zone. But somehow, my attention strayed and I only added half the amount of flour needed in this still pretty tasty dessert. This is so embarrassing. We hardly know each other. 

Alright, even still, this is a good cake, I promise. I'm a big fan of cardamom; it's got a beautiful fragrance, and is a flavor I've lived with my whole life. For as long as I remember my family has had a mortar and pestle on the kitchen counter to crush cardamom pods for Indian tea (real Indian chai, not the kind you get at Starbucks). And then, my mom had this amazing idea to add a bag of loose leaf tea as well, giving it this whole new level of flavor. So essentially, this is an authentic cup of Indian tea, in cake form. 

Mom always keeps a ziploc bag of cardamom pods in the freezer. They last quite a while.

The Bombay Chai (I know, this makes me a bit of a hypocrite) from Mighty Leaf was our choice of tea. 

Now, this is a very fragrant cake. It might be a bit too intense for some American palates. But if you're adventurous, I'd say go whole hog. We added a good amount of seeds, as well as the whole tea bag. After I mashed the two together, the smell was intoxicating. Seriously, my sister had to pull the bowl away from me so I'd stop smelling it and get on with making the cake. 

I'm so smug when I find a really simple recipe, that still sounds super fancy. This is one of those. Seriously, the batter is nothing too complicated (and yet I STILL screwed it up), but it becomes transformed into this lovely creation that you could give the most annoyingly high brow name to if you wished. "Anyone care for some Cardamom Chai Tea Fusion/Infusion Torte?"

One thing to mention is that this is by no means a "pretty" batter. It doesn't fall in velvety ribbons from the mixer paddle blade, it is in no way a smooth ocean of gorgeous yellow/white/gold/dark mahogany brown. It looks like batter gone wrong. Curdled, strangely pale, and when you add the ground spices, it takes on this watery gray tinge, like old dishwater. Don't believe your eyes. Shut them tight as pour your hideous child into your prepared cake pan. If you're brave (or like me, just hungry), you'll dip your finger in for a quick nip and realize it actually tastes good. Really good. It's like the chubby girl in 10th grade who's really funny.

Now, like I said, I screwed up. But it was still tasty! At least, my dad ate it. So while I still say you should add all the flour I mention below, if you like your cakes seriously dense, sweet and buttery (as well as strongly cardamom-y), go ahead and halve the flour. Unfortunately, your cake will come out sad and flat looking like mine. But that didn't stop my mom, my sister, and I from taking nibbles from the side. Well, let's be honest. Very little could happen to stop that.

Cardamom Tea Cake

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 packet of tea (don't skimp, get the good stuff)
1 - 1 1/2 tsp ground/crushed cardamom seeds
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups cake flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9" round cake pan. To take extra precaution, cut a circle of parchment paper to lay on the bottom of the pan.  

Crush the cardamom seeds and tea leaves together. This is most easily done with a mortar and pestle, although a small bowl, a wooden spoon, and LOTS of elbow grease work too. (I did this, and it sucks, but hey no pain no gain). You want to make sure there are no large bits of anything. Your mixture will resemble a rough powder.

Fit your mixer with the paddle attachment and mix butter and sugar together till light and fluffy. (If you're like me and live in a cute yet ill equipped kitchen in Brooklyn and have no mixer, use a fork to whip these together. Unless your butter's really soft, a whisk just makes things messy.) Add the eggs one at a time, incorporating fully before adding the next. Then add the vanilla. Toss in the cardamom and tea, and when that is fully mixed, add the buttermilk.

In another bowl, mix the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add in small batches to the mixer, mixing slowly until just incorporated. To be safe, use a silicone spatula and fold batter gently, to make sure no flour is stuck to the sides of the bowl.

Pour into prepared pan and pop into the oven for approximately 30 to 35 minutes, or until golden and toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then flip out onto cooling rack. Serve room temperature with a dollop of fresh whipped cream.  

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