Two Clever Sisters are in Seattle this week (+ a little E). Last week, as I looked through what was in the refrigerator I noticed there was a 16 ounce tub of sour cream that would expire May 3rd (while we were in Seattle). Far be it from me to allow a dairy product to go to waste. My first thought was to make pancakes (having had absolutely delicious pancakes in Yarmouthport at the Liberty Hill Inn on the Cape, one ingredient of which was sour cream). But I was hardly going to make that one morning before work. I then thought of the next best thing, a cake!
I flipped around through some cookbooks but kept finding recipes that used lots of egg yolks. I have plenty of frozen egg whites in the freezer at this point and didn’t want to add to them. So I checked epicurious and found a recipe for cardamom-pistachio sour cream cake. Cardamom is really quite nice but is uncommon and therefore an unexpected and surprising touch. Thus I overcame my usual aversion to spice cakes. And while I am not usually a fan of adding nuts to baked goods (I will always leave out the walnuts in brownies, for example) I do like pistachios enough to figure I should give it a try here (and after all, they are sprinkled on the top so easy to pick off!)
Despite my resolve to be “brave” and add the pistachios, however, they were ultimately not destined to be used in this cake. Remember the pistachio salmonella recall? Yeah, so none in the store. So much for feeling proud of myself for not being picky. I still was able to pat myself on the back for proceeding with what is arguably a “spice” cake, nonetheless.
In fact, I even began to worry if the lack of pistachio would make the cake too “boring”–there was not going to be any frosting, and would the cardamom be enough to take it beyond a bland vanilla cake? (I love vanilla, but an unfrosted vanilla cake is really not that exciting). How quickly I go from worrying about the overpowering taste of spice cake to worrying there won’t be enough!
I proceeded. I beat the sugar and softened butter together until fluffy. (I assume the picture below is what is meant by fluffy, otherwise, please enlighten me!)
Then I mixed in the sifted dry ingredients. While sifting can seem like an extra step, I think it is important to mix the spices in nicely and also remove any lumps from the flour. The more you beat batter, the more you develop the gluten and the tougher the cake is. So it’s good to give yourself a head start!
I beat in the sour cream and milk and beat until I got the batter to ribbon. Going from memory, I seemed to recall that getting the batter to ribbon is what indicates the structure is sufficient. (Ribboning is when the batter trickling off the beaters is thick enough to create “ribbons” on the rest of the batter when you hold it above–as it was only me I couldn’t get a good shot of this–where is my third arm when I need it?). I am not sure this was a good idea, as I will discuss beliow. I perhaps should have just folded it in.
Here’s the cake ready to go in the oven–i.e. when those pistachios would have been added!
I needn’t have worried about the lack of pistachios, frosting, or other such garnishes. The cardamom in the cake was deliciously fragrant. I took it to work to share and, due to being in a bit of a rush, put it out without making sure it got announced (yeah, a bit cruel in retrospect). Apparently the aroma attracted attention, but being polite, noone wanted to dig in to the first slice without being sure it was really for public consumption.
I would like to try this cake again, first to see what it would be like with pistachios but also to see what it would be like with cake flour. I felt like it was a bit tough (possibly as a result of my trying to “ribbon” the batter–maybe I should check my Cake Bible to see if that is always necessary to add structure to a cake or if I overdid it in this case. Perhaps you only ribbon to such an extent when you are using cake batter…but perhaps this cake’s ingredients mean that cake batter wouldn’t be enough hold it all together, especially when adding pistachios? Who knows? Someone, surely, but not me). I suppose it was only slightly tough, if at all, because I was complimented on the cake (though I did note above that my coworkers are polite!)
Enough of my speculation into hows and whys, here’s some photos of cake!
Sour Cream Cardamom Cake (adapted from B on Appetit)
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/8 teaspoons ground cardamom
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 4 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup sour cream
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter an 8-inch-diameter cake pan with 2-inch-high sides. Dust with flour; tap out excess. Sift 2 cups flour, ground cardamom, baking soda, salt and ground cinnamon into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat 1 cup sugar and 6 tablespoons butter in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Mix in vanilla extract. Fold in dry ingredients alternately with sour cream in 3 additions each (Note I beat in until ribbons formed; folding may be better as it will not over-develop the gluten). Transfer batter to prepared cake pan, smooth the surface, and tap gently a few times to remove any excess air pockets.
Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool cake in pan on rack 30 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack and cool completely. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature.)
I have read that in the middle east coffee is often served infused with cardamom pods. Therefore I suggest adding a few cardamom pods (if you have them–I do and they are hard to use up!) to some coffee to enjoy alongside this cake!