Pistachio Cardamom Cupcakes

Last Friday we got back from our annual trip to Seattle.  I’ll get into that in future posts, right now I’m still catching you up on the flurry of activity leading up to our departure.

I always draw up a seemingly insurmountable list of to-dos before heading away on a trip.   I’ve even parked a notepad and pen to my bedside table so I can quickly jot down those thoughts that slap you awake just as you’re drifting to sleep.  (As neurotic as this sounds, better to write it down and be done with it, I figure, than get myself wound up worrying I’ll forget in the morning).  For every item I cross off–stopping the mail, giving the plants a good soak, packing children’s vitamins–I find I’m always adding one more.  So I sometimes ask myself why I add a rash of kitchen chores to this list.  Aren’t I just making things more difficult for myself?  Maybe, but I simply hate the idea of letting things go bad.  I only ever accomplish so much–after all, I spent the evening we returned from our latest trip cleaning out collected unpleasantness in the vegetable drawer resulting from a few rotting sweet potatoes–but I feel at least a compulsion to try.

Pistachio Cardamom Cupcakes (1 of 4)

And once again, sour cream was on the to-do, or should I say, to-use list.  And I fall back on baked goods, which, although perhaps an uncreative use, is nonetheless an unassailable one.  The acid (you know, what makes it sour) tenderizes the crumb.  And if it were possible for a cupcake or muffin to have a spring in its step, sour cream would be the cause, buoying up that little cake and exhorting it–citius! altius! fortius!–to rise dramatically under the heat of the oven.

Pistachio Cardamom Cupcakes (2 of 4)

So, as one does before every major trip, I made pistachio cardamom cupcakes.  And the pistachio and the cardamom is a combination that could transport you, airplane ticket or no.  For me, the twin aromas trigger memories of a summer, now already 10 years past, spent in Sarajevo, and all its attendant images:  small cups of strong coffee drunk leisurely, baklava sticky with honey alternated with impossibly delicate Austrian cakes, sunshine, new words and expressions.  These associations are more than just disjointed clichés (though I freely admit that they are that too).  There’s something more to them than just the standard vignettes of vacation:  As time goes on, with more and more demands asserting themselves on my time, these images reflect the luxury of minutes and hours passing languorously.  Summer nights that are magical because they only slowly fade into darkness, not rushing you to sleep.   Drinks at outdoor cafes that are unhurried no matter how bustling the surroundings, simply because of your state of mind.   Books.  And being physically far away enough from “home” so that you can mentally distance yourself as well.

Shedding your mind of things like, you know, to-do lists.

Note:  The water pitcher included in the photos is a souvenir from that summer in Sarajevo.  I thought it was only appropriate to include.  

Pistachio Cardamom Cupcakes (3 of 4)

Pistachio Cardamom Cupcakes adapted from epicurious

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (about 9.25 ounces/266g)
  • 1 1/8 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup sugar (7 ounces/200g)
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick; 3 ounces/85g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream ( 6 1/3 ounce by weight/180g)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted pistachios (about 3 ounces/85g)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Prepare 14 cupcake tins.  (You can try for 12 but they do rise up a lot).

Stir together the flour, ground cardamom, baking soda, salt and ground cinnamon into medium bowl.

Using an electric or stand mixer, beat together the sugar and butter until fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, then beat in the vanilla extract.

Fold in the sour cream and dry ingredients in three additions.  (Add 1/3 of the sour cream, then 1/3 the dry ingredients, add half the remaining sour cream, then half the remaining dry ingredients, and repeat).  Scoop the batter into the cupcake cups and sprinkle with the pistachios.

Bake for about 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool.

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26 thoughts on “Pistachio Cardamom Cupcakes

  1. This really looks lovely, I have to say that cardamom is a recent love for me – I never used to be all that crazy for it and now I love it. Pistachios? Only my favorite nut ever I think… I’ll be playing with this one…

    • Let me know how it turns out! I’m a little obsessed with cardamom, I’ll admit. Have you ever made pistachio pudding? I’m curious to try that–I use to love “spumoni” ice cream at the italian restaurants for the green stripe of pistachio.

  2. Wow. Sour cream for bkg?! NVR thought of that . I always use yogurt but the sr crm is GENIUS! & it’s a face-slap for sure .. The fat content for moist, the acidity for rise & that taste .. Soon’s I get outta bed (hopefully Tue @ the latest) I’ll b bkg up a storm.

    Now. Trip? What trip? & I’m the opposite. I do all the “packing” in my head. 2 days ‘fore I lv I do the actual pkg. As for the prep of household, I just do as I go to-ans-fro. But that’s just me. I can also keep a running acct bal in my head of available monies. To each neurosis it’s own, right? Enjoy!

  3. Since you introduced me to cardamom, which I have found heavenly, I will definitely try this recipe. Also, the connection with Sarajevo hooked me. I recently finished “The Tiger’s Wife” and am still in the Balkan mode/mood. Thanks for the chance to use my cardamom again!

  4. These look gorgeous, Sara! And I had to laugh at your bedside notebook filled with lists…I’m the same way! =) Trying to get a house + kids + everything ready for a trip is a big undertaking!

  5. Oh, I love the combination of pistachio and cardamom! I drink Chai tea every day – and that’s pretty much its base! And the little pot is so beautiful! Perfect touch to the photos!

  6. citius! altius! fortius! Ha! That’s why I like reading your blog. I’m not a big fan of cupcakes, but I love cardamom and when I looked at your pictures my first thought was, “Those are muffins!” (which I do like). So, up they go on the to-bake list. Lovely post. If you haven’t read it already, you might enjoy Geraldine Brooke’s PEOPLE OF THE BOOK. Sarajevo figures into it. Ken

    • Thanks–I will check it out (and my to-read list gets yet longer). I’ve been meaning to read The Bridge on the Drina and Black Lamb Grey Falcon for ages already…As for the cupcake vs. muffin, it doesn’t have frosting so go ahead and call it a muffin!

  7. Funny, I was just about to leave a comment regarding the lack of frosting on this cupcake that’s really a muffin.

    Trying to decide if a pistachio cardamom frosting would be too much, or maybe just a pistachio frosting? Why am I thinkng about cinnamon frosting all of a sudden?

  8. Oh Sara, reading this made me totally nostalgic… Often in thoughts I find myself wandering through familiar streets of my small Bosnian hometown. Sometimes I miss it so much that it almost hurts…
    These are beautiful cupcakes and the pitcher (IBRIK) is so nice. My grandma had a similar one, which she used for coffee.

    • Oh Sibella, thanks for reminding me what it is called. I could only remember the word “dzezva” — which I have as well as a souvenir–my landlords had me for coffee and sweets from time to time and always used their dzezva to serve!

      • Dzezva is without lid, ibrik alwas has a lid. 🙂 Speaking of ibrik, there is a wonderful old, old bosnian song “Emina”, lyrics written by poet Aleksa Santic about beauty of an Emina girl from Mostar.

  9. Love your photos! And your cupcakes look so good!! I just recently made a cupcake that has many similarities to these (I hope to share soon). And your water pitcher is so beautiful. It reminds me so much of Persian metalwork.

    • Oh, sounds like it will be delicious! I’m not surprised that the metalwork could be similar–I imagine it’s also Turkish influenced.

  10. I had a big smile on my face reading this post – first of all, I’m all about Lists (with a capital L), especially before a trip. I love that you baked cupcakes right before leaving. They look beautiful and sound scrumptious. Your pitcher is truly unique and beautiful. And you transported me away with your memories of summer…sigh!

  11. Pingback: Pistachio Cardamom Cupcakes « The Cupcake Blog

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