Since the start of my new job I have had dessert and flavor combinations running through my mind constantly. As I walk down the street I'm thinking: Strawberries????? Strawberries and lavender? Strawberries and chocolate? Strawberries steeped in wine with pistachio cake and chocolate sauce? or Ice cream????? Peanut butter ice cream? Ice cream with candied peanut clusters? Strawberry ice cream with peanut brittle? It never ends! I close my eyes at night and I see dessert platings. I can imagine sauces being swirled on plates, and how and where to place the dessert amongst it. Like I said; it never STOPS!
Please do not take this the wrong way. I am not in any way complaining. I have been told that this is just the mind of a creative individual. I believe it is true to some degree. I never saw myself as anyone who could be satisfied with a 9 - 5 job. One were you have a desk and a chair and work in an office where you look at paperwork or numbers all day. Nothing against those who do. Somethings are just not meant for everyone, but that would definitely drive me to the brink of insanity. Although growing up I was told that I had such skill of patience that I should be a teacher. It sounded exciting to work with children, yet I secretly dreamed of a life in theater or being creative with my hands in some way. Pastry and baking does just that; it keeps me in a creative thought process along with practicing my patience while striving to make anything better and perhaps best?!?
My husband is a creative individual as well. He has a degree in graphic design and illustration. He will sit for an hour in front of his computer deciding if he has the right shade of blue or a font that “fits” with his design layout. He attends drawing classes and returns with pages and pages of sketches stating to me - “I’m not sure of this drawing technique on this type of paper is right? It should be or could be better.” In so many ways we are alike. I think this is just one of the many ways that makes us work with one another. We understand the creative struggle and always lend support when needed.
There are days when Brian comes home to three different puddings in the refrigerator. Followed by a few days later with our apartment wafting in the smell of cardamom. (I was testing out a cake recipe along with making a granola with it.) He tastes it all and smiles. He understands how I went though a gallon of milk in a day, or hiked across town for a particular ingredient because I know the quality of that item is better there. He enjoys it. He knows that I with my flavors and desserts are just like he and his paper, charcoal, and design work.
So when I told him I was picturing a cardamom sponge cake that I could almost taste; he laughs. When he walks in the door and sees the cake he comments on how tall it is and if i’m happy with it. This is one of those moments when I know he gets me. He takes a bite and tells me it is good but not his favorite. (Brian is not a fan of cardamom!) But I tell him the flavor he is experiencing is not complete yet. I dust it with powdered sugar and serve him a slice with vanilla whipped cream. He tastes it, nodding and smiling, “That is good! It is all so great together.” He was correct. It was good, maybe even great. The freshly ground cardamom perfumed the cake. The whipped cream made it even more indulgent. It was a great mouth feel altogether. The cake was airy and light and gave in to the whipped cream ever so slightly. I know I am lucky to have someone like him in my life. It’s like we are the cardamom sponge cake and vanilla whipped cream. Together they compliment one another and just work. (Now that I just compared our relationship to cake and cream I think it’s obvious that my mind never rests within my craft.)
Cardamom Sponge Cake (makes one 9 inch cake)
2 oz butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cup cake flour (see note)
9 large eggs separated
1 1/2 cup sugar (divided), 1 & 1/2
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
cardamom, freshly ground - 2 tsp
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. in a heat proof bowl place your yolks with 1 cup of the sugar over a double boiler. Whip it until the sugar dissolves and you reach a thick and foamy like consistency where your whisk leaves a ribbon trail through your mixture. Add your vanilla and salt and stir it together. Set it aside.
In a separate bowl (I like to use the bowl of my standing mixer for this), place your egg whites and whip, gradually adding your 1/2 cup egg whites, until they reach a soft peak. Ever so gently and carefully fold in the whipped yolks to your whites in three stages.
Once yolks are incorporated, sift your flour over the bowl along with the cardamom, and fold it in as well. Be sure to distribute the flour gently without leaving clumps, it should still be airy and well mixed. Then, pour the melted butter down the side of the bowl and fold it into your batter.
Pour the batter into a buttered and parchment lined pan. Any pan will do for this, but I personally like to use a 9 inch tube / angel food cake pan for this. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes, rotate and repeat. Check for doneness in the center of the cake, you are looking for a cake tester / toothpick to remove cleanly from it. When baked, remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Gently pop cake out of pan to serve. I like to dust mine with powdered sugar and serve it with whipped cream.
**Note- I used an all natural, organic, none bleached cake flour for this recipe. Which I feel added a darker color to this cake. In the past when I have used bleached cake flour the color of the cake is much lighter in its crust and insides.
Vanilla Whipped Cream
1 pint heavy whipped cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp powdered sugar
Place all the ingredients above in a bowl and whip (by hand or with a mixer) until the cream becomes thick and is softly whipped. Try to us immediately, but will keep up to two days. (The longer you wait on using the whipped cream the more you risk it will deflate, but it can be rewhipped - gently.)