On Sundays we often drive into the city to have dinner with my parents. They still live in my childhood home in the charming neighborhood where I grew up. I love that my children now play in my old bedroom and in the garden where I once planted flowers. My brother selects the wine for our dinners, and I always bring dessert. I’m lucky to have this outlet with which to dispense and disperse all of the sweets I like to make, otherwise my husband and I would be terribly fat! This past Sunday morning we woke very late. The sunlight that normally streams through our bedroom window and falls in a band of warmth across the bed was completely eclipsed by thick, cold November storm clouds. I wanted nothing more than to stay huddled beneath the duvet until lunchtime. For dessert that evening, I had planned on making something a little more extravagant than a simple bundt cake. I’d bought some tiny seckel pears at the market earlier in the week and wanted to poach them in white wine with cinnamon and star anise, and place on the top of a double-layer cardamom cake, but by the time I finally ventured out to the kitchen to start the coffee, it was too late to start making a dessert any more elaborate than just a simple cake. Which is fine, because on days when it’s rainy and cold and feels more like winter than fall, a cozy little cake is all you need or want, especially when it’s scented with the delicate warmth of cardamom and filled with the sunniest of seasonal oranges.
As I think about the Thanksgiving menu this year, I am leaning toward traditional, old-fashioned recipes. The ones we had a kids. Green bean casserole, sweet potato pie, oyster dressing. Perhaps, as my kids get older I am trying to instill and recreate for them the childhood I was blessed to have known and loved. This cardamom cake, or a variation of it, may end up on the menu then, too. If not, it will certainly make another appearance around Christmastime. I can already image sitting by the fire, bathed in the glow of Christmas lights, enjoying a slice of this cake and, maybe, a Galliano Espresso. Ah, but I get ahead of myself – Thanksgiving first! Seasonal comfort food is the name of the game in my kitchen this year.
Cardamom Orange Cake
I think that bundt cakes are especially pretty. There’s something so festive about a cake shaped like a wreath. They can be kept simple or beautifully decorated with seasonal herbs, flowers and branches. The key to making a perfect bundt cake is in preparing the pan. This is not something to be done hastily. Plan for at least 5 full minutes to butter the pan, using your fingers to work the butter into each and every crevasse. If, once you’ve tapped flour around the edges of the pan, there are any remaining bare spots where the butter and flour have not adhered, rub the areas with more butter, then flour again. It’s worth the extra time to not have the edges of the cake torn apart because they stuck to the pan.
for the cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
1 cup whole milk
1 orange (for 1/4 cup fresh juice and 1 TBSP zest)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C). Thoroughly butter a bundt pan. Place a teaspoon or two of flour in the pan and tap it around the edges to coat the butter. If there are spots where the flour hasn’t adhered, re-butter and flour until the entire pan is completely coated.
Zest the entire orange and set aside. Juice the orange through a fine mesh sieve into a measuring cup until you have 1/4 cup of juice. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, sift the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, cardamom and salt.
In a large bowl, cream the butter with the brown and white sugars. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition.
Mix the orange juice with the milk. Add the vanilla and 1 TBSP orange zest.
To the bowl with the butter, add half of the flour and mix well. Beat in half of the milk. Repeat with the remaining flour and the remaining milk. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix well.
Scrape the batter into the prepared bundt pan and spread evenly. Tap the pan on the counter several times to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 1 hour, or until a cake tester inserted into the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for one hour before inverting it onto a serving plate.
for the glaze:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise and scraped
1 tsp orange zest
3 – 4 TBSP whole milk
1/4 cup butter
1/4 tsp coarse sea salt
Place the butter in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until lightly browned and fragrant.
Meanwhile, place the powdered sugar in a bowl. Add the scraped vanilla beans and mix them into the sugar with your fingers. Mix in the orange zest. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of milk until smooth.
When the butter is browned, slowly whisk it into the sugar. It takes a few minutes to thoroughly incorporate all the butter. When the glaze is smooth, whisk in the salt. (If the glaze is not a pourable consistency, whisk in another tablespoon of milk.)
When the cake is cool, slowly pour over the glaze, allowing it to drip down the sides of the cake.