Friday, November 13, 2009
Chocolate Prune Cardamom Cake
This is a cake for the season. It combines the deep earthy comfort of cocoa and bittersweet chocolate with the haunting warmth of cardamom and the tart pleasure of dried fruit. And what a heavenly irresistible combination it is.
This cake is for anyone who loves the deliriously happy co-mingling of chocolate and spice and especially for those with a freaky fear of prunes. Fruit in all its forms is such a luscious element in pastry and here the dried plums add a great layer of chewiness and a wonderfully complex backnote of flavor. Factor in the supreme moisture of the cake and the silky texture of the glaze and you have a true treasure.
These ingredients were made for each other. The prunes are steeped in Earl Grey tea until softened. They lend a tart and acidic amplification of the chocolate as does a hint of lemon zest. The cardamom brings just the right level of mystique and helps to create such a complex yet balanced flavor profile that you won’t be able to keep yourself from taking another bite. It's rich without being heavy and the soft aromas that emanate from the oven will brighten your kitchen with enough temptation to bring in a whole host of wandering visitors.
This is one of those old-fashioned cakes that can be mixed in one bowl in just a few minutes. Once it’s baked and cooled, simply pour the glaze, let it set for a few minutes and serve. And bid adieu to any well-honed discipline or restraint. This is a cake made for its delicious unbridled enjoyment.
- The prunes are steeped in a cup of unsweetened Earl Grey tea just until they are soft and pliable. They should still hold their shape and not be mushy. Drain them completely and discard or enjoy the liquid. As the cakes bakes, the chopped prunes will sink to the bottom to form a nice textural layer.
- I used regular undutched cocoa powder for the cake. I dusted the finished cake with dutched Valrhona cocoa powder and some ground cocoa nibs.
- To prepare the glaze, pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let the mixture sit for two or three minutes before stirring so it has a chance to begin to melt the chocolate. Then stir slowly to prevent the mixture from cooling down too fast so you're not left with any lumps.
- Corn syrup adds to the viscosity and shine of the glaze. I rarely use corn syrup and often substitute honey, but in this preparation it is a very small amount and I didn't want anything to interfere with the flavor of the cardamom.
Chocolate Prune Cardamom Cake
3/4 C prunes (about 20)
1 C water
2 t (or 2 tea bags) Earl Grey tea
1 C cake flour
1 1/2 T cocoa
1/2 t ground cardamom
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 C canola oil
3/4 C + 2 T sugar
1 egg @ room temperature
zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 C buttermilk @ room temperature
1 t vanilla
Chocolate Cardamom Glaze
3/4 C heavy cream
1 T corn syrup
5 cardamom pods
6 oz bittersweet chocolate
dutched cocoa powder for dusting (optional)
ground cocoa nibs for dusting (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an 8” x 2” cake pan with a light coating of oil and a parchment paper circle.
Boil the water, add the tea and let steep. Chop the prunes into about a 1/2” dice. Remove the tea bags, add the chopped prunes and set aside for about 1/2 hour until they are softened but still hold their shape. Pour into a strainer and drain of all liquid.
Sift together the flour, cocoa, cardamom, baking soda and salt.
Whisk together the oil, sugar and egg until smooth and well blended. Add lemon zest, buttermilk and vanilla. Slowly sift in the dry ingredients, whisking until fully combined. Fold in the drained prunes.
Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 35 – 38 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes. Run a thin bladed knife or small metal spatula around the edge of the cake and turn out. Peel off the parchment and invert the cake to cool completely on a wire rack.
When the cake is cooled, prepare the glaze.
Chop the chocolate into very small pieces and place in a medium bowl.
Bring the cream and corn syrup to a simmer. Crush the cardamom pods and add to the cream. Take off the heat, cover and let steep for about 1/2 hour.
To glaze the cake, place the cooled cake on an 8" cardboard round or removable tart pan bottom. Return the cake to the cooling rack and place over a baking sheet lined with parchment.
Strain out the cardamom and reheat the cream until just about to the boiling point. Keep your eye on it because it will spill over if left to boil. Pour the cream over chopped chocolate and let sit for about 3 minutes. Then stir slowly and gently, starting in the middle until thoroughly combined and then working outward in concentric circles until the mixture comes together.
Glaze the cake, pouring quickly in the center and around the edges. If necessary, tap the baking sheet on the work surface to encourage the glaze to run down the sides of the cake. Just as it begins to dry, run a small spatula around the underside of the cardboard round to smooth the bottom edge and prevent “feet” from forming. Let glaze firm up a bit before serving.