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.

Bench notes:

- 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 off 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.


Bryan said...

holy yum.

would you add the prune bits to the wet before folding in the dry?

pastry studio said...

Hello GooberNgrape! The prunes get folded in at the end. Thanks for noticing my omission! I'll amend the text.

Valérie-jeanne said...

You never cease to amaze me. What an intriguing ingredient list. I want to make this cake just so I can work with these aromas, chocolate, tea, antique spices. Thanks for sharing this one!

QuiltConscious said...

Is it really 12 cups of canola oil?

pastry studio said...

MrsF, it should read 1/2 C canola oil. I thought I'd proofread this a million times, but apparently I needed to go for the million and one proofreading of it. Thanks for pointing this out. The recipe has been amended.

Barbara said...

Prunes, tea, cardamom and cocoa all in one dessert? Fascinating! (And I actually have cardamom pods in my pantry.)I do love prunes and your cake looks dark, moist and chock full of prunes.
The photographs are perfect- I always love the half-eaten ones.
Can't wait to taste it!

Lentil Breakdown said...

Chocolate and cardamom is an inspired pairing on its own, but Earl Grey too? Yowza! Sounds wonderful!

Jesse said...


dining table said...

The cake looks delicious and I bet it also tastes delicious! Prunes are one of the foods that I always crave for during Holidays!

Bryan said...

a friend made this cake a few days before i did and had some observations that led me to add more cocoa and cardamom.

even without the glaze (sifted powdered sugar and cocoa on different slices instead), i thought the cake was intriguingly chocolatey and had a wonderful warm cardamom flavor. i used orange instead of lemon because i love it with cardamom. really great here.
and again, i pulled out my Stephen Singer oil for it. i'm glad i did.
all those flavors together created a pretty damned rich profile. [and one more thing that makes prunes awesomer.]

also came to the conclusion that not only the flavor but the texture was better the next day. maybe that's true of oil cakes in general.
a little on the heavy side, esp compared to some of the other oil cakes in recent posts, but that may be partly because of my weighed measurement of flour, or the prunes which were chopped finer and pretty luscious with pruney-tea liquor.
i'm curious to see how melted butter would work in place of the oil or possibly using less?

happy autumn.

pastry studio said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mimi said...

What a gorgeous cake!

I appreciate your blog so much. I always learn something when I come here!

One question. I am intrigued about substituting honey for corn syrup. Can this be done in any recipe? for instance, would it work in the filling for pecan pie?

pastry studio said...

Hello GooberNgrape, and a very happy autumn to you! So glad you and your friend had the chance to make this cake. I only wish I could taste your result! I thought long and hard about using olive oil instead of canola oil, but I didn't want to introduce another flavor profile and I didn't want too much richness in addition to the glaze. I'm wondering if your oil could have lent to what you think of as some heaviness (perhaps along with the extra cocoa), which I don't perceive with the recipe as written. What weight measure do you use for cake flour? I use 4.5 oz/130 grams per cup before sifting (as opposed to AP flour, 5 oz/145 grams per cup before sifting).

I'm also curious about how much extra cardamom and cocoa you added. I'm guessing not too much since cocoa really has the potential to dry out the moisture from the final product. Maybe you can try it with the canola oil and just the 1 1/2 T of cocoa to see if the difference works for you.

As for replacing the oil with butter, in general, keep in mind that oil is 100% fat, while butter is 80–82% milk fat and 16–17% water. So if you make the substitute from oil to butter, you may want to increase the amount of butter, and decrease the amount of other liquid in the recipe, depending on the nature of all the other ingredients. Butter will produce a cake that is less moist, firmer in texture with a denser crumb and a different flavor.

I do agree that the cake tastes better the next day when all the flavors and spice have a chance to co-mingle. This was one of my more enjoyable experiments and I really loved the final product. Please keep me posted if you make this again!

pastry studio said...

Hi Mimi and thanks so much for your kind words.

I've actually been vexed with the corn syrup substitution myself lately because many fall and winter recipes seem to rely on it. I haven't directly tested any substitutions myself, so I hesitate to recommend something specific, although I am working on something at the moment that I haven't had a chance to test just yet.

All the different sugars have different properties and their substitution depends on the type of product - cake, ice cream, candy, caramel, etc - you're going for and the nature of all the other ingredients in the recipe. For example, honey has acidic properties and is sweeter than regular sugar or even corn syrup. Corn syrup is usually used to inhibit crystallization. In professional kitchens, there are other products we substitute like trimoline and/or glucose that are not readily available in local markets.

Some people swear by substituting honey, brown rice syrup, molasses, cane syrup, Lyle's Golden Syrup, etc. I don't know how they stack up on flavor and again, it depends on what you're making. If I were you, I'd Google "pecan pie without corn syrup" and go with a recipe that has already been formulated using another sweetener. I hope you find something that suits your needs!

Burn Belly Fat said...

Wow, super yummy.. It looks so delish! Thanks for sharing

Mimi said...

Thank you!

Anonymous said...
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Kate at Serendipity said...

What an amazing recipe! This will be the next cake I make--right after I finish the orange-cardamom upside down cake that I made from your recipe. These are my favorite flavors.

I posted about the orange-cardamom cake today. Thanks for these recipes!

pastry studio said...

Hello Kate! You are most welcome. So glad you enjoyed the Orange Cardamom Cake. It really does fill the house with an amazing aroma. The Chocolate Cardamom Cake is I think also really delicious. Hope you enjoy and thanks so much for referring to my blog on your post.

a meandering mango said...

Wow - this cake looks sooo amazing - I absolutely love anything with cardamom and I'm going to try it out. Thanks for the great recipe (and the beautiful, helpful blog).

European American Business Chamber said...

We will be holding a conference over the next few weeks. This would be something nice to serve.

leena said...

Hi Gayle!

First, I miss you! I hope you are enjoying your life doing everything you love :)
On to the cake: I made this a few days ago. It is really challenging for me to describe how wonderful it was. The flavors were complex but in an enchanting way.

I am thinking about trying this cake with some substitutions. perhaps some turkish coffee instead of the tea, dates instead of prunes. Not sure what I'll sub for the lemon zest. I might skip or do orange (but I am not a big fan of orange and chocolate). I will let you know how it goes. I might experiment with different types of dates (I live in the Middle East and I have access to so many different cultivars). yum!

I am really enjoying looking through the recipe index and picking out new baking challenges for myself. What a treasure trove your blog is, Gayle. Well wishes to you my baking friend!


pastry studio said...

Hello, Leena!! Thanks so much for your incredibly kind words. I really appreciate it!

I forgot how delicious this cake is, so thanks for reminding me. As for your cake ideas, I really like where this is going! I absolutely LOVE the combination of dates and coffee so It all sounds super delicious to me. I've also done a Chocolate Date Nut Cake here for another reference:

So have fun playing around with it. I hope your ideas turn out splendidly.
Very best wishes and happy baking to you!