berry, lime and cardamom spring cake

berry lime cardamom cake

There are things that I have learned that I do as a blogger that normal people don't. For example, baking yourself a cake and then trying to figure out if it's more birthday, spring or Easter appropriate for the blog. You see April is my birthday month (though my birthday falls at the very end of the month) and this year it falls on one of the solar eclipses (perhaps it might mean something), Easter too tends to bounce around the calendar every year, so I fell into the blogging dilemma of when to make the cake and when to share it on the blog. The only thing I was surely certain of, was making it! Last year I made myself chocolate butter cookies but this year I wanted a big fat cake full of berries, I should rephrase that, I mean't to say LOADED with berries! 

a dozen eggs

I love angel food cakes because they are so airy and light yet so soft and spongy. I zested a couple of green limes into the batter and tossed in some ground green cardamom. Instead of a frosting, I slapped the cake layers with an extra generous amount of lightly sweetened Greek yogurt and stuffed the cake with fresh strawberries and blueberries.

cornflour

This is not a very sweet cake but when you taste the yogurt and the cake together, the yogurt brings out the sweetness of the cake and the fresh flavors of the lime, cardamom and berries. I'm very happy with this cake, it's a little less guilt-free and makes deliciously light dessert. Needless to say, to balance things out, I cut myself a huge fat chunk and ate  devoured it! So here's to happy spring, birthdays, Easter and celebrations of all sorts and for that matter any reason.

lime zest and meringue 

I adapted the angel food cake recipe from Great Cakes by Carole Walter.

Note: When sifting flour, I recommend taking out a leveled cup of the flour, then sifting it and remeasuring the sifted flour. You can store the extra bit that's left behind. Also, with the strawberries and blueberries, you can use less and I indeed did have fruit left behind after I put the cake together. Feel free to play around with the amounts of the berries. You might notice, that I've used cornstarch/cornflour here to make my own cake flour and yes, this kitchen hack indeed does work!

berry lime cardamom spring cake

These are some of the delicious and beautiful spring recipes and blogs that I'm definitely gearing up to try out from my fellow bloggers;
  • Sini of My Blue and White Kitchen made her version of Finnish Raspberry Meade that looks and sounds absolutely gorgeous.  I might need a few pitchers, just saying!
  • I came across a new blog called Kiss My Spatula and I've fallen in love with the rich and colorful photography. 
  • The talented duo, Alex and Sonja at A Couple Cooks made these Ricotta Scrambled Egg and Asparagus Tacos that looks perfect for a spring brunch.
  • One of my favorite inspirational bloggers, Linda of The Tart Tart made some amazing Black Sesame Macarons that I really, really want to taste!
  • Imen has a Rhubarb and Rosemary Syllabub with Poitin up on the Farmette. It's no secret that I love farms and I'm adore the photographs she shares of her family farm on Instagram because it reminds me of M's parents' farm in Virginia. 
lime berry cardamom cake

berry, lime and cardamom spring cake 

yields: 6-8 servings / one 10 inch diameter angel food cake

ingredients 

32 ounces plain non-fat/ low-fat greek yogurt
1 cup (4 1/2 ounces) sifted flour 
2 tablespoons cornflour/cornstarch
1 1/2 cups fine sugar
1 1/2 cups (15 3/4 ounces) 12 egg whites, at room temperature
1 tablespoon warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons madagascar bourbon vanilla extract
3 limes
1/4 teaspoon green cardamom, freshly ground
1/4 cup (1 1/4 ounces) confectioners sugar
32 ounces strawberries, rinsed, drained, hulled and sliced in half 
6 ounces blueberries, rinsed and drained

1. Place the greek yogurt in a colander or sieve pre lined with a piece of clean cheese cloth or a kitchen towel over a large bowl. Allow the yogurt to drain in the refrigerator for at least 2 to 3 hours and discard any whey the collects in the bowl. Reserve the yogurt until ready to use.
2. Place a wire rack in the lower-third of the oven and preheat to 375F.  Take a 10 inch diameter angel food pan, trace and cut out a circle of parchment paper to line the base of the pan. There is no need to grease the pan. Keep the prepared pan aside until ready.
3. Sift the pre-sifted flour, cornflour and 1/2 cup of the sugar three times on to a sheet of parchment paper and keep aside.
4. Place the egg whites and warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer and using the whisk attachment beat on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes or until the eggs get frothy. Stop the mixer and add the cream of tartar, salt, and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla extract. Whisk until the mixture begins to form soft peaks (ripples should form in the foam at this stage). At this stage, add the freshly grated zest of two limes and the ground cardamom and whisk for another minute .  Add 1 cup of the sugar, two tablespoons at a time from the side of the bowl and continue to whisk for about 2 minutes in total time. Remove the bowl from the mixer and transfer any of the white meringue mixture and lime zest bits that might have collected onto the whisk, back into the bowl. 
5. Sift 1/3 of the sifted dry ingredients from step 2 onto the egg whites and using a large wire whisk and carefully fold the dry ingredients into the meringue. Do not overmix or stir the batter as it will deflate. 
6. Using a rubber spatula, carefully transfer and push the batter into the prepared cake pan. Gently press the cake batter with a clean tablespoon and flatten the top surface. Finally, run a knife along the edges of the pan in a circle to remove any trapped air bubbles and once again smoothen the surface with the tablespoon. 
7. Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes or until the center of the cake is soft and springy to touch and becomes golden brown. Avoid over baking the cake or it will deflate. Spray a wire rack with a little non stick spray and then once the cake is done, immediately invert the cake onto the wire rack. Allow the cake to cool completely in the pan. Once the cake has cooled, run a sharp knife along the edges of the pan and around the inner tube to loosen it. Transfer the cake on to a cake rack and remove the pan. Peel and discard the parchment paper from the top of the cake and discard. 
8. To prepare the yogurt "frosting", place the drained yogurt in a large mixing bowl, add the remaining 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and the confectioners sugar. Whisk the yogurt until the sugar is completely blended. 
9. To assemble the cake: Slice the cake in half using a sharp serrated bread knife. Remove the upper layer and keep aside. Spread a generous 1/2 cup of the yogurt on the lower half and place the sliced strawberries with the bottom surface onto the yogurt. Scatter some of the blueberries in the space between the yogurt. Layer the berries with another generous 1/2 cup of the yogurt and place and align the upper half of the angel cake on top. Layer the top of the cake with a generous amount 1/2 cup of the yogurt and fill the hollow center of the cake with the rest of the yogurt. Layer the top of the cake with some of the strawberries and blueberries and fill the hollow center with the rest of the fruit as desired. Just before serving the cake zest the last lime over the cake. Store the cake in the refrigerator. This cake is best eaten the day it is prepared but you can make the angel cake a day in advance and assemble the cake the following day.

ruffled blueberry chocolate cake


Last weekend we drove to Virginia to visit the Fall Harvest festival at Mount Rogers. Fall is is one of the most beautiful seasons to visit the Virginia outdoors and enjoy the beautiful colorful foliage. I was very lucky on this trip, for many, many reasons. I got to see sugarcane being harvested and squeezed for its sweet juice. I watched molasses being prepared from the sugarcane juice over a hot stove. The molasses are sold in pint jars to raise money for the local fireman's station. A worthy cause indeed! I tasted my first hobo pie, picked up some homemade apple butter, ate ripe and juicy red apples off a tree. There was just so much to do and too much to squeeze in a short two day trip. 


Unlike D.C. where it is currently still relatively green, the Virginia fall is in full swing. It was also pretty chilly in the evenings but nevertheless breathtaking. I couldn't wait to share these photographs with you and I do hope you enjoy them!


I got to bite and chew on fresh sugarcane and sampled their sticky sweetness. The sugarcane juice brought back sweet memories of India. As kids growing up, we would always run out to the vendors on the street in the Bombay and wait eagerly while they ground the juices out of sugarcane and fresh ginger into glasses heaped with ice. It was so refreshing and simple but yet delicious.


Last weekend was also the birthday of one of my friends, Walt. Birthdays and special events are probably the only few times that I will actually venture out in making a cake that is rich and decadent. It turns out that Walt loves blueberries and any cake that incorporated blueberries would be perfect for him. In my personal opinion however, birthday cakes should have some amount of chocolate. After all, it is that a special moment where things should be a little over the top. In preparation for Walt's cake, I made the blueberry and chocolate jam. I designed his birthday cake completely around these two ingredients. Genoise chocolate cakes are layered and sandwiched with the jam and lightly drenched with a blueberry-white wine syrup. I then used a vanilla flavored buttercream icing that was spiked with a little creme fraiche to keep things simple yet rich. On how to decorate the cake with the ruffles, I used this icing idea from Martha Stewart.


ruffled blueberry chocolate cake

ingredients

for the chocolate cake  follow this chocolate genoise sponge cake recipe. I made two 9 inch cakes, sliced each in half, and then layered them. If you want more cake layers you can either increase the number of cakes or cut thinner layers of the cakes. If you do this, then you should increase the amount of jam, syrup, and icing accordingly.

for the blueberry chocolate jam follow this recipe. You will need 1 and 1/2 cups of the jam. You can use less if you prefer the cake to be a little less sweet.

blueberry wine syrup

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 cup white wine like Reisling or Chardonnay (I used the Pearmund Reisling 2011)
1 cup sugar

Mix all the ingredients together in a saucepan. Cook on a medium flame till the sugar dissolves completely. Bring to a boil and then cool to room temperature before use. You can also refrigerate this and prepare it at least 3 days in advance.

buttercream icing

2 cups unsalted sweetcream butter at room temperature
3 3/4 cups confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
10 drops of blue food coloring ( you may need more depending on how blue you want the icing to look)
a pinch of salt
2 tablespoons creme fraiche
No. 104 icing tip

Chop the butter into small cubes and place it in the bowl of an electric blender. Using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and creme fraiche at a medium speed for about 6 minutes till it is completely smooth. Sift the sugar once onto a sheet of parchment paper. Sift the sugar into the butter in 1/2 cup installments till completely mixed in with the butter. The butter will keep getting lighter as more air is incorporated into it. Add the vanilla, salt, and food coloring at the end and beat for another two minutes. Transfer the icing into a bowl (preferably metal as it will chill faster) and cover with cling film until ready to use. You can make the icing at least two to three days in advance. 

Assembling the cake
Slice each cooled cake in half with a serrated knife and keep aside. Cut out a 10" circle of cardboard and cover with a clean sheet of aluminum foil and two 12 inch X 2 inch strips of parchment paper. Place the two strips about 2 or 3 inches apart from each other on the smooth side of the aluminum covered cardboard circle. Add a tablespoon of the frosting in the center of the aluminum covered cardboard sheet. This will help to glue the cake down to the surface and prevent it from moving. Place one cake layer in the center of the circle and brush the cake with the blueberry wine syrup. You will use about 1/4 cup of the liquid. Smear the surface it with about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the blueberry and chocolate jam. Cover with a second layer of cake and repeat. Continue and repeat the addition of the syrup and jam till the entire cake is complete. For the top most layer of the cake, only brush the cake with the syrup but do not add the jam. Place the cake in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes to cool. 

Icing the cake

Cover the entire cake with a thin layer of the buttercream icing to create a "crumb coat". This helps the rest of the icing to stick easily to the surface of the cake. Cool the cake in the refrigerator for another 10-15 minutes. In the meantime, scoop the icing into an icing bag or icing syringe with the No. 104 tip attached. Make sure there are no air bubbles in the icing bag. When the cake is cooled, apply the icing by keeping your hand in the vertical position and moving in a zig-zag fashion from left -to-right on the side of the cake. The ruffles should be 1 inch apart from each other. Repeat the same procedure for the top surface of the cake, moving from the outer end to the inner center of the cake. Additionally, you might want to dollop a little bit of jam in the center of the cake or perhaps sprinkle a little bit of chocolate shavings on the top. 


blueberry chocolate jam

blueberry chocolate jam

Summer has ended and here I am in the kitchen trying to seal every bit of my memories in glass jars that will remind me of the good and happy times. This past summer was etched with fun trips, great family visits, and new experiences. New recipes and tastes to be tried and savored and my blog completed its first year. This is also my first summer of canning and preserving and I will admit that it is very addictive. The summer harvest was as generous with its bounty as it was with its experiences and I took full advantage, especially the fruit. Yup, you might have noticed that I'm always leaning towards the sweeter end of things.

Chocolate chips

So here I am sharing a story of how I combined possibly two of the best ingredients that will remind me of a wonderful summer. Deep and dark chocolate with rich sweet blueberries all tucked away in a jar waiting to be opened and remind me of the warm sweet summer. I will admit, I was a little nervous about this jam, chocolate can be a bit overpowering when it comes to blueberries and a more concentrated flavor is needed to balance both the berries and the chocolate. The splash of citrus juices will help fortify the blueberries and they will hold their own against the chocolate. I added a little bit of pectin to quicken the jam process because chocolate gets scalded easily and you don't want to end up with a burned product. Burned chocolate is no fun. All in all, this is one jam that must be shared. Spread it on buttered bread slices for breakfast, drizzle it on pancakes, slap it on grilled pound cake, or anything else you could concoct at the moment. Gulping a spoonful always works too!

Note: Some cooks recommend dissolving the pectin first before adding it to the liquid. I added a teaspoon at a time and did not have a problem combining it into the jam. Also, I've made this jam a few times and stored it over a period of one year, it appears that the acidity is enough for it to be canned. You can also reduce the amount and make enough jam to store for a shorter period in the refrigerator.

This recipe was adapted from Mes Confitures by Christine Ferber.

blueberry and chocolate jam

blueberry chocolate jam

yields: 12 individual 4 ounce canning jars

ingredients


3 cups sugar
3 pints wild blueberries (I used frozen, fresh is perfectly fine too)
10 ounces bittersweet dark chocolate chips
juice of one lemon, fresh (no pulp)
juice of one lime, fresh (no pulp)
10 ml orange juice, fresh (no pulp)
5 teaspoons fruit pectin powder

1. Mix the sugar and blueberries in a large pot and cook on a medium flame. (If you use frozen blueberries then use the juices too.) Macerate the blueberries during this period with a masher and stir occasionally. Cook for about 10-12 minutes till the sugar is completely dissolved. Pour the entire mixture through a ricer or sieve and process to remove all the skins. You might have some tiny seeds that seep through the ricer/sieve, that is perfectly fine. Squeeze as much pulp and juice as you can. 
2. Add the pureed blueberry syrup into a pot and bring it a gentle simmer on a small flame. Stir in the chocolate chips. At this stage you need to stir the mixture continuously to ensure that the chocolate does not burn. 
3. Add the lemon, lime and orange juices to the mixture. Stir continuously for 15 minutes. Add the pectin to the mixture, a teaspoon at a time. Mix till it is completely combined. Perform the wrinkle test to make sure that the jam is ready to set. (Wrinkle test: Take a tablespoon of the hot mixture and smear it on a clean plate. Put the plate in the freezer for 5 minutes. When you remove it, run your finger through the center, the gel should wrinkle on the surface. This indicates that your jam is ready to gel). For some reason if your jam is not ready to gel, cook for another 5 minutes, take it off from the stove and repeat the wrinkle test. It took me two wrinkle tests to get the right consistency. Pour the jam into 12 clean 4 ounce canning jars and process for 10 minutes. 

Update: I recently designed some labels for my jars and thought I would share them with you. Do let me know what you think of them. Just note that each label is about 2 inches wide.

Disclaimer: These labels are for personal use only. If you do use them or credit them, please post a link back to the related original recipe and not the file. © A Brown Table