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.

avocado dark-chocolate madeleines

Avocado dark-chocolate madeleines

A couple of weekends ago we did something crazy, we went out and bought a power boat. After an endless wait of two weeks (which isn't that long but we are both terribly impatient), the boat was finally delivered to D.C. late last week and of course, we spent every day of the entire weekend taking it out on the Potomac. As a kid, I'd been on the ocean on a few ships and a fishing boat once but this was much different. Fresh waters are so different from the sea and it smells less too which is nice, though I would not mind the ocean one bit! Snoopy is still adjusting and we hope that eventually (more like sooner) we can stop carrying him on and off the boat as he is too scared to make the jump himself and believe me carrying 45lbs on and off a boat after a few days is tiresome! On day one he whined a bit which I assumed to be his getting acclimated to an unfamiliar rocking motion on the boat (while we were docked), however by day two, he barked to say hi to every person that passed by. He enjoys the speed of the boat once it picks up and likes to stretch his head out to sniff the air and catch the wind. Snoopy is still struggling with the existence of some of the wildlife such as the flying herons and the swimming ducks and I think he will soon come to terms with it. He likes to do things at his own pace. Our dog runs our life, house, and now the boat!

boat

I'm curious to learn fishing but for now one license at a time is good, first I need to get my boating license so I can learn to drive. It is interesting to see how the waters get so busy here but I enjoy the people watching part while they boat and kayak their way through. More than anything, I am really looking forward to docking in Old Town Alexandria and eating out at some of the waterfront restaurants. 

Snoopy on the boat

I've been trying to do better this year by consuming a few avocados a week to gain some healthy fat in my diet. Consequently, avocados were bound to make their way into my food and they did just that by occupying a spot in these delicious dark chocolate madeleines. This was my first time baking madeleines as well as using avocados as a butter substitute. Everything turned out delicious and I was excited to use my madeleine baking pan that I found at an antique store in North Carolina a few months back. To stick with theme of using less fat, I sprayed the pan's molds with a light neutral cooking spray oil which worked out perfectly, instead of greasing it the traditional way with butter. Make sure you use a soft and ripe avocado and puree it to complete smoothness to avoid any fibrous textures or clumps of avocado meat. Since the traditional technique to prepare madeleines involves the use of melted butter, I warmed up the avocado puree in a water-bath to help solubilize some of the fat. Another tip while working with the batter, spoon it in and spread it a little to fill the mold, it will rise during baking and puff up well. 

butter-free madelines1

Overall the entire weekend was a set of first firsts for me and each one of these experiences from boating to my baking experiments. I've realized that I am always happy when I bake!

madeline pan and avocado1

avocado dark-chocolate madeleines

yields: 16-18 large madeleines

ingredients

3/4 cup unbleached cake flour
1/4 cup dark cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 ripe avocado
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
a little confectioner's sugar for dusting

1. Place a wire rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350F. 
2. Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt and keep aside. 
3. Mash and puree the avocado to get a smooth paste (you can use a food processor for this). Seal the puree with cling film in a glass bowl and place the bowl with the puree in a warm-water bath at 70C till use (this helps to melt out some of the fat and make it smoother).
4. Using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer, whisk the eggs for 5 minutes on medium speed until light and foamy. Add the sugar and vanilla and whisk for an additional 5 minutes on medium-high speed until thick and creamy. Remove the mixer bowl from the stand mixer. 
5. Sift the flour-cocoa mixture into the whisked eggs and carefully fold the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula using a circular motion. Fold the pre-warmed avocado puree into the batter. 
6. Generously coat a madeleine baking pan with a neutral cooking oil spray. Spoon and spread out the cake batter into the molds. Bake for 12 minutes in the preheated oven. The madeleines are baked and ready to be removed when the center is firm and springs back when pressed with the fingers. Remove the madeleines from the tray and allow them to cool on a wire rack. You can store them in an airtight container.
7. Before serving, dust the madeleines with a little confectioner's sugar using a sieve.