Forget scented candles!
This is what you need after a long and hectic day to fill your house with a magical cloud of warm spices.
Let’s talk about spices
The combo of seeds and spices used in this cake is rather popular in Palestine and the Levant. It is used in baked goods, in kaek and even in maamoul. I think spices are such an integral part of Levantine cuisine because these countries have been on the trade routes since the dawn of time. Even cookbooks that date back hundreds of years, mention recipes and spice mixes that are still used today.
(If you can read Arabic, and you are interested in reading one of those books, the one I have dates back to 1220s, leave a comment and I’ll send you a scan)
If you are worried about the fact that there is a lot going on here, especially with the olive oil. I can assure you that you are in for a treat. These spices are a gentle melody, none of them is strong ( in your face) flavours. And though many frown upon the use of olive oil in cakes, I personally think that it adds a nutty richness and beautifully compliments the spices. Do give it a try and let me know what you think in the comments
Before diving into the recipe, I thought I’d give you a little info about cardamom because it seems to be the spice I get asked about the most
What is cardamom?
Cardamom is one of the world’s ancient spices. It has a strong, unique spicy-sweet taste, which is slightly smoky. The small, brown-black sticky cardamom seeds are contained in a pod in three double rows with about six seeds in each row. The pods are between 10-20 mm long.
Cardamom is more expensive than your average spice but a little goes a long way. Added to that, it has many uses in Arabic and Middle Eastern cuisine. So if you are a fan of this cuisine, cardamom is definitely worth the investment
What can I use cardamom for?
On the savoury end of the spectrum, cardamom is used in rice dishes like kabsa and maklouba. It is also added to the spice bundle when preparing stock. On the sweet side it is used to add a unique flavor to desserts such as cakes and cookies (The combo of cinnamon and cardamom is one that you HAVE to try especially if you are adding them to a chocolate cake or cookie) . Cardamom also gives Arabic and Turkish coffee its characteristic flavor and smell.One last tip I would suggest is to try adding a little to your favorite dough recipe.You will be amazed at how a little spice can transform your baked goods
How to select cardamom?
You can purchase cardamom in the pod or ground. It is usually found in middle eastern or Indian shops. In my opinon , it is best to buy cardamom in the pods, that is the best way to preserve the flavour for the longest time. When you need some cardamom in your recipe, simply grind the required amount.
Fragrant Cardamom Olive Oil Cake with an indulgent Caramel Drizzle
2/3 cup olive oil (you can use vegetable oil)
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup liquid milk
2 and 1/2 cups flour (I use half whole wheat and half all purpose)
1/2 cup sesame seeds
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 teaspoon instant coffee
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground fennel seeds
2 tablespoons ground anise
1/4 cup additional sesame seeds for your cake pan and topping
for the caramel
1 cup sugar
125ml heavy cream
beat the eggs, olive oil, sugar and milk till pale
mix your dry ingredients
Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir till homogenous (do not overmix!)
Oil a cake pan and sprinkle with sesame seeds
Add the batter to the cake pan and sprinkle with sesame seeds
Bake in a 180 C oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean
Allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes in the pan then take it out of the pan and cool on a wire rack
prepare the Caramel sauce
In a pan add the sugar and allow it to melt on medium low heat
Remove the heat when it is a light ember colour
CAREFULLY add the cream and whisk, the caramel with bubble and splatter, please be very careful
Add the cardamom and sesame seeds Pour over the cake right before serving and if you are feeling extra adventurous, add a sprinkle of coarse sea salt