Coffee, Cardamom and Pistachio Cake

P1010811 (640x480)After a tricky week with the macaroons, I did what I always do, and sought the relative safety of Mary or Delia.  I decided to try the coffee and cardamom cake with pistachios from Delia’s Cakes. The flavour combination sounded interesting, and could there be a better way of getting more nuts into my diet than putting them into a cake?

Even though I was doing a Delia this week (who usually doesn’t give me any problems), this cake certainly wasn’t trouble-free.  I started off with a dilemma about which size tins to use.  The recipe is for 18cm (7 inch) tins.  I have 20cm tins and 16cm tins.  I decided to use the smaller ones.  Better to have a cake that is too thick than too thin.  I greased them and lined the bottoms with baking paper.

Next thing, pistachios.  I managed to roast them without incident.  I put them on a baking tray and into the oven at 150° fan for the eight minutes stipulated by the recipe.  They came out smelling absolutely lovely.  So far so good.

While the pistachios were roasting, I split open 20 green cardamom pods and whizzed up the seeds in a spice grinder to a fine powder.  Now, in the recipe, Delia says that you should make the fine powder using a pestle and mortar, so I’m not sure whether using the spice grinder was the right thing to do here. When I opened the lid, my eyes started to water.  Perhaps, with a pestle and mortar, my powdered cardamom seeds wouldn’t have been quite so pungent.

I also used the grinder to chop half of the roasted pistachios.  very finely chopped pistachiosI know they were supposed to be finely chopped, but I think using a spice grinder may have been a step too far.  Next time, a knife and chopping board will be fine.

To make the cake, I sifted self-raising flour and baking powder into a bowl and used the KitchenAid to beat in butter, eggs, caster sugar and one half of my potent cardamom seed powder.  For the coffee flavour, the recipe uses instant espresso powder.  There is a lot of coffee in our house; pods, instant, and ground coffee for cafetière and proper espresso machines.  We don’t have any instant espresso powder.  I wasn’t really sure what to do here.  I couldn’t use the ground coffee because it wouldn’t dissolve, and I didn’t think the instant would be strong enough.  I ended up making a really, really strong espresso with the pods (I used three). I used a couple of tablespoons of that in the cake mixture and then managed to spill most of the rest over Delia’s Cakes.   

Once the espresso was in, I beat the mixture until it was creamy.  This took a bit longer than the minute given in the recipe because I used block butter, rather than the spreadable kind that Delia prefers.  I started to spoon the mixture into my tins, and then realised that I hadn’t added the pistachios. I scraped the mixture back into the mixing bowl, folded in the ground pistachios, put the mixture back into the tins and put them into the oven at 150° fan.

While the cake was in the oven I made a coffee and cardamom syrup to pour over the cakes, and a mascarpone filling and topping.  To make the syrup, I used another strong espresso, which I put into a saucepan with demerara sugar and the other half of the cardamom seed powder.  When I tasted it, I got more cardamom than coffee, so I put a teaspoon of instant coffee in to give the syrup more of a coffee kick.  Once the cakes came out of the oven, I made holes in them and poured the syrup over the top.

I made the filling by mixing mascarpone cheese and caster sugar in the KitchenAid.  The recipe, again, uses instant espresso powder to flavour the topping and also adds milk.  I made yet another strong espresso and didn’t put any milk in.  I was worried that the mixture would be too wet.  It seemed to work without the milk.  It tasted fine to me anyway.

Once the syrup-soaked cake had cooled, I sandwiched the two halves together with the mascarpone cream.  I also covered the top of the cake and covered it with roasted pistachios. Here it is.

P1010795 (640x480) Taste-wise I found this cake confusing.  The cardamom was very strong and, when I was eating it, not particularly pleasant.  It was as though someone had had the bright idea of disguising medicine in cake. My mom used to do this kind of thing;  cod-liver oil in orange juice,  travel sickness tablets buried inside a Finger of Fudge.  I’m not saying that the cake was anywhere near as bad as cod-liver oil in orange juice, it just tasted a bit odd.   That said, even though it tasted odd when I was eating it, it did have a really pleasant after-taste. Perhaps it was the topping – the only bit that didn’t have any cardamom in it.

I said that I thought the combination of flavours in this cake sounded interesting.  They were, but I don’t think “interesting” is what I necessarily want from a slice of cake and cup of tea on a rainy afternoon.



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