The holiday baking season is officially here.
Sugar cookies, coconut cake, yule logs, bonbons fruitcakes, snickerdoodles: You name it and we’re baking it. In this week’s food section, we’ll have a whole story dedicated to cookies and cookie decorating, but let’s kick things off with a cardamom cake from "Great British Baking Show" contestant Benjamina Ebuehi, who runs a food blog (carrotandcrumb.com) and has a new cookbook out called "The New Way to Cake."
Cardamom Cake with Mulled Wine Jam
One of the best things about the Christmas season is the ability to mull pretty much everything in sight. I’ve worked my way through a mulled wine plum crumble, mulled chocolate truffles and mulled fruit compotes, just to name a few. This cake is no exception with the sweet cardamom acting as a canvas for the boozy mulled wine jam. Packed with plums, black grapes, orange and plenty of spice, this is my go-to alternative Christmas cake. The recipe will make a little more jam than you’ll need. Store what’s left in a clean glass jar for up to a month in the fridge.
— Benjamina Ebuehi
For the cake:
1/2 cup milk
10 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated
For the jam:
1 cup red wine
2 1/2 cups pitted and quartered plums
2 cups black seedless grapes, plus extra to decorate
2 cinnamon sticks
1 star anise pod
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Half an orange, thickly sliced
For the topping:
1 cup mascarpone
1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two round 8-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
To make the cake, gently heat the milk in a saucepan with the cardamom pods and vanilla, letting it simmer for 2 minutes before removing from the heat. Cover, and let it cool for 15 minutes before straining out the pods. Sift together the flour and baking powder in a large bowl and set aside.
Using a stand mixer or electric whisk, beat the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in half of the flour, beating briefly until combined, followed by the milk and remaining flour. Divide the batter evenly between the pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool for 15 minutes in the pans before turning them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the jam, add the wine, plums, grapes, cinnamon sticks, star anise and nutmeg to a large saucepan. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes to soften the plums. Add the sugar, lemon juice and orange and boil for 12 to 20 minutes, or until it coats the back of a spoon. Remove the cinnamon sticks, star anise and orange slices and pour into a shallow tray to cool quickly. I like my jam quite chunky, but you can run yours through a food processor if you’d like.
To make the topping, beat the mascarpone and sugar in a medium bowl by hand until smooth. Fold in the cream and vanilla and chill in the fridge until you are ready to use it.
Level the cakes with a serrated knife if they aren’t even. Sandwich the cakes together with half of the mascarpone frosting and a generous spoonful or two of jam. Cover the top and sides with the remaining frosting. Use a bench scraper or palette knife to smooth the sides of the cake, scraping off just enough to let the cake peek through. Add extra grapes and a few dollops of jam.
— From "The New Way to Cake: Simple Recipes with Exceptional Flavor" by Benjamina Ebuehi (Page Street Publishing, $21.99)