I wish I could invite you over for coffee and cake. Just like last time I had a good, weighty, spiced cake to share over a cup of tea, there is much to talk about. Not big exciting things or changes in my life, but ideas and thoughts beyond my own sphere of experience. The mind knows no bounds and out there are ideas for us to capture, absorb, understand, and discuss. Ideas like – how would you live, how would you choose to live, in the shadow of an unpredicted, unexpected stroke that might reoccur at any moment, or, never again? Geoff Dyer provides insight. Lighter, happier ideas like wishing that this was my new kitchen, just look at those gleaming benches and that magnetic blackboard wall!
We would pour cups of freshly percolated coffee and I would serve you thick slices of this moist gingery cake with an angel dust coating of icing sugar, and over mouthfuls of soft sweet apple and roasted almonds we would talk about the intricacies of the creative brain or how neither of us can believe it took me so long to read this book.
At our worn wooden table we would share the thoughts that have made us smile, what has kept us up into the wee hours of the morning. What has made us grateful to be here, and all the future plans that we are looking forward to bringing into reality (hint: suitcases are hopefully involved!). One slice is not enough to enjoy the heady ginger scent and the richness of brown sugar, nor is it enough to talk about all that occupies our hearts and minds. Oh, won’t you knock on the door and come over for a coffee and a chat?
Ginger, Apple, and Almond Cake
Serves 10-12. Makes one 8-inch bundt cake
Note: if self-raising flour is unavailable use 2 1/2 cups plain flour and 1 tablespoon baking powder. To toast nuts: measure 1/2 a cup, spread over a tray and place in an oven heated to 180C (350F) and roast in oven for 10 minutes. Allow to cool and then chop.
2 1/2 cups self raising flour (see note)
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon salt
100 grams butter, melted and cooled
1/3 cup golden syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup milk
1/3 cup Greek/natural yoghurt
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
1/2 cup almonds, toasted and roughly chopped (see note)
2 medium apples, peeled and diced
1/3 icing sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour
Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Grease an 8-inch bundt tin very well. Set aside until required.
In a large bowl whisk together flour, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, and salt.
In a medium size bowl whisk together melted and cooled butter, golden syrup, milk, yoghurt, eggs, and vanilla essence.
Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just mixed.
Add almonds and apples and stir to distribute. Pour batter into prepared tin and smooth top.
Bake for 50 – 60 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Remove cake from oven and allow to cool in tin for 15 minutes. Then turn out onto a plate and allow to cool completely.
When cake is cool mix together icing sugar and cornflour and sift over cake.
Did you know there is a man employed by NASA to smell everything that becomes part of a space mission? From the freeze-dried food to the material that covers the seats to everything in between, it all has to pass the test of the Staff Sniffer. The smell of the smallest things gets important when you are going to spend weeks or months breathing recycled air.
I may not be an aeronautical engineer, or a cosmonaut, but I would like to proffer my home made solution for keeping people happy with the scent of their environment: Chai Spiced Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.
Believe me, if you were stuck in space with the smell of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and brown sugar you wouldn’t mind. You might get extremely hungry, but you wouldn’t mind as long as someone handed you a piece piled high with spiced cream cheese frosting. (Side note: do they give astronauts freeze-dried cake?)
I wanted you to be able to really taste the chai spices in this cake, so I infused the milk with teabags, and also boosted the spices by adding them in powdered form to the batter. The result was a soft, light-crumbed cake with a heady aroma and deep flavour. Cream cheese frosting spiked with its own dose of spices is the perfect cap to the sweet cake below. This cake is a little bit of everyday fancy too. The batter comes together quite quickly and then all you have to do is wait and enjoy the scents filling your home.
The spices in chai tea, and this cake, certainly remind me the most of home. Cinnamon from fresh baked buns or fruit toast breakfasts; ginger from the gingersnap cookies my Mum loves with a cold glass of milk; and cardamom, which features heavily in Danish sweets and calls to mind the traditional baked goods my grandmother made as treats. I can guarantee the scent of the warm spices emanating from your oven will call to mind your own fond memories, or perhaps over a slice or two of this you can create some sweet moments in the present. NASA – you should definitely send this into space with your next mission.
Chai Spiced Cake
Gluten Free | Makes 1 x 9-inch round cake | Leftovers will keep up to four days in an airtight container in the refrigerator
For the cake:
¾ cup milk
2 chai tea bags
120 grams butter
¾ cup caster sugar
60 grams white rice flour
75 grams almond meal
60 grams brown rice flour
60 grams buckwheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ cup plain Greek/natural yoghurt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the frosting:
125 grams cream cheese (full fat is best), softened
50 grams butter
3-4 cups icing sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom (a decent sprinkle)
2 tablespoons milk
Heat your milk gently in a saucepan until steam starts to come from the surface. Do not bring to the boil. Add tea bags and steep for twenty minutes. Allow to cool. Once cooled remove teabags, cut open and empty contents into spiced milk mixture.
Preheat oven to 180C. Butter the sides and base of a 9-inch round cake tin. Line bottom with baking paper. Set aside until needed.
Place butter in a large microwave safe bowl. Melt butter by heating in 30 second bursts in the microwave and stirring well in between bursts. When butter is melted whisk in sugar and set aside.
In a large bowl whisk together white rice flour, almond meal, brown rice flour, buckwheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom.
Mix eggs, yoghurt, and vanilla extract into cooled milk mixture.
Whisk flour mixture and milk mixture into cooled butter mixture. Do not overmix but ensure there are no large pockets of flour. This batter is quite loose, don’t worry it bakes up very well.
Pour batter into prepared pan and place in preheated oven.
Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly touched and a wooden skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes in cake tin. Then remove from cake tin to a wire rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.
To make frosting: beat together cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add 3 cups of icing sugar, spices and milk. Beat until combined. You want a slightly stiff mixture. If frosting is too loose add extra cup of icing sugar. Spread evenly across the top of the cooled cake.