I don’t know how it is where you are, but around here, things are still feeling pretty wintery. Sure, the cherry blossoms are in full bloom and daffodils are popping up all over the city, in fact, new spring growth appears to be everywhere. Everywhere, that is, except this weekend’s Farmer’s Market.
On Sunday, as I stood in the cold pouring rain and stared out at the sea of winter produce, pretty as it was flowing across the baskets and tables, lining the stalls of the market with its dark winy reds, deep emerald greens, and cool earthy beiges, I realized then and there that winter and I: we are through. I also realized that the Rhubarb crisp I wanted to bake this week would have to wait, and well, that’s just sad.
Don’t get me wrong, I love
. I’ve fallen, quite literally, head over rain boots for this drizzly city I call home. But sometimes it can be downright hard to find a nice thing to say about these long soggy winters. I guess when it comes down to it we all have to make our own peace with grey damp days and extended winter vegetables. Me? I give thanks that we have good friends to share them with, a warm kitchen to come home to, and pound cakelets to bake, preferably ones with vanilla bean, cardamom, and lots of butter. Seattle
I guess I should also give thanks for back issues of Gourmet, because that’s where I found this recipe. I’m not sure how I skipped over it the first time, maybe it was the lack of photographs, or the minimal half-page spread. Whatever the reason, I’m glad I found it now. Also, I’m glad I ran out of lemons and had to make due with oranges instead. That was a very good thing, indeed.
It's hard not to be grateful with these cakelets around, which won’t be much longer at the rate we’re going. The vanilla bean, orange zest, and cardamom melt softly into each other creating a timeless, almost romantic flavor, which makes up ten fold for their plain speckly appearance. Pleasantly pungent with just a whiff of spice, these rustic little cakes satisfy a handful of cravings all at once, which in turn makes them damn near impossible to stop eating. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Vanilla Bean Cardamom Pound Cakelets with
Adapted from Gourmet, March 2009
The original recipe calls for the batter to be baked up in either a 12 cup Bundt pan or traditional pound cake pan. I tried the traditional route on my first go-round but ended up liking the crust so much that I decided to throw the rest of the batter into muffin tins to increase the crust-to-cake ratio. The result was perfect. These cakelets are delicious eaten plain, but we also enjoyed them with a little ice cream. I imagine whipped cream would be good as well. Stored in an airtight container, they somehow manage to get even better with age.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 ¼ sticks unsalted butter, softened to room temperature (this makes all the difference, seriously, wait for it to soften)
1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
2 vanilla beans, halved lengthwise
½ tablespoon orange zest
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
1 cup whole milk
Preheat the oven to 350°F and place racks on upper and lower thirds of the oven so that they are centered. Generously butter two 12 cup muffin tins and set aside.
Whisk together flour, cardamom, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar at medium speed, occasionally scraping the sides of the bowl, until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Using the tip of a paring knife, scrape the seeds from the vanilla beans into the butter mixture, and beat until well combined, about 1 minute. Add orange zest and continue to beat for about 1 more minute.
Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in orange juice until combined well. At low speed, add the flour mixture and milk alternately in batches, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, mixing until just combined.
Spoon batter into muffin pans and gently tap pans on counter to eliminate air bubbles. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of cakelets comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Remember, oven times will vary so check frequently to see if cakelets are done. Cool in pans for about 10 minutes, then place cakelets on a rack to cool completely. Makes around 24 cakelets.