Before moving to London I rarely ate cake. For a birthday or special occassion, yes, but other than that, no. Then, I started working at an urban farmhouse kitchen where people flocked to around 3pm for this thing called "Afternoon Tea". I knew fancy hotels did it up with speciality teas, dainty crustless sandwiches, scones + clotted cream, and desserts, but I thought the term was just for that - something kind of special. I noticed that for most "having a tea" in the afternoon is like the American after school snack, a daily ritual. Having a snack in the afternoon was referred to "having a tea," even if no tea was drunk. Even when meeting my friends in the afternoon for coffee, they would say that we were meeting for tea.
Though waning a bit with the rise of the popularity of coffee, tea is still a huge part of British culture. I worked in an office were every 30 minutes someone would notify everyone that the kettle was on and to place their orders. Most have English Breakfast with a splash of milk, and seemed to consume at least a half dozen cups by noon.
Though I haven't yet caught onto major tea consumption, being surrounded by cakes at the farmhouse kitchen everyday certainly upped my cake consumption. My favorites...a Victoria Sponge - vanilla cake layered with berries (or jam) and whipped cream, and a coffee-cardamom cake - a flavor combination new to me, but quite popular here, so tasty and addictive. While most who came to the kitchen in the afternoons washed this down with tea (even though the cake is coffee flavored) I would sneak little slivers of it all day long.
COFFEE CARDAMOM CAKE
- 12 green cardamom pods, seeds removed and ground
- 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, and extra for cake pans
- 1 1/2 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
- 1 Tbs Baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup (8 oz) unsalted butter, room temp, and extra for cake pans
- 1 3/4 cup sugar
- 4 large eggs, room temp
- 3 Tbs instant espresso powder or instant coffee granules
- 1 1/4 cup whole milk
Preheat oven to 350°F/175°C
Crush cardamom pods to remove seeds with mortar and pestle. Remove pods from mortar and continue to crush just the seeds. Sift together drys (including ground cardamom seeds) in a bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl beat together butter and sugar for three minutes, until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Dissolve espresso or coffee into the milk. Alternate adding drys and milk into the butter, sugar, egg mixture. Start and end with drys.
Evenly divide the batter between two buttered and floured 8-inch round cake pans. Bake for about 30 minutes until cake tester comes out clean. Let cool and remove from pans. Once cooled completely, decorate with coffee buttercream (recipe follows).
*When choosing cardamom pods they should be a vibrant green color. If they are turning a slightly tannish/brown color they are no longer fresh.
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 large egg whites
- 12 oz unsalted butter, room temp
- 2 Tbs instant espresso powder or instant coffee granules
Make this buttercream as cake is baking or cooling. In a double boiler whisk together egg whites, sugar, and coffee granules until all the sugar granules are dissolved (this is the method for a swiss meringue buttercream). You can test this by touching the egg whites between your thumb and pointer finger and feeling for the sugar granules. The coffee granules should be dissolved at this point as well. A bit unseemly, but it should feel like snot. At this point remove the top bowl and whisk with a hand mixer (or transfer to KitchenAid) to stiff peaks. Add butter a few tablespoons at a time while the mixer is going. It may start to look like it is breaking - don't despair! - if you continue to beat the mixture it will come together into a smooth buttercream. Decorate the cake with the buttercream as you wish!