Currently viewing the tag: "cardamom"

I posted  a piece of this cardamom cake on Instagram a few weeks ago and had a lot of people asking for the recipe, so here it finally is! One of my biggest failures as a blogger is just getting a post up – I love the baking part, and photography also, but for some reason when I sit down to edit photos and type up recipes, I find myself constantly procrastinating and distracted. Duke Ellington once commented, “I don’t need time. What I need is a deadline.” I’m in total agreement, and apologies for my lackluster approach to posts. I am working on it.

Speaking of Duke Ellington, it would have been Ella Fitzgerald’s birthday this past week (they did record and play together a lot, which is why I’m connecting them), and in honor of her day I have made an Ella Fitzgerald playlist over on Spotify. I fell in love with Ella twenty years ago, working at a crappy coffee shop tucked away on the third floor of a ritzy mall in Edina, Minnesota. The store had an old CD player in the back that would only load three CDs at a time, and my sister, who also worked at said shop, would often run up to Sam Goody and buy a handful of new music when we starting to feel crazy after listening to the same tunes for hours on end. One day she came back with a stack of Ultra Lounge CDs, Mambo music, the Swingers Soundtrack, and Ella and Louis: Our Love is Here to Stay. Ella started singing, and I felt like a voice I had been looking for was finally found. There is both peacefulness and playfulness in her singing, and I’m always in the mood for whatever she is swinging. Twenty years later, I listen to Ella almost every day (the Swingers Soundtrack still gets some play time, occasionally), and have made her a big part of my family’s musical life. The playlist is a lot of my favorite songs, and some ‘classic’ Ella hits. You can click here to listen.

For more on Ella:

Ella Fitzgerald Wikipedia

Ella: A Biography

Ella Fitzgerald (Little People Big Dreams) – children’s book

Albums I love: Mack the Knife, Ella & Louis, Ella in Hollywood, Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook, and Ella: The Legendary Decca Recordings.

My favorite picture of Ella.

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(This is another recipe lost in the archives I’m bringing back to life – it’s a great cake to make around the holidays. I’ve kept the original text.)

Early Monday morning I found myself in the kitchen, baking this pound cake. It was almost as if I didn’t have a choice; my mind and heart had been there all night, anyway, stirring and sifting flour, breaking eggs and pouring cream. The evening before our hearts had been broken: the lovely and dear Michele passed from this world. It is one of those tragic stories, the kind that you can never come to terms with, the kind that make you wrestle for answers. She was in her early 40’s, a mother to eight children, and had suffered the past 18 months from an inoperable brain tumor [glioblastoma]. Now she is gone, resting at last, but we are here, here on the other side of the door. Here letting our tears fall into cake batter.

Several years ago Michele asked me for this cake recipe.  She smiled her sweet smile, asking for a recipe with cardamom to celebrate her daughter’s birthday. I had been making this pound cake for years at the Blue Heron Coffeehouse, where the recipe had been snagged off the back of a spice container. I emailed it to her, and soon it got sent around from one friend to another; everyone was falling in love with cardamom. When I saw her months later, she came up to me and gave me a small bag, a gift. I was instantly aware that the tiny sack was full of ground cardamom – the smell wandered to my nose and overtook me. Ever since she placed the spice in my hands, whenever I add cardamom to anything, there is a moment where Michele comes to mind. Michele, with her dark, thick hair, Michele with her honest and sincere smile, Michele with her steadfast heart. Michele, in the kitchen, baking cakes for her children.

Baking this cake, so early Monday morning, brought me some comfort. The cardamom filled my kitchen and washed over my senses. I talked to my little ones about her as we creamed the butter, as we added the eggs one at a time; remembering her as we moved  hands and arms to bring things together; all of this easing my heart for a moment, silencing the questions. In those few scattered hours making cake in her memory, I was acutely aware of the significance of food, of caring about food. There is an importance to what specific ingredients we put in our bodies, but there is also such value to what we are actually making. The dishes and meals we make for loved ones, and the act of preparing them: to cook and bake and eat them together connects us beyond the physical. It’s not about eating or creating just for the sake of doing so. There is something deeper, something soul-ful that happens when we slice the cake, when we break the bread. There is taste and smell that draws out memories, binding us to those present, those past. There is purpose in our food: both the physical and the unconscious, the labor of our hands, the labor of our heart. This, to me, is real communion: the act of sharing, the act of receiving.

I know
Not these my  hands
And yet I think there was
A woman like me once had hands
like these.
-Adelaide Crapsey

(Pretty blush pink Bundt pan from Nordic Ware/Amazon Kitchen)

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parsnip cupcakes
Parsnips are often overlooked when it comes to baking. I’ll admit I’ve walked straight past them in the produce section, their pale white exterior ignored for other, flashier vegetables. The bold-colored flesh and feathery tops of the parsnip’s neighbor is more familiar, and the root that one associates with muffins and quick bread. So it’s the carrot that is placed in my shopping cart, and then ends up in my cake.

But Martha Stewart changed my mind. Her lovely book Vegetables showed up at my front door, and after thumbing through so many amazing recipes (Skillet Pizza with Greens and Eggplant! Corn and Scallion Chilaquiles! Beet Risotto with Beet Greens! Broccoli Rabe and Ham Croque Monsieurs! Squash Blossom Frittata! Frisee and Roasted Pear Salad!), I (of course) found my way to one of the few desserts in the book, and decided to start there. I’m glad I did.

Martha Stewart
A few things:

It’s not too late to enter my giveaway! If you’ve pre-ordered my cookbook, you can enter to win a Vanilla Bean Baking Book apron and tea towel set. See this post for details.

Last week my site was down for a little bit, and I lost three posts. I was able to get them back, but sadly all the comments were deleted. So if you left me a question and I didn’t get back to you, please try again! Sorry about that.

It’s less than a week from Election Day, which is also the release of my cookbook. The lovely FauxMartha and my husband helped me come up with the perfect hashtag to celebrate both events: #bakeamericacakeagain. I think we could all use a little extra love while we move closer to Tuesday, and baking cake and sharing some is the perfect way to do just that. Tag your cakes on Instagram to play along! 

Although I thought we were terribly clever, there are already a bunch of fun cake/bake hashtags playing on ‘Make America Great Again’ on Instagram. NPR has a post on the history of Election Cakes that you can read about here.

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This cake was made in celebration of Saveur Magazine’s 20th birthday. When it comes to cake I only think in chocolate, but I got the idea of rhubarb buttercream in my head and thought it would pair better with a white cake (although, after eating it, I think it could go either way). There are 21 cakes altogether on the above link, and I recommend checking them out; so many beauties.

We’re still in the moving zone here; we’ve got one week to pack up the rest of our house and say our good-byes. I feel very bittersweet about the whole affair, but am looking forward to the change.

“So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.”-Herman Hesse

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spice cake with cardamom-coffee frosting | the vanilla bean blog
I’ve been sick for quite some time – going on 6 weeks, in fact, with this on again off again cold and cough nonsense. I’ve spent the last 3 days under my covers, rereading comforting books and pinning my little heart out. I have lots of things racing through my mind (it always seems to happen when I’m sick), but I just don’t quite have the energy to articulate them. Somehow I did find the strength to sneak out of bed and bake a cake, but, well, I just couldn’t help myself.

So, here is a cake, and here is a recipe. My thoughts I’ll keep for now.
spice cake with cardamom-coffee icing | the vanilla bean blog

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waflles with rhubarb-blueberry-cardamom compote | the vanilla bean blog
{most my anxiety and nightly begging pleading praying musings summed up in a nutshell. just throw in some fear of dying and you’ve got me:}

‘The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof. What I want is so simple I almost can’t say it: elementary kindness. Enough to eat, enough to go around. The possibility that kids might one day grow up to be neither the destroyers nor the destroyed. That’s about it. Right now I’m living in that hope, running down its hallway and touching the walls on both sides.’ – Barbara Kingsolver

{still, the morning comes, and she is kind. I  am greeted with kisses and whispers, little arms and legs rushing with smiles and snuggles and demands for waffles. so we break our bread together and spend our days giving in to joy, hoping it will once more bring us through the night…}
waffles with rhubarb-blueberry-cardamom compote | the vanilla bean blog

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coconut cupcakes | the vanilla bean blog
So here it is! The new site! With cupcakes to celebrate! I am totally overwhelmed by it. Melissa and Erin have outdone themselves, and I’m so lucky to reap the rewards. I am totally in love with my new logo, and must admit when Melissa sent it over to be reviewed I got teary-eyed; it just was so perfect. And, the social media icons are easy to find! I have a search bar! You can follow me on email! I have a super rad recipe section! (And, as I’ve gone through each and every post this weekend, I remembered recipes I  had totally forgotten about, like olive oil ice cream, and creamy carrot orange soup, and beet cake with chocolate, and peach-sausage pizza.)

I really cannot rave enough about Wooden Spoons Kitchen. These ladies went above and beyond for me, answering every.single.question. with fast replies, tweaking things just how I wanted them quickly and happily, and creating a gorgeous site in record time. I highly highly recommend them.

So, now, take a look around! Let me know what you think. (I’m still tweaking some spacing issues on older posts, so just ignore giant paragraphs, and imagine breaks and indentation).  xo
coconut cupcakes | the vanilla bean blog
coconut cupcakes | the vanilla bean blog
coconut cupcakes | the vanilla bean blog
coconut cupcakes | the vanilla bean blog
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I have named you queen.
There are taller than you, taller.
There are purer than you, purer.
There are lovelier than you, lovelier.
But you are the queen.
-Pablo Neruda
Perhaps pumpkin is more traditional and chocolate more sexy, perhaps pie is expected and tarts would turn heads. But somehow this bundt cake with root vegetables baked into tall towers; this cake with cream cheese hiding in swirls along its center, convinced me that this was the perfect way to celebrate Thanksgiving, despite what everyone expected. So I gave in and gave thanks.

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My husband lays next to me, whispering, ‘I’d give all we have to make sure we are always connected: you and I, and us and them.’ I find his hand in the dark and do not let it go.
This earthly Victory | does not have wings: | she wears bread on her shoulders instead. | Courageously she soars, | setting the world free, | like a baker | born aloft on the wind. – Pablo Neruda
I know that food isn’t a cure all, even though in bleak moments it may feel that way. There are days when everything is just out of reach, when turning on the news or reading headlines sends my head spinning; knowing of so many people struggling everywhere. And here I am, obsessing about the little things: is my cardamom fresh enough? is my kitchen big enough? is anyone reading this?I spend the morning with my daughter rolling out puff pastry, while war and rumors of war whisper out of every media outlet in the background. I tune it out. My world is centered in our little home, and my heart belongs to three beautiful people. But there are days, like this one, where it seems we are just gathering for ourselves here, even though there are so many sugar buns to spare. As we measure out a rectangle I am questioning our movements, asking myself, is there really time for making cakes? and baking bread?

We continue with the buns. My daughter has questions about all the layers of butter, which she helped me fold and turn the day before. We sprinkle the sugar together, smelling the cardamom on our hands. She shifts her face, hiding so I can’t see her licking the sweet and the spice off her fingers, but she spins back quickly; her face and lips lit up with tiny white sparkles. Words from earlier this week sweep through me: ‘Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world. We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy’.* I am quietly shaken, but interrupted. My daughter asks me if we can give them away, if we can share our sugar buns when they are baked. I meet her eyes, comforted by her sincere delight, her small hands outstretched in giving. Yes, I tell her, we can.