Cardamom sour cream cake

I’m very excited about the cake I’ve got to share on the blog today. It’s simple, but in my humble opinion, oh so special.

I’ve talked before about Rachel Allen and how much I like her books and television programs. Aside from her accessible recipes, I suspect a large part of my fondness for her is that she reminds me a bit of myself. Her personal style, her smart country kitchen, her vintagey floral aprons – it’s all very Hilary. No, I’m not saying I could succeed at nearly the same level of yummy mummyness as she does, but it’s what I aspire to look like 10 years from now – only with curlier hair.

This quick cake exemplifies Rachel’s style of traditional home baking with a twist. The idea is so simple; just a plain round cake flavoured with cardamom. Sadly, the first time I made it was a bit of a disappointment; I overbaked it and the cake was very dry and positively reeked of cardamom. But I could tell there was potential in it so I did something unprecedented for me: I started experimenting with the recipe.

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I made three attempts at this cake, and ended up with one that preserved most of the original recipe but with my own flavour adjustments. The combination of sour cream and cardamom – I use half the original amount – together with the addition of vanilla extract, is divine. The cake is moist, soft and slightly unexpected – how often do you encounter a cake with cardamom as its main flavour note?

To avoid my original problem of a tough, dry cake, this requires a very light hand when mixing. Fold it as you would a quickbread or a batch of muffins – gently and not too many times. Also, be sure not to overbake! These two steps will ensure a moist cake, light as air.

Rachel suggests this as a birthday layer cake, but I felt that even a bit of icing sugar was gilding the lily. This is one for everyday, something you can serve when those mythical ‘last minute guests’ of hostess lore show up. Luckily, the only guests who ever show up unannounced at my place demanding sweets, Ele and Andrew (we always make Ele make the tea), did stop by while I had this in the house. And I was quite pleased by the reactions. I can’t remember the last time Ele actually raved about something I had made.

This cake may be simple but it’s rave-worthy, too.

Cardamom Sour Cream Cake
Adapted from Rachel’s Favourite Food at Home by Rachel Allen

Makes one 8-inch cake

1 large egg
200 ml (3/4 cup + 1 heaping Tbsp) sour cream
175 g (3/4 cup) sugar
225 g (1 1/2 cups) plain or all purpose flour, sifted
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp ground cardamom seeds
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350F/176C. Grease and flour an 8-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with a piece of parchment or baking paper.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg. Add the sour cream, sugar and vanilla and whisk to combine.

In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, salt and cardamom seeds. Add the dry ingredients to the sour cream mixture; stir just to combine. Do not overmix.

Scrape batter into the pan and bake in the middle of the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cake feels just firm to the touch and a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean. Let the cake cool before turning it onto a wire rack.

The cake lasts for about three days, stored at room temperature. I like it just as it is, but you can also serve this with a simple icing made from a spoonful of sour cream mixed with icing sugar.