I'm not a huge fan of white chocolate. It's just that bit too sweet for my palate and reminds me of nursery food. I do like to use it in baking though: it's in cakes and mousses that white chocolate really shines. There's something about the combination of white chocolate and cardamom, in particular, that creates a really pleasurable balance between vanilla creaminess and something a bit more grown-up and complex. Cardamom hints at something exotic and sophisticated. Its subtle fragrance makes the combination with white chocolate playfully sweet, rather than tooth-achingly so.
A friend recently described the taste of this cake as "like Indian sweets", before declaring that this has to be the flavour of her future wedding cake. It's an ideal cake to serve after a curry or any spicy main, but hold off being too generous with the cardamom or else it can end up tasting soapy or medicinal.
This recipe can be used for cupcakes if you prefer (or don't have a 9" tin) or, if you want to make it more pudding-y, I sometimes like to use individual dessert moulds or rosti rings to cut out thin layers of the cake, which I then top with white chocolate and cardamom mousse, before setting them in the fridge. Once set, remove the mouuse cakes from their moulds (see top tip) and decorate however you like. I like to decorate mine with little handmade white chocolate roses or chocolate fans, but some sliced last of the season British strawberries or a dusting of icing sugar will look lovely too.
White Chocolate and Cardamom Cake
Preheat your oven to 180C (or 160C fan assisted) and grease and line a 9" round or an 8" square tin.
For the cake
6 oz (150 g) white chocolate
7 oz (175 g) unsalted butter, softened
8 oz (200 g) caster sugar
3 large eggs, separated
10 oz (250 g) self raising flour
5 fl. oz. (150 ml) soured cream
A splash of vanilla extract
25 - 30 green cardamom pods
For the white chocolate buttercream
8 oz (200 g) white chocolate
8 oz (200 g) unsalted butter, softened
14 oz (350 g) icing sugar, preferably cane rather than beat
A splash of vanilla extract
For the cake:
- Break up the white chocolate and place in a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl suspended over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Make sure that the bottom of the bowl doesn't sit directly in the water or your chocolate will seize and you'll have to start again with new.
- Smash the cardamom pods so that you can open them up to remove the black (or sometimes brown) seeds. Place the seeds in a pestle and mortar and grind them quite finely. If you haven't got a pestle and mortar, you can whizz them up in an electric spice grinder, or just stick them in a bag and bash them with a rolling pin or something heavy. Set aside for later.
- In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
- Gradually add the egg yolks, a little at a time, beating after each addition.
- Beat in the cooled white chocolate, vanilla and cardamom.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form peaks.
- Sift half the four over the butter and sugar mixture and fold in.
- Add the soured cream and combine.
- Sift over the rest of the flour and fold in.
- Add a couple of spoonfuls of the whisked egg white and mix in vigorously to loosen up the mixture.
- Spoon the rest of the egg whites into the mixture and fold in. Work quickly but carefully, so you don't knock the air out of the egg whites.
- Pour the mixture into your prepared tin, smooth over the top and place in the middle shelf of your oven for 45 - 50 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
- Once out of the oven, leave the cake in its tin on top of a wire rack for 10 minutes before turning out.
- Melt the white chocolate, as described above and leave to cool.
- In a large bowl, beat the butter until really soft and then sift the icing sugar over it.
- Beat the butter and sugar together until well combined, add the vanilla extract and cooled white chocolate.
- Beat everything together until light, creamy and fluffy.
When using dessert moulds, if you find the mousse cake doesn't want to come out, try using a hair dryer at its lowest setting to gently heat the sides of the mould. Your desserts should now slide out effortlessly.