When it began raining yesterday, my heart sunk. It felt like the big, fat droplets of rain might be battering against the windows until next May. I’m not good with bad weather. It overwhelms me with irrational and pessimistic thoughts. The very idea of winter looming on the horizon makes me feel a bit peculiar. In fact, if I had any sense, I’d emigrate to warmer climes – but then I’d miss tea and pubs and black humour too much.
The advantage of being so effected by bad weather is that I’m sure that good weather also effects more than most. I went to bed to the sounds of rain pounding the window – and then woke up to clear, blue skies this morning. Joy of joys! Autumn is still here. I might still have another few weeks of occasionally venturing outside without a coat on before the big freeze sets in.
To celebrate, I decided that the occasion called for a slice of a plum and cardamom sponge for breakfast. I made this over the weekend, and I have to say it’s quite delicious. The cardamom aspect is partly down to a new kitchen toy I got a few weeks ago – a Tefal coffee grinder. I bought it for under £20 from Robert Dyas, and have been having enormous amounts of fun grinding up all sort of spices and dried chillies ever since. It really does make everything taste more fresh and more potent. If you haven’t given over to such gadgetry, then don’t worry! You can buy pre-ground cardamom, or if you use enough elbow grease, than you can pound down a couple of cardamom pods into something sort of powdery in a pestle and mortar.
Cardamom is a very strong flavour. The pods are most often used to infuse flavours into a dish. So I only ground up two small pods – and even then, I only used about 2/3 of that in the sponge. It was certainly enough to be able to taste it, but not so much that the flavour became overpowering.
(for a 20cm diameter cake tin)
125g dark brown sugar
500g plums, stoned and halved
150g butter, cubed and warmed to room temperature
150g caster sugar
50g ground almonds
100g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 cardamom pods, ground in a dry spice grinder
1. Put the butter and sugar in the pan, and gently heat while stirring until everything has melted and bound together into a dark-coloured caramel sauce.
2. Cut the halved plums into three slices, and then arrange them in rings at the bottom of the cake tin.
3. Pour the dark-coloured sauce over the plums. Put the cake tin on a tray, and put to one side for now.
4. Use an electric whisk or mixer to cream together the butter and sugar until it becomes lighter-coloured, with a fluffy consistency.
5. Add the eggs – one by one – whisking the whole time.
6. Use a big metal spoon to add the ground almonds and plain flour – stir in gently, making sure that you don’t squash the air out of the mixture.
7. Finally, stir in the bicarbonate of soda and a big pinch of the freshly-ground cardamom.
8. Spoon the sponge mixture over the plums and caramel, and then bake for one hour at 180C.
9. Remove the cake from the oven, and let it rest in the tin for five minutes before putting a place over the cake tin and tipping it out – so that the plum and caramel ends up on top.
10. Serve with a big dollop of creme fraiche or a drizzle of cream.