Almond and Cardamom Loaf

While I’m generally a “you had me at almond” kind of girl, it was an unusual (at least to me) technique that drew me to this recipe.  Actually, two interesting techniques.

The first are the caramelized almonds that line the bottom of the pan (or in this iteration, pans).  As written, this cake is served upside-down with the topping on top.  However, since we’re making loaves, the sweet, crunchy almond topping becomes a sort of secret, surprise base.

The second component that drew me in was the emulsification of almond paste, sugar and butter.

In a food processor no less.  The almond paste and sugar are processed into a delicious sand and then the butter is added, one little cube at a time.  As a note on the almond paste.  The recipe asks for 1 cup, or 9 1/2 ounces of almond paste.   Rooting around on Amazon, I kept finding 8 ounces packages.  I took a chance with the smaller amount (I wasn’t going to open a second expensive package for 1 1/2 ounces of paste if I could help it) and the almond flavor came through perfectly.

My slight twist adds the zest of a large orange because my taste buds kept telling me to.  Add it or don’t–whatever your tongue tells you to do.

This cake is delicious and exotic by flavor.  However, its the texture that really makes it special: delicate and crunchy at the edges but satisfyingly dense and moist in the middle.  It was definitely worth cleaning all those food processor pieces in the aftermath.

With the sweet crunchy almonds and gently spiced and almond crumb, the flavors are reminiscent of a bear claw or almond croissant.

Only this can be kept in the freezer and brought out on demand.

Almond and Cardamom Tea Cake

As written, the cake is made into a 9X2 round pan.  I used two 9X5 inch loaf pans with good success.


for the almond topping (or bottom if making loaves)

  • 4 TBS butter (2 ounces)
  • 3 TBS sugar
  • 1 scant C sliced almonds (3 ounces)
  • Pinch of kosher salt of flaky sea salt

for the cake(s)

  • 1 C (5 1/4 ounces) cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • chopped zest from 1 large orange
  • 2 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 4 large eggs at room temp
  • 1 C (9 1/2 ounces) almond paste [as a note–the almond paste I found came in 8 ounces packages–so I went with 8 ounces and the almond taste was still nice and strong].
  • 1 C (7 ounces) sugar
  • 16 TBS (8 ounces or 2 stick) butter at room temp


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and set rack in upper-third of the oven.  Butter and flour the pans then line with parchment.
  2. Make the almond topping (bottoming).  In a small saucepan set over medium heat, cook the butter and sugar for about 3 minutes, until the sugar dissolves completely and the butter bubbles and froths.  Remove from  heat and stir in the sliced almonds and salt.  Pour half into each of the pans and use a spatula to distribute evenly across the bottom of the pan.
  3. For the cake, sift the flour, baking powder and salt onto a piece of parchment paper to evenly combine and remove any lumps. Set aside.
  4. In a small bowl, thoroughly whisk together the vanilla, cardamom, eggs and zest.  Set aside.
  5. Place the almond paste in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to break it up.  Add 1 C of sugar and process for 90 seconds, or until the mixture is as fine as sand.
  6. Add the butter and continue processing until the mixture is very light and fluffy, at least 2 minutes.  Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure that everything is being combined evenly.
  7. With the machine on, slowly begin adding the egg mixture, spoonful by spoonful as if making a mayonnaise (you are making an emulsion).  Let each addition of egg be absorbed and the mixture regains its smooth, silky look before adding more egg.  When all the eggs have been added, stop and scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula then continue to mix until well combined.  Scrape the batter into a large bowl.
  8. Pick up the parchment paper and use it to sprinkle the flour atop the batter in three batches.  Gently fold-in the flour in between additions until just incorporated.  Do not over mix!
  9. Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s) and bake for 55-60 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  The cake will just pull away from the sides of the pans.  Let the cakes cool on a wire rack.  Run a knife along the sides of the pans, then warm the bottom of the pan directly over the stove top for a few seconds to encourage it to release. and set on a cake plate until ready to serve.

TMH: I double wrapped and freezer bagged these and then froze them for a week and they defrosted really well.

Though she be but little, she is fierce

I have long been a fan of the kumquat.  A childhood friend had a kumquat tree in her backyard and we’d dare each other to eat the tart little fruit, relishing in the novelty of eating the skin.  Last fall I posted a super tasty citrus loaf cake by Zoe Nathan. Her original recipe called for kumquats…not exactly in-season in November. So I made due and waited.

And then I started thinking.

In its directions, the recipe asks the baker to zest several citrus fruits including the kumquats. After I stopped laughing at the idea of zesting something the size of a large olive I thought, there’s got to be another way. So, I took to the internets and found a couple of recipes that use a kumquat puree. Not sure about anyone else, but in my book cutting and seeding a couple of cups of kumquats is much easier than attempting to zest them.

I used my Vitamix to puree the kumquats. Because I could. A regular blender or food processor will work as well. While the puree smelled amazing (I was tempted to dab some behind my ears), it did have just a hint of bitterness in flavor.   Luckily it baked right out.

I also saw the addition of cardamom in a couple of recipes. Cardamom!  That’s fun to say.

I love cardamom’s exotic floral scent and think it makes elevates this recipe just enough  This is a gorgeous loaf—both in looks and flavor.

You all know, I openly admit to my citrus fruit biases, but really, make this cake.

Like now before kumquats disappear until next spring.

By the way, I’m not sure what is going on with the tumbnail photo that is supposed to sit in the upper left of my posts.  I’m on the case!

Kumquat Loaf

adapted from Huckleberry stories, secrets and recipes from our kitchen


  • 1 C+ 2 TBS/ 255 g unsalted butter at room temp
  • 1 C/ 200 g sugar
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 C kumquats quartered and seeded
  • 2 eggs + 2 egg yolks
  • 1 1/4 C/ 160 g all purpose flour
  • 1/4 C/ 35 g pastry flour
  •  1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 TBS buttermilk
  • 1 TBS vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp cardamom


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and line with parchment a 9X5 loaf pan.
  2. Quarter and seed kumquats.  Puree until smooth.  This should yield about 3/4 C puree (though you’ll only use 2/3 C).
  3. Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, cream the butter,  sugar and salt  on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  4. Incorporate the eggs and egg yolks one-at-a-time, blend well after each addition.  Scrape down sides of bowl a couple of times.  Add-in vanilla.
  5. Fold-in 2/3 C puree (save or discard remainder)
  6. Add-in the flours, baking powder and cardamom.  Mix-on low until ingredients are just combined.
  7. Scoop batter into prepared pan.  Bake for 60 minutes or until the cake springs back when touched and cake tester comes out clean.
  8. Once out of the oven, let rest for 5 minutes then remove loaf from pan.  Dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving.

That’s-a-spicy cupa-cake!

They say print media is dying.  And while it is true that we don’t subscribe to The Los Angeles Times, TD and I have had the pink-plastic wrapped Wall Street Journal delivered for years.  TD, the excellent news consumer that he is, reads it every morning cover to news-printy cover.  Me?  Not so much.  But, I do enjoy their weekend editions and have, surprisingly, found the WSJ to be a source of some excellent recipes.  This is one of them.

Spicy and sweet, these cupcakes start out with a homemade chai blend.  I found my cardamom pods at Whole Foods.  Notice the peppercorns are black.  Not pink.

The spice mixture is used to scent and flavor a cake with a dense but moist crumb, perfect consistency for a cupcake in my opinion.

The aromatic cake is further enhanced by a ginger-infused cream cheese frosting that takes five minutes to throw together.

The Wall Street Journal version is actually a layer cake.  However, I think these cupcakes are just that much more festive.  And we are celebrating. At this posting, not only are TD and I leaving on a jet plane for the land of down-under, but I am also about to have one those events that involve blowing out candles.

Like, forty of them.


Amos Lee

Chai Cupcakes with Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting

adapted from the Wall Street Journal, February 2-3, 2013 (who adapted the recipe from One Girl Cookie, Brooklyn New York)

For the Cupcakes


  • 30 cardamom pods
  • 7 black (not pink) peppercorns
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 4 C all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • 12 ounces (24 TBS) butter at room temp
  •  2 ½ C sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ C sour cream


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line  2, 12-cup cupcake pans with liners.
  2. On a cookie sheet, toast cardamom, peppercorns and cloves until fragrant (about 8 minutes.  Once spices are cool, grind to a fine powder in a spice or coffee grinder.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and ground spices.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a  paddle attachment, combine butter and sugar mixing until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.
  5. Set mixer on low speed and add eggs one at a time.  Add vanilla.  Mix until fully combined, 2-3 minutes.
  6. Set mixer on low speed, add in flour in three parts alternating with sour cream beginning and ending with flour.  Mix until just combined after each addition.
  7. Scrape down sides of bowl and mix for an additional 10 seconds.
  8. Scoop batter into cupcake liners adding until just under the top of the liner.
  9. Bake for about 25 minutes, rotating pans halfway through.  Test with toothpick.  Cupcakes are done when the toothpick comes up with moist crumbs.
  10. Allow to cool completely.

For the Frosting


  • 6 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 6 TBS of butter, softened
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 lb confectioner’s sugar (more if desired)
  • 1 ½ TBS ground ginger
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 C toasted and chopped pistachios if desired


  1. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle, beat cream cheese, butter and salt on medium until smooth.  Scrape down sides of bowl.
  2. Add confectioner’s sugar, grounds ginger and vanilla.  Mix on medium speed until all ingredients are combined and the frosting is smooth.
  3. Frost cupcakes as desired and sprinkle chopped pistachios over top to garnish.