“Cardamon Coffee Cake; very rich – very delicious,” begins the recipe, ever so enticingly. Somehow it’s the words that get me every time I look at a cookbook, even when it’s beautifully illustrated. Memories of descriptions of food in children’s books remain long after the storylines have faded. Do you remember the candied chestnuts with meadow cream from the Redwall series, or the dainty biscuits from The Little White Horse? Or even the pork pies from the Famous Five (in spite of your mother saying, “they’re horribly greasy in the real world”)?
Cookbooks don’t rely on their writing style like children’s novels do, but the description of a recipe can be as beautiful as a photograph. There’s no photograph to accompany the Cardamon Coffee Cake recipe, so the words are important. But the recipe is illustrated with more than just words. It comes from the new edition of the Moosewood Cookbook, a 70s classic, which is decorated with whimsical hand-drawn black-and-white drawings. And occasionally, the descriptions are just too tempting.
The Cardamon Coffee cake lives up to its description. It is rich and moist and fragrant with spices. I decided to put the nut mixture on top of the cake rather than layered in the middle, which gives it a crunchy top. I also adapted the recipe to use gluten free self raising flour, which was sent to me by the kind people at Vitarium. They’re collecting recipes until November for their Great Vitarium Bake Off.
A few words can paint a very pretty picture of a rich and spicy cake. In fact a written description can leave you dreaming of feasts involving dishes you’ve never even tasted. To an Australian child chestnuts and pork pies can sound positively exotic. Now if only I could ask the characters in my children’s novels to give me their recipes.
Cardamon Coffee Cake
Adapted from the New Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. It’s an updated version of the 70s vegetarian classic, and is both hand-illustrated and hand-lettered.
For the cake
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
1tsp vanilla extract
2 cups gluten free self raising flour
2 tsp ground cardamon
1 cup sour cream
For the nut mixture
1/4 cup brown sugar (packed)
1 tab cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius, and grease or line a large springform pan (24cm round).
Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between eggs.
Add the vanilla.
Combine the dry ingredients (not the nut mixture).
Add the dry ingredients, 1/3 at a time, alternating with sour cream, and combining thoroughly between each addition.
Pour the batter into the pan, and top with the nut mixture.
Bake at 180 degrees Celcius for about 1 hour, or until the cake springs back in the middle and a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan (the original recipe says you have to cool it for at least thirty minutes before you wildly devour it ).