And a Valentine’s Day discussion you probably don’t care about (in which case, feel free to scroll to the bulleted ingredient list), but if you do, by all means, read on!
Yes, I know. It’s February the 14th in two days. My wonderful boyfriend is away for the next four on a business trip,
and I am despondently eating a cake all alone and miserable, full of thoughts of abandonment and … ok, all right, I’ll stop – I can’t write that straight any further without laughing anyway! – apologies about the sorry joke. It’s just that I’ve been assaulted with some much Valentine’s Day garbage, both of the pink-and-heart variety and the I hate Valentine’s Day! variety on the internet for the past month, that I had to. I think The Oatmeal expressed it best in his cartoon regarding Valentine’s Day, and I don’t really need to add much to it. Maybe a little. And the cake.
The part of the above that isn’t a joke is that T actually is out of town for the next four days, and that I do miss him – same way I miss him on any occasion when he travels and I don’t (which isn’t that often). It has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day, and, truth be told, neither does the cake, exactly. The trip was planned months ahead and neither one of us made any notice of the dates being anything in particular, except as we are planning a (late) housewarming party for this apartment for weekend after next, since he’d be away part of this one. Then, about three days before the trip, and probably upon seeing Valentine’s Day stuff all over the net, T went “oh… I just realized I’d be away for Valentine’s Day”. So I shrugged and said, whatever. We can have cake and romantic dinner and anything else it’s supposed to be any day. That’s what the usually-present jar of trout caviar and a box of good white wine are doing in our fridge. (P.S. I will write about the trout caviar and Finland in another post. It deserves it.)
What I mean to say is that I don’t hate Valentine’s Day. Neither do I love it. Cake happens every few weeks, not any day (I’d get hugely fat if that was so, I don’t have T’s metabolism!), and usually when there is an occasion to feed it to someone (other than me). Or on occasions when I suddenly realize that my honey-hoarding is getting ridiculous and that I don’t actually need 2kg of honey at home, and should use some of it up.
I’ve heard (here, as it happens, which is a really great beekeeping blog) that Saint Valentine, whoever he was, may be a patron saint of bees and beekeepers. So, with that in mind, let this be a cake for Valentine’s Day – it has a good amount of honey in it, after all!
The true reason this cake came into being was that the local gourmet market had a huge fridge-box full of tubs of mascarpone last weekend, at a steal of a price. I had no idea what I need or want it for, but listen, it was mascarpone. On sale. So, I bought a 250g tub of it and decided I’ll figure out what to do with it later. Then, I typed mascarpone into google search and hit ‘image’ – and the need for cake was realized. Mascarpone, if you don’t yet know, is an Italian triple-cream cream cheese – a description which really does it no justice. It’s like a lovechild of Cornish clotted cream and cream cheese that died and gone to heaven – ok, this comes closer. You get the idea?
So, T was leaving for 4 days, and I was at home with 2kg honey and a tub of mascarpone. And that is why cake, for us to have before he went off for a few days of meetings. The egg-white-free thing is because T is allergic (mildly) to egg whites, but not to yolks, even if just hand-separated. Making a cake without egg whites is always a bit of a challenge, but I’ve been practicing for a while, and I have to say that this recipe, it is my cake-crowning glory so far. And not just because eating it feels like truly eating roses – it tastes the way roses smell on a sunny morning, all aromatic, and spicy and honeyed, but because it’s moist, and just dense enough without being chewy, and every bite of it, covered in its cloud-smooth frosting, is the sort of ambrosia that ancient Greeks imagined their gods drank. Or so say I – by all means, make the cake (it’s reasonably easy, to boot!), and try it for yourselves!
Note: if you aren’t allergic to egg whites, by all means, chuck the whole egg in and reduce the amount of rosewater or cold water added by 2 tablespoons.
I think I ought to reiterate my usual caveat for all food, since I haven’t been blogging lately and not nattered about it enough – how amazing the result will taste depends as much or more on the quality of ingredients, than on one’s cooking prowess. Please, please do invest in good quality rosewater. Spice and essence shops will have it, or if your source for it is an ethnic-food supplier (any self-respecting Indian, Pakistani or Mid-Eastern shop has rosewater – and orange flower water, too!), I recommend 1&1 brand. It’s what I use by preference. Same goes for eggs and honey – they vary widely in quality, and the result exalts or suffers thereby.
So, without further ado, here’s the very simple recipe and instructions.
What you need:
- An approximately 9″ (22cm) round pan or a cake pan of similar volume.
- A handheld or stand mixer. I use a small handheld and it’s quite enough.
- 2 cups (250g) plain flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 flat teaspoons baking powder (I use a measuring spoon for this, more precise than a random teaspoon out of a drawer)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 tsp cardamom kernels, pounded and ground in a mortar – or 1-1.5 tsp pre-ground cardamom (cardamom, like black pepper, loses its aroma very quickly once ground)
- 50-60g butter, softened and cut into small pieces
- 110g white caster sugar
- 90g honey
- 250g box of quark cheese (10% fat kesella)
- A few tablespoons of rosewater (there isn’t a precise amount – I used 4 tablespoons last time, but it depends on how dry your air/flour is)
- 1 egg yolk (from large egg)
For the frosting:
- 250g mascarpone cheese, cold
- 2.5dl whipping cream, cold
- About 5 tablespoons powdered sugar (I used a random soup spoon and scooped twice out of the box with a pyramid of sugar taller than the spoon was deep on each spoon).
- 1 tablespoon vanilla essence (Please, use real vanilla! Don’t use the horrible fake stuff – just make your own, it’s inexpensive and absolutely wonderful!)
What you need to do:
- Preheat your oven to 170°C.
- Grease and flour your cake form. You can line the bottom with baking parchment, it helps get the cake out.
- Mix all the dry ingredients other than sugar in a bowl with a whisk to mix.
- In another bowl, using whipping blades of the mixer, cream butter with sugar and honey till it’s light and soft, a bit sticky.
- Add the quark cheese, the yolk and rosewater, and mix till smooth (a few seconds).
- Add the dry ingredients carefully and mix into a thick batter. At first it’ll look like clumps. If batter is too thick and doughy, add rosewater or cold water 1 tablespoon at a time until batter comes together enough to be scraped with a spatula into the form and sort of even out the top. Note, the batter should not flow, nor should it be at all runny.
- Place the form into the preheated oven and bake for 40-50 minutes until the top is golden-brown and a toothpick comes out dry if inserted into the middle of the cake. Ovens vary, please watch it the last 10 or so minutes – recipes containing honey are a little more prone to darkening quickly!
- Remove from oven, cool in pan for a while and then turn out onto a rack to cool further. If you plan to frost the cake, make sure it is cooled completely before you do.
Whitel the cake is cooling, make the frosting.
- Put the cream into a large mixing bowl and whip to soft peaks. Do not overbeat.
- Put the rest of the ingredients in another, smaller bowl. Mix the latter until smooth and slightly loosened (mascarpone is very thick coming out of the tub, but will soften a little with sugar and vanilla added).
- Fold the mascarpone mixture into the cream – start with a spatula (you’ll need it to get it out of the bowl!), then give it a short burst with the mixer to make it smooth. Do not overbeat!
- Scoop into a piping bag, or if you are like me and don’t own one, spatulate it all over the cake like it’s going out of style.
Pour yourself a glass of bubbly, or a coffee, or whatever floats your dessert. Eat. Feel like a Greek god sipping ambrosia. Rejoyce.