Tuesday, 10 February 2015 00:00

When East Met West

Written by
IMG 1284
Photo: Tobias Melzer

An English classic, brimming with Eastern promise

Move over Harry and Sally, there's a far more interesting new pairing in town! E&M's Frances Jackson shares a recipe for a bold and romantic take on the classic Victoria sponge – delicately spiced with cardamom and rose water, sandwiched together with a pistachio and pomegranate cream, and just in time for Valentine's Day.

There is something about cardamom – its dominant, almost mint-like aroma; those citrusy notes, paired with an unexpected sweetness – that transports me, even in the depths of winter, to warmer climes and balmy nights. Rose water, on the other hand, is perfumed opulence, an alluring drop of summer, distilled to perfection in a technique said to have been discovered by Persian physician Avicenna in the 10th century.

Whether you're making this cake for that special someone in your life or as a treat to enjoy with friends, don't stint on the spices: the almond sponge is just a pencil outline, the cardamom and rosewater your colour pigments. The filling too should be positively studded with pistachios and pomegranate seeds, shining like gems in the ermine of the cream. Even if seduction is not on your mind, you'll find few able to withstand the temptation...

Cardamom and Rose Water Sponge with Pistachio and Pomegranate Cream

Makes one rather decadent two-layer cake

  • 200 g butter, softened
  • 200 g caster sugar (golden-hued, if you can get it)
  • seeds from 8 – 10 cardamom pods, crushed with a pestle and mortar
  • a pinch of sea salt flakes (Maldon salt or fleur de sel are best)
  • 4 eggs (free-range, of course)
  • 1 tsp rose water (look out for brands that use rose oil from the celebrated Rose Valley in Bulgaria), or more according to taste
  • 50 g ground almonds (for extra flavour, it's worth tracking down Spanish Marcona almonds and blitzing them yourself in a food processor)
  • 150 g self-raising flour (this staple of British kitchens is not widely available in mainland Europe, so if you can't find it, sift 150 g plain flour together with two teaspoons of baking powder and use as directed)
  • 250 ml double cream
  • a good handful of pistachios (if you're feeling keen, you could try to get hold of Bronte pistachios from Sicily), roughly chopped
  • seeds of half a pomegranate
  • icing sugar to dust

Preheat the oven to 180 C / 160 C (fan-assisted) / gas mark 4. Grease and base line two 20 cm sandwich tins. 

IMG 1253
 Photo: Tobias Melzer

Cream the butter and sugar with the crushed cardamom seeds until light and fluffy. Add a pinch of sea salt and then beat in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the rose water. Stir in the ground almonds and then sift over the flour, mixing briefly to combine. Pour over the milk and then give everything one final good stir. Divide the mixture between the two tins and bake for around 25 minutes, until the cakes are well-risen and golden brown. Allow to cool.

When the cakes are cool, whip the cream until it forms soft peaks (you can also add a few drops of rose water and a little icing sugar at this stage, if you fancy). Gently fold in the pistachios and pomegranate seeds, reserving a few for decoration. Spread the cream over one of the cakes and then sandwich the other on top of it. Dust with icing sugar and serve in generous slices, strewn liberally with the reserved pistachios and pomegranate seeds.

Bon appétit! Guten Appetit! Dobrou chuť! Buon appetito! Buen provecho!

Adding the ...
Adding the milk Adding the milk
A slice of ...
A slice of romance A slice of romance
Glistening ...
Glistening gems Glistening gems
Preparing t...
Preparing the pomegranate Preparing the pomegranate
Grinding th...
Grinding the cardamom seeds Grinding the cardamom seeds
Measuring o...
Measuring out the rose water Measuring out the rose water
Creaming th...
Creaming the butter and sugar Creaming the butter and sugar
Ready for t...
Ready for the oven Ready for the oven
Chopped pis...
Chopped pistachios Chopped pistachios
Three stage...
Three stages of cardamom Three stages of cardamom
The finishe...
The finished product The finished product
Golden brow...
Golden brown, texture like sun... Golden brown, texture like sun...

Last modified on Wednesday, 29 April 2015 15:46
Frances Jackson

Frances Jackson is a former E&M editor and occasional contributor. Originally from the UK, she now lives in Munich, where she is pursuing a PhD in Czech poetry. Given the chance, Frances would probably spend all of her time in kitchen and is currently cooking her way around the world. She has also been known to dabble in literary translation.

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