January 9, 2012

masala chai cake my way

yesterday there was that little disaster with the oven temperature while baking that buttermilk apple cake with cardamom...

today i was determined to make good that dumb mistake.

and here it is, my masala chai cake (also with a hint of cardamom ofcourse)

already looks so much better, doesn t it?

and even though that apple cake tasted quite alright, it was a bit on the stodgy side to be honest.

so i adapted and tweaked and here s my own recipe:



180 gr unsalted butter
200 gr fine white caster sugar
3 whole eggs
220 gr plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom seeds
3 teabags masala chai
60 ml boiling water
100 ml buttermilk
drop of vanilla extract


1. preheat the oven to 175°C and prepare a cake tin
2. pour the boiling water on the teabags and leave to infuse for 30 minutes or until cold
3. heat the butter in the microwave for about 20 seconds until slightly melted and then beat in the sugar (to my surprise this actually makes it so much easier to get that light pale fluffy creaminess they always talk about in recipe books)
4. add the eggs one by one and beat in well
5. sieve the flour, baking powder, baking soda and ground cardamom in stages into the butter/sugar/egg mixture and mix in well
6. add the buttermilk, masala chai concentrate (the infused tea), and a drop of vanilla extract, beat in well
7. pour into the prepared cake tin and bake for about 50 minutes until golden and springy to the touch or until a wooden skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean
8. leave to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before taking it out to cool completely

now that s what i call a perfect cake; light, not too sweet, and just moist enough. good on it s own, but probably even better with a little bit of whipped cream, and definitely best with a cup of steaming hot masala chai on a winter afternoon.

well... at least i got it right this time... phew!

January 8, 2012

there s chocolate, and then there s cardamom

for Christmas, i received the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days cookery, well baking actually, book from my son. as you can imagine, i was over the moon and decided to make their malted chocolate cupcakes as a dessert for New Year s Eve dinner.

they so worked a treat, and although i sometimes find that instructions in cookery books can be faulty, this one delivered!


and then i caught a cold... and have been sniffling for the past week. and Sam caught it too. so we ve been sniffling together.

the stormy weather didn t help either.

yesterday though, we were so tired of being cooped up inside, that we went on a day-trip to Zeeland, hoping to get our colds driven out by the stiff breeze of the Oosterschelde.

it worked... well, a little.

this morning i woke up determined to make a cake from the first Hummingbird Bakery book (because of course i couldn t wait for my next birthday to come along so i could get that as a gift again... and i d went and bought this one, he he he...)

thinking i might as well use up the buttermilk i d used in the cupcakes, i wanted to make a simple buttermilk cake.

nothing easier than a simple cake, right?


there was nothing wrong with the recipe. nothing at all. it made for a lighter batter, and even said that i could add fruits or nuts and it would work. i had some apples left so i thought i might add those, and i have something with cardamom these days.

however, i guess my cold was still influencing my judgment, and it was still pretty early this morning (as if that s an excuse) but i pre-heated the oven to 130°C instead of 170°C!?!

stupid, stupid, stupid...

it was only after 50 minutes, way over the time suggested in the book, that i realized the cake was not rising properly, and then i noticed the temperature knob of the oven was turned too low!


could i rescue this one?

not quite, as you can see here

sunk quite a bit, huh?

but it tastes great, and i m thinking it s the cardamom. there s something about cardamom that saves the day anytime. that little bit of the exotic, that little hint of something elusive, i love it.

and it works in this cake, even though it doesn t quite look the part (it actually really looks like a cake i would ve baked way back when, ha ha)

(adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook)


120 gr butter, softened
330 gr fine white caster sugar
3 whole eggs
200 gr plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
120 ml buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large apple, cut into smallish pieces
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon


1. preheat the oven to 170°C (NOT 130°C!!!) and prepare a loaf tin of 13x23cm by either lining with baking parchment or buttering and flouring
2. beat the butter and sugar together until light and pale
3. add the eggs one by one and beat in well
4. sieve the flour together with the baking soda, salt, cardamom and cinnamon
5. add the flour mixture to the butter/sugar/egg mixture alternating with the buttermilk
6. mix in well
7. flour the apple pieces and fold into the batter
8. pour the cake mixture into your tin and bake for about 35-40 minutes or until the center is springy to the touch. for extra certainty you might want to insert a wooden skewer in the middle and if that comes out clean, your cake is done
9. leave to cool in the tin for about ten minutes and then turn out to cool completely on a rack

next time, i promise, this one will come out PURR-fect!

January 2, 2012

Oba-chan no o-zoni (or Happy New Year)

here we are again, another year has begun.


year of the dragon.

every new year, my Oba-chan (Japanese grandmother) would make us a special soup called o-zoni, which usually contained a grilled rice-cake or two, some vegetables, mainly daikon and carrots in miso... there is also a typical new year tradition of making o-sechi ryouri but since we were such difficult eaters, Oji-chan and Oba-chan had that mostly for themselves, and only in later years did my brother and i learn to appreciate this.

we were huge fans, however, of o-zoni, which in our house was made with miso (hence the latter half of this blog s name) and is apparently more traditional in western parts of Japan, whereas the clear soup; suimono, is more the norm in eastern Japanese households. in both cases though, the chewy rice cake or mochi, either grilled or just plain, is added to the soup.

we would have been making the mochi at my great-aunt s house and there was always too much, but it was so much fun hitting the steamed glutinous rice in a huge stone mortar with enormous wooden hammers and trying not to hit the hands of the person who had to fold the mass and add some water to keep the whole thing from sticking.

recently i found some pictures from way back when of us doing just that.

here s my brother

and me

boy, that does bring back memories.

and memories were exactly what prompted me to make that o-zoni yesterday morning to ring in the new year.

i must admit i haven t made miso-shiru (miso-soup) at home in a very very long time. but i do always have the ingredients in my cupboard, so i really can t say what kept me.

a few weeks ago, i had also been lucky enough to find dried rice cakes at the Chinese supermarket. i guess this was the trigger for me to try and make the o-zoni my Oba-chan used to make.

i wanted to recapture those moments, and especially the taste, and the textures...

OBA-CHAN no O-ZONI (Grandma s o-zoni)

10 cm piece of daikon or white retich
1 fairly thick carrot (although mine was a bit thin)
a few rice-cakes, either grilled or not
a few mangetout peas
1 liter water
1 tablespoon dashi stock granules
2 tablespoons white miso paste

Oba-chan used to just slice the daikon and the carrot into thick matchsticks, but i wanted to make those pretty flowers, and after having used a cookie cutter i realized mine had 6 petals instead of the more auspicious 5... but hey, they were cute enough ;-)

boil the root vegetables in the water with the dashi stock granules until soft. if not grilled, add the dried ricecakes and cook until pliable, then add the mangetout and cook until al dente. if the rice-cakes have been grilled, add them with the mangetout. turn off the heat and mix the miso paste with some of the stock until blended, then add into the rest of the stock. do not boil anymore, just heat through.

arrange the vegetables in a miso-bowl, and finish with some mitsuba leaves, which i did not have, so i used coriander. some people like to add some shichimi (seven-spice) and/or some yuzu at the end for extra flavor.

this one though, tasted exactly like my Oba-chan s... and that s good enough for me.

Oba-chan passed away in 1993, but Oji-chan is still going strong at 102. i hope he s enjoying some o-zoni as well and remembering...

New Year 1970... Oji-chan, Oba-chan and moi

Happy New Year everyone!