it's like the epitome of too-muchery said baker minda at the town bakery as i stood admiring her pink ombre ruffled red velvet cake that had an entire cheesecake inside of it and about a pound of strawberries on top. people loved it though. it was gorgeous and it eliminated all need for people to make the decision between red velvet cake and cheese cake, and yes i frowned when a customer came in and bought all remaining six slices because that meant that i could no longer stand there and stare at it. (but that is the only bad thing about cakes. they get eaten. and you can't just shellac, say, a slice of your wedding cake and display it above your fireplace.)
teach me how to ruffle, minda! teach me how to ruffle!!!! i begged. and her answer actually included the word easy. get one of these tips, she said, and just hold it at an angle as you pipe all the way around, from the bottom up, and that's it. so i did that and it was the easiest, most magical, and mysterious way to decorate a cake, because what does it look like more: a ruffle frosted cake? or a crepe cake??
i made this cake for my friend abby, who is one of the greatest volleyball teammates/brunch club members/blog models/friends an odd new kid in town like me could ask for. (hi, abby! please don't leave grand forks!) last weekend our brunch club nursed locally grown hangovers at abby's and ate vegetable frittatas with a side of this cake, which in the end did not say happy birthday, because we have things for anagrams.
one of my top ten favorite things i love about being married to a norwegian person is the right to use cardamom whenever i please. (ok, you all have the right to use cardamom whenever you please.) but i feel more ownership over it now, like i'm going to win more points with the eggparents, or maybe even the egggrandmas, the more i use it. the first time i had it was 15 years ago on a mountain in norway and the second time i had it was when mum started using it as a cinnamon substitute because she gets sneezy around cinnamon.
i love its floral, woodsy, spicy qualities. it's so comforting, and while it's one of the most expensive spices in the world, just a teensy bit goes a very long way. i love it when something is delicate like that. here, it's added to my vanilla cake, and complemented with strawberry jam and cream cheese frosting, so at its core it's quite a simple cake, but it has that little extra sumthin sumthin that takes it from birthday cake to birthday cake.
cardamom vanilla cake with strawberry filling and cream cheese frosting
makes one 2-layer 8-inch cake
1 3/4 c sugar
2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp each: baking soda, baking powder, kosher salt
1 tsp ground cardamom
2 large eggs
1 c buttermilk
1/2 c flavorless oil, like canola
1 1/2 tb vanilla extract
3/4 c boiling water
1 c unsalted butter, softened
1 c (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
4 2/3 c powdered sugar
1 tb vanilla extract
a pinch of kosher salt
3/4 c strawberry jam
preheat oven to 350.
grease two 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment.
in a large bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. in a medium bowl, whisk together all the wet ingredients except for the boiling water. whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and then stir in the boiling water. it will be a very thin batter. pour into cake pans and bake until the tops are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. begin checking for doneness at 28 minutes.
let cool in the pans for 10 minutes, and then turn the cakes onto a lightly greased cooling rack.
use an electric mixer to beat all ingredients together until smooth.
level your layers. pipe frosting around the top perimeter of one of the cakes and fill the center with strawberry jam. place the other layer on top. spread on a thin crumb coat and then freeze for a few minutes until it firms up. fill a large piping bag fitted with a petal decorating tip and, starting at the bottom and working your way up, pipe around the outside of the cake with the wider end of tip up against the cake.