A light-as-air cake with a hint of aromatic spice
Aoife Noonan: This is one of my favourite cakes, and it came about by accident
Lemon, cardamom and honey cake. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography
This is possibly one of my favourite cakes, and it happened completely by accident. I have a cupboard stuffed with pots and jars of spices to inspire me when cooking dinner. I make Middle Eastern and Asian dishes quite regularly, and love how a fragrance can transport you to a far away place. A little wanderlust is something many of us are experiencing right now.
Here, I wanted to make a lemon and honey cake, tart, sharp and citrusy, with a light-as-air sponge and sweetness added from beautiful local honey. While a lemon and honey cake would have been lovely on its own, I wanted to add another layer of fragrance and flavour. I opened the cupboard for a peruse through my spice collection, in the hope that something would jump out at me.
I am not usually one to throw a bit of this and a splash of that into cakes, because with baking, you really don’t know how good your guess is until your bake comes out of the oven. And by then, your labour of love may have been for nothing.
When I opened the kitchen cupboard, I spotted a spice that is sometimes neglected. Cardamom comes in the form of gorgeous green or black pods full of intoxicatingly aromatic seeds. Once cracked open, they fill your kitchen with the most wonderful aroma. I often use these in savoury dishes, such as curries and stews, but on this particular day my memory shifted back to a time when I paired cardamom in a dessert with white chocolate, and the result was unbelievably good. Cardamom seemed to me like a spice that would transform this simple lemon and honey sponge cake; and it completely delivered.
If cardamom is something you can’t get hold of, feel free to leave it out, but with it, this cake is a gorgeous alternative to the familiar. The cardamom isn’t spicy or overpowering, but lends a delicate and subtle warm fragrance, and an added depth of flavour.
I have used whole pods in this recipe, grinding the seeds in a spice grinder to make two teaspoons’ worth, but use ground cardamom if you prefer. This cake is gorgeous drizzled with the lemon honey syrup and served with crème fraiche.