The Christmas cake with Date-jaggery and Black Cardamom
It is 4 days past Christmas now, but its memory is still very alive in my mind. I remember specially the evening, an evening spent with friends…walking with them in known streets, biting cakes in between, looking at the big crowd and wondering where they are all heading to, there was music in the air (though I can’t say I liked that music), the air was chilled and crisp and filled with the humming of the human-beings. This is the thing about winter days n nights, they are crisp and clean; they can uplift our spirit in minutes and push us to new adventures.
I quite remember the morning that day, as I woke up I felt fresh n light, but as the morning hours dissolved into the noon, a gloom came over me-like it was there waiting for me ,patiently, I did not know when it entered my soul, the transition was smooth. I was beginning to think being under the shadow that I will spend the evening at home with myself and cancel the evening with friends. Glad that I did not. And all the while I was thinking I have to make the Christmas cake and I knew if I do this I will be fine, my mother was waiting for the cake I knew, so without any more delay I set myself to the upcoming cake.
I wanted to make something special, satisfying. I was running short of time and I couldn’t bother to making icing or decorate with patience, I was literally running around with measuring cups. What I knew I wanted the flavor of “Date-jeggery(Nalen Gurr)” in my cake, it is such a lovely pleasant flavor and I wanted my cake to reflect that. So being in motion I finally lined my tin, melt the Gurr, make the batter, ground brown cardamom, scatter candied peel and surrendered it to my oven. And did it do justice? Yes it did, I’m very happy to tell you my dear reader. The cake looked wonderful, homely, beautiful color on the top, the candied peel looked beautiful on the surface and the smell in my home was sweet, comforting warm, I was a happy man. Now the cake was light, spongy and not dry, in every bite you will get the mischievous presence of the Nalen gurr, the black cardamom.
What made me even happier was that I was going to share this with my friends just in 1 hour! As I start to get myself ready I slice the cake and ran to my father n mother with them, and they loved it J so after that packed the cake for my friends and there I go off.
My friends had a good surprise, I didn't give them a hint and that I’ll be bringing a cake for them! That was my little Christmas surprise with them, and the speed at which the cake disappeared made me feel very satisfied. We kept walking for an hour through the street filled with people in different colors, absorbing all the scenery, all the life and we kept talking all the time. Later on we had a dinner together in small restaurant which was luckily not over-crowded and the food was just yummy. When I reached home I got a call from my friend telling me that he gave a piece of cake to his aunt and she loved it and she could tell the cake had Nalen Gurr in it without being told.
The recipe: you will need
150 g of softened butter 2 ½ medium eggs at room temp.
150 g of plain flour 1 brown cardamom
100 g of Nalen Gurr, shaved from the block Pinch of salt
50 g of caster sugar 50 g of candied peel
1 ½ tsp of baking powder 40 ml of water
If you are using salted butter you can skip the salt.
Nalen-gurr: It is a form of jaggery made from the concentrated sap of the date tree; it is a form of brown sugar with the molasses in it. It has a lovely elegant unique flavor.
Pre-heat your oven to 170 degrees Celsius/325 Fahrenheit/gas mark 3. You will need an 8 inch round cake tin, line it with baking parchment or baking paper and butter it lightly.
We will make this cake beginning with melting the Nalen gurr which is kind of raw brown sugar made from the sap of the date tree, over a low flame in a pan with the 40 ml of water. Let it melt completely and then give it 3mins while it simmers, as it simmers the flavor develops a bit more and it thickens a bit. Take it off the heat now and pour it in a flat shallow dish and let it cool. In a pan on a low heat keep the brown cardamom and give it around 4-5mins, turn it in between with a fork, after 5mins it is ready to be grounded to a fine powder in a mortar n pestle, so do it until it is a fine powder, keep aside.
Begin creaming the soft butter and the caster sugar with a whisk until it is pale in color and the volume has increased a bit. Now add the 1st egg and whisk until it is combined, now add the 2nd egg and on top of the broken egg in the bowl shift some flour, then whisk again until combined, then half of the egg, shift some more flour and whisk again until blended smoothly. The reason we shift the flour in little bits over the broken eggs is it prevents the mixture to curdle easily. Now pour the liquid Nalen gurr in the mixture and whisk until smooth. Put the flour, baking powder, salt, black cardamom powder together and shift it from a height over the mixture, then fold or whisk until well combined, in between when you are combining everything put half of the candied peel and combine. Don’t over mix it; leave it just as everything combines together.
Now pour the mixture in the prepared cake tin, scatter the rest of the candied peel over the top and pop it in the oven for about 30-35mins. Don’t open the oven door until 30mins have passed no matter how much you wish to do it. After 30mins insert a skewer into the cake, if it comes out clean it’s done. Take it out and leave it to cool for about 10mins, then take it out of the tin and place it on a wire rack to cool before you cut it and indulge in it.