One of the things I loved best about working in a bakery growing up (beyond the buttery samples) was the opportunity to be part of someone's little treat. Going to the bakery isn't an errand. It's a sweet indulgence, a small moment that can light up your whole day. You can see it in the customers' eyes, and you get to be a part of that. It's not a bad way to make your way in the world.
Last week I attended one of the 0—3 concerts I annually make it to these days, a lovely folk-ish singer with some family ties to the bakery where I worked growing up. And so I came home, with those sweet bakery memories going through my head (along with those sweet songs). And the next day, I baked this cake.
This isn't a recipe from my bakery. But it's a lovely little seasonal treat, a way to create that happy bakery moment in your own oven. A cardamom scented cake is topped with thin slices of apple, and a deliciously high ratio of crisp, sugar-crusted topping to tender, buttery crumb. It's got a lot going on in a delicate little package, and served warm from the oven it's just about perfect. Sadly I don't get to bring this sort of day-changing taste of happiness to everyone walking down the street anymore. But for myself and a friend, paired with an afternoon cup of tea, it made for a moment as sweet as those memories.
Apple Cardamom Cakelets
adapted from Simone's Kitchen
Yields 1 10-inch cake, or 6 4-inch cakelets (you can also easily cut it in thirds, if you just want two cakelets for a smaller treat). Also most people probably realize this as a matter of common, but somehow it seemed like an insider revelation to discover that if you're baking in several small dishes, it's much, much easier to place them all on a single cookie sheet, which you can remove from the oven in one swoop.
~18 cardamom pods
150 grams (1 1/4 cups) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, plus an additional pinch for the topping
150 grams (1 1/3 sticks) butter, softened to room temperature
150 grams (2/3 cup) granulated sugar, plus an additional 3 tablespoons for sanding the tops
3 crisp apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
To prepare, preheat your oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Grease and flour your baking dish(es), and set aside. Bash the cardamom pods and pick out the seeds, then grind to bits with a mortar and pestle. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.
In a stand mixer or large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. One by one, beat in the eggs. Add the sifted flour mixture and half the cardamom, folding gently until combined (don't overmix).
Spread the batter into your prepared pan(s) — it's thick, so an offset spatula or finger is helpful. Take the apple slices, and place on top — you can fan them artfully, or just sort of place them upright like stegosaurus plates and let them slump as they will. Mix the reserved 3 tablespoons sugar with the reserved cardamom, along with a pinch of salt, and generously sprinkle this mixture over the top.
Transfer to the oven immediately, and bake until the exposed cake is starting to turn golden, ~25-35 minutes, depending on cake size and various variables. Serve warm, with tea and friends and music.