Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Diversity Guest Cake wins “Most Delicious” at local competition

There's an old North American Indian term called Three Sisters. It has to do with putting together three things that are compatible and that assist each other. I've discovered the Three Sisters of dessert. I recently used the flavorings in a cake that I entered at a 20th Birthday Cake Competition sponsored by Summerlin and hosted at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Las Vegas. I won “Most Delicious!”

My little introduction card said something like this:

"I deeply embrace the various cultural characteristics of my neighbors. In honor of diversity I came up with the “Diversity Guest Cake.” In this cake I used my favorite ingredients: Almonds, Lemon, and Cardamom."
The basis for this cake comes from the original called “Company Dessert Cake” which has been circulated through several small town newspapers over the ages. In the good old days company meant guests and a lady could honor and impress her guests by going all-out with this multi layered cake. Any woman worth her salt knew the effort that went into it and was appreciative.  I added two layers to the cake, inverting the top layers. To give mine a look of elegance I topped it with a glassy smooth cooked white icing. I covered the rather messy looking sides with toasted slivered almonds for that Viennese Bakery look. Most importantly I used my special ingredients: almonds, lemon, and Green Cardamom.
I was introduced to Cardamom when my husband brought some back from Kuwait after serving in the military there. I like to think of him walking along the market stalls picking out small treasures to bring back to me. This is one of my favorites. Cardamom is used widely in the Middle East, India and the Nordic countries. You can find it here locally at Wholefoods and several of the local specialty stores. It comes in a green seed pod form.

I think Cardamom represents diversity well. It is not well known by many in the US but is quickly embraced and accepted for its unique difference once you get to know it.

(Our Aunt Vee joked that you need a budget for this recipe. You will need 11 eggs, two sticks of butter and a Costco-sized bag of sliced almonds. Along with the exotic seed pods, it adds up! This recipe is not for the faint of heart, being at peace of mind before you start is recommended!)

Preheat the oven to 325°F

Step 1 – The Cake Layers
(you will be repeating this part twice so double up on the shopping list)
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup unsalted butter
½ cup granulated cane sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 egg yolks 
6 tablespoons milk
Cut parchment paper bottoms and grease and flour two 9 inch round layer pans. Sift the dry ingredients together, cream the butter and sugar and then slowly mix in the wet and dry ingredients. The batter will be stiff and not seem like enough. Spread it evenly in the prepared pans with a rubber spatula and set them aside. Be prepared to repeat this step again.

Step 2 – The Garnish (as is)
2 cups sliced almonds
While the oven is hot spread at least 2 cups of sliced almonds on a cookie sheet and toast on the top shelf for just a few minutes. You want them lightly toasted, just a light golden color, not yet brown.

Step 3 – The Meringue Layers
(you will be repeating this part twice so double up on the shopping list)
4 large egg whites
1 cup granulated cane sugar
½ teaspoon fresh finely grated lemon peel
½ cup sliced almonds
a pinch of ground Green Cardamom seeds
Beat at a high speed until firm peaks form then reduce the speed to medium and very slowly add the sugar. Beat again at high speed until high peaks form. Then reduce the speed to slowest and run the mixture for just a few rotations while you add the lemon peel, the almonds and the cardamom. You will need to crush 10-12 cardamom pods. Some people crack them open with their teeth. I prefer to crush them and pull out the hulls. Pulverize the seeds to a very fine powder. I use a mortar and pestle. Spread half the egg white mixture evenly over each of the cake batter layers and place them on the middle shelf of your oven for 30 minutes. After they’ve cooled enough to touch run a knife around the edge and ease them out upside down on cooling racks so they don’t break. Don’t worry about the cracks in the meringue. To make the four-layer cake repeat steps 1 and 3 again. Some people may bravely double the recipe. I can’t accommodate the volume in my small mixer.  Important note here: I believe I used LESS sugar that the original recipe. I am not a sweet tooth so I always cut back. If you choose you can go with 1/2 cup of sugar, it will not affect the recipe. I confess I was playing when I made this cake so recreating what I did has been a challenge.

Step 4 –  The Cooked Custard Filling (as is)
3/4 cups granulated cane sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch
2 pinches of sea salt
3 large egg yolks
3 cups milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons Italian Volcano Lemon Juice
( OR, use freshly squeezed
1/4 teaspoon finely ground cardamom

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 pinch of powdered saffron mixed in 1/4 teaspoon of warm water for yellow color (optional, I used this in 1/3 of a batch for the center layer just to be creative)
Stir together the sugar, the cornstarch and the sea salt in a large saucepan. In the blender mix together the egg, milk and wet saffron until smooth. Gradually stir the blended yolk mixture into the dry mixture and cook over medium-high heat stirring constantly with a wire whisk until it thickens, about 8-10 minutes. Turn the heat to low and cook a little longer, stir in the dry cardamom powder, stirring briskly. Remove from the heat and continue to stir gently for about another minute. Then stir in the vanilla and lemon. Set the custard mixture aside to cool to room temperature. In your mixer whip the whipping cream until very stiff. It must make rigid peaks. Place the whipped cream in the refrigerator for 30 minutes then combine the whipped cream in a bowl with the cooled custard mix, gently folding in, a large spoonful at a time. If your custard is even remotely still warm it will melt your whipped cream. Let it all cool. NOTE: For my winning cake I actually reserved plain custard for the very middle without the added whipped cream. It was a separate 1/3 of a batch colored with saffron. Place the mixture in the refrigerator to keep it chilled.

Step 5 – Cooked White Icing  (as is)
2 large egg whites
1 ½ cups granulated cane sugar
5 tablespoons cold water
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon very finely micro grated fresh lemon peel
1 large pinch of ground Green Cardamom
Blend all the ingredients except the vanilla, lemon and cardamom flavorings on high speed in a blender until smooth. Pour the mixture into the top of a double boiler and heat over rapidly boiling water for 8 solid minutes, beating constantly with a whisk. No resting, no breaks! Remove from heat, beat in the vanilla, lemon peel and cardamom flavorings and transfer to a mixer. Beat until the icing thickens.  (Note: I got the Microplane 40020 Grater/Zester in my Christmas stocking one year. It's still one of my favorite tools; lemons being one of my favorite ingredients.) Important note here: My husband prefers this cake without the icing. If you are not a sweet tooth the icing will be too much! You could use home-made whipped cream, flavored with just a little sugar and a few drops of vanilla instead.

Step 6 - Assembling the cake
Place the first cooled cake layer meringue side up then spoon a generous amount of the custard cream over it. Add another cooled cake layer meringue side up and spoon either another layer of custard cream, or, as I did for my winning cake, use large spoonfuls of plain saffron-tinted custard in the very middle without the added whipped cream.
Next turn the third layer of cake so that the meringue is face down over the custard. On top of that spoon a generous amount of the custard cream mixture. On top of that place the last cooled cake layer, meringue side down. Gently push the layers into place to make it look even all around.
Now spoon all the icing over the top of the cake in the middle and let it ooz. It will have the consistency of white school glue that’s been left open. Very carefully nudge it around with a cake frosting spatula so that it flows flat across the top and globs over the sides. Next, without touching the top, which should by now look like a sheet of milky glass, run your spatula around the side of the cake spreading the globs of icing to act like “glue” for the toasted sliced almonds.
Don’t worry about what it looks like. It’ll look pretty bad. Next, with a cupped hand, pat a handful of toasted sliced almonds along the side of the cake over a cookie sheet. Turn the cake as you work. Keep scooping up almonds and patting them until you’ve covered the sides all around. I strategically placed the prettiest almonds along the top edge to give the cake a more polished look. Chill overnight in the refrigerator.  (Note: for the contest I didn't have enough time to allow the icing to set, you can see it's oozing down on the sides.)
This decadent creation serves 12-16 
Let me know how yours turns out! Mine was gone within minutes.

Karen Jaggi lives with her husband, their three kids, and a rescue dog (who is still learning his manners). You may contact her through her blog, she has been known to talk friends through the steps in her recipes.

KM Jaggi Copyright 2010. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.



Sylvia Thompson's book came highly recommended to me.


  1. Karen, congratulations on your win! This cake is just radiating with decadent, yummy delight! I can't wait to attempt to recreate it :). I recently added cardamon to my own spice collection and am excited about finally finding a reciped worthy of it. Happy Baking & Blogging, Luv Pascha

  2. [BIG HAPPY GRIN] Thank you Pascha, I'm having fun! The cake takes a LOT of time, you can use the Cardamom in your French Toast recipe right now, it's wonderful! I also add whole pods, dried lemon zest, and a vanilla bean to my Cinnamon & Sugar to give it that extra kick. Enjoy! Luv Karen



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