Cardamom, Blueberry, and Rosewater Layer Cake


This cake was supposed to have tahini in it. Tahini, rosewater, cardamom, and blueberries. Sounds like the makings of an intriguing type of halva. Doesn’t it.

I had it all. Softened butter. Yolks separated from whites. Ground cardamom. Rosewater. Thick, fatty, smooth tahini, and a cup for measuring. When it came time to include that last ingredient, I simply chose to refrain. I suppose what stands before you is representative of the fact that things do not always go as we intend them to.

It reminds me a bit of my life when I befriended the person for whom I baked this cake. She doesn’t know it. The bird you see in the pictures is now where it belongs: with her.

We knew each other years ago. I can remember the day we met for the second time. It was just after Bowie died. I came straight from practicing Ashtanga. I wore the same black dress every day. I brought a square of yellow cake with chocolate buttercream. We later baked the recipe again-in circle form, with sprinkles-to celebrate my 27th birthday.

That day, though, Minneapolis was as cold as ever. I don’t know why I went, honestly. I had just moved back to this city I had once called home. The in-between time. So much had been taken. My heart hurt.

I felt a horrible blast of frozen air when the door opened. I saw her silhouette first. I got out of line. She laughed, and I let her hug me. That was a thing I wasn’t doing then. People-hugging.

I remember the toilet paper selection in the bathrooms at Five Watt. I remember what we talked about. I remember the sweater she was wearing, which she both lost and found months later. I remember her hand resting on my shoulder when I gave a teeny glimpse into the weeks prior. I remember wondering if I’d see her again when I left.

To the person I am thinking of: Mitch Hedburg once said, I wanted to buy a candle holder, but the store didn’t have one. So I got a cake. You are the cake the universe delivered to me when I needed a candle holder. You arrived in a form I didn’t anticipate at a time when nothing was as I had planned, and I am lucky for it.

Your laugh is contagious. Your compassion is heartfelt. Your honesty invites honesty. You inspire me. You are the best friend. You are loved.

One Year: Toasted Coconut Blondies
Two Years: Malted Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies
Three Years: Prune, Pistachio, and Dark Chocolate Muffins
Four Years: Goat Cheese-Garlic Toasts with Prosciutto, Arugula, and Truffle Honey

Cardamom, Blueberry, and Rosewater Layer Cake
Makes one layer cake

BLUEBERRIES:
1 cup blueberries
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp rosewater
1-2 tsp corn starch (optional)

CAKE:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1 cup granulated sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups full-fat buttermilk

ROSEWATER CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp rosewater

BLUEBERRIES:
In a medium-sized pot, bring blueberries, sugar, and lemon juice to a boil, stirring frequently. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer, continuing to stir, until the mixture thickens (about 15-20 minutes). Remove from heat, then stir in rosewater. Allow to completely, then stir in corn starch in 1/2 tsp increments to thicken until liquid is still syrupy, but jelled.

CAKE:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cardamom. In a large bowl, beat together sugar and butter until fluffy, about two minutes. Beat in eggs and egg yolks one at a time. Beat in vanilla. Beat in dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with buttermilk. Divide between cake pans and bake, rotating halfway through, for 18-20 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool completely on a rack before assembling.

FROSTING:
Beat cream cheese until smooth, then beat in the butter. Beat in the confectioner’s sugar in 1/2 cup increments, alternating with the vanilla and the rosewater.

ASSEMBLY:
Place one cake layer flat side-up on a cake stand. Smooth with half the frosting on top of the layer, leaving the sides unfrosted. Spoon blueberries on top of frosting, leaving about half an inch from the edge (as the liquid might spread just a little bit). Top with the other cake layer, flat side-up. Spread the remaining frosting on top cake layer. Serve. Cake will last up to three days, if kept refrigerated in a sealed container. If refrigerating for later, remove cake from refrigerator for 30 minutes before serving.

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