Steeped in tradition, brimming with creativity

Kitchen inspiration blends tradition with a touch of the new in this cardamom cake

Photo: Maria Stordahl Nelson Reminiscent of bløtkake, this cardamom angel cake brims with berries and cream.

Photo: Maria Stordahl Nelson
Reminiscent of bløtkake, this cardamom angel cake brims with berries and cream.

Maria Stordahl Nelson
Seattle, Wash.

People say you really shouldn’t mess with tradition all that much, and for the longest time I believed them. Not only did I believe them, I became a strict adherent of tradition, gradually over time becoming its strongest ally. “Things” as a rule, especially important things, should not be messed with, especially in the kitchen.

Bread had to be made just a certain way, cakes that had always been made with a certain set of ingredients and iced with one particular kind of icing had to remain that way. I think for me, at the time, it was a way of learning and memorizing the recipes that were passed lovingly along to me. I was honoring the recipe gifts of my relatives, while simultaneously reassuring myself that some things would and should stay the same.

During that time, I was also too preoccupied with the rigors of raising a young family to really give too much thought or weight to the notion of creativity in the kitchen. Cooking on the fly, with whatever ingredients I had on hand, simply never happened. Meals were planned to the nth degree, and if we had a hankering for a cake or a specific dessert and didn’t have the exact ingredients on hand, well, it simply didn’t happen.

Time and necessity have changed all of that. Over the years, I’ve softened. I realized somewhere along the way that sometimes the best way to honor something is to make it your own, take the best of something, add your stamp, and create something slightly new. In doing so you not only make a new tradition, you keep the joy and essence of it alive and hopefully in the process encourage others to do the same. So it is with this Cardamom Angel Food Cake.

Born in a fit of desperation for traditional Norwegian bløtkake, I set out to make such a cake on a hot summer afternoon. A quick trip to the pantry and fridge revealed limited to nonexistent ingredients. I was fortunate, however, to have a plethora of eggs on hand and a big box of cake flour. Angel food cake seemed to be the best and most delicious option.

A generous dash of finely ground cardamom in the batter completed the transformation. To gild the lily further I iced the whole thing in a delicious vanilla bean and almond glaze. The resulting cake is a happy marriage of tradition and necessity, one whose time has definitely come.

Photo: Maria Stordahl Nelson

Photo: Maria Stordahl Nelson

Cardamom angel food cake with berries and cream
For the cake:
1 cup cake flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. finely ground cardamom
12 large egg whites at room temperature
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the filling:
1/2 pint heavy whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste or the seeds of half a vanilla bean
3 tbsps. confectioner’s sugar
1 lb. assorted blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries

For the icing:
1 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
3 tbsps. milk
1 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. vanilla bean paste or the seeds of half a vanilla bean

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift the flour, salt, and cardamom together in a small bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer, with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on low for 1-2 minutes. Add the cream of tartar to the egg whites and continue beating until soft peaks form. Increase the speed of the mixer to medium and gradually add the sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form. Add the vanilla extract and gently stir it into the mixture with the mixer on low.

Sift 1/4 of the flour mixture over the egg whites and fold it in with a rubber spatula. Repeat until all the flour mixture is incorporated. Spoon it evenly into an Angel Food Cake pan.

Place the pan on a rimmed baking pan and bake 35-40 minutes until the the cake is golden brown. Remove from the oven and immediately invert the cake over the neck of a glass bottle and allow it to cool completely. Once cool, remove the cake from the pan and cut horizontally using a long serrated bread knife. Set aside and prepare the filling and the icing.

For the filling:
In a small bowl, whip the cream, vanilla bean paste, and confectioner’s sugar to soft peaks and set aside.

For the icing:
In another small bowl combine the confectioner’s sugar, milk, extract, and vanilla bean paste, and stir until smooth. You want the texture to be thick but fluid. Add additional milk if needed.

Place the bottom of the cake on a platter and generously spread with whipping cream. Sprinkle half of the berries over the top of the cream. Top with the top portion of the cake.

Pour the icing over the top, allowing some of it to dribble down the sides. Decorate with the remaining berries.

Serves 8.

Cake base recipe adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food.

Maria Stordahl Nelson is a Seattle-area food writer, photographer, and recipe developer. She shares her love of all things sweet, savory, and sometimes Nordic at

This article originally appeared in the June 12, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.