So … where exactly is Armenia? I thought I knew and well … I didn’t. It seems a LOT of people don’t! Not even Armenians for that matter if we are to believe this debate. A lot many people are confused about this Caucasian country, is it in Asia, in Europe – some think it is European because it may join the EU sometime in the future, or because a large majority of Armenians are Christian. Geographically it lies bang in the area where the two continents meet – the Caucasus mountains. Some call it middle-eastern or Caucasian to not take sides, literally.
The next question was REALLY – a nutmeg cake that too from a country bordering two continents? I mean a no-brainer in terms of choice, right? HAD to try it out. Had to find out how it works. Does it have influences from both European and Asian cooking? What is Armenian cuisine anyway? Apparently closer in nature and belonging to middle-eastern cooking, with Turkish and Arabic overtones, Armenian cuisine is rich in variety and flavour especially due to its use of fresh ingredients. It relies more on delicate spices.
I had heard of the nazook (which is next on my list of to do dishes from Armenia) which is a rolled filled pastry, but the nutmeg cake was new to me. So, if it’s new and its exciting (a spice cake!) we definitely try it out once! I extensively use and love cinnamon in my baking. I know some people don’t like it all that much, and I don’t either in my regular food. But whether it’s an apple pie or a banana muffin or a cinnamon coffee cake, I usually load it in. In theory, the thought of a spice cake was not all that alien to me. BUT nutmeg is a whole different ball game. It’s not like cinnamon which blends in so well and add to so many fruits and takes the taste to a higher level. Nutmeg IS a proper spice … with that little dash you can feel that tangy twang, the sweetness and yet saltiness, that little after-taste that at times leaves you wanting more and at others takes getting used to.
That was my verdict on this cake – it’s not for everybody, definitely not for those who love only chocolate cake for the instant high it gives, but surely for those who like to keep an open mind with flavours, who like variety in their tea or coffee cakes – be it an orange chiffon cake, a coconut cake or a pumpkin cake – who have eccentric palettes that explore boundaries. All of that in a nutmeg cake? Well, that’s just it, this isn’t just a cake, it’s a cookie and a cake rolled into one. A crusty, crisp cookie base topped by a smooth, moist and soft sponge – all of that with nutmeg and walnuts and once again with that dash of cinnamon that I sprinkled into it just for the heck of it and because I can’t resist it.
The thing is – it reminded me of the crack pie with that quantum of sugar, so once again I tried reducing it dramatically, only this time I discovered that the sugar probably veils the nutmeg and makes it more subtle in this. Hence, the reduction kind of made the nutmeg – especially in the base – much more prominent than it is meant to be. So, lesson learnt. Won’t be reducing it all that much the next time around. But making it the next time around, I surely will. Just one look at the beautiful brown walnut sprinkled cake and what’s not to love about it?
So, here goes the way to make it …
|Baking soda||1 tsp|
|All-purpose flour||2 cups|
|Baking powder||2 tsp|
|Brown sugar||2 cups|
|Unsalted butter||¾ cup|
|Walnut pieces||½ cup|
|Ground nutmeg||1 ½ tsp|
Sift and mix in the all-purpose flour and baking powder in a bowl. Add the brown sugar and mix. Now, add in the cubed butter and mix it in with a fork till you get a crumbly texture.
Grease a 9 inch springform pan, take half the above mixture and spread it into the base of the pan. Press it in as a crust. In the bowl of your hand mixer take an egg and whisk it. Add the nutmeg and mix it in nicely till its frothy. In another bowl mix in the baking soda to the milk and add this to the egg mixture. Continue to whisk with your hand mixer. Pour in the rest of the dry flour mixture and whisk until combined.
Now, pour this into your ready pan. Top with a sprinkling of walnuts and you are good to go into the oven! Pre-heat your oven to 180˚C and bake for well, it took me around 45 odd minutes. What you will get out of there is this most fragrant and beautiful cake. Enjoy the fragrance while it still wafts in your kitchen! Then, of course cool and cut the cake.
This with a glass of wine or some black coffee on a lazy evening would be awesome.
July 2013: In a “celebration” of past Daring Baker challenges, Lisa challenged all of us to search through the Daring Kitchen and pick any one we’d like! The real challenge was which delicious one to try!