Sunday, August 1, 2010

Huge and Beautiful Cardamom Coffeecake: Momma Diaries 2

Certain foods are rather divine, sexy even, and this cake is one of them.

Look at it! Rounded and tall, it has gorgeous, dark sloping shoulders. It demands attention. It says, "Look! I harbor a sumptuous treat." It is stately. Stately and voluptuous. And it knows it.

Wish I had some of that right now. The cake, that is. It is gone now due to being incredibly tasty. But also, I wish I had some of that feeling of innate beauty. Not to be too dramatic, but that is gone too. When you go from being nine months pregnant with a living being hanging out in your abdomen and 65 pounds over your pre-pregnant weight then back to 'normal' again, you tend to feel a little less than sensational. You go from being what my friend called 'a baby house,' a flippin temple in all its holy glory, to being just plain human, and boring. I lost all the weight without really doing much at all (as you can see from the expanding list of cakes I've baked and ate in just six months) and I am pondering giving gaining weight a try, just to feel larger than life again. Maybe.

Let me reiterate. I felt like this cake pregnant: huge and beautiful. I think I've never looked so good. At the beginning, before I got much of a belly, I was hiding a secret and no one knew it. It was fun, and I was mysterious, mischievous, and sleek. But at the end of pregnancy, the mystery was only slight. I was conspicuous. Everyone noticed--you can't not notice. I was a huge mother earth walking around Vancouver. I was a goddess. And I was fearless. I wore a bikini for the first time in years and swam almost every day, belly hanging out to the world. I got sun freckles (first time ever) and a nice tan. Best thing, I wore a black, strapless, snugged-to-my-body jersey cotton dress for the last month before the birth, and it looked fabulous.

On my birthday I was wearing that dress and hopped on a bus to go home after an eating out marathon with friends. The bus driver must have noticed my beautiful whale-like appearance. He smiled knowingly, and instead of asking when I was due or something else generic, he told me that I should be sure to eat a lot of food. Although I am pretty sure I did not look starved, he was completely serious. He went on to highlight the woes of Canadian (and by default, American) culture and their disrespect of women and their childbearing abilities. He said pregnant women were beautiful. He said our gift was amazing. He said in his culture, to see a pregnant woman was to see a vision of the divine.

I was a little dumbfounded by his little speech, but I was not surprised by its content. Because I knew it was true. I was a vision, specifically, of the divine.

Right now I don't feel big and beautiful like the I did a year ago. I don't think I look like that cake. I'll be honest: I feel deflated, like I shrunk in stature as well as girth.

I am not alone. I read one woman's reflection on her post-baby body who said it made her sad now. Her breasts had been so full (literally) of life--such subjects. Post-nursing she described her breasts as lifeless, her abdomen an empty bag.

The issue here is not only finding me in my own skin again. The me before baby is simply and rudely gone. I can't roll back the clock, I can't erase time (or stretchmarks), or memory. Because I know what its like to be like god, to hold life in your own being, I am changed in and out. I know the answer is probably not in intentionally gaining weight. Its probably not in even rushing back to being with-child, although technically that would remedy the situation, for a time.

What I am hoping, and even praying, is that moving forward and not backwards is the key. How I do that? Not so clear. What I know is that right now I am no longer a goddess ready to give birth to the world. I am not the cake I love so much. The divine is demystified, the secret let loose. The cake consumed, devoured, enjoyed.

Cardamom Coffee Cake (adapted from Moosewood Cookbook)

A few notes: 1) I keep making this cake and not upping the cardamom. This, I believe, is a mistake. I have yet to grind my own for the occasion. I assume it would be far superior in flavor. If you like cardamom, think big. If you don't, don't skimp. The amount here is very subtle.

2) The note at the top of the cookbook was underlined by its previous owner. It reads: "This is one of the world's richest cakes!" And it is. But it is also one of the biggest. Trust me when I say it is worth the commitment. Two cups of butter and sugar, two more cups of sour cream, and four cups of flour makes this cake seem more like a dowry than a dessert. But just look at it! Stately it is. And provided you don't live in the woods by your lonesome, I'm sure you'll find some hungry soul to bequeath any 'unwanted' leftovers on. They will surely love you. Good karma goes not unnoticed.

3) This has a nut mixture filling, and it is appropriate and good. But, as I now am completely in love with this cake, I am planning all sorts of alternatives: dark chocolate chunks with walnuts pistachios with white chocolate, a winding layer of plum jam, a sleek dripping coat of ganache (with more cardamom of course). Seriously, this cake deserves the extra attention.

2 cups soft butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup muscavado sugar (or another brown sugar)
1 egg and 6 ounces egg yolks (or some eggy combination equal to 4 whole eggs)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups sour cream
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 (or double!) powdered cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt

Nut Mixture, mix together:
1/2 cup muscavado sugar (or brown sugar)
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour generously 1 large bundt pan. (Please don't be tempted by other rectangular alternatives. I have tried them, and they do not do the job well. This is a bundt cake, it is meant to be eaten bottoms up, it is meant to have as much crust as bakerly possible. Trust me, I know these things.)

In a separate bowl, sift the dry ingredients (without the sugar). Set aside. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat in well.

Add sour cream and flour mixture alternately, beginning and ending with the flour. Fold in each addition just enough to blend. Don't beat or otherwise overmix.

Spoon 1/4 the batter into the pan, then 1/3 the nut mixture, then another 1/4 the batter, then another 1/3 the nut mixture and so on until you run out. Note: end with batter.

Bake 1-1/2 hours until brown on top and dry when you insert a prober all the way down. Turn out onto a plate after 10 minutes of cooling in the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!


  1. Amanda,
    You *are* a goddess ready to give birth to the world. Only now it's a little more subtle. Maybe being pregnant--consciously, undeniably aware of being full of life, is an illustration of our true potential as human beings. We are always this full of possibility and mystery. Now that you've had the experience and know it is true, don't forget about it!

  2. Rose, that is beautiful. That is exactly what I wanted to think and say but could not even put words to the inkling. Thank you! And others...are you listening? Rose is right!

  3. Amanda, thank you so much for this post. I have been thinking so often about my changing body and womanhood and connection to God and enjoying the freedom I have in being pregnant (and feeling annoyed with maternity designers for not understanding what a pregnant body is about). This was incredible to read, especially followed up by Rose's comment. Makes me want to drive down to California with a cake for some conversation and comradery.

  4. Amanda, this was a beautiful post. Thank you.