Author and A Brown Table blogger Nik Sharma grinds Darjeeling tea leaves into flour to add a layer of complexity to this easy-to-make cake that’s featured in his book, Season. “Grinding the tea leaves before they go into the cake batter helps infuse the cake with their flavor,” he says. “While the cake bakes, the baking soda reacts with the tannins in the tea to reduce any bitterness.” The recipe below makes enough cake for 8 to 9 servings.
¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed, plus more to grease the cake pan
2 Tbsp. Darjeeling tea leaves
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
1½ tsp. Chai Masala (recipe follows)
¼ tsp. fine sea salt
2 large Fuji or Granny Smith apples, cored, peeled, and diced
1 cup packed brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
Grease a 9-inch round baking pan with butter and line the bottom with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Grind the tea leaves to a fine powder with a mortar and pestle. In a large bowl, whisk together the ground tea leaves, flour, baking powder, baking soda, chai masala, and salt. Put the apples in a medium bowl, and toss with 2 Tbsp of the whisked flour mixture, to coat.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the ¾ cup [165 g] butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Lower the speed to medium-low, add the flour mixture, and beat until there are no more streaks of flour visible, 1 to 1½ minutes. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and fold in the apples.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and level it with an offset spatula. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking, until the cake is golden brown, firm to the touch, and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the inside of the pan to release the cake. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. Before serving, dust the cake with confectioners’ sugar. The cake will keep for 2 to 3 days at room temperature, in an airtight container lined with a clean kitchen towel to absorb any moisture.
Seeds from 10 green cardamom pods, crushed
Seeds from 1 whole black cardamom pod
6 black peppercorns
4 whole cloves
One 1-inch piece cinnamon stick
1 Tbsp ground ginger
Grind the cardamom seeds, peppercorns, cloves, and cinnamon stick with a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder. Transfer to an airtight container, stir in the ginger, and cover. Store the masala in a cool, dark place for up to 1 month. Makes ¼ cup.
Reprinted from Season by Nik Sharma with permission by Chronicle Books, 2018.
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