What would a cake be without the essence that uplifts it? The essence that renders a mellow yet significant depth of flavour. The essence that distinguishes bakes from merely being a lump of sugary/ floury substance. It is no wonder that vanilla forms an integral part of most bakes. Another powerful addition that renders it another dimension is that of spice.
Consider cinnamon, with its heady aroma, the woody sweet flavour and the sublime heat that it provides, makes it a favourite among most bakers. Or cardamom, that blends with bakes equally well to lend it another characteristic flavour profile. Or saffron, that enwraps any dessert with royalty. With such capabilities of making its presence felt even with the almost negligible quantity, the spice addition, I feel remains the unrecognized hero of the baked dish/desserts.
Recently, I was toying with the idea of using spice for baking. But I had the desire to explore more rather than just going by the universal favourite, cinnamon. I must tell you now, that of all spices, Cloves are my favourite. And aren’t the little dried flower like things a pretty sight as well? Cloves are slightly more pungent compared to cinnamon or cardamom and so I was curious to find out details, from what I could bake using cloves to the different possible flavour combinations. Did you know cloves pair up excellently with bananas and oranges?
I took a few cloves in my hand, inhaled the aroma, popped in my mouth and rolled it around, while doing my research. And that led me to design this recipe. I baked this beautiful tea cake, with bottle gourd (since I had it at hand, and also something I wanted to try baking with) and yoghurt.
This mildly sweet cake, soft and moist, with a gentle hint of spice can be presented as a perfect accompaniment with tea. Below is the recipe for my Bottle gourd, clove and yoghurt tea cake.
Recipe: Bottle gourd, clove and yoghurt tea cake
Serves 4 (I used a loaf mould – 8″x 4″)
125 gms plain flour (maida)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp powdered clove
100 gms butter
75 gms castor sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
75 gms plain yoghurt
100 gms bottle gourd (measured after grating)
1. Peel, de-seed and grate the bottle gourd.
Very very important note: On grating the bottle gourd, it secretes a brown bitter juice that discolours the grated bottle gourd and alters its taste. Ensure you rinse the grated bottle gourd 2-3 times under running water to wash the bitter juices away. Squeeze out any excess water and leave it to drain in a strainer/ colander.
2. Sift the flour, baking powder and powdered clove in a bowl and keep it aside.
3. In another bowl, beat the butter and sugar till light and creamy.
4. Add the egg and beat to incorporate. Add the vanilla essence and mix again.
5. Add the flour mixture and yoghurt alternately, folding it gently into the batter till incorporated. Starting and ending with flour; F-Y-F-Y-F.
6. Gently fold in the grated bottle gourd and add the batter in a baking mould/container lined with parchment paper. If you do not have parchment paper, you can grease the baking mould with butter and dust some flour on it. This is to avoid the cake from sticking to the container.
7. Bake at 175 degrees Celsius for 25-30 mins.
8. Once done, allow the cake to cool for 5 min and remove it from the baking mould on a cooling rack. Leaving it in the mould longer will make the cake soggy from the condensed steam.
9. Dust with some icing sugar and powdered clove. Cut and serve.
You might also want to check another modern Indian/fusion recipe: Pasta in spinach sauce