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Author Notes: I took the Cinnamon Cake in Mark Bittman's newest book, How to Bake Everything, and pushed it to its limits. I replaced half the flour with hazelnut meal; I used plain yogurt mixed with a teaspoon of lemon juice instead of buttermilk; I swapped out cinnamon for cardamom; I arranged sliced fruit (first pears, thing figs) on the top before baking; I forewent the crumb topping for a drizzle of honey-lemon glaze; I sprinkled with nigella seeds; I baked it in a tart pan. I took a simple Cinnamon Cake and Frankensteined it into a Fruit-Dappled Cardamom-Honey-Lemon Hazelnut Cake. (Maybe I am the monster???)
Bittman's cake tolerated all my prodding and nudging. My tweaks and swaps resulted in a strangely delightful and delightfully strange dessert—tart from the lemon, sweet from the honey caught on the fruit, and tender from the nut meal, with the wildcard ingredient—nigella seeds—adding a welcome savoriness.
Suggestions for taking this cake and toying with it some more:
- Instead of figs, use thinly sliced apples or pears. Try oat flour in place of the hazelnut flour and cinnamon in place of cardamom. Or try a mix! A pinch of nutmeg (and even a pinch of coriander) would also be welcome.
- Or drop in Concord grapes and use almond flour. Replace the vanilla extract with almond.
- Brown the butter (then cool completely) before stirring it into the batter.
- Use brown sugar in place of the white.
- Add the crumble (from the original recipe) back in! It's a simple mix of 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, and 3 tablespoons butter. —Sarah Jampel
Makes one 9- or 10-inch round cake
For the honey-lemon glaze:
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Mix the honey and lemon juice together in a small bowl and set aside.
For the cake:
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 120 grams all-purpose flour
- 120 grams hazelnut flour, sifted or whisked to remove any clumps
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup plain, full-fat yogurt
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 6 to 8 ripe figs or 2 Bartlett pears, thinly sliced from top to bottom
- Nigella seeds, for sprinkling (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 375° F and grease the bottom and sides of a 9- to 10-inch pie plate or tart pan. Melt the butter on the stovetop or in the microwave and set aside to cool.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt, and cardamom.
- Using a handheld electric mixer or a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, mix the sugar with the eggs until completely incorporated.
- Whisk the yogurt together with the lemon juice and the vanilla extract, then add to the sugar-egg mixture and mix to combine. Stir in the melted butter.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, then use a rubber spatula to fold until just combined, with no dry patches remaining.
- Transfer to the prepared pan, using a spatula to spread the batter evenly. Arrange the pear slices over top of the cake, then bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with a few crumbs. The pears add moisture to the cake, which means any exposed areas (like those near the perimeter) might brown faster. If this happens, use foil to tent the cake so that no areas burn as the center continues to cook.
- When the cake is finished, give the honey-lemon glaze a stir, then drizzle it over top of the cake, allowing it to absorb into the cake itself and the fruit on top. Sprinkle with the nigella seeds, then allow to cool at least slightly before slicing and serving.