Sometimes you just want to enjoy a simple cake, with a hint of flavor, that you can have with your cup of tea and not feel like you've over-indulged! Coconut cardamom cupcakes are those kind of cakes.
This recipe is my interpretation of the classic East African dessert combination. Although our origins are Indian, my family is from East Africa (Tanzania and Zanzibar), and I've grown up eating all kinds of Swahili dishes. Swahili food has become as much a part of our culture as eating 'Indian' food has. In fact the two are arguably inter-linked, as the East African coast itself as a trading hub for centuries, is full of Indian, Arab and Persian influences, to name but a few. Add to that the fact that Zanzibar is the renown 'Spice Island', and you have a plethora of flavorful dishes known for their seasonings and aroma.
Coconut is used extensively in most dishes, and when combined with cardamom it is used in sweet foods such as breads or cakes. Mandazi is a popular type of fried coconut bread which brilliantly highlights this pairing. Other foods include kashata (pretty much like coconut ice but with cardamom) and rice cakes.
So now you've had the history lesson we can get onto the cupcakes.
These coconut cardamom cupcakes are moist, light, tender with just the right amount of cardamom for aromatic goodness, and shredded coconut for a nutty bite.
As cardamom is a very fragrant spice, its best to use whole cardamom pods for freshness. Split the pods and then crush the seeds using a pestle and mortar until fine and powdery.
I finished by topping my cupcakes with a spoonful of runny icing and more shredded coconut. A simple cupcake with less of the richness of frosted cupcakes yes, yet still completely moreish.
Clearly these cupcakes were of some interest, as I even had a little beaked visitor come to see what the fuss was while I was taking my photos.
If you ever get the chance to visit East Africa, especially the coast, please do go. Its a region rich in history and the food doesn't disappoint either. In the meantime, these cupcakes can give you a small window into what there might be to offer...
Coconut Cardamom Cupcakes
Half cup (90g) soft butter
Half cup (110g) caster sugar
1 cup self-raising flour
2 tblspn sweetened shredded coconut
5 cardamom pods, crushed
4 tbslpn milk
Half cup icing sugar
3 tblspn water
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Cream together the butter and sugar in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. Add the egg mixing well. Slowly sift the flour into the mixture incorporating well and add the crushed cardamom along with the shredded coconut. Finally add the milk. Divide equally into cupcake liners and bake for about 20 minutes. While the cupcakes are left to cool, mix together the icing sugar with the water, to make a thick gloopy consistency. Spoon onto cupcakes and leave to set.