The Easiest Little Cardamom Lime Loaf Cake
I consider myself the textbook definition of an extroverted introvert. While I am not one to stick labels on my own personality, in this case, I have always felt as if I fit that particular mold. I can light up when the situation calls for it, whether that means performing on a stage, teaching a class or meeting a new group of people while traveling, but I tend to start to wilt and wear-away if the situation is prolonged and drawn-out. Once that happens, the only way to recharge is to spend a good chunk of time in lovely, quiet solitude.
I have read and heard multiple people say that artist-types who are attracted to the performing arts, such as dance and theater, are often natural introverts because we know how to bottle up and save our energy for that fireworks display on a stage. That is the excuse I use, anyway, for those moments over the years when I’ve been in a large group, proclaiming that I am a dancer and having someone say, “but you can be so shy!” Yes, I can be shy, but I put on a completely different face of myself when I am in front of an audience.
As this extroverted introvert, I have found that hosting is quite similar to performing. I didn’t grow up in a family that hosted a lot of big gatherings, dinner parties or events save from birthdays and the major holidays (and even those were pretty intimate groups, more often than not). However, moving to Morocco and finding myself landed in the middle of a boisterous Moroccan family who are now my own kin, I quickly learned that graceful hosting and true hospitality were mandatory skills to acquire.
At first, not only due to the initial language barrier but also to my own general shyness in large group settings, I would either try to blend into the wall or try too hard to look like I was understanding everything that was going on (I wasn’t). From one extreme to the other. In other people’s houses I would place myself awkwardly on one of those large salon cushions, trying to look natural and like I fit in (I didn’t), and in our own home I would completely exhaust myself, running back and forth to the kitchen, trying to make the perfect sweets and snacks, keep everything tidy-ish, and perfect a pot of Moroccan mint tea- although mine is always under-sweetened for everyone’s taste. Because of all of the effort to appear extroverted and lively, my introverted self would come crashing into the picture too early and at a certain point I wouldn’t be able to hide my discomfort anymore.
With practice though, like anything, I came to realize that I have two personal secrets for making hosting people in our home easier for me: perform and simplify. When we invite people over, I imagine it is like putting on a little show, but I am naturally “performing” as myself. Lighting up on the stage of our apartment instead of worrying about fitting in perfectly with the crowd. I just psych myself up into that same mindset, breathe and physically relax like I would to get my body ready to dance, and go with the flow of it all. The other key point is to simplify the gathering. I have learned that you don’t need to make the most stunning cake ever or the most perfect batch of Moroccan-style cookies to impress. Often anything homemade, sweet, and delicious will be well-appreciated. Anything baked with love will always do.
That is why I have created a fall-back cake. A saving grace in the hands of an introverted woman who needs to play the extroverted hostess once in a while. This cake is a crowd-pleaser that is the right amount of sweet and tart, fluffy with a little crunch on top. This is the easiest little* cardamom lime loaf cake you will ever see. I have practically memorized the recipe and can now whip it up in under 10 minutes, allowing time to focus on the other details of a gathering for the remaining 30-40 while it bakes.
A simple performance of sugar, cardamom, and zest.
*This loaf isn’t actually particularly little, it’s just kind of medium. However, I like the way the title sounds and sometimes food poetry makes things more delicious, right?
The Easiest Little Cardamom Lime Loaf Cake
Makes 1 medium loaf (roughly 12 servings)
1 1/2 cups (225g) all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup neutral oil (canola, vegetable, or even melted coconut oil)
3/4 cup (170g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
zest of 1 medium lime
juice of 1/2 lime (about 2 tbsp)
1/2 cup milk (dairy or unsweetened non-dairy)
1 tbsp white vinegar
extra sugar for topping
Preheat your oven to 375º (190ºC) and line a medium-sized loaf pan (I have a 14 x 3” long + thin one) with parchment paper, or thoroughly grease + flour it to avoid sticking.
Add the tbsp of vinegar to the milk and let sit to curdle slightly. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cardamom + salt. In a larger bowl, whisk the oil and sugar, then beat in each egg, one at a time until mixture is smooth and frothy. Add the lime zest + juice. Using a spatula, fold in 1/3 of the flour mixture and about 1/3 of the milk + vinegar mixture. Gently mix until combined, then add another 1/3. Finally add the last bit of flour and milk, combining into a smooth batter. Pour into your prepared pan and sprinkle some extra sugar over the top to get that nice crunch. Bake for about 30-40 minutes, until golden brown and and a toothpick comes out clean (oven times may vary, so keep an eye on it after 30 min). Take out and let cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing and serving at your gathering.