Content warning: many swears to follow, ‘coz sometimes only a fuck will do.
It struck my quite forcibly recently that I’m not just growing up, I’m growing older as well. We live in a house at the front of a rather large block; up the very back of the block are two more houses that share the same path as us, so that to reach them you have to pass by our house. Living in one of the back houses is a young couple recently moved to Brisbane, and the other is a share house of music students. Last week, one of the musicians stopped us on the path to let us know that they would be having a party on Saturday night, complete with a live band. I hope that’s okay. We assured him it was no problem for us. His reply? Thanks for being so awesome about it. He didn’t invite us to come along.
Later that afternoon, S and I realised what that exchange actually meant. To this young music student – maybe nineteen or twenty years old, I’d venture – we are old. We are the ‘grown-up’ neighbours; the kinds of people that have kids and jobs and don’t go to parties where the live music starts at 10pm. Rather than invite us to swing by and join in with a few beers, he thanked us for being ‘cool’ enough to tolerate late night shenanigans. I may have tattoos and a nose piercing and an asymmetrical haircut, but to a kid of twenty, I’m old! I found this both hilarious and dispiriting. When did this happen? I most definitely don’t feel old. I still got it. And that was when I realised…
I do like to go to bed early. I’ve got two kids, and they wake up really fucking early most mornings. I also like to eat a nourishing breakfast, put on a load of washing, and read the news in the morning. But old, like any other age, is just a state of mind. I’ve got a head full of adventure plans, I like my music loud, I still don’t know how to drive a car, and I don’t own an iron. I loved being in my 20s, but thus far my 30s are rolling along pretty fucking nicely thank-you-very-much. I’m no longer perpetually broke, I have furniture that wasn’t scrounged from the side of the road, I own a KitchenAid (and know how to use it properly!), ten years with one man and I’m still madly in love, plus I’m confident enough to wear the short shorts I never would have ten years ago, and I still look hot in them.
And so, in celebration of getting older and not giving a shit, I baked myself this Brown Butter Cardamom Cake with Chai Buttercream Frosting for my thirty-second birthday earlier this month. And it was really fucking good.
Brown Butter Cardamom Cake with Chai Buttercream Frosting
3 cups plain flour
3 tsps baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tbsps ground cardamom
160 grams butter, unsalted
2 cups raw sugar
1 cup milk
3 1/2 cups icing sugar
240 grams butter, unsalted and softened
1 1/2 tsps black tea leaves
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 1/2 tsps ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 – 2 tbsps milk
An hour or two before you’re ready to start, brown the butter for the cake – this will give it enough time to solidify again before you use it (if you’ve not browned butter before, Joy the Baker has this handy little tutorial). Once your butter is browned, pour it in a large bowl and leave it to cool on the bench top (you can pop it in the fridge to hasten the process, but be sure to check it regularly as you want the butter soft, not hard).
Pre-heat the oven to 180°c/350°f. Grease and line two 8cm round baking tins. Set aside.
In a medium bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom.
In a large bowl cream the softened browned butter and the sugar together until nice and fluffy (either a stand or handheld mixer is best for this). Add the eggs one at a time, beating each one through thoroughly, then add the milk and whisk through. Add the dry to the wet and stir to combine.
Divide the batter evenly between the two tins and bake for approx. 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Leave in the tins for 15 – 20 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
When the cakes are cool and you’re ready to assemble, prepare the frosting. Grind the black tea leaves using a spice grinder, a mortar and pestle, or your coffee grinder (as I did). Combine the ground leaves and spices with the icing sugar. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar/spices mixture and one tablespoon of the milk, continuing to beat until mixed through. You want the buttercream to be thick but spreadable; if it is too stiff add the remaining tablespoon of milk a drizzle at a time while beating.
Using a sharp knife, level the cakes by slicing off the top dome. Stack one on top of the other, with a generous slather of frosting in between. Frost the top and outside of the cake with an offset spatula, or simply a butter knife.