I made a Maple Cardamom Corn Cake. But before I share that, I want to tell you a little about Maine Maple Sunday
The 4th Sunday in March is a holiday in Maine. Well, I say it’s a holiday. It’s Maine Maple Sunday when Maine’s maple syrup producers open their sugarhouses to demonstrate how they make their syrup. Garages and barns are transformed into makeshift maple stores with shelves lined with bottles ranging from a few ounces to a few gallons. Bags of maple cotton candy hang from clotheslines, crockpots full of maple baked beans are stirred, pancake breakfasts are shared with strangers, and maple-ice cream sundaes abound. All of these delights, along with sugarhouse and farm tours, are all part of the Maine Maple Sunday package.
A little maple trivia for you: all grades of syrup, no matter how dark or light, are identical in density and maple sugar content and all of it undergoes the exact same process. The color difference has to do with the time of season it’s harvested. As the weather starts warming up in spring, the sap is darker in color. The darker the syrup, the stronger the flavor.
Maple Syrup Grades
Fancy (hehe. I don’t know why but ‘fancy’ as a grade designation makes me chuckle)
- Color: Super light in color (think ginger ale)
- Flavor profile: subtle with hints of vanilla
- Best Served: As a table syrup with pancakes, waffles, and the like
Grade A Medium Amber
- Color: A shade darker than Fancy (hehe)
- Flavor profile: light, slightly more pronounced maple flavor
- Best Served: As a table syrup with the usual suspects.
Grade A Dark Amber
- Color: Produced towards the end of sap season. As you probably guessed, it’s a dark amber color.
- Flavor profile: Intense and robust
- Best Served: For cooking or adding to yogurt, oatmeal, or cake.
- Color: As dark as molasses.
- Flavor profile: Very strong, intense flavor
- Best Served: For cooking.
This probably doesn’t surprise you, but I go for intense. Bold. Extreme. If nowhere else in my life (it’s true–I’m about as cautious as they come), I do so with food. So I bought a half gallon of the darkest syrup Nash Valley Farm was selling. I would have bought a gallon but they were all out.
I tasted a spoonful when I got home, and let me tell you friends, it was a life changing. None too sweet, super mapely, and oh-so-smooth. I was raised on Aunt Jemima. Since my culinary awakening some 10 years ago, I haven’t tasted what passes for syrup in our grocery stores since. Even with a palate pretty familiar with ‘the good stuff,’ this one spoonful turned what I thought I knew and loved about maple syrup on its head.
Naturally, I wanted to bake something with it. So I made a Maple Cardamom Corn Cake with Maple Cardamom Custard (ah, alliteration).
The Maple Cardamom Corn Cake Cast:
Spicy aromatic kick from the cardamom
Slightly sweet maple syrup
Creamy, rich custard
A wee crunch from cornmeal
Earthiness from whole wheat flour
I’ve been revisiting old blog recipes, and want to share again some of my favorites. This particular one is a riff on the Honey and Cornmeal Cake with Lemon and Herb Custard from 2014. It’s obviously adaptable, so have a ball coming up with your own flavor combinations.
This delightful corn cake creates its own rich, maple custard as it bakes. The infused cream you pour over the top will bake into the batter. Some settles in pockets towards the bottom of the cake while the entire underside is covered with the thinnest layer of custard. The cake is moist with a contrasting texture from the cornmeal. Sweet maple and cardamom’s spicy flair make this recipe perfect for an autumn outing. There’s no refined sugar, only syrup and spice.
This cake uses a lot of maple syrup, so I recommend you order a big jug. Because, you know, pancakes.
- 1½ cup heavy cream
- ½ tsp ground cardamom
- 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
- 1 cups all purpose flour
- ½ cup whole wheat flour
- ¾ cups fine yellow cornmeal
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp. Freshly ground cardamom
- 2 Eggs
- 1 cup high quality maple syrup
- ¾ cup buttermilk (or regular milk and the juice of lemon)
- ½ cup olive oil
- Preheat oven to 350.
- In a small saucepan, add first three ingredients. Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally so the cream does not burn. Turn off heat and let cool until you're ready to use it.
- In a bowl, combine all purpose and wheat flours, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cardamom. Whisk together until well-combined.
- If you don't have buttermilk, measure out ¾ milk and add ¾ Tbsp. of fresh lemon juice. Let sit for a few minutes to curdle.
- In a stand mixer or by hand, beat eggs and maple syrup together until a bit of foam forms on top. I did this with my stand mixer on medium-high for about 4 minutes.
- Once mixed, add buttermilk and olive oil.
- Combine dry ingredients with wet ingredients and mix until well combined.
- Pour the batter into a springform pan lined with parchment.
- Pour the cream in the middle of the batter. It's okay if some rests on the top.
- Bake for 45 minutes or the batter passes the knife test.
- Once done, let cool before serving. Serve with maple syrup and butter.
My recommendation for high-quality Maine Maple Syrup: Balsam Ridge in Raymond, ME
Quinoa Skillet Cornbread (not sweet at all and cream settles on the top rather than the bottom)