Nostalgic Rosemary and Cardamom Piimäkakku (Buttermilk Cake)

Some will tell you that’s it’s unhealthy to dwell on the past, but I happen to think the opposite is true. I find thinking about the past makes me smile more often than not, particularly when remembering my childhood and the food that permeated that time. Thinking back on the past reminds me of how I came to be at the point I am now and all the moments that occurred, unknown to me then, that would greatly determine my love of all things culinary. I used to think that my childhood was spent much like other children my age: climbing trees, bike riding around the neighbourhood, summers spent by the water, fishing trips and camping, and it was, save for one significant difference. I now realise, while my siblings and friends were thinking about where we should go on our next adventure, I was thinking about what kind of food we should bring along. To me, the idea of exploring was made infinitely better with the thought that there was something good to eat in case we should get hungry, which of course, we alway did.

Buttermilk Cake
Buttermilk Cake

Our emergency lunch usually consisted of tuna and mayonnaise sandwiches, fresh apples and biscuits, and if we were lucky, a generous piece of cake. I loved the packing of the picnic as much as the eating of it, and I believe my siblings and childhood friends did too. For we were always careful to pick just the right spot to eat when we had adventured for long enough and our tummy’s insisted we eat. Most times we would sit in one of the protected coves, set up on the rocky shore that snaked around our childhood town. Other times we would find tree to climb and sit in its branches to devour our food, or else sit at the end of a jetty and dangle our feet over the water. And sometimes, when the water was calm and the day sunny, we would take off in our rowboat, find a secluded spot in shallow estuary and eat our goodies hidden amidst the tall reeds and yellow grass. This was a rare treat and all the more delicious for it. As was the many varieties of cake we enjoyed on outings like these!

Spoons and Herbs

It’s these memories of childhood adventures and the cakes that accompanied them, in addition to finding an old Nancy Drew mystery while rummaging around a wonderful antique store, that inspired this rosemary and cardamom piimäkakku (buttermilk cake). I was hunting around for styling props when I came across a Nancy Drew mystery titled “The Haunted Showboat.” As soon as I saw the book, poking out from a shelf on an old serving cupboard, surrounded by a plethora of kitchen curios, I was transported back to my childhood and a time of adventure, unsolved mysteries and cakes. I simply couldn’t resits buying the book. Nor could I resist the temptation of cake. 

Buttermilk Cake

There is nothing quite as transporting for me as the warm scent of cardamom and cinnamon, wild rosemary and dense coffee cake, so in creating the perfect cake to encapsulate childhood nostalgia, I decided to combine all three! Even though this in not exactly one of the cakes we enjoyed as children, it combines all the essential ingredients; something familiar, spices and a touch of whimsy. We could easily have eaten this cake as children, and I can’t wait for the day I can make it for Ävälon and her friends, to take on one of their very own adventures. 

I simply couldn't resit sharing these! I hope they conjure up warm memories for any Nancy Drew fans out there.

Love and light!

Susanna xo