- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Supermarket aisles are bursting with ethnic ingredients, so no more excuses for not preparing Indian, Thai or Chinese food at home.

Our family adores Indian food, as both takeout and prepare-in, depending on our weeknight schedules. Chicken curry is the hands-down favorite, and with prepared curry pastes and sauces, you just follow the directions on the back of the bottle.

For special meals, follow that Indian chicken curry and rice with a do-ahead plum-and-cardamom cake. This easy recipe contains jars of baby food. It has been around for years but not with the addition of ground cardamom, which I think adds a whole new dimension to baby-food cookery.

If you don’t care for the sweet pungency of cardamom, substitute cinnamon. If you can get your hands on some fresh dark red or purple plums, slice and sweeten them with a little sugar and spoon them over the top of the cake.

Plum and cardamom cake

The preparation time is 20 minutes, and the baking time is 40 to 45 minutes.

Vegetable oil spray for misting the pan

Flour for dusting the pan

1 package (18.25 ounces) plain yellow cake mix

1 cup sour cream

1 cup strained plums (2 4-ounce baby-food jars) or 1 cup pureed fresh peeled plums

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup sugar

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon ground cardamom or cinnamon

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously mist a 12-cup bundt pan with vegetable oil spray, then dust with flour. Shake out the excess flour. Set the pan aside.

Place the cake mix, sour cream, strained plums, oil, sugar, eggs and cardamom in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute.

Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 to 3 minutes more, scraping down the sides again if needed.

The batter should look well combined and thick.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it out with the rubber spatula.

Place the pan in the oven.

Bake the cake until it is golden brown and just starts to pull away from the sides of the pan, 40 to 45 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes.

Run a long, sharp knife around the edge of the cake and invert it onto a rack to finish cooling.

Or invert it onto a serving platter to slice and serve while still warm. Makes 16 servings.

To share favorite cooking tips, ask questions and access Anne Byrn’s free online newsletter, visit www.cakemixdoctor.com.

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