Cardamom Cake From Niloufer Ichaporia King

July 12, 2021
179 Ratings
Photo by Linda Xiao. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop Stylist: Veronica Olson
  • Prep time 25 minutes
  • Cook time 35 minutes
  • Serves 6 to 10
Author Notes

When The Guardian asked Alice Waters for the one recipe she couldn't live without, it was this simple, unforgettable cake with a crackly top and fluffed cardamom crumb from Niloufer Ichaporia King. Be warned: You may be making it for birthdays, Mother's Days, and all other snacking occasions from here on out.

As King writes in her cookbook My Bombay Kitchen, “The recipe for this cake, one of the most precious gifts I’ve ever received in my life, comes from a generous Swedish friend, Ragnhild Langlet, a textile artist of extraordinary talent. The cake became an immediate favorite in our household, an honorary Parsi dessert and our most requested birthday cake.

“We met Ragnhild Langlet in a Berkeley garden in the early summer of 1987 at a potluck wedding celebration to which she brought an unassuming cake baked in an unassuming pan. That unassuming little cake was one of the most powerful things I’ve ever tasted. It was suffused with the scent of cardamom, crunchy whole seeds throughout, sweet enough, rich enough, light enough. Cake perfection. This cake is excellent the first day, even better the next and the next and the next, if it lasts that long. Serve with fruit or a custard or ice cream. There’s nothing that it doesn’t complement.”

A few more tips: Cardamom seeds are increasingly easy to buy already freed from their papery green pods. But if you can only find the whole pods, it’s easy enough to crack them open in a mortar or on a cutting board with the side of a chef’s knife or underside of a skillet, then shake out the seeds. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can bruise the seeds on a cutting board in the same ways.

Rose Geranium Cardamom Cake variation: For Niloufer’s friend Catherine’s birthday in 1987, she embedded rose geranium leaves in the top of the cake (actually the bottom of the springform pan) along with the almonds, and served it with a winter fruit compote also lightly scented with rose geranium. If you can get near a cardamom plant, which is a member of the ginger family, try a leaf from it, too.

Recipe adapted very slightly from My Bombay Kitchen: Traditional and Modern Parsi Home Cooking (University of California Press, June 2007).

Helpful tools for this recipe:
- Glass-Bottom Springform Pan
- Food52 x Rosti Ultimate Melamine Mixing Bowl
- Nordic Ware Copper-Plated Cooling Grids (Set of 2)

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Test Kitchen Notes

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. As an Amazon Associate, Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.

Hear more about this recipe from Niloufer herself, on our podcast The Genius Recipe Tapes. —The Editors

What You'll Need
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Cardamom Cake From Niloufer Ichaporia King
  • 1 1/3 cups (264 grams) granulated sugar, plus more for the pan
  • 3/4 cup (65 grams) sliced unblanched almonds, for topping (optional)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 sticks (150 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon (9 grams) cardamom seeds (see Author Notes)
  • 1 1/3 cups (160 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 pinches salt
  1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Prepare a 9-inch springform pan: If you want to be absolutely sure that the topping won’t stick, use a parchment paper disk to line the bottom of the pan before buttering and sugaring it. Butter the pan liberally, sprinkle in 2 to 3 tablespoons of sugar (depending on how sweet and crackly you’d like it), and shake and tap the pan until the bottom and sides are coated with sugar. Don’t worry about extra sugar on the bottom. Cover the bottom with sliced almonds if you want a particularly crunchy topping—or, as an alternative, Ragnhild also suggests ground almonds or bread crumbs.
  2. Using a stand mixer, a handheld beater, or a powerful and patient arm, cream the eggs and sugar until thick and pale and tripled in volume, about 5 minutes. Melt the butter in a little saucepan. Bruise the cardamom seeds in a mortar. With a rubber spatula, quickly fold the flour and salt into the egg and sugar mixture, followed by the butter and the cardamom. Give the batter a thorough stir before tipping it into the prepared pan. Thump the pan on the counter to settle the batter.
  3. Bake the cake until the top feels dry to the touch and springs back when lightly pressed, and a skewer or knife inserted into the center comes out dry, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave in the pan for about 5 minutes. Run a knife around the sides of the pan before inverting the cake onto a rack to cool. Remove the bottom of the pan carefully while the cake is still very warm. Let cool before serving.

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    Tonya Martinez-Tosh
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    Veronica Fifer
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    Jole Kelley
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Recipe by: Genius Recipes

326 Reviews

MFFRD September 3, 2023
I have been making this cake almost every month for a long time. If there aren’t a few ski ices in the freezer my husband is not happy. I made it yesterday and the edges were firm and perfect and the center was soft and tacky/gooey. What could have gone wrong?
Debbi September 3, 2023
Let’s just say, I have this recipe memorized. ;)
nicoledickson August 30, 2023
Me again eh. Such a cake!
Today I made the cake adding seasonal italian plums. The blue ones. Also cointreau. Simple addition but lovely taste.
Seems I can’t send photo.
Just add slivers of concentrically placed plums on the sugar.
nicoledickson August 13, 2023
I’m still crazy about this cake. I’ve found baking it for exactly 35 minutes is perfect. I have made it with orange zest regularly. And changed to pecan pieces to replace the almonds. Today I had no orange zest so instead I added about one teaspoon of Cointreau. Oh boy! The best ever!
Jenn August 8, 2023
An exceptional cake in taste, texture, and concept. For me it was very surprisingly easy to make and unbelievably good with a unique flavour. This is basically a type of génoise cake where you have to be sure the egg and sugar are beaten long enough so that the mixture increases in volume by 3x as the recipe says. I live in the tropics so I did not need to beat the eggs and sugar in a double boiler (to heat therm) as you normally do for a genoise. The brilliant touch of 'flouring' the pan with sugar and coating the bottom of the pan with chopped almonds instead of flour adds a nice sweet crunch to the cake and the slightly bruised cardamom seeds are a hidden surprise flavour. I had no problem with the cake deflating as some others in the comments did. In fact it stood quite tall and the crumb was moist and soft.
Annalisa July 1, 2023
This cake is amazing. I watched the video before baking and it improved my confidence.
As a daughter of a Danish mother, I have been searching for a cake recipe like this for years. I made it twice in the same week for two different groups of friends and family. It was a BIG hit with everyone. Yummy!
ppatel June 25, 2023
Every year my daughter challenges me with an interesting cake for her birthday and this year she asked for this one. I was quite excited to make it. I have never made a cake without some kind of baking powder/soda. And I loved the whole story about how the recipe evolved. The cake turned out exactly as described, and was delicious but......
My expectations from reading all the reviews were set so high only to find out that it tastes like any Indian mithai (sweet dish) since we are quite heavy handed in using cardamom, and it goes in most of our sweets. So, much as we enjoyed it at the moment I would not make it again.
Tonya M. June 21, 2023
This recipe was delicious and easy (aside from harvesting the seeds from within the pods). One thing I did differently though, (I know, I know). I was really concerned about biting into one of the bruised pods and having it be overwhelming. So, I ground them in the mortar and pestle and add them to the melted butter, then strained it into the cake mixture. It worked perfectly. There was plenty of the cardamom flavor. I had no issue with the cake falling or being under done. I believe the trick is to make sure you really whip the egg and sugar until it’s tripled in volume. I didn’t have my mixer and actually used a mini-prep cuisinart, mixing half the egg and sugar mixture at a time; then folding in the flour; adding the infused butter. I hope that helps anyone wanting to try this recipe. Definitely make sure you serve the cake bottom side up. I found it helps to use a serrated knife made cutting through the lovely crackly top.
Brenda M. June 18, 2023
Delicious cake! Today was my second time making it. I followed the directions exactly, used ingredients by weight and baked it in a speed oven at 350F (convection setting). At 30 minutes it looked done and the middle sprang back to the touch, but the skewer I inserted came out wet. At 35 minutes, it was perfect and the skewer came out dry with crumbs. Both times I made this cake I had trouble cutting through the crunchy top. After the cake is fully cooled I invert it back again so that the almonds are on the bottom and slicing neatly is much easier. I will make this again! Last time the cake seemed to get better every day. I kept it in the fridge and it lasted 6 days.
Ginny S. June 15, 2023
Can someone PLEASE tell me how to unsubscribe to the reviews of this recipe? I may be in the minority of folks who didn't care for this cake and I'm tired of getting notices each time someone comments. I saw where to click to get emails about new reviews, but cannot find anyplace to stop them from coming. Help!
Tracey June 15, 2023
I've been baking for decades, and this is about the most spectacular failure I've ever had. I've made many cakes similar to this in the past, including a recipe of my grandmother's I don't even need to look at to make. Even though I baked this for a good 45 minutes, in an oven that had preheated for a full hour, it was completely liquid inside. My fault for relying on the bounce-back test rather than inserting a skewer. Since the taste is wonderful, and I'm not about to waste an entire tablespoon of cardamom, I've scraped the whole mess into a pie dish and stuck it back into the oven. I'll probably try this again at some point, but it may need more like an hour or even more of baking time, strange as that sounds.
[email protected] June 10, 2023
Thank you for this recipe! As it happens, I am 100% not a baker. I love to cook, and I also love this blog, so I try to get outside my box sometimes and make cakes. I know I’ve made a mistake though! The middle is like gel - in fact, it deflates as soon as it comes out of the oven, and the most of the middle is gel-y and butter-y

I know for sure I am doing something wrong. Please give me any and all advice!
Sunitha G. June 5, 2023
Made it for a get together and all my guest loved it. Thank you for sharing the recipe
Johanson65 June 2, 2023
Has anyone made this at high altitude? If so, did you make adjustments?
Linda June 17, 2023
Hi. I am at atout 3500’ - kinda low high elevation. I made this cake this afternoon. It is delicious, but I watched it fall as it baked. I followed the ‘remove 1 tablespoon of sugar per cup of flour’ rule. Next time I will also decrease the fat (butter) and see if that helps with the sinking.

What is your experience?
greenshoes September 17, 2023
I live at 4700 ft and made this cake this afternoon without any adjustments. The cake sank just a bit while cooling but looked exactly like the cake in the video, both out of the oven and when plated.
Veronica F. May 16, 2023
This cake is amazing! I halved the ingredients and used a 7" springform pan to test out the recipe to avoid disappointment of having a large mediocre cake as I'm the only dessert eater in my house. It was so good! This will be a go to recipe from now on full size for entertaining or a small cake for me to devour in a couple of days!
soupcon May 5, 2023
This method of making a cake is like the one used to make genoise/genoese cake where the melted butter is folded in after the flour. If you use the wire whip when making the sugar/egg foam you will get a better and more stable foam. After it reaches ~ tripple volume slow the machine to half speed for a couple of minutes and then to slow speed. This will make the cake texture more uniform and eliminate large air holes made when whipping the foam in the first 5 minutes.
Carol April 25, 2023
For the very best of fresh pods versus powdered……put your fresh seeds into a burr spice grinder…….fresh cardamom with the texture that you control.
BobsterRI April 25, 2023
What a fantastic recipe! Way overdelivers for as easy as it is to assemble. Added 1 cup of frozen blueberries and zest from one lemon to the latest bake. Def a keeper!
gypsyrose April 25, 2023
LOVE this cake; I make it 3x/month. I found 45 min to be the optimum baking time. I have also found that the longer the eggs and sugar are beaten in the stand mixer (KitchenAid, level 3), the lighter the cake.
Jole K. April 24, 2023
I've made this cake 4x now. It's simple and DELICIOUS. I use slivered almonds instead of sliced bc I like the crunch. After the 1st time I made it I stopped inverting it. The bottom/top isn't any less attractive than the other. And I like the crunch on the bottom. GREAT RECIPE. Thank you!