Bake

Cardamom Cake From Niloufer Ichaporia King

July 12, 2021
4.4
204 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)


Genius Recipes

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
Watch This Recipe
Cardamom Cake From Niloufer Ichaporia King
Ingredients
  • 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
Directions
  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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Recipe by: Genius Recipes

375 Reviews

Kari K. June 28, 2024
Here's a similar recipe that turns out a type of biscotti / cookie...and something that lasts for a long time https://food52.com/recipes/85566-swedish-toast
 
Kate W. June 23, 2024
Was very curious about this cake and made a half recipe in my new Daddio small spring form pan. I love the texture and sugary top. The cardamom is a little intense. I wish I had ground it and I just cracked the seeds with mortar and pestle. I liked the simplicity (except cracking open those pods!) and uniqueness of the batter. I wish I had used parchment on bottom. It came out pretty easier, but I had to coax it a bit. I'll make it again, but it doesn't surpass Plum Torte IMO.
 
Genie June 19, 2024
This recipe is just about perfect: elegant in its simplicity, doesn't require fancy equipment or time, and is absolutely delicious, needing nothing but itself and some ready appetites. I made it for my granddaughter's second birthday, and both she and the guests automatically reached for seconds.
 
la L. June 9, 2024
I love cardamom but this cake didn't ring my bell. The 4 eggs (used for leavening, I assume) were a lot, and gave it a very egg-forward flavor. Oh well, different strokes...
 
Natalie M. May 27, 2024
This is the recipe that started my obsession with cardamom. This cake is so easy to make, and the results are so sophisticated. I put the almonds on only half the cake to make it more visually interesting. And everyone who says “Oh I’m not sure I cardamom” is pleasantly surprised. It’s always a crowd pleaser.
 
Lucy May 22, 2024
Wow! So good!! I used chopped pistachios instead of the almonds and it was amazing! Will definitely make it again
 
Cheri K. May 19, 2024
Have not made this one yet, but am of Scandinavian heritage so cardamom is a must in a lot of my baking. I have been making a Swedish tea cake for 40 years and that uses the same method of melting butter and folding it in after the folding flour step. I also use almond extract in my recipe and it is baked in an 8x8 pan. I always get rave reviews on it but I can’t wait to try this cardamom version!
 
jmk2022 April 17, 2024
Love love love this cake. I will be making it for the third time today. If you just need a little cake for a small celebration, making a half recipe and using a 6 inch springform pan is perfect. I am of Norwegian descent and love freshly ground cardamom in cakes, cookies, waffles, bread, dutch babies - I have a dedicated electric coffee grinder (thank you Goodwill) just for cardamom. Tip: I always test for doneness in cakes or breads with an instant read thermometer. For this cake, look for 210 F internal temp.
 
John V. December 29, 2023
5 stars. Our local Penzeys carries a 79 gram jar of cardamom seeds (#50955) which are ready to bruise without the fragrant but tedious task of digging them out of the pods. Mine needed an extra five minutes (40 total) to fully bake in my oven. An easy to make, few ingredient, perfect cake to end a meal.
 
NancyKim December 29, 2023
I realize I’m in the minority but I wasn’t crazy about it. It was on the bland side with a dry consistency. Without the sugared almond top it wouldn’t be edible. It was easy to make so I don’t regret trying it.
 
John V. December 29, 2023
Maybe you need to try it with some ice cream - this cake with a scoop of vanilla is extraordinary. Making another one this evening to give to a person who may only remember me as "that guy who baked me the most delicious cake I've ever eaten". I can live with that...
 
gingerroot December 20, 2023
This is an easy cake to love. Easy to make, complex in flavor, I can see why it would be the most requested cake in a home once everyone tried it.
 
Angela H. December 4, 2023
First of all, I love cardamom, so I knew I had to try this cake. It was very simple to make with few ingredients, which is always appreciated. I had the opportunity to make a unique cake for a friend's birthday dinner. This choice was perfect. Just the right amount of sweetness and the cardamom shines. It was unanimously loved. I will be making this cake again and again. Thanks so much for sharing.
 
Justin G. December 2, 2023
Made this cake yesterday for the first time . Had to leave in oven for extra time as center top was still soft . Have just cut a slice ( next day ) and cake is lovelly and the crust is amazing . I used spring pan lined with paper and the cake just popped out . A first time making a crusty outer cake and love it . Thanks for a great recipe .
 
Raphaelle C. November 23, 2023
This cake is seriously delicious. No need for a springform pan. It works just as well with a cup for cup type replacement flour for baking; just watch the cooking time you may need an extra 5 minutes or so.
 
Chef G. November 19, 2023
So no one is talking about the elephant in the room. This recipe says 1 -1/3 C of butter and then 160 grams. This does not equal 1- 1/3 cup butter. It is a disaster if you use the cup amount of butter. I found out the hard way and made this 2x. Someone needs to fix this mistake so we can all make a better cake. USE the Grams amount, it's will then work. 160 grams =2/3 Cup
 
nicoledickson November 19, 2023
Wow. I’ve always used the grams. But that’s a huge error!
 
Dawn F. November 19, 2023
Thank you Chef G.!! I too thought something might be off with the butter as sometimes it seeps out. This makes more sense!! I LOVE this cake and give it as a gift sometimes --- always a show stopper!
 
MFFRD November 19, 2023
I always use the gram weight when baking. With dry ingredients a lot depends on the humidity. I will weigh and measure butter when I get home.
 
Debbi November 19, 2023
I make this cake frequently and the recipe I use says 1 1/3 STICKS of butter. Could that be the confusion?
 
Melanie November 22, 2023
The recipe reads 1 and 1/3 STICKS of butter not cups.
 
Chef G. November 22, 2023
Correct and that does not =150 grams
 
nicoledickson November 22, 2023
Just looked this up. It’s pretty close at 151 g
 
Kati C. November 25, 2023
Um, yeah. A stick of butter is 8 Tbsp = 4 oz. = half a cup, NOT 1 cup. So 1 + 1/3 stick = about 10.5 Tbsp = 2/3 Cup. The magnet on my fridge doesn't lie.
 
Chef G. November 27, 2023
did, thanks
 
CApam February 5, 2024
Agreed! Alternate calculation: 1 stick of butter is 1/4 pound, commonly marked as 113 g.
1-1/3 sticks (not cups) of butter x 113 g = 150.629 g, which is rounded down to 150 g by weight.
 
mrsroto May 20, 2024
It says 1 1/3 sticks, not cups.
 
SixDegrees November 7, 2023
Curious about a couple of things:

- Why is a springform pan used? It doesn't get sprung in the video; the cake just dumps right out. Is this just extra assurance?

- Surprised that a paddle attachment was used instead of a whisk attachment, since the point is to whip air into the mix. Is there a reason for using the paddle?
 
Melanie November 21, 2023
I've made this cake many times - not once did I use a springform pan - not necessary at all. And honestly, I can't remember if I used paddle or whisk attachment - probably whatever was handy. It's a delightful cake that everyone loves.
 
Abigail T. December 12, 2023
I think the first time I did it with the paddle but every other time I’ve done it with the whisk and I think it’s faster/incorporates air better.
 
Laura October 24, 2023
Incredibly interesting and unique cake. I love cardamom and my husband and I both really enjoyed this cake. I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite cake ever, but I would make it again just because it’s so different. The crunchy almond topping and the caramelized sides really added great texture, along with the bits of cardamom. It’s also the very first egg leavened cake I’ve made that wasn’t dry or dense, but fluffy, soft, and tender. Awesome recipe you should at least try, especially if you’re a cardamom fan too.
 
Laura October 24, 2023
Forgot to mention that you can get just the seeds from Penzeys online spice shop at a reasonable price, and they made making this super easy.
 
MFFRD October 5, 2023
I don’t know what I am did wrong. I followed the recipe exactly, bake for 35 minutes in spring form pan, top springs back, skewer is clean. Cool on a rack. Turn cake onto a rack then transfer to plate and when I cut it (a few hours later) the center is soft and not cake like. I have been making this cake every month for a long time.
 
dizzylizzy October 5, 2023
Quick and tasty. I used ground cardamom and whole grain rye flour (1c rye + 1/3c of all-purpose) and it came out great! The almonds are a really nice touch. I also used a regular (not springform) cake pan lined with parchment, and had no problems.
 
Jenn October 2, 2023
Since the cake relies on the beaten egg yolks and sugar for volume (not baking powder ir soda) it might work.