Cardamom Cake From Niloufer Ichaporia King

May  8, 2021
31 Ratings
Photo by Linda Xiao. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop Stylist: Veronica Olson
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).

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Watch This Recipe
Cardamom Cake From Niloufer Ichaporia King
  • Prep time 25 minutes
  • Cook time 35 minutes
  • Serves 6 to 10
  • 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
In This Recipe
  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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

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    Miranda Hogue
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Recipe by: Genius Recipes

116 Reviews

kathy May 10, 2021
Delicious cake! Super easy to make. I used a little under 1 tbsp ground cardamom and it gave the cake a nicely scented flavor in place of the seeds. The bake time was double for me- about an hour.
Dwaisy2021 May 8, 2021
Followed the recipe exactly. In good news, it looked stunning and the almond topping is crunchy and delicious. In bad news, 35 minutes is clearly not a long enough bake time, the middle of the cake was underdone and very doughy. Needs at least another 10 to 15 minutes. We also found the cake far too sweet, almost cloyingly so, will be halving the sugar in the cake batter next time.
Carol T. May 8, 2021
i read through all the reviews and was a little worried how this would turn out. i ended up making it as directed, didn't change any ingredients or measurements and it was a huge hit. my guests all had seconds and thirds! i thought it was delicious and beautiful! don't understand it being dry for some. i found it very moist. only the cook time was adjusted -- at 30 min. the center was still jiggly. at 38 the center didn't spring back as the sides did, at 40 it was done! the top was browner than kristen's in the video and i was concerned but needlessly so. the cake was perfect!
Anne J. May 7, 2021
So delicious, we've made this cake twice in a week. Two caveats--you must put a rimmed baking sheet under the pan, as it leaks butter like crazy and the cook time is quite a lot longer (at least 10 minutes) than suggested.
Dinah P. May 7, 2021
Excellent and simple. I used this recipe to bake two cakes in smaller, 6" pans, and added raspberries, and a couple of tablespoons of cornstarch to counterbalance the somewhat larger eggs. Next time I will probably subtract a tbs of butter, as I think the cake is a bit greasy, and will add a little more sugar to the pan to ensure a crunchier topping. I also added just a bit of lemon zest, which gives a bit more complexity and lightness to the intense cardamom flavor. Everyone loved it!
Fzaw May 3, 2021
Fantastic cake, and I’m glad I tried it. My cook time was more like 45 minutes in a 9” springform Pan. I wrapped the bottom of the pan with heavy duty tinfoil to stop leakage so it’s possible that effected the bake. I used raw sugar to line the pan before adding the Almonds. I have the cardamom pods but because I use cardamom in my cooking I purchase the already seeded package online. I also more than bruise the seeds because of the getting caught in the teeth thing, plus I then add the roughly ground seeds to the butter when it is done melting (nice early infusion) before adding it to the batter. Sugar is no longer a friend so I cut back a little less than 25% or around 55 grams. I already ate over a quarter of the cake in my taste test, it’s deliciously satisfying.
Nisha A. May 3, 2021
I couldn’t agree more with all that has been written about this recipe. I am visually impaired now iand baking for me it’s not the easiest thing as it requires measuring mixing and all of the things that really require an exact approach. The only other thing I had a great deal of difficulty with is opening a tablespoon worth of cardamom pods. That took a lot longer than the recipe gives you the impression it well. HoweverI managed to get. Beyond all of those photos and was able to present it to my daughter as part of her birthday celebration. She is in her 20s now and I have made quite a few cakes for her over the years. According to her this was the best cake I have ever made. And that’s really all that I needed after all the work that it took me to get this made. Thank you so much for the recipe
Cathy May 2, 2021
When reading that this cake was “unforgettable” I had to give it a try. It is easy to make other tan shelling the pods was a bit tedious. I was underwhelmed by the end product. It was tasty for sure and the almond crust is essential I would not recommend the alternative suggestions but a bit dry. I checked for doneness at the 30 min. mark and it was pudding in the middle. 35 min. same ok at 40 min. (I do have an oven thermometer). I used a regular 9” cake pan, batter filled it to the brim but did not overflow during baking. Cake flipped out no problem (I did butter/sugar well and used a parchment circle). If I were to make it again (but that is unlikely) I would use 1/2 the melted butter and substitute the other 1/2 with a neutral oil to combat the dryness.
epicharis May 2, 2021
Hmm. The flavor was outstanding (we licked the bowl clean), but the cake itself was on the dry side---not so dry as to be inedible, but more dry than my American palate prefers. I might make it again with a glaze or try to reduce the cooking time to around 45 minutes. The cardamom flavor was great although I suggest using a spice grinder to pulverize the seeds.
dazed'n G. May 1, 2021
Really liked this cake, but definitely needed to cook it longer. I also had leakage but had put in on a rimmed baking sheet. Next time I'll use a regular 9" pan with high sides so that will take care of that problem. The only thing I did differently was to coat the pan with raw or turbinado sugar instead of white sugar, and it turned out great.
Miranda H. May 1, 2021
Awesome cake! I used salted butter to coat the pan and it gave an extra flavor dimension to the "caramel". Super fluffy, super easy.
Jenna April 30, 2021
I am a good baker and made no mistakes or substitutions, and would give this cake 3 out 4 stats. It was good and not great; its most redeeming quality was ease. (Given the option I would choose the Cardamom Coffee Cake from Moosewood Kitchen if I was craving cardamom.) For starters it is an extremely sugary cake since it has a 1:1 ratio of sugar and flour and in my mouth in had a melting feeling like eating cotton candy (sugar floss). The texture reminded me a bit of angel food cake, too, in its rather one-note quality. I'm surprised few people have mentioned the strength of the CARDAMOM seeds. They bring an almost medicinal, floral quality to this cake that may be acquired, not innate. At first, I thought it was an overuse of almond extract, which is similarly off-putting, then I realized there's no almond extract in the recipe. I will admit that after baking, I could not resist pulling off and eating the crunch topping, which was like candy. Kristen and the FOOD52 team bring us all a lot of good stuff; and she is a truly warm-hearted cooking teacher. I want to end on a positive note of gratitude for her efforts and the website.
Toni April 30, 2021
Totally agree about the medicinal quality of that much cardamon in a relatively small amount of batter. One of my tasters actually had to rinse her mouth out. I baked a second cake (different recipe) using coarsely ground cardamon seed (about 1/2 teaspoon) to flavor 1 cup AP flour, 1/2 cup almond meal, 1 cup sugar. That ratio was perfect.
pmporter May 2, 2021
I simply have to respond. That Cardamom Coffee Cake from Moosewood is still my go-to recipe for most parties (and at home indulgence) after 40plus years (and I used to be a pastry chef). My variation is to add blueberries to the batter. I know from a former chef at the Odeon in NYC that they used this exact recipe, toasted slices and served with ice cream at an obscene amount of $. This cake is a winner.
NimbleBean April 29, 2021
This is an extraordinary cake. Simple ingredients and technique yield tremendous flavor and lovely textures I will be making this again and again. Maybe there will be some left to share with others, but I doubt it. Works with coffee, tea, wine... Make this now!!!
Christine T. April 29, 2021
I baked this today, for a birthday tomorrow. How is the best way to store it?
Jessica April 29, 2021
This was super good! It has a number of textures - the top is crackly sugar, the middle is light and moist, and the bottom has a little chew. I toasted the almonds first, upped the salt to 1/2t fine sea salt, and used a heaping tablespoon of cardamom instead of the seeds. Will definitely make again!
Jessica April 29, 2021
*used 1T ground cardamom
Mike S. April 29, 2021
I just made this cake and it is truly a beautiful recipe. I did have one very strange issue and I'm wondering if anyone has any ideas what went wrong. I tested the cake multiple times to see that it was cooked through...I left it to cool for 5 minutes, ran the knife around it, and then let it cool completely after I'd flipped it. The end result was so beautiful, it looked professional. BUT, when I cut into it the entire center of the cake has collapsed in on itself in a gooey uncooked mess. I don't know what I could have done differently. The outside of the cake was already on the verge of being overdone. Did I flip it too soon? Did I not incorporate the butter properly? I really want to make this cake properly because I love the flavor, but I'm a little nervous now!
flayres April 29, 2021
I kept testing it with a knife and ended up cooking it about 10 minutes longer than suggested in the recipe. It did not get too brown and came out perfect. Could it have to do with the pan size?
Kimi4702 April 29, 2021
It actually takes me 55 minutes in my oven to bake make sure you do the toothpick test to make sure middle is dry
Dawn F. April 29, 2021
I agree about the pan size. Didn't realize my pan was 10" and so my cake was a bit thinner. Could be the oven has a cooler spot too.
Mike S. April 29, 2021
All of these are very helpful. I probably need to up the cooking time, and maybe my pan was the wrong size. Thank you, everyone.
NimbleBean April 29, 2021
I use a pizza stone on the rack below whatever I'm baking. Seems to really help with the kind of issue you describe.
Linda April 29, 2021
I used the 9 inch springform that the recipe called for and mine was not cooked in the middle and sad. I wonder if most people are using 10 inch pans, thus making the chance of it getting done sooner more likely - I still think it would need more than the called for 35 minutes.
NimbleBean April 29, 2021
I used the 9" springform and gave it about 41 minutes.
Amy April 30, 2021
I used a 9" springform pan as well. My time was 40-41 minutes as well. I baked mine in an 85 year old gas oven (just for reference on ovens).
Ann V. May 1, 2021
I totally agree that the baking time is off-- I think I ended up baking this cake for about 55 minutes as well. If I had pulled it out any earlier, it would have been mush. Loved the cake-- but
someone needs to correct the baking time.
Ora April 28, 2021
I made this cake, and while fragrant, moist and flavorful, the whole seeds created dental issues. I will try again with ground cardamom instead. As a side note, the day I made the cake, I actually made two, planning to give the second to my mother-in-law, but I ran out of seeds. So instead I replaced them with poppy seeds, added a splash of vanilla and topped it with an orange citrus glaze. It was divine.
Kappy April 28, 2021
Obsessed with this cake! So easy to make and the results are divine. Packs a big punch of favor and texture for such a simple recipe. Keeper!
Linda April 27, 2021
Extremely disappointing. I didn't make any changes and baked it at 350 for 33 minutes at which point a toothpick put in five different places in the center of the cake came out completely clean. I left it to cool on a rack after cooling five minutes in the pan. When I got ready to slice into it several hours later, the top had completely sunken in and the cake was uncooked and sad in the center. I did want to taste it before I threw it away so I tasted the outside cooked part and it was in terrible need of salt. I put in the two generous pinches but this cake could use at least 1/2 tsp if not a whole tsp of salt to offset the bland sweetness. I can't imagine this would be something Alice Waters would long for. I'll never make it again.
Marden April 28, 2021
Linda, the same thing happened to my cakes! I followed recipe exactly, baked for 35 min, let cool for hours but when I cut into it, completely under baked and actually sort of oozing out, like a lava cake! However, I am so obsessed with the flavor and idea of this recipe being “the greatest gift ever” that I’ve now baked it 3 times in 36 hours:)
I upped the bake time to 50 min and now it’s perfect and beyond delicious!
Linda April 29, 2021
Thank you, Marden. I have a Wolf oven and bake all the time, several times a week. When I try a recipe for the first time, I always follow it exactly - no changes. I'm shocked that nobody else has commented on the bake time in the review. There's an almond cake in the Genius Desserts cookbook that does exactly the same thing - takes 1 1/2 hours when it's supposed to bake 50 - 60 minutes. After that experience with a sad cake, I bought an oven thermometer to make sure my oven wasn't running cold (it wasn't and isn't). Again, thank you for making me not feel like my experience was way out in left field!
Mike S. April 29, 2021
I'm so glad I scrolled down to see this! I just posted a review with the exact same issue. My cake was stunning on the outside and a complete uncooked mess on the inside. I had no idea what went wrong! I'm going to follow your advice and up the cook time to 50 minutes. Thanks so much for posting this!
Jim April 27, 2021
We love this recipe! It's not only simple to make (I'm not a baker at all), but the subtle flavors and delicate, light texture make it such a wonderful all-occasion dessert.

I made my first cake on a Friday, shared some with my serious foodie neighbors and everyone loved it, and frankly raved about it. We were getting together with friends (first time in over a year) for lunch at their newly remodeled home and I made a second one...again, rave reviews!

I used a 50/50 combination of Green and Black Cardamom as we had both on hand (my husband is an excellent Indian cook). I also used Trader Joes Ghee instead of butter (2/3 cup).

Try this, you won't go wrong!
Carol T. May 8, 2021
jim, did you use only the ghee in place of the 1-1/3 sticks of butter? or as part of the 150 grams of butter called for? thanks!
Jim May 8, 2021
I used only Ghee - 2/3 Cup. I made it twice and it came out perfectly both fact I'm making it again today!
Carol T. May 8, 2021
thank you jim!