Bake

Cardamom Cake From Niloufer Ichaporia King

July 12, 2021
4.3 Stars
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).

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

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

247 Reviews

LadyMistyped May 8, 2022
Such a fabulous cake! It's easy to make, and the cardamom flavor really comes through. I love the fluffy and airy texture and the fact that the cake is not overly sweet. I think this would be a great addition to my Christmas dishes.
 
Mmabatho May 8, 2022
I keep sneaking slices of this cake so I can describe it. It's a revelation. Sensational. Easy peasy. Unusual. I use kitchen scissors to cut open the cardamom pods. This was time consuming but therapeutic. The texture is light and fluffy. The top crispy and...the cardamom nuggets are nutty little surprises. Just delicious. Make it!
 
Marden May 4, 2022
I’m made this delicious truly gift of a cake many times! It’s intense cardamom flavor, soft crumb interior and crunchy crust win me over every time! Lately I double the recipe and bake in 6” and 4” rounds. They are darling and make the perfect gift for lucky loved ones. I bake at 325* convection oven for 35 min. I’ve recently used pretzel crumbs in place of almonds…if you’re into salty sweet, this will be your jam! Thank you Food52 and Niloufer for this amazing cake! ;o)
 
MFFRD May 5, 2022
This has become so popular that when we have guests for dinner they don’t ask what we are serving, they only want to be sure this cake will be the dessert
 
Rachel R. May 4, 2022
While this cake isn't inedible, it's entirely too sweet. The texture is good, but forgettable. And while I absolutely love the taste of cardamom, this cake only hits one note in terms of flavor. It's not bad enough to throw out the remainder of the cake, but it's really much too sweet and were I to make this recipe again (unlikely) I would drastically reduce the sugar and add another flavor element (lemon zest, fresh berries, etc.) to break up the monotony.
 
Pinczower April 10, 2022
I modified recipe by replacing cardamom pods with 1.5 T ground cardamom plus 1 tsp Rose Water and 1/2 tsp lemon zest. Even better the next day-flavors really melded together.
 
sanpedroscoop March 31, 2022
This is the most delicious cake I've ever tasted. We've made it...7 or 8 times this year already. If you make sure to whip the ribbon enough...it is incredibly light and not to sweet and the cardamom....the most delicious flavor. The crunchy bottom...sigh. It even freezes beautifully and I'm giddy when I find a piece tucked back in the freezer. Best cake ever and I can make it at home pretty easily!
 
Dawn F. March 20, 2022
This cake is ALWAYS a showstopper! I've made it several times now, with little variations. I use my Kitchenaid mixer for the whole thing .... blending the sugar and eggs on high, folding the flour, etc. on the lowest setting. I use 1.5 Tbsp. of powdered cardamom, and added 1 tsp. of vanilla. Sometimes I add mini chocolate chips, or orange or lemon zest (whatever I have on hand). This time I sprinkled some flaky salt on top of the almonds before adding the batter. I use a 8" springform pan, but I think it would be delightful in a 7" pan too so might try that next time. We LOVE this cake!
 
Lisa March 8, 2022
Great recipe! In my house, it is being requested weekly to go with the morning coffee. I have made it so many times, that I have memorized the recipe. I baked it in 7-inch and 10-inch springform baking pan (they are what I have). I adjusted quantities accordingly and followed the recipe. I used slightly reduced butter and sugar, replaced 1/4 flour with almond flour. By 35 min, it was always bubbly but never was done. It requires 50-60 minutes of baking time. Am I the only one? Nevertheless, it always came out fine. It is a true genius recipe: simple, forgiving, and super delicious.
 
Amy J. April 18, 2022
You're not the only one - am making it for the third time and at 35 minutes, nowhere close to being done. I don't remember that being the case in the past so came back to check the reviews and was relieved to see your comment!
 
AliceM April 20, 2022
It was the same for me… took 50 minutes in the oven. I followed the recipe using the weight, not the volume measures. And baked it in a 10” pan. How did you adjust the quantities for the different pan size?
 
Jill March 5, 2022
This is now the cake I make the most,(sometimes twice a week!) I found I loved cardamom, I had never used anything but the powdered, the seeds were a revelation.
 
debra February 27, 2022
Marvelous recipe! I am not a huge fan of cardamom. It tastes and smells like soap to me. But this was still quite good. I might try and use some other ingredients in the future. It seems like a very adaptable recipe.
 
deegt5 February 27, 2022
I think the key for those who don't love cardamom is to use just a little--powdered.
 
Louise February 27, 2022
I happen to love it with cardamom - but I also made it with blueberries ( no cardamom) and it was still special!
 
debra February 27, 2022
I made it especially for my daughter who loves cardamom. I was pleasantly surprised. The crumb is light, moist, and tender.
 
debra February 27, 2022
I think I might try that as well. Perhaps with a bit of lemon zest too!
 
Ginny S. February 21, 2022
I really wanted to like this cake, but it just fell short. The positive aspects of this recipe are that the cake was very easy to make and looked pretty out of the pan. However, if you're not a BIG lover of the flavor of cardamom, skip this recipe. The cardamom was the only flavor that came through. Sure, the cake was light and fluffy, not too sweet, but that's where it ended for me. It needed something else like a couple of teaspoons of vanilla extract. If I ever made this again, and I probably will not, I'd use cardamom powder so that I could avoid those crunchy bits of the seed, which then took over the flavor of the cake and prevented anything else coming through. For the record, 4 out of 6 people at my dinner party enjoyed it very much.
 
deegt5 February 21, 2022
I used only a scant tablespoon of cardamom powder and I thought the flavor was just right---very subtle and a bit mysterious. Just the best cake I can remember.
 
Alek February 21, 2022
The second time I made it, I added 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and 1/2 tbsp microplaned lemon zest to the eggs during beating. Did the trick and added the depth you say is missing. I also bruised the seeds in a mortar and pestle to avoid the excessive "crunch" but to maintain texture.
Try it again and you might like it as a keeper that way ;)
 
MFFRD February 22, 2022
If you don’t really enjoy cardamom this was not a recipe for you. I seem to be making it every week for my husband and guests. Only wish I could make it vegan as our children all eat plant based.
 
Alison J. February 15, 2022
Alice Waters is right. Definitely one of the best desserts ever.
 
5280Baker February 7, 2022
OMG this cake is fantastic - I used AP GF flour (Better Batter) and am at high altitude (5280) so the center collapsed a tad which can be adjusted for next time, but every single crumb of this cake was spectacular. I think I'll crush the seeds a bit more, as well, as they were at times a bit overpowering but still delightful. This is definitely a keeper!!! I would give it 10 stars if I could - xxoo
 
MFFRD February 15, 2022
I have made this cake many times, regular flour, spelt flour and gluten-free nor to one flour. All produced a wonderful cake. The last slice was spelt en last night and my husband asked when I would make it again!
 
Louise February 6, 2022
I love this recipe as is! I just made it with 1 1/2 cups blueberries - instead of cardamom. - which was awful wonderful!
 
MFFRD February 6, 2022
My husband and I just ate the last piece. He demands a new one! I have been making it gluten free and it works beautifully.
 
Melanie February 6, 2022
I've made this cake several times, and like others, received lots of positive feedback for the unusual and delightful flavors. I do use a combo of crushed cardamom and powdered. Most recently, I played with the flavor a bit and added about 1/2 t. of Raz al hanout and some freshly ground black pepper. This moves away from the original intent of the recipe, but gives a nice spice edge to the cardamom. I served with a drizzle of caramel sauce and freshly whipped cream for a dash of decadence.
 
Caroline E. February 15, 2022
The combo crushed and powered cardamom is perfect. I have made this cake several times and the crushed cardamom can be a wee bit intense. The combo is the balance: all flavor without too much punch. If you like the punch go for it!!!!
 
NSSR January 28, 2022
I hadn’t realized a cake could be this influential. Such incredibly unique flavor and texture. Makes me think of cardamom in an entirely new way and I’ve now put it on a pedestal. Basically life-changing!
 
Caroline E. January 25, 2022
If you love cardamom you will LOVE this cake. Almonds give a wonderful texture and sponge packs a real cardamom punch. Super easy to prepare and takes less than 30 minutes to whip up. This is my go to "impress your guests" kind of cake.
 
Caroline E. January 25, 2022
If I could get a tattoo of a recipe on my arm THIS would be it! Super easy to make, crunchy texture, and insanely delicious. WOW! This cake is always the most talked about dish at any gathering and I love to impress. Everyone will think it took hours but in reality it takes less than 30 minutes to whip up.
 
Tippy C. January 25, 2022
I love this cake. Made it once last month and again for my bookclub tonight. I strongly recommend NOT crushing the cardamom seeds (once you take them out of the pods) or using ground cardamom. To me the "genius" of the cake is the delicious pop of cardamom that you get when you bite into the seeds in the cake--not at all overwhelming.
 
Kate January 22, 2022
Unbelievably simple; the resulting flavour and texture of the cake has to be seen to believed. I was skeptical but this is a new favourite. Of four cakes I made for an event, this one disappeared first!