Have you ever noticed that something that you never heard of before is suddenly everywhere? This Almond Cardamom Cake is a prime example. Of course, there have been cake recipes with cardamom and almond. But this particular cake is now all over YouTube and the internet. And it has received all of the expected gushing and ooohs and aaaahs. According to The Guardian, Alice Waters says that is the one recipe that she couldn’t live without. Who am I to contradict Alice Waters, famed chef and owner of Chez Panisse? So when I was looking for something different to bake this week, I decided to try this recipe which first appeared in Niloufer Ichaporia King’s cookbook, My Bombay Kitchen. King got the recipe from a Swedish friend who got it from… well, you get the point. So here we are.
I find it fascinating that a spice so common to South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine is also prevalent in Scandinavian baking and drinks. You would be hard-pressed to find more different cuisines. While there are a few theories, including the Moors, many believe that Vikings brought cardamom back from Constantinople 1,000 years ago. However these fragrant pods arrived in the chilly north, they have come to define Swedish baking.
This is a simple cake. There is no frou frou. Not a sprinkle, dragee or frosting in sight. And frankly, that is one of the many things that it has going for it in my opinion. It’s an anytime cake. Great for an afternoon break or the perfect dessert after a well-seasoned meal. And equally delicious with your morning coffee or tea. It’s a “no excuses” kind of cake that comes together so quickly and without any fuss. In other words, it’s my kind of cake.
Almond Cardamom Cake is quite easy to make, especially if you buy cardamom already hulled. The only change I made to the recipe was to use jaggery instead of granulated sugar in the cake itself. For those of you who are unfamiliar with jaggery it is a cane sugar used often in South Asia and it lends a caramel taste to the end product. I’ve only recently begun using it and perhaps the novelty will eventually wear off, but it does seem to add a certain somethin’ somethin’ to baked goods. The original recipe calls for granulated sugar so feel free to use that instead. But if you decide to give jaggery a try, it is especially wonderful with apples, in rice pudding or with pineapple and is available through the internet or in Indian grocery stores.
So what is my verdict on this cake? It may not be a show-stopper, but it is a cake that I could gladly eat without ever tiring of it. The inside is fluffy, moist and fragrant. The outside has a lovely sugary crispness, which is enhanced by the sliced almonds. And while there is no citrus in the cake, I found that there were citrusy undertones, which likely come from the cardamom. SO unless you are craving loads of frosting or think that a cake isn’t special without sprinkles, give this delicious cake its due. You’ll be glad that you did.
Yield: One 9-inch cake
1.33 cups (264 g) granulated sugar or powdered jaggery, plus more for the pan
Scant 3/4 cup (65g) sliced, unblanched almonds
4 large eggs
1.33 sticks (150 g) unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon (9 g) cardamom seeds
1.33 cups (160 g) all-purpose, unbleached flour
2 pinches of kosher salt
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a 9-inch springform pan. Place a disk of parchment on the bottom of the pan and butter that as well. Then spoon about 2 Tablespoons of granulated sugar into the bottom of the pan. Carefully angle the pan, tapping as you go until the bottom and sides are well coated with the sugar. If there is any excess, just leave it on the bottom.
Cover the bottom of the pan with the sliced almonds.
Using a standing or hand-held mixer, beat the eggs and sugar until tripled in volume and they have reached ribbon stage. This takes between 3 to 5 minutes. You can do this by hand if you have a powerful arm and want a good workout!
Melt the butter in the microwave or in a saucepan. “Bruise” the cardamom seeds using a mortar and pestle or a rolling pin. You don’t want them ground up – just slightly crushed or cracked to release their essence.
Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the flour and salt into the egg mixture, trying not to deflate it too much. Then add the melted butter and cardamom.
Give the batter a good stir through so that everything is well distributed.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and thump the pan on the counter to get out air bubbles.
Bake in the middle of your oven until the top feels dry and springs back when lightly pressed. The original recipe said 30 to 35 minutes, but ovens can vary so much. Mine took about 45 minutes but I also had my springform pan on a baking sheet to catch any drips (there weren’t any). Remove the cake from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Then take a thin blade and gently go all around the sides of the pan to make sure that the cake doesn’t stick anywhere. Invert the cake onto a cooling rack and loosen the springform. Remove the ring and carefully take off the bottom. My parchment stuck with the pan, but if it stays with the cake, then gently remove that and allow the cake to cool completely before cutting. It lasts for several days and will become even more flavorful.
For other unfussy but absolutely delicious cakes: