National Dessert Day: Cardamom Cake

by Niloufer Ichaporia King, author of My Bombay Kitchen: Traditional and Modern Parsi Home Cooking

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My Bombay Kitchen cookbook

Cardamom Cake

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. The taste is
so exotic, so tropical, yet so adaptable to any cuisine that it’s a surprise to know that
it comes from Sweden, which turns out to be the world’s second-largest market for
cardamom, India being number one.

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.

Serves 6 to 10

2 to 3 tablespoons sugar, for the pan
Sliced unblanched almonds, for topping (optional)
4 large eggs
1 1⁄3 cups granulated sugar
1 1⁄3 sticks unsalted butter
1 tablespoon cardamom seeds
1 1⁄3 cups all purpose flour
Pinch of salt

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9-inch-diameter springform pan by
buttering it liberally, sprinkling in 2 to 3 tablespoons sugar, and shaking 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. Ragnhild also suggested ground almonds or bread crumbs. 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.
Using a stand mixer if you have one, 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.

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.
Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes. The top should feel dry and spring back when
lightly pressed, and a skewer or knife inserted into the center should come out dry.
Remove from the oven and leave in the pan 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.


Niloufer Ichaporia King is an independent scholar.