Let’s hear it for vanilla, the all-around MVP of the baker’s kitchen! This humble pod contains a magical flavor that enhances desserts from all walks of life, all around the world. Whether you’re employing famous varietals from Madagascar, Tahiti, Tonga, India, Mexico or elsewhere, you’re in for a treat. Baker, blogger and all-around confectionist Sarah Kieffer’s new cookbook features this must-have ingredient, with recipes like this cardamom cake.
This cake is inspired by a spice cake with cardamom-coffee icing from Beth Dooley and Lucia Watson’s book Savoring the Seasons of the Northern Heartland. It was the first from-scratch cake I ever made, an undertaking I decided on one Friday night while bored at work. Several hours and one gigantic mess later, I was the proud owner of a frosted spice cake. Of course, I didn’t wait for the cake layers to cool completely before I applied the frosting, and I used espresso grounds in the buttercream instead of the instant coffee it called for, so it was a slightly oozy, gritty experiment. But it was delicious all the same.
Cardamom Cake (Makes 2 8-inch cakes)
- 2 tablespoons ground cardamom
- 3 large eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup buttermilk
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 pound unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup strong coffee, cold
- 3 cups confectioner's sugar
For the cake
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter and flour two 8-by-2-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk the eggs, yolks, vanilla, sour cream, and buttermilk.
In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the flour, sugar, cardamom, baking powder, baking soda, and salt on low until combined. With the mixer running on low, add the butter one piece at a time, beating until the mixture resembles coarse sand. With the mixer still running on low, slowly add half the wet ingredients. Increase the speed to medium and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. With the mixer running on low, add the rest of the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 20 seconds (the batter may still look a little bumpy). Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and use a spatula to mix the batter a few more times.
Divide the batter between the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Tap the pans gently on the counter 2 times each to help get rid of any bubbles. Bake 17 to 22 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through, until the cakes are golden brown and pull slightly away from the sides and a wooden skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a faint bit of crumbs.
Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the rack, remove the parchment paper and let cool completely. Once cool, the cakes can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated overnight or frosted.
For the buttercream
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter on medium until smooth and creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the vanilla, salt, and coffee. Mix on low until combined; increase the speed to medium and beat 1 minute. Turn the mixer back to low and slowly add the confectioner’s sugar, mixing until combined. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary, 6 to 8 minutes.
For the assembly
Cut each layer of the cake in half horizontally, to make a total of four layers. Put one layer, cut side up, on a serving platter, and top with ½ cup of the coffee buttercream. Use an offset spatula to spread it evenly over the layer. Repeat with two more layers and then top the cake with the remaining layer, cut side down.
Layer and frost the cake.