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Cardamom cake with almond crunch

Sat, 23 March, 2024

It’s all about the crunch! The fragrant cardamom seeds in the cake crumb, the delightful sugared almond topping baked upside down, this cake is a winner!

cardamom cake with almond crunch

Cardamom pods, seeds, powder

Cardamom is very much underused in western baking, in my honest opinion. Cinnamon is everywhere: in rolls, biscuits, cakes and mints. Cardamom is just as fragrant, and I think much more exhilaratingly so, with a cooler, fresher tone and a little cold heat.

Why is it not as popular? As ever, it’s the ease of handling. People are just lazy.

Cardamom is related to ginger but it’s the pods produced by the plants that are of interest in this instance, not the root.

Green and papery shell hides seeds that – there’s no way around it – look like tiny, miniature turds. But once you start crushing the pods and seeds, the aromatic oils released will make you forget all about the potentially unpleasant visual associations. It’s one of the best fragrances I can think of.

cardamom pods

So getting from the pods that need to be crushed, the seeds extracted, then ground in a pestle and mortar to a powder means a lot of work.

Obviously, as everything these days, cardamom comes in the ground form in jars, but that powerful aroma does not last very well when ground. Which means that unless you buy the jars very fresh and use the powder in large quantities, it will go stale and lose its potency pretty quickly.

The best way to get the most out of the spice is to put in a little work.

cardamom and almond cake

How to handle cardamom pods?

The best way is to spread a handful of pods on a paper towel and run them over with a rolling pin (or a glass bottle). Then extract the seeds, some of which invariably will have jumped out all over the kitchen, and place them in a pestle and mortar or a spice mill.

And then you can use some elbow grease to grind them into powder – or just coarsely crush them, like in the recipe below.

The recipe itself is a combo of one inspired by Genius Recipes of Food52, with the topping nicked from Samin Nostrat’s almond and cardamom tea cake. The result is awesome, if I say so myself.

cardamom cake with almond topping

Are coarse cardamom seeds not too hard?

I asked myself that question but happily, the answer is: not at all. Crunchy, which as above, the cake is all about, but nothing tooth-breaking or even slightly annoying, like passion fruit pips or pomegranate seeds.

You can go all the way and grind the cardamom to finer powder, which will give you stronger scent but less crunch. Or somewhere in the middle: partly powder, with coarse bits.

crunchy almond upside down cake

Sliced almonds vs. almond flakes

I’m aware of the fact that this cake is turning into a full-on project because the next thing I’m going to encourage you to do is to slice almonds by hand, rather than use ready-flaked.

It’s optional to be sure – the cake will be delicious with a layer of flaky almonds from a packet. It will not be as crunchy and less visually pleasing but actually some of my tasters were inclined to prefer the flaky topping. But if you like a challenge, here goes.

Whole, raw almonds are needed here, briefly soaked in boiling water to make them less brittle. Then, using a mandolin on a narrow setting and wearing that protective glove that comes with it, slice each almond into three or four pieces, width wise. It’s very therapeutic.

Perhaps they sell sliced whole almonds in your locality in which case you’re lucky. Or just decide that I’m bonkers slicing almonds by hand and grab a packet of flakes.

sliced almonds

How to prepare the almond crunch

When I was testing the recipe and first prepared the layer of sugary, buttery, caramelised almond sliced spread over the bottom of the cake tin, about a third of it mysteriously disappeared while I was busy making the cake batter. Both the Weather Man and my daughter looked rather sheepish. But that’s how good this almond crunch is: worth risking the chef’s wrath!

It’s simple to make, by melting the butter and sugar in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves, then stirring the almonds through the mixture.

The cake tin should be lined with parchment, or at least the bottom of it, or else the butter might leak out. Spread the almonds over the parchment, more or less evenly, and keep an eye on the tin if there are greedy people around!

making almond crunch layer

How to make the cake batter

This requires a mixer or tremendous willpower and agile wrists, because the eggs are beaten here to about triple their volume. There is no leavening agent in the cake so it’s lifted entirely by air incorporated into egg protein, like in a genoise sponge.

beaten eggs for batter

Once the egg-sugar mass is thick, pale and abundant, handle it very gently. Fold the dry ingredients in with a spatula, chasing the flour pockets but being delicate about it.

Next fold in the melted and cooled butter, by first adding some batter to it, and then stirring it all into the rest of the batter, again very gently.

cardamom cake batter

This impressively fluffy mix will go onto the almond topping and bake for just over half an hour, until a skewer emerges dry.

cake in tin

After it cools down a little, release the cake sides by sliding a palette knife around the tin, and invert the cake onto a rack, the beautiful crunchy topping up.

turned out cake

More almond cake recipes

Raspberry and almond slice, a gorgeous buttery traybake with flaked almond, sugar and butter topping: it’s easier to make and tastier than Bakewell!

Swedish almond caramel cake, Toscakaka, is a lovely and easy cake to make ahead. Bake the base in advance, then add caramel topping and blast it under the grill just before serving.

Financier biscuits, French mini almond cakes made with brown butter are deliciously moist, light and tender, a little like madeleines and really easy to make.

More cardamom flavoured recipes

Boller are Norwegian breakfast buns with cardamom flavour and a shiny glaze. Easy to make, they are gorgeous warm but as lovely toasted and buttered.

Danish marzipan kringle, the perfect cake for festive times is easier to bake than most Christmas breads and it is insanely delicious. Especially with homemade marzipan remonce (filling).

Marzipan buns flavoured with cinnamon and cardamom. Homemade marzipan fills these sweet soft buns baked in a muffin tin. These are perfect breakfast buns!

cardamom flavoured almond cake

Cardamom cake with almond crunch

Servings: 12Time: 1 hour 30 minutes


  • For the almond crunch:
  • 30g (2 tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 45g (3 tbsp) sugar
  • 85g (34 cup) sliced almonds
  • a pinch of flaky salt, such as Maldon
  • For the cake:
  • 9g (1 tbsp) cardamom seeds
  • 100g (7 tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 180g (1 cup) caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 80g (23 cup) plain flour
  • 80g (34 cup) ground almonds
  • 2 pinches of salt


1. Butter and flour a 23cm/9 inch cake tin with removable bottom and line the bottom with a disc of parchment.

2. Heat the butter and sugar for the almond crunch in a small saucepan for about 3 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved and the butter furiously foaming. Add the sliced almonds and stir through. Spoon them in the bottom of the prepared tin, spreading evenly with a spatula.

3. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4.

4. Coarsely grind the cardamom seeds in a pestle and mortar, powder mixed with coarser bits is fine.

5. Melt the butter and set aside to cool down.

6. Beat the eggs with the sugar in a standing mixer with the balloon attachment or with a handheld mixer, for at least 7 minutes at high speed until they triple in volume, turn pale, thick, and the sugar has almost completely dissolved.

7. Mix the ground cardamom, flour, ground almonds and salt and fold in gently with a spatula, trying not to deflate the batter but breaking up all the flour pockets.

8. Stir a heaping spatulaful of the batter into cooled butter, then add it to the batter and fold in gently.

9. Transfer the batter to the prepared tin and bake for 35-40 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

10. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes. Run a palette knife around the sides of the tin to release the cake and invert it onto a wire rack. Remove the bottom of the tin and the parchment. Cool completely before slicing.

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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