Cardamom Vanilla Bean Layer Cake - Savory Simple

My two absolute favorite spices are cardamom and vanilla. How it has taken me this long to combine them into a cake is beyond me. This cardamom vanilla bean layer cake has so much vanilla in it you can see the seeds speckled throughout both the cake and the Italian meringue buttercream frosting. 

Cardamom Vanilla Bean Layer Cake - Savory Simple

In August I shared a recipe for chocolate espresso layer cake and discussed how stressful the entire process was to me. There are so many moments that can go wrong. But when it comes out perfectly there is nothing quite as satisfying as creating a beautiful layer cake.

Cardamom Vanilla Bean Layer Cake - Savory Simple

That experience inspired me to do this more often. It’s a skill that when practiced becomes less stressful and more fun. This time I actually found it relaxing, believe it or not.

Cardamom Vanilla Bean Layer Cake - Savory Simple

I think this cake turned out both beautiful and odd looking. The cardamom gives the cake a slight green hue and as you can see from the photos, the vanilla seeds are all over the place. But these two spices complement each other so perfectly that I have a feeling I’ll be making this cake again and again.

Cardamom Vanilla Bean Layer Cake - Savory Simple

Cardamom Vanilla Bean Layer Cake
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
See below the recipe for a list of all equipment I used for making this cake.
Serves: 1 8-inch triple layer cake
Ingredients
Cardamom Vanilla Bean Layer Cake
  • 10½ ounces all purpose flour
  • 3 ounces (9 tablespoons) cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1½ tablespoons ground cardamom
  • 4 vanilla beans
  • 1½ cups half and half (or 50% cream and 50% whole milk)
  • ¼ cup brandy
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 9 ounces (2¼ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 21 ounces granulated sugar
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
Cardamom Vanilla Bean Buttercream:
  • 12 ounces granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon corn syrup
  • 5 egg whites
  • 16 ounces (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
  • 2 vanilla beans
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
Instructions
Prepare the cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place an oven rack in the middle position. Lightly spray the bottom of 3 8-inch cake pans with baking spray and then cover them with parchment rounds. Set aside.
  2. Whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and cardamom in a medium bowl.
  3. Slice 4 vanilla beans in half lengthwise with a small paring knife. Use the dull side of the knife to scrape out all of the seeds. Add the seeds to the dry ingredients and separate any large clumps.
  4. In a separate small bowl, combine the half and half, brandy and vanilla extract.
  5. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on medium high speed for several minutes. On low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, allowing each egg to incorporate before adding the next. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the mixer still on low speed, quickly alternate between adding the dry and liquid ingredients (ending with the dry) until just combined. Scrape down the sides well, making sure to reach the bottom of the bowl.
  6. Distribute the batter evenly between the 3 prepared cake pans, using a spatula to even out the tops.
  7. Bake until the a toothpick comes out of the center of each cake clean, approximately 30-35 minutes. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pan before removing.
Prepare the frosting
  1. Add sugar, water and corn syrup to a medium sized sauce pot. Cover and turn the heat to high. Once the liquid begins to simmer and steam has developed, remove the cover (this helps prevent crystallization). Using a candy thermometer, cook the sugar to the soft boil stage, 235-240 degrees F.
  2. While the sugar is cooking, whisk the egg whites on high in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment until a soft peak has formed.
  3. Turn the mixer speed down to medium low and very slowly pour the syrup down the side of the bowl into the egg whites. Don’t pour the hot syrup directly into the meringue.
  4. Once the syrup is completely incorporated, turn the speed to high and allow the meringue to continue to form a stiff peak while cooling down. Mix on high until the meringue has reached room temperature. To speed up this 15-20 minute process, ice packs can be placed around the bowl.
  5. While the meringue is cooling, scrape the seeds from the remaining two vanilla beans.
  6. Once the meringue is at room temperature, slowly begin incorporating the soft butter on medium speed. Once all of the butter has been incorporated, turn the mixer speed up to high and very slowly add the vanilla bean seeds, vanilla extract and cardamom.
Assemble the layers
  1. Place the first layer of cake on a revolving cake stand and remove the parchment paper. Placing a cardboard round below the cake is optional but will make transporting the cake easier after it is assembled.
  2. Spread approximately one cup of buttercream on the cake and spread it around evenly with an offset spatula. Add more buttercream as needed to reached the desired thickness. Repeat with the second and third layer (don't forget to remove the parchment each time). Use an offset spatula to apply a thin layer of frosting to the side and top of the cake. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set this first layer of buttercream. Cover the entire cake with a final layer of frosting.
  3. Cake is best when served at room temperature.
Notes
To get clean slices when cutting the cake, use a long, sharp knife. Run it under hot water, wipe it dry and immediately cut one slice in a straight down, non-sawing motion. Don’t pull the knife up, pull it straight out toward you. Then repeat the process for the other side, starting with the hot water.

Also, Italian meringue buttercream can be a finicky thing. I've run into issues with it breaking in the past if the environment isn't perfect. Here's a great article with tips on how to solve common buttercream issues: http://www.jasonandshawnda.com/foodiebride/archives/7640/

 

Tools I Used

Chicago Metallic 8-inch Cake Pans
Ateco Revolving Cake Stand
OXO Kitchen Scale
KitchenAid Stand Mixer
Parchment Sheets
Wilton Cake Rounds
Wilton Cake and Cookie Lifter
Digital Thermometer
Offset Spatula
Lágrima Vanilla Extract

More Cardamom Recipes

Savory Simple – Cardamom Horchata
Savory Simple – Pistachio Cardamom Hot Chocolate
Savory Simple – Cardamom Snowdrop Cookies
Savory Simple – Pistachio Cardamom Cookies
Oh My Veggies – Orange Cardamom Chocolate Mousse
Snappy Gourmet – Cardamom Apple-Pearsauce
The Culinary Life – Apricot, Cherry, Cranberry and Cardamom Hot Cross Buns
Frugal Foodie Mama – Coconut Chai Biscotti
Diethood – Plum Cardamom Jam

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Comments

  1. What an interesting combo – something I would definitely like to try. Your layer cakes are so lovely, and I can imagine that this time it’s more relaxing to make one. The more you do it, the better you become :)

  2. Hi Jennifer — Your cake looks like a work of art — We have a special birthday coming up in our family and I think this cake would be perfect.

  3. Beautiful!!! I cant wait to try it!! I love making layer cakes :)

  4. omg shut up with that vanilla bean frosting!!

  5. I want to move in with you. The end.

  6. Beautifully done! The combination of vanilla and cardamom sounds really wonderful and very refined.

  7. oh my goodness, Jen! This is just beautiful!!! Your layered cakes are on another level. . just beautiful and perfect! soooo beautiful!

  8. I have never had cardamom that i know of, but if it goes with vanilla I know I would love it! Such a gorgeous cake, You are pro at these things! Love it!

  9. This cake looks PERFECT! Lovely flavors :)

  10. Gorgeous! Cakes don’t make me nervous. To me, they’re the easiest. Perhaps I sweat the small stuff, when I shouldn’t. Love your styling and photography here. Just beautifully executed, Jen!

  11. You make the most perfect cakes, Jen!

  12. This looks and sounds fantastic. If i could bake I’d certainty give it a go. As usual the photos are amazing :)

  13. Beautiful cake! I love Italian meringue buttercream but have never tried it with corn syrup. I think it’s rare to get hold of it in the UK. Can you tell me what it adds or helps do in the buttercream? Thank you! xx

    • It just helps prevent the sugar from crystalizing. You can omit it.

      • Ah of course!! Like we use glucose syrup here for sugarwork but I think they are slightly different in fructose content. Just hit me now :D But I’ve never seen the method of covering the pot and allowing steam to form, so it’s great to learn another method.

  14. I am obsessed with cardamom. Aaaaaand my sister just brought me a huge bag of vanilla beans from Africa. I, too, am left wondering why I hadn’t thought to combine my two favourite flavours in a gorgeous cake! This is truly lovely, lady!

  15. Beautiful cake! I love making layer cakes and especially Italian buttercream. It’s the only way to go in my opinion.

  16. Beautiful, beautiful cake. I am totally enamored with cardamom as well–my favorite warming spice EVER! Just love it. Reminds me that I need to go buy a new jar ;)

  17. Stunning!

  18. How beautiful is this cake, Jen!? Wow. The photos are gorgeous. And vanilla and cardamom is one of my fave ice cream combos, so this cake sounds divine. …Oh my God, I just realized- what if I made this cake and served it with cardamom-vanilla ice cream!? Mind blown.

  19. Cadamom!! Such a cozy flavor! I need a big slice of this cake!

  20. Stunning cake! Question: why are some of the amounts in weight and some in volume? (ounces vs. cup)
    And how were you able to make such perfect slices? Just gorgeous!

  21. Beautiful, I love the flecks of vanilla bean!

  22. My layer cakes are almost always lopsided, usually because I can’t align the layers properly (or from the much needed, pre-assembly whiskey shots). At any rate, it’s something I need to work on – maybe a revolving cake stand would make things easier and less traumatic.

    This cardamom vanilla cake looks irresistible! It’s the cats’s pajamas; The bee’s knees! *love*

  23. There is so much about this cake that is so very right, including the slight green hue from cardamom. Something about vanilla bean speckles makes this girl’s heart warm as would a slice of this layer cake. Lovely creation Jen.

  24. Your cakes always look SO GORGEOUS! It really inspires me to try things like this more often. I don’t know that I could recognize “cardamom” on its own, how would you describe the flavor?

    • Thanks, Natalie! You’re the second person to ask me to describe the flavor of cardamom today. Wikipedia does a decent job though I don’t think they quite nail it. It’s a flavor you’ll often find in chai tea and Indian food, if that helps. Earthy, fragrant…

  25. I think the hue gives it an exotic feel. It looks and sounds amazing.

  26. This is ridiculously amazingly gorgeous!!! I love these photos! I also have a WHOLE lot of cardamom pods I got in NYC that I haven’t used yet! So I think I will be making this!

  27. Hi there! You may not remember but we met at Mixed last year (going again)? We had a conversation one night about not being the outgoing walk-up-and-talk-to-just-anyone type of girls. Hope you’re well!! I LOVE this cake. I’m actually not sure if I could pick out cardamom as a spice but this sounds amazing. And I love the contrast of the super white cake up against the dark brown background and surface. Really cool!

  28. I have a giant bottle of cardamom that I rarely use so I need to make this cake. No doubt mine will look nowhere near as gorgeous as yours – this cake is stunning! I love that beautiful speckled vanilla frosting.

  29. This is pretty much my ideal cake, and that sharp slice is awesome!

  30. Julia | JuliasAlbum.com says:

    Jen, this is such a gorgeous cake! The buttercream frosting is so white!

  31. This is a total beauty of a cake.

  32. Absolute beauty!! And I just love the flavors.

  33. Wow! i love this combo. the flavours definitely are stand out!
    Your photo make this cake pop!

  34. I need to pick my chin on the floor. Seriously sounds amazing and looks…. OMG I need this in my life.

  35. Your cakes always look so incredibly perfect. I have to try one of your recipes next time, and the frosting to cake ratio looks perfect on yours.

  36. This cake looks absolutely perfect. I need to practice cutting cakes. Cardamom is a great spice, although I don’t use it as much as you. I’m putting this cake on my to bake list.

  37. This really is gorgeous, and I love that flavour profile of cardamom and vanilla. So simple, just perfect.

  38. I just love anything speckled with vanilla beans! It looks pretty and you know the taste must be amazing :) And I LOVE cardamom. I think it’s my favorite spice…it just smells so so good. So basically, I need this cake.

  39. Never, never can I ever, ever have too much cardamom. This is a gorgeous cake!

  40. Jen, this cake is gorgeous. I love the flavor combo. Pinned.

  41. Hi. I was wondering whether one can make this cake without the brandy. I’m asking since i live in a country where there is no brandy available. Would the cake be as good without it?

  42. Hello!

    I’m in quite a savory meets sweet phase (I’ve been doing lots of baking with rosemary or balsamic). This? This has me excited.

    I’m not sure you’ll see this…and I’m not sure you’ll know. But here goes.

    I only have 9″ cake pans. I even went to Target tonight to get 8″…none. I’m a bit stunned really and of course am baking this cake tomorrow. I have a request out to our neighbors but have thus far only secured 1 8″ pan.

    Would you recommend:
    1. increasing the batter by about 1/4 to account for the increase in volume for 3 9″ layers
    2. making just 2 layers so they have the requisite thickness
    3. making 3 layers and checking
    4. some other clever solution I can’t even conceive of.

    Thank you, thank you!

    Next I’m definitely attacking those Nutella stuffed cookies. Holy zoinks.

  43. Cynthea LaCroix says:

    Well!..This looked so beautiful that I thought I would try to make this for Thanksgiving…Hmmmmm it did not come out looking like yours, but the flavors were wonderful. Oh ..to have the touch of making a beautiful looking cake hahahahaha. At least I tried :)
    Thank you, this was very very tasty.

  44. Cynthea LaCroix says:

    Yes, The Butter cream frosting…it seemed to curdle?..so let bowl cool more in cold water and seemed to help, but when icing the cake it was really slimy..have put it in fridge now that it is on the cake.
    I couldn’t get it to look smooth like yours..but thats ok :)

    • Ahh… Italian meringue buttercream can be such a finicky thing. I’ve had issues with it curdling before; it normally happens when I add the butter while it’s not quite at room temperature. Cold butter will definitely break in buttercream. If that happens you can take a small amount of the buttercream (maybe 1/4 cup) and microwave it very briefly so it just starts to melt but isn’t completely liquified. Adding that back to the buttercream will often fix the issue. This article has some other suggestions.

  45. Cynthea LaCroix says:

    Oh..plus there wasnt enough cream frosting for the 3 layers so I made it into a 2 layer cake.
    Kept the 3rd for myself to snack on lol

  46. Beautiful! You always have the best low key images. {Swoon}
    Great recipe!
    Pinned!
    K-

  47. So now I finally have something worthy to try with my special vanilla beans! Yum!

  48. That’s a beautiful cake.I have never cooked with cardamom before-now I’m going to try it.I especially like how you added brandy to the recipe to make it unique.

  49. I adore cardamom and am always on the lookout for interesting recipes that feature it. Thanks not only for this recipe, but the list of other cardamom recipes, too.

    I must say, though, that what impresses me most about this cake is how perfectly you sliced it. Beautiful!

  50. Michelle B says:

    I really love cardamom and will have to try this. Every Christmas I make spritz cookies, and they always have cardamom in them – such a little added flavour!

  51. I love cardamom! The wonderful fragrant smell it gives off when you roast the pods. Cardamom has so many health benefits too!

  52. Love cardamom & love vanilla! This looks fabulous! And the cardamom reminds me that I need to make Swedish Christmas Bread…soon!

  53. Jackie Blades says:

    After viewing the recipe I new it was going to be a winner. Only a very special occasion can be suitable to make this cake. A nice winter day, the fragrant cardamom, the aroma of vanilla lingering in the air. That’s a beautiful cake.

  54. Your cakes look so perfect! I’m going to have to try your cutting technique next time. Also, I’ve been meaning to tell you that your food photography is stunning and inspiring to me. I’m just starting out. :)

  55. Hi, I only have 2 9in pans, and I saw that you recommended keeping it 3 layers… can I just make two in these pans? Any thoughts? I really want to make this for my daughter’s birthday and I want to be sure I can split it in 2 layers. Thanks

    • Hey there! You can certainly make it a double layer 9 inch cake instead of a triple layer cake. However, there will be leftover batter. I don’t suppose you have a muffin tin? You could make cupcakes with the leftover batter!

  56. Hi, Jen!

    This cake looks just wonderful, and I am seriously thinking of making it for an upcoming birthday. However, may I ask you a question, please? I am a big fan of cardamom, but most cakes call for about 1/2 the cardamom that you use — how did you feel about the strength of the cardamom flavor? Did the sugar offset it nicely to avoid any bitterness? I know I could use less — but I don’t want to if the flavors worked our perfectly!!!!!

    Thanks!

    –ak

    • Hi Anne. Are the other cakes you’re looking at triple layer? If not, that might explain the difference. This recipe makes a lot of cake and frosting. There’s no bitterness but you can always try starting with half the cardamom and then sifting more in if you decide you want a stronger flavor.

  57. Hi Jen,

    I was wondering can I omit the brandy out of the recipe? Do I need to add more liquid in place of it?
    I can’t have any alcohol due to religious reasons :/

    Thanks so much,
    Eman :)

    • Jennifer Farley says:

      Hi Eman! You can absolutely omit the alcohol. I would just increase the cream in the recipe so that the liquid to dry ratio stays the same.

  58. Love the looks of this cake,just beautiful! Was wondering though,can it made into just a vanilla bean cake (no caradom)? Then how much 1/2&1/2 if no brandy is used? Trying to find a very yummy vanilla bean cake for a bride but don’t think she is ‘ready’ for caradom,lol. Also how do you think buttermilk would taste instead of 1/2&1/2?

    Thanks!

    • Jennifer Farley says:

      You can definitely remove the cardamom. As far as the brandy, just replace it with more half and half. Buttermilk? It could be good but now you’re getting into completely “new cake” territory. I make no promises about the results :)

  59. Ive been looking at other recipes and noticed you add corn starch to yours, what does that do to it exactly?

    Thanks :)

  60. Hello Jennifer,
    If I take out the brandy out of the equation, what should I replace it with and how much exactly do I need to put that in my cake?
    It’s the first time that I am going to make a cake in my life, so I am hoping that it turns out nice, and this cake of your sounded so unique! Thanks for sharing. :)

    • Jennifer Farley says:

      Hi Meli,
      If you want to omit the brandy, just increase the half and half so you have the same total amount of liquid.

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