Cardamom Vanilla Bean Layer Cake

Cardamom Vanilla Bean Layer Cake - Savory Simple

This is a delicious twist on your classic vanilla cake. Cardamom has a heavenly scent that will make your kitchen smell wonderful!

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-Cake
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Cardamom Vanilla Bean Layer Cake

5 from 3 votes
This is a delicious twist on your classic vanilla cake. Cardamom has a heavenly scent that will make your kitchen smell wonderful!
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Inactive Tine 20 minutes
Total Time 2 hours
Servings 12 - 16 slices (approximately)
Calories 556
Author Jennifer Farley

Ingredients

Cardamom Vanilla Bean Layer Cake:

  • 10 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 3 ounces cornstarch (9 tablespoons)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cardamom
  • 4 vanilla beans
  • 1 1/2 cups half-and-half, or 50% cream + 50% whole milk
  • 1/4 cup brandy (see notes)
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 9 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 21 ounces granulated sugar
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature

Cardamom Vanilla Bean Buttercream:

  • 12 ounces granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon corn syrup
  • 5 large egg whites
  • 16 ounces unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
  • 2 vanilla beans
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

Instructions

Prepare the cake:

  • 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.
  • Whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and cardamom in a medium bowl.
  • 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.
  • In a separate small bowl, combine the half and half, brandy and vanilla extract.
  • 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.
  • Distribute the batter evenly between the 3 prepared cake pans, using a spatula to even out the tops.
  • 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:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • While the meringue is cooling, scrape the seeds from the remaining two vanilla beans.
  • 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:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Cake is best when served at room temperature.

Notes

If you don't consume alcohol, substitute half-and-half for the brandy (or 2 tablespoons half-and-half + 2 tablespoons vanilla extract).
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. Read my article with tips on how to solve common buttercream issues.

Nutrition

Calories: 556kcal | Carbohydrates: 107g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Cholesterol: 231mg | Sodium: 371mg | Potassium: 215mg | Sugar: 79g | Vitamin A: 34.4% | Vitamin C: 0.5% | Calcium: 9.6% | Iron: 10.2%

Recipe Troubleshooting

For help troubleshooting a recipe, please email recipehelp@savorysimple.net. I’ll try to respond to urgent questions as quickly as possible! This email address is only for recipe troubleshooting; Solicitations will be ignored.

About Jennifer Farley

Jennifer graduated from the Culinary Arts program at L’Academie de Cuisine, and has worked professionally as a line cook, pastry chef, and cooking instructor. Her cookbook, The Gourmet Kitchen, was published in 2016 by Simon & Schuster.

Affiliate Disclaimer: Posts may contain affiliate links. I am a participant in the rewardStyle and Amazon affiliate programs, which help support Savory Simple by providing me with a small commission fee when you shop through my links, at no additional cost to you.

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

  • 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.

  • 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. :)

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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 :)

    • 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.

  • 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!

    • 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 :)

  • 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. :)

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

  • The flavor of this cake is out of this world. No frosting required IMO. But…each time I have made this recipe (once as a layer and once as cupcakes) the centers collapse. What did I do wrong?

  • The looks amazing!! Will definately try it this weekend. But had a quick question. The recipe says 21 ounces of Sugar? Wont the cake be too sweet?

    • Well, much like saltiness and spice tolerance, sweetness is a preference, so I’m not really sure how to answer your question. I’ve heard people from other countries say that American desserts are too cloying for them, and I know some people who can’t tolerate even the slightest amount of spiciness in their salsas (whereas I love a bit of heat). It has been awhile since I made this cake, but I don’t remember it being overly sweet compared to the average cake. If you scroll through the comments, there are others who have made it and enjoyed it.

  • I can’t wait to make the cake for my boyfriend’s birthday! Would it still work if I don’t use the cardamom and the brandy?

  • Thank you for a wonderful recipe! I’ve made this twice; first time I thought it was okay but I made it again recently for a bridal shower. Everyone loved the taste, smell and texture of the cake. I made the cake in two six inch round pans plus 12 cupcakes (unfrosted, they still tasted like heaven!). What is the purpose of the corn starch? Is it to give the flour same texture as pastry flour?

    • I’m so glad you liked it! To answer your question, yes- I’m basically creating cake flour by subtracting some of the all purpose flour and replacing it with corn starch. One less flour to purchase!

  • Am so excited to try this recipe for my mom’s wedding cake. Would love any tips and would also like to know how many cups of batter this recipe makes.

    Sanjli

    • Yes. This cake is already on the sweeter side, though, and vanilla bean paste has sugar in it. Just something to keep in mind!

  • This cake redeemed my faith in baking :). The layers come out flat and even. The buttercream is sublime. The proportions are perfection. This will forever be my go-to, impress anyone anywhere cake. Thank you for this recipe!

  • I made this before and it was amazing! But now I’m on my second attempt making this because my brother wants it as his wedding cake flavor, and a weird hard crust keeps forming in the center and sinking in! I followed everything as is! The only difference from the time t came out perfect to now is, last time I cut the recipe in half and used a 6” pan now I’m using the recipe as is and putting it in a 10 “ pan! Help!

    • Yikes. I’m so sorry you’re having an issue. A 10-inch pan is definitely bigger than what I’ve used in the written recipe, but that would only cause the cake to be thinner and possibly decreasing the bake time by a minute or so. It wouldn’t cause crusting or sinking. A few immediate thoughts – do you have a thermometer in your oven? Have you baked other cakes in it recently? Sometimes too low of a temperature can cause sinking. Another culprit can be over-mixing the batter. ANOTHER culprit (I should do an article on this) is not creaming the butter and sugar enough at the beginning and/or adding the eggs too quickly. I know it’s not all of these things at once so please don’t get overwhelmed; you probably just have one small tweak that needs to be made since you’ve had success before.

      • Well I creamed the butter and sugar long enough for sure. But when I Andes maybe the 5th or 6th egg I kinda saw the batter start to separate, but I make sure all the eggs were incorporated before adding the next. Hmmm. Maybe I over mixed it? I maybe have taken too long to do the dry and wet ingredients, but other than that I can’t think of Anything else! And all my ingredients were room temp! And yes I do have a thermometer and have makes cakes in this oven even though it is new! Everything else came out perfectly

  • I am so looking forward to making this recipe. It just looks delicious! However, I don’t have a scale to measure the dry ingredients. Do you know the measure of the all-purpose flour and sugar in cups or similar?

    • Hi Melissa, this is the part where everyone hates me because I’m going to plead with you to get a kitchen scale. It’s the best kitchen investment you’ll ever make! I don’t trust baked goods that don’t include weight measurements for flour specifically, because 1 cup of flour can weigh anywhere from 3 1/2 to just over 5 ounces! It makes a huge difference in cakes and cookies. Think about how some cookies are thick and some are thinner; SO much to do with the flour. There are some very inexpensive scales on Amazon. If I can’t convince you, I’d try going by this chart for the sugar. It should be pretty close on the flour as well, but I believe my cups were closer to 5 ounces when I prepared this cake.

  • Hi Jen! This recipe looks absolutely divine! I am going to try it this weekend before baking it for a friends party. How would you adjust the recipe to make it a double layer 10inch cake – abt 2in thick layers? Or even 3 thinner layers might be ok, but I do need some height after the filling and icing to make it look hearty :D

    Thank you!

    • Hi there! I’d take a look at this article from Food52, because there will probably be some math involved. Sorry I can’t be more help; I’v e never make this as a double layer cake in 10 inch pans, so that’s definitely a notable adaptation and I don’t want to steer you wrong. I know it can be done, but if you don’t have the correct proportions in the pan, it can alter the density and rise of the final cakes. Good luck! I’d love to hear how it turns out.