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 Layer Cake
Prep Time
1 hrs
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
1 hrs 30 mins

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
Servings: 12 -16 slices
Author: Jennifer Farley
Cardamom Vanilla Bean Layer Cake:
  • 10 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 3 ounces (9 tablespoons) cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cardamom
  • 4 vanilla beans
  • 1 1/2 cups half & half, or 50% cream and 50% whole milk
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 9 ounces (2 1/4 sticks) 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 (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
  • 2 vanilla beans
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
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.
Recipe 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:


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

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  • 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.

  • 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

      • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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*

  • 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.

    • 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…

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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 have the touch of making a beautiful looking cake hahahahaha. At least I tried :)
    Thank you, this was very very tasty.

  • Yes, The Butter cream frosting…it seemed to curdle? 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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!!!!!



    • 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?


    • 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 :)

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

    Thanks :)

  • 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!