Cardamom Cake with Coffee Buttercream
This cardamom cake with coffee buttercream is a total dream. The cake is spiced, fluffy, simple to make, and topped with the best coffee frosting. It’s one of my favorites for a birthday, dinner party, or any get-together!
I have no idea where the time went, but Marc and I got married a whole two years ago, on April 24. So in honor of our anniversary, I thought I’d finally share the very cake we smashed into each other’s face after we said, “I do.”
When I was brainstorming what cake would officially be ‘our wedding day cake’, it came together pretty quickly, after I spent a long 17 days overthinking it. Obviously you know I’m a cardamom girlie since some of my all-time favorite desserts are cardamom orange crème brûlée and cardamom rice pudding. And the coffee icing was inspired by our mutual love of caffeine and our weekly coffeeshop dates.
And even though we literally each ate a single bite and then stored the rest in our freezer to eat on our first anniversary (which we still haven’t done oops), I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Now, it’s time to make this lovely little cake together. Let’s do it!
Why you’ll love this cake
Obviously this cake means a lot to me but it’ll soon be one of your favorites too! The cake is my go-to recipe from pastry school, and it makes for a lovely, simple, and elegant cake for any get-together. But, I also think it would be an amazing holiday dessert!
- This recipe is simple to make and comes together quickly.
- The cake is fluffy, moist, & perfectly spiced. One of my all-time favorites!
- The frosting is the best. Full of coffee flavor and not-too-sweet. I could eat it with a spoon.
- Since this is a layer cake, it’s great for a crowd at dinner parties, holidays, and more!
For the cake
- Flour – I use all-purpose for simplicity. This will give the cake a nice structure.
- Baking powder – this will act as our leavening agent for a cake that’s nice and fluffy.
- Kosher salt – to balance the sweetness in the cake.
- Cardamom – pre-ground or freshly ground will both work in this recipe.
- Unsalted butter – butter adds flavor, texture, and moisture to the cake.
- Sugar – regular granulated sugar will add sweetness.
- Eggs – to make the cake tender and add a bit of extra flavor.
- Sour cream – to add a little tang to the cake.
- Neutral oil – canola or vegetable oil will make this cake nice and moist.
- Vanilla extract – I literally add this to all of my desserts for that cozy, signature flavor.
- Milk – use whole milk for the best results. This will also make the cake nice and fluffy.
For the buttercream
- Instant coffee – for the best flavor, use a high-quality instant coffee. The coffee shop down the street sells their own version, and it tastes so much better!
- Milk – whole milk will dissolve the instant coffee and thin the frosting.
- Unsalted butter – I always make all-butter frostings. Not only is the flavor better, but I prefer the thicker, richer texture.
- Powdered sugar – this will make for a nice, smooth buttercream.
- Vanilla extract – again, for a bit of extra flavor.
- Kosher salt – to offset the sweetness.
How to make this recipe
Bake the cake
- First, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and cardamom in a small bowl and set aside.
- Next, beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until it’s light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs one at a time until combined. Then, add the sour cream, oil, and vanilla extract.
- Add half of the flour mixture followed by half of the milk and stir just until combined. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
- Evenly spread the batter into 3 prepared cake pans.
- Bake the cakes until an inserted toothpick has just a few moist crumbs on it. Cool completely.
Make the buttercream
- In a small bowl, whisk together the instant coffee and milk. Set aside.
- Next, beat the butter and powdered sugar until a thick frosting forms.
- Add the coffee mixture and whip the frosting until it’s fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Assemble & frost
- Once the cake is completely cooled, cut the domes off the tops of the cakes if necessary.
- Then, spread a thick layer of frosting on top of one of the layers. Place another cake layer on top and repeat, finishing with the 3rd layer.
- Frost the top and outside of the cake with an offset spatula. Decorate as desired and enjoy!
Storing, freezing, & make-ahead
To store leftover cake, place it on a plate and cover it with a cake dome. Or, store the slices in an airtight container. Let it sit at room temperature for up to 3 days.
To freeze the cake, you have a couple of options. If you want to freeze the assembled cake, wrap the cake (or slices) in plastic wrap and pop them in an airtight container. Freeze for up to 3 months and defrost at room temperature for about 1 hour. Or, you can store the cake layers and assemble later. To go that route, wrap the cake layers in plastic wrap and freeze in an airtight container or zipper bag for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to make the cake, defrost the cakes at room temperature for 1-2 hours, make the buttercream, and assemble.
For a make-ahead cake, just bake and assemble the cake the day before. Cover with a cake dome and store at room temperature overnight. The frosting will protect the cake, keeping it nice and fresh!
Even though this combo, you can switch things up depending on what ingredients you already have at home! Here are a few ideas:
- Use cinnamon, nutmeg, or a combo of warm spices in place of the cardamom.
- Layer the cakes with easy strawberry compote and vanilla buttercream.
- Frost the cake with chocolate buttercream instead of coffee.
- Serve the cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a drizzle of caramel sauce.
When it comes to cake, I like to keep things super simple. But, obviously, you can get as creative as you like! Here are some of my favorite easy ways to decorate this cake:
- Chocolate covered espresso beans are cute dotted around the rim of the cake.
- Caramel drizzle is super pretty and complements the coffee and cardamom.
- Use leftover frosting to add a border on the bottom and top of the cake.
- Sprinkles are always a good choice! Any will work, but gold would look so pretty.
Tips & tricks
- Measure the flour properly for a light, fluffy cake. To measure the flour, fluff it with a fork or whisk, scoop the fluffed flour into a measuring cup with a spoon, and level it off without packing it in.
- Bring the butter, eggs, and milk to room temperature. This will help the batter mix together evenly.
- Don’t over-mix the cake or it will come out dense and dry. Mix it just until the batter comes together.
- Bake the cakes just until an inserted toothpick has a few moist crumbs on it. This will ensure that the cake is moist and soft! Over-baking the cake will make it dry.
- Make sure to grease the cake pans and line them with parchment paper. Otherwise, the cakes might stick to the pans.
- Whip the frosting for that light, fluffy texture. I like to give it at least 5 minutes!
- Let the cakes cool completely before frosting. If you frost the cakes while they’re still warm, the buttercream will melt.
What does cardamom taste like?
Cardamom is by far my favorite spice! It has earthy, fruity, and floral notes which makes it completely unique. Cardamom is also related to ginger, so it has a bit of warm spice without being overpowering. I love adding it to desserts, because it’s cozy, delicate, and adds an interesting, elevated flavor. But, a little goes a long way! If you add too much, it makes desserts taste soapy.
Should I use pre-ground or fresh cardamom?
You can use either in this recipe. I personally used pre-ground cardamom in this version, which worked out great! But, if you want to use fresh, no problem. Since freshly-ground cardamom is stronger than pre-ground, start by adding 1 teaspoon (instead of 2) and add more to taste.
Can I make a 2-layer cake instead?
Sure! To make a 2-layer cake, just divide the batter between two 8-inch cake pans. The cake won’t be as tall but will still look nice and pretty!
Why is my frosting curdling?
Sometimes, buttercream curdles after adding milk. This is because the water in the milk causes the fats to separate from the liquids in the butter. To prevent broken buttercream, first make sure that your butter is at room temperature. If the buttercream still breaks, don’t worry, you can easily fix it! Just continue beating the frosting for about 5 minutes, and it will eventually come back together.
Can I make this cake at high-altitude?
Yes! This recipe has been developed for both high-altitude and sea-level. Please see the recipe notes for the full high-altitude instructions.
More cardamom desserts
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Cardamom Cake with Coffee Buttercream
For the cake
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup whole milk
For the buttercream
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons instant coffee
- 2 Tablespoons whole milk
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of Kosher salt
- 3 6-inch cake pans
- Parchment paper
For the cake
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line three 6-inch cake pans with parchment paper and grease with neutral oil or baking spray.
- Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and cardamom together in a small bowl. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time until thoroughly mixed. Then, mix in the sour cream, oil, and vanilla extract.
- Pour half the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, followed by half of the milk. Mix on low just until combined. Repeat with remaining flour mixture and milk, stirring just until the batter comes together and there are no more dry spots. Don't over-mix! Then, divide the batter evenly between the three cake pans.
- Bake the cakes for 18-21 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes has a few moist crumbs on it. Let the cakes cool for a few minutes in the pan, and then release them from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack.
For the frosting
- Next, beat the butter and powdered sugar in a large bowl until a thick frosting forms.
- Add the coffee mixture, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt. Beat until the frosting is smooth. Then, turn the mixer on high and whip the frosting until fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Assemble and frost
- Using a serrated bread knife, cut the domes off of the tops of the cakes, if necessary.
- Place one cake round on a plate or cake stand. Spread a thick layer of frosting on top. Then, top with another cake round. Add frosting to the second layer and top with the third cake round to make a three layer cake.
- Frost the top and outside of the cake. Decorate as desired. Slice and enjoy!
– Use 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
– Use 1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons whole milk
– Bake the cake at 375°F
xo Sara Lynn
Song of the day – The Way You Look Tonight by Tony Bennett (our wedding song!)