Pretty in pink, this is a cake that’s ready for spring
A few years before the iconic Swedish bakery Fabrique opened its New York outpost in 2019, I had my first cardamom bun (and first experience with its namesake spice) in one of Fabrique’s Stockholm locations while studying abroad in Europe. Sitting in that cozy bakery on a sunny but bone-chilling February morning, I fell in love with the warm, herbal profile of cardamom as I savored every bite of the sugar-crusted, intricately woven pastry and wondered why I had settled for cinnamon all these years. Today, I still consider it a godsend that I can just go across town, rather than across the ocean, to get my hands on the bakery’s iconic buns.
Despite my relatively newfound affinity for cardamom, I realized that I didn’t actually encounter it much in my daily life. Cardamom-flavored pastries are still a rare find in the average bakery case, and until recently, I never stocked a jar of the spice at home. My spice and seasonings drawer has always been filled to capacity (hello, New York living), and besides, I’d always thought of cardamom as a nice-to-have ingredient rather than a kitchen staple. But after cross-testing a cardamom-infused syrup recipe a few weeks ago, I decided it was time to make room for the important things — even if it meant shelling out a few extra bucks and finding a place for the cardamom in a separate drawer with the coffee pods.
After cracking open the fragrant jar, the first treat I developed was this spring-ready cardamom-raspberry cake — it’s as easy to make for Easter brunch as it is for a random weeknight craving. The aromatic cake base is made with a healthy dose of ground cardamom and utilizes a mixture of all-purpose and white rice flours to create a unique, tender-but-structured crumb. When swirled with half-mashed raspberries, the tangy cream cheese frosting transforms into a creamy, playfully pink glaze that complements the herbal undertones of the cardamom without edging into cloyingly sweet territory. Although I originally doubled the amount of frosting, I quickly found that the ratio overwhelmed the flavor of cardamom (and the cake in general). The frosting recipe as it stands may not seem to yield a lot, but you’ll discover that less is more, and helps to achieve a balanced result.
Topped off with a handful of whole raspberries, this pretty-in-pink cake is fun and elegant, simple and surprisingly complex, and just as good as it looks — cardamom and sweet-tart berries are a winning flavor combination made for spring and the warmer weather. And now that I’ve stocked up on the magical spice, cardamom-scented goods are only an arm’s length away, no plane or subway ride required.
Cardamom Cake with Tangy Raspberry Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes 1 (8-by-8-inch) cake
For the cardamom cake:
¾ cup (105 grams) all-purpose flour
⅓ (packed) cup plus 2 tablespoons (90 grams) white rice flour (not glutinous or sweet rice flour; if you don’t have white rice flour, you can increase the all-purpose flour to 1 ⅓ cups, or 195 grams)
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
8 tablespoons (1 stick or 113 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup (120 grams) full-fat sour cream, at room temperature
3 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
For the raspberry cream cheese frosting:
2 ounces full-fat cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ¼ cups (156 grams) powdered sugar
¾ cup fresh raspberries, divided
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8-by-8-inch square cake pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper, leaving a two-inch overhang on the sides (to make it easier to remove the cake after baking), and grease the parchment.
Step 2: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, cardamom, baking powder, salt, and baking soda until combined.
Step 3: In a large bowl, beat the butter with an electric hand mixer or in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until smooth. Add the sugar and oil and cream the mixture until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula.
Step 4: Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition, until combined. Add the vanilla and beat to combine.
Step 5: Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter and egg mixture and beat just until combined. Carefully beat in the sour cream and milk, then add the rest of the dry ingredients and beat just until the batter is smooth and uniform.
Step 6: Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the surface with a small offset spatula. Bake the cake for 47 to 50 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Step 7: Let the cake cool in the pan for 20 to 25 minutes, then gently run a small offset spatula around the edges to loosen. Using the parchment sling to assist, transfer the cake to a rack to cool completely.
Step 8: Make the cream cheese frosting: Using an electric mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, butter, and salt in a medium bowl until completely smooth. Gradually add the powdered sugar and beat until the frosting is creamy and comes together (it will appear thick at this point). In a small bowl, roughly mash ¼ cup (about 1 ounce) of the raspberries with a fork, then gently fold them into the frosting. If needed, refrigerate the frosting for 15 minutes, or until it firms up slightly — if it still seems more like a creamy glaze, that’s normal, as long as you can spread it!
Step 9: When ready to serve, spread the frosting on top of the cooled cake and top with the remaining ½ cup of whole raspberries to finish.
Joy Cho is a freelance writer, recipe developer, and pastry chef based in New York City.
Dina Ávila is a photographer in Portland, Oregon.
Recipe tested by Deena Prichep