Almond Cardamom Cake

I was in the 7th grade when I baked my first cake.

At school, we had been reading Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, in which Aunt Maudie bakes a Lane Cake for Aunt Alexandra’s homecoming.

Our extra credit assignment was to prepare this cake.

I arrived at my Aunty Shelly’s to find she had measured out the ingredients and placed them along the wooden counter with the recipe in her Arabesque-like penmanship on a notecard.

We were going to bake Lane Cake together; tall and ivory frosted, belying the four layers of neatly stacked sponge beneath.

Each layer sandwiched together with a sweet, dense filling of buttery pecans, plumped-up raisins and aromatic coconut, held together with egg yolks and butter.

The kind of filling you lick off the spoon because it tastes even better than the cake itself.

Over the next half and hour Aunty Shelly taught me how to whip egg whites with a hand mixer, slowly transforming the gooey transparent liquid into soft cloud-like forms.

“Stop now,” she directed me, “We don’t want the egg whites to get too firm.”

She took each snowball of egg-white and showed me how to fold it into cake batter.

Poured into baking tins and into the oven the soft batter went.

We placed the saffron-yellow egg yolks in a bain marie.

“Whisk the eggs yolks like you scramble an egg,” Aunty Shelly instructed me.

That was easy, I knew how to do that.

By the spoonful she added in sugar, then butter.

The yolks, as if by alchemy changed shades to become a lemon-hued custard.

“Keep stirring, don’t stop,” Aunty Shelly said, as she flicked in bronze pecans, fat raisins and fragrant coconut.

I dipped my finger into the creamy mess for a brief moment, popping it into my mouth to taste the candy-like flavors.

The cakes now out of the oven and cool, I held my hand on top of the sponge as Aunty Shelly carefully ran the knife through it.

She cut it like butter, in one swift movement.

We dipped our spatulas into the filling and started to smear it on top of the cake, layer after layer.

With each slathering I stole some globs of filling for myself.

Sham ji, you’re going to finish all the filling,” scolded Aunty Shelly, “don’t you want that A+?” We laughed as I saw her glide her finger into the bowl for a taste.

Aunty Shelly was my mother’s first friend when she came to the United States from Pakistan as a young bride.

Their husbands both young professionals starting a new life in a new country, Shelly and Sarosh- my Ami, rode the bus with me as a two-year old, tucked into a pram, to the nearest mall, to buy themselves gold studded sandals.

Or maybe silver ones. Something shiny to remind them of Lahore; their home.

Asleep in my pram, Shelly and Sarosh would steal a moment to sit at the Baskin Robbins in the mall, sharing a banana split sundae.

As the muddy fudge slithered its way down the top of each ice-cream scoop, the two girls would dig their spoons in and talk about booking their next phone call to Pakistan.

Ami tells me that Shelly would always let her have the sugary maraschino cherry.

Every trip I made to Washington DC from Rome to visit my family would end with a visit from Aunty Shelly bearing two rectangular loaves, wrapped in tin foil.

Inside would be her banana blueberry bread- moist, sweet and tart.

I’d share slices of it with friends in Rome, serving it with dense, milky tea.

Sometimes I would exchange my flaky morning cornetto for a slice of Aunty Shelly’s blueberry banana bread.

The cappuccino foam touching my lips, I’d take a bite of that cake, made for me with love.

Aunty Shelly was with me in Pakistan when I got married, as was her son.

As my eyes grew damp before saying goodbye to my parents on my wedding, her son tied a silk and gold dupatta around my waist, an Afghan rasm– ritual / tradition- in which the bride leaves with a memento- a piece of her family- tied around her waist by her brother.

I have slowly started to bake and in this particular cake I mix some cardamom, my favourite spice, with almond-  folding in the fluffy egg whites the way my Aunty Shelly taught me to do that day back in the 7th grade.

Print Recipe Pin Recipe

Almond Cardamom Cake

Yield: 6
Author: Shayma Saadat


  • 120g + 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 120 g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 100 g almond flour (I just peeled blanched almonds and whizzed them in a blender-make sure you don't over-blend, as the almonds will turn to butter)
  • 75 g flour
  • 8 cardamom pods, seeds removed and crushed, pods discarded
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 150 ml milk (I used 2%; best not to use skim milk)
  • 300 g raspberries
  • 1 packet flaked / sliced almonds
  • confectioner's sugar for dusting


  • Pre-heat your oven to 180C / 350F
  • Line a Springform tin with parchment paper and butter the sides
  • In a large bowl, cream the butter and 120g sugar and slowly add in egg yolks, mix on high speed till pale yellow.
  • Add both flours slowly, bit by bit and mix on medium speed.
  • Add crushed cardamom, baking powder, salt and milk and mix on medium speed.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk egg whites till soft peaks begin to form, around 5 minutes on high speed.
  • Slowly fold egg whites into the batter. Transfer into Springform.
  • Place in oven for 35 minutes- since oven times vary keep an eye on the cake at the 30 minute mark- if it looks golden, it is ready. Insert toothpick to verify.
  • Sprinkle with flaked almonds till the surface of the cake is completely covered. Dust liberally with confectioner's sugar using a sieve.

For the Raspberry Coulis

  • Place raspberries in a saucepan on medium heat with 2 tbsp sugar and allow to melt into a sauce.
  • When the raspberries have transformed into a sauce, sieve to remove seeds and serve alongside cake.

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  1. So that’s a picture from your wedding? You looked so gorgeous Shayma, but that’s no surprise considering how beautiful you are. The cake looks lovely and comforting and I loved that it was made by your “Aunty Shelly”. Proof that friendship cuts through all boundaries.

  2. This is such a lovely story! My eyes got all misty when you got to the wedding part. You were a beautiful bride! Oh yeah, before I forget, this cake looks delicious 🙂

  3. Beautiful post and even lovelier cake, Shayma. Its funny how some foods are sweeter because of the memories they bring. 🙂

  4. Hurrah – a new post! Beautifully written as always and I’m very jealous of your memory – I can’t remember anything about being two xx

  5. @Hilda @Lawyers Love Lunch @Maninas @Aparna Thank you so much for the kind words. Food is definitely sweeter because of the people we associate with it.

    @KSalty Thanks, darling- regarding my memory as a 2-year old-it’s non existent- my mum has told me this story all my life! x s

  6. keep baking, it’s so immensely satisfying – although I’m learning to give the slices away more than eat them all for the sake of a waistline 🙂

  7. What a beautiful, wonderful story, Shayma. I loved this very much. 🙂 The cake is LOVELY!!! All those gorgeous flavors. 🙂

  8. Shayma,

    Wonderful and amazing story, I really love it! It’s not just the recipe that amazed me, the story associated with it! Thanks for sharing!


  9. Why did we never have assignments for English that required the baking of a cake? I’d have always got A+ if that were the case…

    Lovely writing (you’re almost free-associating in parts, your style is so languid now) and stomach-rumblingly glorious photographs as always; am so so hungry right now.


  10. You are blessed with such lovely memories, mashallah.

    I love the photo of you as a little girl, sooo adorable. You were such an elegant bride, very pretty mashallah.

    The cake is lovely as well. Every time I taste cardamom in desserts I think of kheer. Almonds, cardamom, and a hint of raspberry–delicious.

  11. I don’t know why but this post made me rather weepy. I think I’d better have a slice of cake to comfort myself. (Not sure it will be as exquisite as this, though).
    Beautifully written, as always. xo

  12. Firstly you look BEAUUUUUUUTiful and you made me well up with the misty eyed bidhai memory – I wailed rather inelegantly at my sister’s and looked like a panda. Such gorgeous reading. xxx

  13. I love the way you connect your recipes with a wonderful personal story. Such lovely memories you have; thank-you for sharing them (and your recipes)so generously with us. I will definitely try making this cake

  14. Shaymss you know I now realize why each creation of yours looks immaculate, it’s because each of these represent all these beautiful snippets from your life.. absolutely love reading your blog and not to mention, how I drool on each photo!

  15. Shayma apa I LOVE YOUR RECIPES! And your stories. 🙂 Your blog is one of my favorites! Thanks so much for sharing!

  16. I can smell your cake baking and I want a slice!!!

    And what a beautiful story of friendship. Thanks for taking the time to share both the recipes and the moments with all of us.


  17. What a wonderful story and cake – I don’t know about the wedding, I was welling up at the thought of pecan and raisin buttercream icing *sigh*

    It’s funny, I don’t know if it;s true for other people, but all my baking memories are tied up with my childhood I rarely bake now, and it just isn’t as good.

  18. deliciousness and gorgeousness in one wonderful post. your writing keeps getting more and more lyrical, i love it! and how utterly perfect you looked on your wedding!! i remember reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” too in the 8th grade, no cake assignment unfortunately 🙂

  19. @AF Thank you so much.

    @Huma I also gave away three-fourths of the cake- to colleagues. It is indeed very satisfying, and also relaxing. Look forward to seeing your new posts.

    @Krista @Lita Thanks for your lovely words.

    @TheCityRoad Oh I wish that were the case- the A+ was for the assignment, not the class tee hee. Thank you- you do know that you nudged me in the right direction and encouraged me to blog, don’t you? Eternally grateful to you for that.

    @Nadia Thank you- you are so right cardamom and almonds remind me of kheer, too. And firni, and shir khurma, and ras malai- the works!

    @Mothership Thanks so much- next time I shall have a slice with the gorgeous tea you gifted me.

    @Gary Thanks so much.

    @CookInBoots Thanks for the compliments. I think there is only one way to cry at a bidhai- and that is to wail and shed loads of tears- as inelegantly as possible. But in your case, I doubt that (inelegance) is possible.

    @Jeanne And thank *you* for reading my rather long-winded story.

    @Fati It’s because you loves me, innit? Love you back.

    @Sania *So* kind of you. Thanks and a big hug to you.

    @Umber Thanks for leaving this loving comment. Big hugs.

    @Grubworm Well if that is making you well up, let me tell you something even more delicious about Lane Cake-the raisins are supposed to be soaked in bourbon- except in Aunty Shelly’s halal kitchen, that was a big no-no. Hmmm, will we be seeing some lovely baking posts on your blog?

    @Manalkhan Thanks so much, Manal. To Kill A Mockingbird is wonderful with or without cake, did you see the movie? We got to see it (Gregory Peck: swoon) after we had finished reading the book.

  20. Oh, Shayma, you made me cry again. It was the photo of you and your Aunt Shelly’s son, your “brother,” on your wedding day…

    I love the way your reminiscences weave together cultural traditions, family rituals, food and festivals.

    Your Cardamom Almond Cake looks out of this world–beautifully presented and, I feel sure, as delicious as it looks.

    Headed to specialty grocery store for whole cardamom…

  21. @Lorraine Aunty Shelly and her husband *both* cried when they read this. It was an emotional post for me- she is a mother to me and her husband a father. I am lucky to have 2 sets of parents, in a way. Thanks for your kind and loving comments, as always. Honest, Lorraine, the cake is very, very easy to make. I just whipped it up one afternoon when my husband was at work on a weekend. Sending hugs and cardamom scents your way.

  22. What a lovely story of friendship. I really enjoyed reading this wonderful post. This cardamom cake looks stunning and delicious. Beautiful photos!

  23. Great write up. More than the recipies, I read your blog for the narrative. Keep blogging and bless you.

  24. @Azita Joon Thank you so much

    @Umair Thanks, I am pleased to know people read the narrative, too- though that is more for myself- one cannot expect readers to spend so much time going through a story. I thank you for that.

  25. Wonderful to read such a vivid account of early baking memories and how intricately those memories tie in with your family and heritage. The recipe looks like a winner, cardamom, almonds and raspberries….what’s not to love?

  26. Shayma
    You look so beautiful in your wedding dress; the epitome of femininity and elegance; I know that cake tastes heavenly (how could it not with almond and cardamom) but most of all everytime I read your post you are transporting me somewhere and for this I am grateful to you.

  27. Shayma, Beautifully done. I’m going to run to your aunty Shelly and ask her to bake this cake for me. By the way why are the measurements in grams. Dont understand that. Cant you do cups??

  28. @Scandilicious Thanks, Sig. x s

    @TasteofBeirut Joumana, thanks as always for the compliments. Enjoy your holiday in Beirut.

    @Sabiha Thanks, Aunty. Unfortunately, I am not good at creating recipes which use cups, I understand the metric system much better and more accurately. Converting this to cups would make the numbers a but ‘uneven’. Maybe I can bake this for you when I am in DC next?

  29. Oh my gosh! This looks so yummy that I had to be broken away from the computer screen! as soon as I get my kitchen back I will try it! in the meantime though, as we say in Turkish “blessings on your hands” for making this delicious cake and all the other stuff that I have just discovered!

  30. @Alev You are very kind, thank you for visiting my blog. I love this Turkish phrase- thanks once again.

  31. What a moving post, Shayma. You have a such a vivid memory and writing style. What a memorable and fun homework assignment. Your almond cardamom cake looks fantastic. As fortune would have it, I have been thinking of making something similar myself. I’ll try yours first! Lane Cake sounds wonderful, too. That might have to be my next birthday cake. Thanks for the inspiration. Xoxo, my dear!

  32. Yum…! I made this tonight and it was so delicious. Cardamom just gives the most wonderful fragrant taste – I made an orange and cardamom cake last week and that was amazing too (maybe I just love cake?). New favourite spice. I had mine with fresh raspberries and creme fraiche and it was perfect, thank you.
    Only thing – you missed the flour mix on your instructions so I nearly didn’t put them in! Luckily I noticed and put them in with the baking powder etc. and that seemed to work ok…
    Otherwise perfect!

  33. @Chuck Thank you, most kindly, for bringing that to my attention. I had indeed missed the addition of flour in the ‘Instructions’ bit- thanks to you I have now fixed that. Raspberries and crème fraiche sounds scrummy. I am a cardamom addict- it’s my favourite spice- and it sounds gorgeous paired with orange. I suspect that may be a North African combo (Algeria, perhaps?). I am very pleased to hear there are others who love this spice, too. Thanks for your lovely comment and for the feedback. PS Is there anyone who *doesn’t* love cake? 😉

  34. Shayma – A touching story, as always, and what a lovely cake. I am a huge fan of using almond flour when baking, the French do it so often as well. Almost everything we cooked at school in Paris had at least some almond meal in it. To top it all off, you’ve added cardamom, one of my favorite spices. I can’t wait to give this beautiful treat a try. – S

  35. Welcome back! Cardamom and almond flour—this is destined for my kitchen. I’m also loving hazelnut flour these days, which may appeal to your Italophile palate!

  36. @Oui,Chef Steve, this is literally a piece of cake for you. Thanks for the lovely words. Cardamom truly is my fave spice- and paired with almonds, it seemed just right.

    @GluttonforLife Laura- thanks so much. I know you are steering clear of flour these days so perhaps you could increase the amount of almond meal and omit flour all together? I shall try this with hazelnut flour, sounds like a gorgeous combo. x s

  37. Shayma, this cake looks wonderful and I bet it’s absolutely good to eat!
    the story is amazing and touching!You’re great!

  38. Cardamom is one of my favorite spices too–now I will forever think of your story when I taste it! Thank you for sharing, you are truly a gifted story teller and food-artisan. xo

  39. I resisted the sight of the cake lest my gym regimen goes down the drain…but Temptation cannot ever be vanquished you have to beat it or succumb!! I did the latter.

    You are indeed fortunate to have a great aunt who took your grades seriously…mine were less generous with their efforts. And BTW, you have not changed much since you were a kid…perpetually beautiful.

    Spicey’s gourmet cake turned me into a gourmand after all!

  40. Oh this sounds so good, Cardamom in a cake! My mom is an Illachi addict, thank you for the perfect thing to make for her.

  41. Oh my what a gorgeous picture of you shayma!
    the cake sounds moist, and so delicious. i adore cardamom in cakes as it gives it that “trusted” aroma. do you know what i mean?

  42. What a beautiful story. I wish I had a family member who could bake, though I do remember spending quite literally hours whisking egg whites by hand to make meringues with my dad.

  43. Lovely post,it actually brought tears to my eyes.You really are an amazing writer and narrate your great memories very well.
    Shelly Apa is such a great baker and I also love her banana blueberry bread.

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