Cardamom Cake

Happy New Year to all of my lovely readers. I hope you were able to take some time off in December and relax with your friends and family.

Tea is served in my in-laws’ home like clockwork at 4.30pm. Every day.

The tea cups arrive on a tea trolley (yes, in Pakistan we still have those), both tiers lined with beautiful white linen and assorted teacups my father-in-law collected over the years from the antique markets in Paris’ 18th.

And there is always cake – homemade cake – which my mother-in-law, Yassi prepares herself.

There is a loaf cake studded with candied fruit, perfect with a cup of black, very tannic tea, which I love.

And on other afternoons there is a sticky and dense date cake which tastes like a dark molasses.

We add a blob of clotted cream and have it with cups of cardamom tea.

It is so decadent, but when we visit family in Pakistan during the winter break, everything revolves around food.

Cardamom Cake1

Breakfast is usually a masala omelet, eaten with lots of fresh butter and toast on the side, and then lunch could be at home where there is invariably a spicy meat and vegetable stew – my favorite being slow-cooked mutton with chana dal lentils; dal gosht.

If lunch is next door at my husband’s Uncle and Aunt’s home, there are all sorts of fried treats.

In particular, I adore their cook Saghir’s legendary chapli kebab which are seared beautifully on the outside with every bite yielding soft, spiced meat on the inside, studded with crushed, dried pomegranate seeds and tomatoes.

The date and tamarind chutney on the side is tart, sweet and spicy; perfect for dousing the kebabs with before I wrap them up in fresh, light-as-air, homemade chapatis.

And yet, there is still space in the stomach for the simple cakes Yassi makes, which we share thick slices of at 4.30pm.

This loaf cake is the sort of treat Yassi would make for our afternoon tea sessions.

It is a reminder for me to slow down a bit and enjoy time with my family and friends.

There are moments when I am at home and feel so guilty when I am not doing something “productive” – cooking, organizing, planning, tidying up after my son, doing paperwork, reading something important – which is a ridiculous way for me to think, I admit.

However, I am sure many of you feel that way, too.

It is rare that I just sit back on the weekend and have a cuppa and something sweet with it.

But tea time reminds me of all the good things in life: my family in Pakistan, my mother-in-law, the bakeries in Lahore which smell of sugar, aniseed and cumin, my mother and her rusk-dipped-in-tea habit, my father’s preference for having biscuits (cookies) with his tea and my excitement when a plate of spicy tempura come out on the tea trolley to enjoy with the rest of the family.

The best part has always been the fight amongst us cousins over the assorted crisp treats – who was going to get the much sought-after aubergine one?

Cardamom Cake4

I hope you enjoy this cardamom cake and get rid of all feelings of guilt for “doing nothing” – except enjoying some cake, tea and gossip with your family and friends.

Cardamom Cake3
Print Recipe Pin Recipe

Cardamom Tea Cake in the Pakistani Manner

Author: Shayma Saadat


  • 200 g flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 175-200 g granulated white sugar (I use 175g because I like it less sweet.)
  • 150 g unsalted butter, brought to room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract (I use this one, please use real vanilla extract, I promise, it makes all the difference.)
  • 150 g full fat sour cream
  • 3 small eggs (the eggs we buy are tiny; they are from an Amish farmers' co-op. If you are using large eggs, 2 will do)
  • 8 cardamom pods


  • Pre-heat the oven to 180C and line a 23 x 13 x 7cm loaf tin with parchment paper.
  • Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Sift and set aside.
  • Remove seeds from their pods. Discard pods. Crush seeds in a pestle and mortar. If you don't have a pestle and mortar, wrap the seeds in a newspaper and crush with a rolling pin (or the base of your frying pan). The seeds should not be crushed to a dust. The result should look like freshly cracked pepper. Set aside.
  • Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy (my Kitchenaid Professional mixer is not optimal for creaming butter and sugar in small batches, many others feel the same way; I use a hand mixer).
  • Add vanilla extract and sour cream and continue mixing till incorporated.
  • Add eggs one by one; mix well.
  • In batches, by hand (not using a hand mixer), gently fold in the flour, salt and baking powder mixture and cardamom seeds. Take care not to overmix the batter.
  • Transfer into lined loaf tin and place in the middle of the oven for 50-55 minutes or until a cake tester/skewer/toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  • Don't wait till the cake cools down, this is lovely when it is hot out of the oven. It will break and crumble a bit, but it is delicious.

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  1. Lovely memories and thoughts of your family and what a delicious looking treat. Love those adorable plump baby hands grabbing for the cake!

  2. s, our families have such familiar and similar traditions. afternoon tea is an important feature of both sides of my family. the punjabi side loves their deep fried snacks and bakery wallah fruit cake. my maternal side has an assortment of patties and all manner of cakes and biscuits and of course with mama there are always home made scones. at some point in our lives i hope we will have tea together and as you said do nothing. i did a little bit of that in december and felt so much more human. i love the photography but i have to say what is most precious are E’s little hands on the cake!

    1. M, Scones must be so lovely! We also had many of the same treats, but what I miss the most now that my grandmother is gone, are the shami kebabs during teatime. Look forward to tea, dinner, drinks, lunch – all of it – with you. xo S

  3. Have you tried one of those silicone edged beater blades? They improve things for that kind of problem.

  4. Happy New Year Shayma… think I am always hankering for nostalgia and nothing begets that more than reading your posts. I am slowly getting used to the new-look space of yours 🙂

  5. I agree, once in a while when you indulge in rare leisurely cup of afternoon tea, its almost like you’ve travelled back in time!! I adore the entire ceremony of afternoon tea!! PS — Turkish delight’s adorable fingers are looking a bit too tempting!! happy new year!

    1. Happy New Year! We don’t seem to indulge in afternoon teas as much anymore, do we? My father always had a cup of tea when he returned from work, even if it was 7pm. We seem to be too caught up in our schedules these days, it is always, go, go, go!

  6. Lovely post. Brought back nostalgic warm feelings of karachi winters. Turkish delight’s cherubic hands add to the loveliness of your post. x

  7. This recipe ‘reads’ like a delicious treat! Can’t wait to try it! I agree with the other comments, though, the best part is seeing those precious baby hands …!

  8. This sounds delicious, and I would love to make it, but I can’t readily obtain cardamom pods in my area. Do you have an estimate of how much pre-ground cardamom might be an appropriate substitute? If not, I can always experiment!

    1. Where do you live, Ashley, perhaps I can mail some cardamom pods to you? You can email me, if you like, from my Contact page on my website. In terms of ground cardamom, if it is quite fragrant, I would perhaps start with one teaspoon. As you can imagine, there is nothing like freshly ground cardamom, much like using freshly ground black pepper berries. Do let me know how it turns out, and again, I am happy to send you some cardamom pods.

      1. Oh, thank you, Shayma, that is such a kind offer! I realized afterward that I could order the pods from Amazon quite easily–I don’t know why I didn’t think of that before. Anyway, as you suggest here, I did make the cake using 1 tsp of ground cardamom and it was good but a bit muted. I am definitely going to try again with fresh!

  9. Happy New Year to you and your family as well! I love such simple fuss-free tea cakes. And cardamom flavor is my fav specially with tea. Lovely pics as always and those cute chubby hands grabbing for a slice makes it even more cuter! <3


  10. Hello sister Shayma! 😀
    I am totally in love with your blog and you. You’re absolutely stunning, Ma sha Allah and in love with your food photography, and oh such memorable, heart-warming stories you post up associated with different cuisines.
    The cake looks lovely and I bet it’s taste great too. Your anecdotes blow me away, as such I can imagine them vividly in front of me while I’m reading it… really heart warming and I’m thinking ‘I would love to be a part of something like this.’
    Btw, are those your son’s hands? Awwwhiee!
    Not a fan of cardamom as much, but I am meaning to ask you since you’ve mentioned cardamom tea a lot of times is, I have been having ‘Ahmads tea’ (cardamom flavour) someone gave them to me… would you know where I can purchase it in Toronto?
    It’s almost done and it tastes heavenly. I am hoping you’ve heard of it.
    – You’re so awesome. Keep up the lovely work. Thanks for sharing your stories!
    PS; Do you make Pasta? I been in search of some great pasta recipes and would to know, if you can share some, since you’re a great cook ! 😀

    1. Hello Hirra, Thank you for your lovely message. Yes, those are my son’s hands 🙂 In Toronto, I suspect you can find Ahmad’s cardamom tea at Iqbal’s in Thorncliffe Park. I do adore pasta, but after having lived in Italy, I have come to appreciate very simply-prepared pasta dishes – so I usually boil pasta and toss it with some form of vegetable which is in season, (sautéed in a bit of olive oil). In the summer, I love to poach cherry tomatoes in olive oil and garlic and then toss with pasta with fresh basil and torn pieces of fresh mozzarella. Best wishes.

  11. Hi…I am not a baker..more of a savoury cook…but I cannot wait to try this cake! Whenever I go back to Pakistan, my favorite activity is teatime! I can taste the samosas, pakoras and the chapli kebabs! I am hating you right your blog!

    1. Hi Fatima, I love baking, but with a little one, it is hard to find the time do so. My favourite time is tea time, too – especially with all the fried treats. Sharing tea is such a festive event in our homes, isn’t it?

  12. Happy New Year to you and your family, Shayma! Love the sound of this cake and the tradition behind it. I especially love the image of little hands trying to steal a piece….perfect!

  13. Belated congratulations on Tiny Spoon’s arrival. I just made this subbing the sour cream for yoghurt out of fridge necessity and the vanilla essence for a teaspoon of rose water. V quick – put it together while baby K had her afternoon nap and just got it out the oven ready for her gouter. It’s divine. Light and fragrant. Thank you !

    1. Alex, I hope Baby K enjoyed it. I was also toying with the idea of rosewater, but I didn’t want to use too many hard-to-find ingredients. My warmest to Baby K, S

  14. I can relate to everything! The afternoon tea sessions and sweet/savory treats! I took a trip down memory lane with you 🙂 Love your recipe of cardamom tea cake – cardamom is my absolutely favorite spice, so I am surely going to bake this cake! Gorgeous pictures and lovely post!

  15. Hello Shayma,

    Thank you so much for all the beautiful work, time and effort you put into each and every one of your posts. You are such a tasteful individual and gifted storyteller..besides your wonderful recipes, I also always look forward to reading your entries. I made this cardamom tea cake with a good friend earlier today, and it was absolutely amazing; easily one of the best sweet treats I have ever had..the soft, spongy texture, the buttery flavor paired with the lovely and delicate scent of was perfection all around. This recipe will go down in my list of favorites to make again, and again…thank you!

    1. Armine, Your message came at a wonderful time, just when I was down with pneumonia. Thank you for your sweet message; it was heartwarming and just what I needed when sick in bed. Thank you, thank you.

  16. Thank you for lovely recipes and inspiring blog! I especially enjoy the background stories and how you describe atmospheres and situations, makes me feel like i’d be reading a good book… I made this cake for my pakistani sweetheart also who just loved it!

  17. So yum! These days I relish drinking masala tea made with rice, cardamom, cinnamon , and clove…

    Blog: global vegan fare

  18. I tried this recipe upon whim earlier this afternoon and it is simply happiness in one bite! Since I don’t drink tea more than once a day, I try to relish my morning tea as much as possible. This cake is the perfect pairing with any hot beverage and has been a huge hit with members of my family. I am not ashamed to admit that most of it has already been devoured! It even prompted me to break my one-cup-of-chai-a-day rule and I am writing this as I enjoy the lovely experience you have created once more. Thank you for that. I will definitely be making this again very soon!

    PS – I am eagerly awaiting your Saffron Orange-Scented Bread Pudding recipe! 🙂

  19. Just baked this cake the other day and it was AMAZING! We loved it fresh out of the oven, with tea. I was feeling a bit adventurous and added about 1.5 tbsp of evaporated milk to the batter( while adding sourcream) just to give it that little richness… Thank you for sharing the recipe and memory 🙂

  20. This cake is amazing!!!
    I added a few slivered almonds to the top of it before putting it in the oven.
    Thank you for the recipe.

  21. Argh! I love how you write about food and memories, so decadent…I am trying to reconnect with my pakistani-ness whilst living abroad and start cooking again…

    all that cake is definitely inspiring!

    thank you 🙂

    p.s. do you have a recipe for chappatis? I am absolutely useless at them!

    1. Hi Yasmine, Thanks for your comment and the compliments. I wish I had a chapati recipe to share with you. I had a hand injury several years ago, after which I stopped making anything which required kneading. I am starting to do this again, so I may just blog about a chapati recipe. Thank you, Shayma

  22. Hi Shayma,

    thanks so much for this lovley recipe! The cake was easy to make and super delicious and it went perfectly with our afternoon tea 🙂

    I forgot to buy sour cream, so I ended up substituting the sour cream with the same amount of greek yogurth (200gr) and one additional teaspoon of baking powder- it worked out just fine!

    I will definitely make it a staple in my baking.

    1. Hi Katharina, Thanks for the positive feedback. It was really kind of you to write in. I think that any strained yoghurt would work just as well in this recipe. I do have a soft spot for sour cream and buttermilk though, I must say. x s

  23. Hi Shayma,

    I love that your comments section says “speak your mind”…too often these sections are over-moderated leaving only positive comments behind.
    Thanks for this recipe – This cake was phenomenal! I’ve made it several times now at the request of my husband. I added some saffron (ground up, mixed with a tiny bit of milk) and some grated nutmeg. So, so good.

    Thank you again. Looking forward to more wonderful recipes!

  24. Perfect on a cold london afternoon with a hot cup of tea 🙂
    A friend made it for me yesterday and as i devoured a huge perfectly crusty from the outside and melts in your mouth center cake, reminded me of my mom’s homemade cakes 🙂 So she mentioned how awesome your blog is and here I am, made it today! The kids loved it even my 4 year old!
    Will definitely try your other recipes too!
    keep the amazing work going 😀

    1. BTW I used yogurt instead of sour cream didn’t have it and cant get rid of old desi habits of improvising 😛

  25. Hi Shyama, I baked this cake for us yesterday and we loved it! Thanks for sharing such a precious recipe with us.I used yogurt instead of sour cream,since that’s what I had on hand then. I have shared your recipe on my blog today. I am sure everyone who tries it will love it as much as we did!


  26. Hi Shayma! I just found your blog and I love it . You writing flows so gorgeously and I love your stories . I have been here in states for 15 years now but my heart is still in Pakistan , karachi to be exact 🙂
    I made the cardamom tea cake today , and the first bite took me back to my childhood. My mother used to make this cake when I was younger . THANK YOU SO MUCH !
    wish you all the best .

  27. WOW! The cake looks similar to the cakes baked in Sukkur (Sindh, Pakistan)

  28. This is the most amazing cake. Thank you for posting it. I am such a cardamom fan, and I’m now following you on Instagram! I think I would eat almost anything if it had cardamom in it!

  29. Hi. I can’t wait to try this. Lovely pictures!

    Any specific reason why sour cream is used? Anything else I can use instead?

  30. Sounds like a lovely tea bread to serve. But can you translate grams into cup measurements for me.
    ? Thanks so much.

  31. contemplated I’d personally restraint points unconscious. I like exactly what I envision i really am located absolutely charting you. Look forward to

  32. hey thank you for posting this delicious recipe 🙂 i made this today and it tasted divine ! my only question is, the loaf collapsed after a while, once i took it out of the oven. i baked for about 50 minutes, the skewer came out clean , and once i cut the loaf, it was not raw. what did i do wrong ? many thanks

  33. I was so happy to find this recipe and was all eager to make it tomorrow and then noticed the measurements. I am not good with them, it will take time to translate for me to make it.

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