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A Truly Excellent Cake

Almond & Cardamom Tea Cake | Delightful Crumb

It seems a strange time to talk about something so simple as cake, does it not? The world has not gotten less complex since last I visited this space. The pandemic is still here and spreading; the vulnerable are just as vulnerable as ever, and those working in hospitals and essential service jobs and now even restaurants are putting themselves in danger every day when they clock in. The Black Lives Matter movement has risen to new heights, with protests and statements and calls for justice filling our feeds and our streets. This is amazing and so, so long overdue. Yet division persists even as people increasingly agree on the importance of addressing racism and inequity and police brutality in this country. There’s not only performative posting but also angry rhetoric on Instagram, despite that newfound level of agreement and the fact that clearly Black lives matter—a very simple starting place. And everyone seems so restless in these long summer days, eager to get back out into the world even as COVID cases keep rising. Politics and judgment and fear are muddling us up as we try to make the “right” choices—a nebulous concept at best.

And yet, as unprecedented as it all feels, not much of this is actually new. There was always suffering, even if we couldn’t see it, even if it wasn’t ours. Overcrowded hospitals are a new fear for so many of us, but there have always been overcrowded hospitals. And speaking of overcrowding—those prisons were beyond an appropriate capacity long before it made the news. There have always been people for whom any illness threatens death. And as for the belated, hope-filled, still-growing energy around anti-racism, it’s worth remembering that nothing actually changed in the lived experience of Black Americans from the day before George Floyd’s death to the one after it. Only the widespread outrage was new. The reasons for outrage were right here all along.

All this to say, if talking about something so simple as cake seems odd today, the truth is that it always was. Life has always been a mix of joy and sorrow, justice and injustice, ease and struggle, simple pleasure and deep pain, even if this particular moment is demonstrating that in a new and particularly profound way for many of us. And so, I give you cake anyway. Cake to give you hope as you squint to see a brighter future. To give you strength as you continue to fight, or join in for the first time. Or maybe just to sustain you as you remain stuck in your house with your family for yet another week. And someday, when this pandemic is behind us, let’s remember when our own lives light up with joy to look for those who suffer, and if we are trapped in darkness, to know that there is hope.

Also, let me quickly note—this is no ordinary cake. This is a really, really, really good cake. Maybe the best cake I have eaten all year. And I do not take these things lightly. Difficult times call for exceptionally good cake.

Almond & Cardamom Tea Cake

From Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat

Almond & Cardamom Tea Cake | Delightful Crumb


4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter

3 tablespoons sugar

1 scant cup (3 ounces) sliced almonds

Pinch of flaky salt, such as Maldon


1 cup (5 1/4 ounces) cake flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt, or 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup (9 1/2 ounces) almond paste, at room temperature

1 cup (7 ounces) sugar

2 sticks (8 ounces) butter, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Set a rack in the upper third of the oven. Butter and flour a 9 by 2-inch round cake pan, then line with parchment paper.

Make the almond topping. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, cook the butter and sugar for about 3 minutes, until the sugar dissolves and the butter bubbles and froths. Remove from the heat and stir in the almonds and flaky salt. Pour into the cake pan, and use a rubber spatula to distribute the mixture evenly across the bottom of the pan.

For the cake, on a piece of parchment paper, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the vanilla, cardamom and eggs. Set this aside as well.

Place the almond paste in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to break it up. Add the sugar and process for 90 seconds, until the mixture is as fine as sand. (You can also do this in a stand mixer, which will just take a while longer.) Add the butter and continue processing until the mixture is light and fluffy, at least 2 minutes. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is combining evenly.

With the machine on, slowly begin adding the egg mixture, spoonful by spoonful. Let each addition be absorbed, and the mixture regain its silky look, before adding more. When all of the eggs have been added, stop and scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then mix again until well combined. Scrape the batter into a large mixing bowl.

Pick up the parchment paper and sprinkle the flour mixture over the batter in three batches, gently folding in the dry ingredients between additions. Avoid overmixing, instead stirring just to combine.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick or knife comes out clean. The cake will just pull away from the sides of the pan. Let it cool on a wire rack.

Run a knife along the sides of the pan, then warm the bottom of the pan directly over the stovetop for a few seconds to encourage the cake to unmold (do this! it will help preserve the beautiful almond layer). Remove the paper and set on a cake plate until ready to serve.

Tightly wrapped, the cake will keep for 4 days at room temperature, or for 2 months in the freezer.