Vanilla Espresso Cake with Cardamom Icing


It was recently my sister’s birthday and I had grand plans of making her a birthday cake. I drove down to Seattle for work, so I thought it would be convenient enough to take one down. Then a lot of border crossing things changed very rapidly, and I didn’t feel ecstatic about taking food across the border, nor did I feel optimistic about being able to appease border guards with extra baking. I decided to bake in her (relatively) barren kitchen instead. After spending about $30 on staple ingredients and $70 on kitchen supplies, I was prepared to make the most cost ineffective cake ever! 


The cake part came out a little dense, and not very espresso-ey. And not very vanilla-ey. To be quite honest, I’m not entirely sure what it tasted like. The cardamom icing was extremely cardamom-ey (because my sister LOVES cardamom) but also very sweet. On day 1, the cake was a little too rich and sweet. The 24 hour refrigeration period worked wonders though, and it somehow tasted way better. 

For the toppings, I used some caramel espresso popcorn and dark chocolate nibs. 



  • 1.5 cup milk
  • 1.5 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 315 g (2-5/8 cups) all purpose flour
  • 300 g (1.5 cups) sugar
  • 1.5 tsp. baking powder
  • 1.5 tsp. baking soda
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 170 g (¾) melted butter 
  • 3 tbsp. vanilla


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line cake pans with parchment paper and grease with shortening. 
  2. Mix milk and apple cider vinegar. Set aside. 
  3. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt
  4. Mix butter and vanilla with milk mixture. 
  5. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Don’t overmix.
  6. Fill cake pans easily. Bake for ~30 minutes or until toothpicks come out clean. 



  • 227 g (1 cup)unsalted butter, softened
  • 30 cardamom pods, ground
  • ~3 cups icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp. milk
  • pinch of salt


  1. Cream the butter until soft. Add cardamom until well mixed.
  2. Add icing sugar and salt and mix well.
  3. Add milk and icing sugar as needed for desired texture. 

Honestly, I’m not 100% sure what I’d do next time to improve this. I would ideally want to use some dark chocolate to offset the sweetness, but my sister doesn’t particularly like chocolate. I don’t know the best way to get the espresso taste into a vanilla cake without it baking off. Work in progress! 

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