Almond + cardamom cake with espresso buttercream

There is a line in the movie ‘Miss Congeniality’ where the pageant MC asks Sandra Bullock’s character, ‘what is the one most important thing our society needs?’ She replies ‘harsher punishment for parole violators, Stan….and world peace!’ It’s a great answer but it’s the wrong answer. What our society needs is sleep. More sleep. A good nights sleep. Parents, let me hear an amen.

We are currently battling a sleep stealer in the form of our 4 year old. Every night without fail, she makes her way along the hall and up the stairs to our room, where she stands by the bed until one of us wakes up and gets a hell of a fright, because who thinks they’re going to wake up to a person standing next to the bed! Normally we could take her back to her bed and that would generally be the last we’d see of her til morning, but now it’s cold and neither one of us wants to get out of bed. So, she clambers on in and we hope that she will lie there nice and still. Ha! (Apparently I also used to do this when I was little, but my mother was far less patient and used to jam newspaper under the door so I couldn’t open it. Times have changed since 1981.)

Anyway, what’s keeping me going these days is coffee, and lots of it. I don’t mind what form the coffee is in, as long as I get it, so this cake is perfect. The cake itself has a lovely dense almond crumb, and it’s covered in a luxurious espresso buttercream. It’s really easy to make, and by frosting it ‘naked style’, you don’t need to fart around making sure you have a smooth finish.

Penelope, we love you, but please stay in your bed!


For the cake


190g flour
1¾ teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cardamom
225g butter, at room temperature
210g sugar
5 eggs
375g almond meal


Preheat the oven to 160°C and grease and line 2 x 20cm cake tins.
Sift the flour, baking powder and cardamom together and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
Add the flour mixture and almond meal and mix until just combined.
Spoon the mixture into the cake tins and bake for about 40 minutes, or until cooked when tested with a skewer.
Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes, before turning out onto a wire rack and cooling completely.

For the frosting

Ingredients (this is enough to fill and frost the cake ‘naked style.’ If you want to cover it thickly, increase the ingredients by ¼)

225g butter, at room temperature
3c icing sugar
2-3 tablespoons freshly brewed espresso
splash of vanilla extract


In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the ingredients together for several minutes, until the frosting is nice and smooth.

To assemble

Torte the tops of the cakes if necessary then place one on a serving platter.
Dollop one cup of frosting on top and gently smooth it out to within 1cm of the edges.
Place the remaining cake on top, cut side down (or best side up), then refrigerate for about 30 minutes, or until the frosting is set.

Remove from the fridge and frost with the remaining buttercream.


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