Gluten-Free Walnut, Lemon & Cardamom Cake

Walnut, Lemon & Cardamom Cake

Champagne_Glass_Image_courtesy_of_eyehook_comI suspect that the Cardamom Brigade have been hard at work, stealthily making their way into my list of favorite baking ingredients, judging by the spice’s appearance in a number of desserts I’ve prepared this month.

Cardamom is a highly polarizing spice – you either love it or you don’t, and I definitely fall in the former category. I’m intrigued by its vivid aroma, with hints of mint, eucalyptus and citrus. It’s got such personality that deploying it in Western cuisine and desserts is a tricky task, which is why this recipe for a Walnut, Lemon and Cardamom cake from Moro: The Cookbook piqued my interest. With ground almonds, walnuts, lemon juice, zest and polenta, this distinctive spice perfectly balances the pungent acidity of lemons in a moist and crumbly tea cake. Each bite is a play of textures and tastes, as the nuts and polenta hold on to their firm consistencies as the flavor of sweetened lemons gradually morphs into cardamom.

Lemon Cardamom cake montage

Apart from marking the days in this 30-day challenge, the fact that I actually considered this recipe is a reflection of how my tastes have changed since we moved to the US. When this book landed on my lap before we left Singapore, I was more excited about their meat and seafood recipes as I lived through my Tapas/Mezze craze, hankering over anything with chorizo, olives and grilled calamari that was served in shallow round terra cotta dishes. Lemon was hardly attractive, and a lemon cake? Forget it.

Well, look who’s talking now as I happily baked this cake today and savor its crumbs while writing out a post. I guess our food choices are as reliable as the seasons, birthdays or anniversaries that we celebrate in marking the passage of time. They give us moment for pause, to look back and see how far we’ve come, and to be grateful for what we have and where we’ve been.

Served simply, this gluten-free treat is equally delicious with or without adornment, perfect for accompanying a hot pot of tea on a cold Fall day.

Gluten-Free Walnut, Lemon & Cardamom Cake (adapted from Moro: The Cookbook)
Makes one 8-inch (20 cm) cake

1 stick plus 5 tablespoons/ 185 grams unsalted butter, room temperature and cubed
6½ ounces/ 185 grams granulated sugar
5 ounces/ 140 grams walnuts, chopped
5 ounces/ 140 grams blanched almonds, chopped
2 eggs
4½ ounces/ 130 grams polenta
1 level teaspoon baking powder
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1½ lemons
2 to 3 level teaspoons ground cardamom
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325F/ 160C and line an 8-inch/ 20 cm springform tin with parchment paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, or using a wooden spoon, beat the butter and sugar together until light and very pale. Stir in the almonds and walnuts, then add the eggs, one at a time. Add the polenta, baking powder, lemon juice and zest and enough cardamom to taste. You’ll want the batter to have a nice balance between lemon and cardamom.

Spoon the mixture into the tin and bake in the preheated oven for 1½ to 2 hours, until the cake is golden brown and just firm in the middle.

Remove the tin from the oven and leave to cool before unmolding the cake from the tin. Dust with sugar (if desired) before serving, and consume with a pot of hot tea and a good book.



  1. Anna: Thanks for giving me an idea for another new flavor pairing – cardamom with apricots and peaches sounds fantastic.

    Dominique and Felicia: Cardamom is usually used as part of a blend of spices in Indian and Middle Eastern curries. I’ve never had it as one of the main stars in a dessert so this cake was really interesting. I liked that it tempers the sweetness too.

    Nurit: Thanks for retweeting!

    Thanks everyone!

  2. Pingback: Walnut, Lemon and Cardamom Cake « Foodshots

  3. I made this cake last Friday. The flavor was amazing. I did have a few problems with the recipe though: I had to take the cake out off the oven after 50 minutes because it was too browned by that time. The cake is falling apart, too crumbly, as I’ve noticed in your photos as well.
    Since the flavor is so fantastic I will make it again but will try to change the batter to something more cakey and less crumbly.
    Overall, we ate it to the last bite!
    Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  4. Hi Nurit,

    Thanks for your feedback and I’m glad you liked the flavors. I think baking times will vary depending on the strength of our respective ovens. My oven is pretty mild so the baking time took the full 2 hours for the middle of the cake to firm up. Perhaps you might place the cake on the lowest rack on your next try?

    I agree about the texture, and maybe adding another egg to the mix might help bind the mixture a little better. Do let me know how your experiments turn out!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *