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April 24, 2024
A One-Bowl Cake For Every Vibe

A no-mixer-required cake inspired by fragrant Middle Eastern coffee

As the designated dessert supplier in my social circle, I’ve found it incredibly useful to have a go-to brunch cake up my sleeve—one made only from pantry staples, in case I don’t have time to run to the store or don’t have cash to throw at expensive pints of berries. My current favorite is inspired by the rich, warm flavors of Middle Eastern–style coffee, featuring a brown sugar sponge scented with the spicy, citrusy aroma of cardamom, topped with a slick of caramel-hued espresso glaze. And the best part? It comes together in one bowl (okay, two if you count the glaze), no mixer required.

This back-pocket cake starts with browned butter and brown sugar, both of which are decidedly better than their non-brown counterparts, and which add a nutty, caramelly flavor to the cake. Sour cream keeps the cake moist, and a healthy sprinkle of ground cardamom lends a warm, peppery fragrance. The batter can be baked in pretty much any pan you have. An 8-inch square pan or a 9-inch round pan will work best, but a smaller, 8-inch round pan will work too—you’ll just end up with a taller cake, so increase the baking time by 5 to 10 minutes.

The glaze is a simple combination of strong coffee and powdered sugar, but it follows my rule that a good frosting or glaze should feature something bitter or sour to offset potentially overbearing sweetness—think lemon, chocolate, or tart raspberry. I actually live in a coffee-free household (gasp, I know), but I keep a jar of instant espresso on hand just for baking (and to offer to horrified houseguests). I like using the instant stuff because I can easily boost the concentration and get a bolder coffee flavor into my bakes, but any ground coffee or espresso will work well.

This cake ticks all my boxes: it comes together quickly in one bowl by hand, the crumb is perfectly tender and moist, and it’s so tasty I could eat the whole thing by myself. A great one-bowl cake will see you through many occasions, from brunches to potlucks to nights alone on the couch. This is really a cake to please everybody, and I’d be willing to bet you have most, if not all, of the necessary ingredients in your kitchen right now.

RECIPE: Brown Sugar Cardamom Cake with Coffee Glaze

Zola Gregory

Zola Gregory is a writer and recipe developer based in Seattle. Having previously worked as a pastry chef and baker, she now enjoys helping others find success in their own kitchens through her stories, recipes, and baking classes.