Sable and Miranda requested “cardamom and rose” flavors, and left the rest up to Lei and I.

After a whole lot of test bakes, adjustments, and science, we ended up with something that merged this recipe and this recipe from the Kitchn but was a fair distance from either of them. I loved the richness and flavor that the buttermilk and orange zest brought to the cake, but we also needed something a little more structural, and wanted something somewhat less sweet.

Here’s what we ended up with:

  • 4 egg whites
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (we used Kate’s)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 teaspoons rosewater (we used Cortas brand, which we found at the Armenian grocery)
  • 270 g sugar
  • 330 g all purpose flour
  • 20 g baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom (we ground it fresh, and sieved it it to remove large grainy pieces)
  • 12 Tablespoons salted butter butter (if using unsalted butter, add 1 teaspoon of salt to the dry ingredients)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Grease two 9″ cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, regrease, and flour.
Whisk together the egg whites, buttermilk, orange juice, zest, vanilla and rosewater.
Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and cardamom the bowl of your stand mixer.
Add the butter (cut in chunks) and about a third of the liquid mixture, and mix on low until moistened, then mix on medium until very smooth.
Add the rest of the milk mixture in batches, mix until smooth.
Transfer the batter to the pans (it makes 40 ounces of batter, each pan should get 20), and bake for 25 minutes.


We made a 9″ layer cake, a 6″ layer cake (1/2 of the recipe), and two 10″ square sheet cakes (1 1/2 recipe for each of the them, although the cakes were somewhat thin), aiming to serve over 100 people.  We cut each of the sheet cakes into 40 pieces (5×8) and ended up with most of the tiered cake left over.


The filling was a thin layer of rose jelly, thinned with lemon juice, and a layer of stabilized whipped cream.

I fell in love with the rose jelly my friend Laura made from this recipe but knew I wasn’t going to have time to make my own, so we bought 4 different jellies from the Armenian grocery and had a taste test.  “Tunas Rose Preserve” was the easy winner, with a lovely golden color and a good but not overwhelming or perfumey rose flavor.  We used about a tablespoon of lemon juice per cup of jelly.

We wanted to make sure the cake stayed vegetarian, so we stabilized the whipped cream with agar, using this recipe.  (2 teaspooons of agar per 2 cups of cream.)  Sieving the cream before whipping definitely improved the texture and prevented gritty lumps.  The whipped cream stayed stable in the fridge for a week without deflating, and held the weight of the cake with ease.


The frosting was an unusual one I found here and then modified by mistake.


  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup salted butter, at room temperature (if unsalted, add 1/2 teaspoon salt)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons rosewater

The recipe on food52 says to “Add the milk, flour, (and salt if added) to a medium saucepan and whisk until smooth.  Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and just begins to boil (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes until the mixture is room temperature. (If the mixture is too warm, it’ll melt the butter in the next step.) With an electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar and rosewater until very light and fluffy. Add the warm milk mixture, one spoonful at a time, until the frosting gets pillowy and smooth.”

I somehow mistranscribed it and heated the milk and flour as above, but then added the sugar to the thickened liquid and mixed well before letting it cool.  I beat the butter alone, and added the liquid mixture containing the sugar and rosewater to the butter once it got fluffy.  This worked great, and I wasn’t about to change a good thing the day I baked the real cake when I realized I’d done it “wrong”.  It probably works either way!

I did find putting the frosting in the fridge for 5-10 minutes achieved a nice spreadable texture (when the kitchen was around 75 degrees).

This frosting is as smooth and light as a meringue buttercream frosting, but has a much less oily mouthfeel, is somewhat more resistant to separating, and is less intensely sweet.  The down side is it doesn’t produce quite as flawlessly smooth a surface if you’re trying to make a really perfectly decorated cake.


For decorating: Donna made some royal icing with meringue powder to do the fine side piping, since the frosting above pipes fine, but isn’t as good at fine detail as royal icing is.  I used FDA-approved edible glitter from here, their pump spray bottle and some various stencils to decorate the top of the cake.