Orange-Cardamom Butter Cakes with Rosewater Icing


Perfect with afternoon tea, these delicate Sri Lankan cakes from cookbook author Ruwanmali Samarakoon-Amunugama are light with a buttery, moist crumb and a hint of citrusy cardamom. The sweet frosting gets flavor and a floral aroma from rosewater and orange blossom water from Curio Spice; a drizzle of raspberry jam thinned with orange juice adds the perfect sweet-tart contrast. Claire Cheney, the founder of Curio Spice Co., is scrupulous about sourcing. Cheney finds the best-quality spices from small farms put care into every step of the process—growing their crops organically, paying their workers a living wage, and giving back to the community.

Orange Cardamom Butter Cakes with Rose Water Icing
Photo: Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Heather Claire Spollen
Active Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 20 mins



  • 2 tablespoons whole milk  

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange zest 

  • 1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water (such as Curio Spice Co.) 

  • 1/2 vanilla bean, halved crosswise

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (4 ounces), at room temperature, plus more for greasing pan

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (about 4 1/4 ounces), plus more for pan  

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder  

  • ¼ teaspoon ground green cardamom seeds

  • teaspoon kosher salt 

  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar  

  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature  


  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (about 6 ounces)

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (8 ounces), softened  

  • 1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 

  • teaspoon rosewater (such as Curio Spice Co.) 

  • 1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam 

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons teaspoons fresh orange juice 

Additional Ingredient 

  • Dried rose petals, for garnish 


Make the cakes

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Combine milk, orange zest, and orange blossom water in a small bowl. Split vanilla bean half in half lengthwise, and scrape vanilla seeds into milk mixture; stir to combine. Add vanilla bean pod to milk mixture; set aside. Generously grease bottom and sides of 8 wells of a 12-cup standard muffin pan with butter. Dust generously with flour. Tilt to cover sides completely, and tap out excess. Set aside.

  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt in a medium bowl. Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl as needed. Add eggs to butter mixture, 1 at a time, beating on medium speed until combined and stopping to scrape sides of bowl as needed. Remove vanilla bean pod from milk mixture; discard. With mixer running on low speed, gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with milk mixture, beating until batter is smooth, about 2 minutes. Divide batter evenly among 8 prepared wells of muffin pan (about 1/4 cup per well); smooth tops with an offset spatula.

  3. Bake in preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pan; let cool completely on a wire rack, about 20 minutes. Using a serrated knife, remove and discard domed tops from cakes. Invert cakes, cut sides down, on cutting board. Halve cakes crosswise, creating 2 layers for each.

Make the icing

  1. Beat powdered sugar and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, stopping to scrape down sides as needed. Add orange blossom water, vanilla extract, and rosewater; beat until combined, about 30 seconds. Stir together raspberry jam and orange juice in a small bowl until smooth.

  2. To assemble cakes, spread 2 teaspoons icing on bottom layer of 1 cake. Top with 1 teaspoon jam mixture, and place top cake layer on jam. Spread a thin layer of icing on outside of cake; spread 2 teaspoons icing on top of cake. Dollop top with 1 teaspoon jam mixture, letting excess gently drip down sides. Repeat with remaining cakes. Garnish with dried rose petals.


Find rosewater, orange blossom water, and rose petals at Middle Eastern grocery stores or online at

Make Ahead

Cakes and icing can be made up to 2 days ahead. Store cakes in an airtight container at room temperature; cover and refrigerate icing. Let come to room temperature before using.

Related Articles