1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 10-cup Bundt pan.
2. Sift together first 3 ingredients in a large bowl. Process almond paste and 1 1/4 cups sugar in a food processor until blended. Beat butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed 1 minute. Add sugar mixture and 1 teaspoon vanilla, and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down sides. Gradually add flour mixture, mixing just until blended.
3. Pour into prepared Bundt pan, and bake 55 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into cake center comes out clean. Remove from oven, and let cool.
4. Toss cherries with Cognac, cinnamon sticks, 3 teaspoons vanilla, 3 tablespoons sugar, and vanilla bean halves in a bowl; pour into a roasting pan. Increase heat to 425°, and bake cherry mixture 10 minutes. Place vanilla bean halves and cinnamon sticks in a small bowl, and let cool. Strain cherries, and reserve all cooking liquid.
5. Scrape vanilla beans with a spoon, and place seeds in bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer. Add whipping cream. Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar, add cardamom, if desired, and whisk until stiff peaks form.
6. Assemble trifle in 16 (10-ounce) individual glasses. Slice cake into 3/4-inch pieces. Layer cake pieces, 1 1/2 teaspoons cherry liquid, cherries, and 3 tablespoons cream; repeat layers, ending with 1 tablespoon cream. Chill 2 hours, sprinkle with almonds, and serve.
*To bring eggs to room temperature safely, remove from refrigerator and place in a bowl for 30 minutes.