The Persian love cake is a fragrant, rich and beautiful cake. This version has notes of saffron, rose, cardamom and almonds in the cake, a lemon glaze on top, and is decorated simply with pistachios and rose petals. A delicious celebration-worthy cake indeed!
Persian love cake! Doesn’t the name intrigue you? I fell in love with this cake even before I knew what it was. Just the name evokes a sense of opulence, indulgence and romance. All good things in a cake, don’t you think?
There are several legends surrounding this beautiful, exotic cake. Some stories suggest that this cake was originally made by a woman to charm a Persian prince. Legend also has it that the cake itself is enchanted. And why wouldn’t it be? With hints of rose and cardamom, studded with nuts like pistachios and almonds, Persian love cake is love in every bite.
And like all good things, there are several versions of this cake. According to one version, this cake is baked like a traditional Mediterranean basbousa – with semolina flour and almond meal, and then drenched generously in a citrusy rose syrup. Other versions claim a more French approach to the recipe, beginning with a chiffon cake batter, and then topped with a light whipped cream frosting. But all versions agree on the presence of floral notes like rose and cardamom and the use of nuts.
I decided to bake a simple but rich sponge cake. I added a bit of ground almonds along with the flour to give it the traditional nutty, almost melt-in-your-mouth bite. I chose saffron, cardamom and rose-water as my flavorings. And they pair so well together. The aroma as you mix up the batter is nothing short of magical. Like true love!
The cake is good enough on its own – rich, moist and decadent. I was in two minds on whether to do any frosting, and finally decided to do a simple lemon glaze. You can also do a whipped cream frosting or even rose flavored buttercream. But I love a nice thick glaze on bundt cakes. The way the glaze hugs the crevices and flows down the sides of the cake makes for a pretty presentation.
The lemon glaze paired so well with the floral notes in the cake itself. A bite of this cake is like a walk through a summer garden at dusk. It absolutely puts you in a good mood.
As the name suggests, this is the perfect cake to bake for a special someone. I can see myself making this cake for birthdays, Valentine’s day, Mother’s day and more. Maybe I’ll bake it again this weekend for Father’s day!
Here’s the recipe for this gorgeous Persian love cake – a saffron, rose and almond cake with a lemon glaze and decorated with pistachios and rose petals.
- Butter - 1 cup, softened
- Sugar - 1 cup
- Eggs - 4, large, at room temperature
- Ground almonds - ½ cup (see Notes)
- Greek yogurt - ½ cup
- Rose-water - 1½ tsp
- Lemon zest - 2 tsp
- All-purpose flour - 2 cups
- Baking powder - 2 tsp
- Salt - ¼ tsp
- Cardamom powder - ½ tsp
- Saffron - a generous pinch, crushed
- Milk - ½ cup
- Sugar - ¼ cup
- Lemon juice - 2 tsp
- Rose-water - ½ tsp
- Powdered sugar - 1½ cups, sifted
- Lemon juice - 2-3 tbsp
- Pistachios - 2 tbsp, roughly chopped
- Dried rose petals - 2 tbsp
- Cake: Pre-heat the oven to 350 deg.F. Generously grease and flour a large bundt or fluted pan. Set aside.
- Before you begin, warm the milk slightly and stir in the crushed saffron strands. Let stand till you prep the rest of the ingredients. By the time you need the milk in the recipe, the saffron would have infused all their flavor into the milk and also given it a lovely golden color.
- In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar on high speed for few minutes till pale and fluffy.
- Add the eggs one by one, beating to mix after each addition. Spoon in some ground almonds along with each egg to prevent the mixture from curdling.
- Add Greek yogurt, rose-water and lemon zest and beat to incorporate.
- Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom powder into this mixture. Add the now cooled saffron milk and mix till batter is smooth. Do not over-mix.
- Pour batter into the prepared bundt pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Tap the pan lightly on the countertop a coupe of times to remove any air bubbles.
- Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 325 deg.F and bake for another 20-25 minutes or till the cake passes the toothpick test. If you bake it at 350 deg.F throughout, the cake may brown too rapidly.
- Remove the pan from oven and cool the cake in pan for 10 minutes. Gently untold the cake to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
- Syrup: During the last few minutes of baking, prepare the syrup. Combine sugar, lemon juice and rose-water in a small saucepan and heat till sugar dissolves and syrup thickens slightly. Brush warm syrup over the warm cake and allow to cool before covering with the glaze.
- Lemon glaze: Add 2 tbsp lemon juice to powdered sugar in a bowl. Using either a wire whisk or a spatula, mix together to form a smooth paste. Add more lemon juice as needed to make it into a thick but dripping consistency.
- Decoration: Pour glaze all over the top of the cooled cake and allow the excess glaze to drip down the sides of the cake.
- Sprinkle chopped pistachios and rose petals all over the top of the cake. Cut into slices and serve.
- Storage: Keep cake covered (like in a cake container) on the countertop for 2-3 days. Refrigerate for longer durations.
2. You can use orange-blossom water, orange juice and
zest instead of rose-water, lemon juice and zest respectively in the recipe.
3. I have baked the cake at a lower temperature for the latter half of the baking time. You can also bake it at 350 deg.F throughout, but you may need to tent the top to keep it from browning too rapidly. Some cracking on the top of the cake is expected, but it doesn't matter as you will be inverting the cake anyway.
4. You can also decorate the cake with fresh organic rose petals instead of dried rose petals.
Do try this rich and buttery cake with sweet floral notes of rose, saffron and cardamom. Topped with the sweet-tart lemon glaze, it is both visually stunning and absolutely delicious!
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Have you heard of the Persian love cake? Do you like to experiment with flavors while baking cakes? Do share some of your experiences.
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I am sharing this over at Fiesta Friday.