Recipe adapted from Food and Wine, Yasmin Khan
With spring often comes feelings of hope and new beginnings. Mother Nature comes to life after a restful winter. The outdoors becomes bright and cheery, much like this cake!
With each bite, it is like a springtime explosion in your mouth. Floral essence and tart lemon, beautifully complimented with a touch of cardamom. This yellow cake is then beautifully topped with lemon icing, dried rose petals, and bright green pistachios. The colors create a visually stunning cake and the flavor is equally as impressive.
The rose water used in this cake is a common ingredient in many Persian desserts. If you’ve never had it before, it can take some getting used to. Honestly, the first time I tried it, I was taken aback by its strong floral flavor, making me feel as though I was eating perfume. It’s an ingredient I may have never known about if it weren’t for the invitation to my friend’s Nowruz party.
I’d also never heard of Nowruz. So, immediately I did some research and find out Nowruz is the Persian New Year. Knowing that I want to bake something to bring to this gathering, I discovered that rose water is a common ingredient in Persian desserts. I made delightful mini rose water cupcakes for the party and they smelled like a fresh bouquet of roses. I tried one and thought, “Oh, no. I must have used too much rosewater. These taste like perfume!” I brought them to the party and told my friend I wasn’t so sure they turned out right. To my surprise, she LOVED them!
It was something about her thinking they were so delicious and encouraging me to make them again that made me give rosewater another shot. I suppose I can be easily influenced by others. Sometimes, that may be a detriment, but I find more often than not it opens my mind and allows me to enjoy more of what life has to offer. Her love for rosewater made me appreciate it more and even acquire a taste for it.
That being said, when I came across this cake, I immediately thought of her and Nowruz. As I said, Nowruz is the Persian New Year. It is the celebration of spring and marks the first day of the new year in the Iranian calendar. I felt so fortunate and grateful to have been invited to my friends celebration. It was over the top fabulous!
Nowruz typically falls between March 19-21. It symbolizes rebirth and renewal and it celebrates the link between humans and nature. Families prepare a Haft-seen table which includes 7 items that start with the Persian letter “seen” or S.
- sabzeh (wheat, barley, mung bean or lentils) – rebirth
- seeb (apples) – health and beauty
- senjed (dried oleaster berries) – love
- samanu (wheat pudding) – affluence
- soma (sumac) – the color of sunrise
- series (vinegar) – age/patience
- seer (garlic) – cleansing of body and environment, medicine
You will also find items such as these on the Haft-seen table:
- Iranian patries
- dried fruits and nuts
- candles (enlightenment and happiness)
- mirror (self reflection)
- decorated eggs, one for each member of the family (fertility)
- a bowl of goldfish (life)
- crystal bowl of water with an orange in it (earth floating in space)
- rose water (for its magical cleansing powers)
- national colors (green, white, and red)
One doesn’t have to be Persian to appreciate the beauty of this celebration and take part. There is so much more to this enchanting holiday! You can often find local community celebrations taking place in your city. My friend has gone from hosting around a hundred people at her home for this event, to now making it open to the public. Along with a few others, she hosts the Persian New Year Festival in downtown Scottsdale. You can find more information about it each year at http://www.persiannewyearfestival.com/. It’s a great family fun activity including everything from local artists, fire dancers, music, and traditional Persian food.
Even if you don’t decide to partake in all the festivities, you should make this cake. If not to celebrate Spring, how about to celebrate mom or grandma? It’s so pretty and impressive, it would be the perfect Mother’s Day dessert.
When we made this cake, we learned a bit about fractions and science (solutions, homogenous and heterogeneous mixtures). Watch the video to learn with us and see this stunning cake come together!
A few of these ingredients may be found at some specialty stores. I made this recipe a few different times to try substitutions. I found that Caster Sugar makes for a lighter fluffier cake, however, it was still super delicious when using regular, granulated sugar. Using fresh ground cardamom was a fun way for us to use our mortar and pestle, however, I made with a 1/4 tsp of ground cardamom and again, it was still super delicious.
I found dried rosebuds and rosewater (Nielsen-Massey) on Amazon.
Ingredients to Prepare
- 1 3/4 sticks of butter, room temperature
- 2/3 C plus 2 TBSP superfine (caster) sugar (I have also made using regular, granulated sugar and it was still fantastic)
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 12 cardamom pods or 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
- 3/4 C all-purpose flour, sifted
- 2 3/4 C almond flour
- Zest of 1 lemon plus 1/4 C fresh lemon juice
- 1 1/2 TBSP rose water (less if desired)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- pinch of find sea salt
- 1 1/4 C confectioners’ sugar
- 1 TBSP fresh lemon juice
- 2 tsp cold water
- chopped pistachios and dried rose petals (optional), for garnish
Kitchen Tools Needed
- 8-inch spring form pan (I used a 9-inch, worked great)
- parchment paper
- large mixing bowl
- hand mixer
- mortar and pestle (if grinding your own cardamom)
- cooling rack
- small saucepan
- skewer or dowel to poke holes in cake
STEP 1: Preheat the oven to 320 degrees F and grease an 8-inch spring form pan and line it with parchment paper.
STEP 2: In a large mixing bowl, using a hand mixer, beat the butter and 2/3 C sugar until light and fluffy.
STEP 3: Beat in eggs one at a time until incorporated.
STEP 4: In a mortar and using pestle, crack the cardamom pods to release the seeds. Discard the pods and grind the seeds to a fine powder.
STEP 5: Add cardamom, flour, almond flour, lemon zest, 3 TBSP of lemon juice, 1 TBSP of rose water, baking powder and salt to the cake batter and beat until smooth.
STEP 6: Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake about 45 minutes, a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let it cool slightly.
STEP 7: Make the simple syrup. In a small saucepan, bring the remaining 2 TBSP of sugar, 1 TBSP of lemon juice, 1/2 TBSP of rose water to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
STEP 8: Poke holes all over the cake and pour the warm syrup over the cake. Let the cake cool completely (at least an hour), and remove from the pan and transfer to a cake plate.
STEP 9: Make the icing. Whisk the confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice, and 2 teaspoons of cold water until smooth. Spoon the icing over the cake and garnish with pistachios and rose petals.
STEP 10: Serve and enjoy!