I’d been waiting for an excuse to make a cake – a birthday, an anniversary, a holiday… something – and nothing soon was coming up. But why does anyone really need an excuse to make a cake? Cake is good all the time. So for no reason at all I made a cake last night to bring into my office. I called it a Happy May Day cake (a day early).
Now, does anyone else get tired of eating chocolate and vanilla cakes over and over? I mean, dont get me wrong, I love them both. I love chocolate cakes with coffee or chocolate stout (recipe for that one to be made and posted soon) or vanilla cakes that use real vanilla beans. Great fruit fillings can also turn an ordinary cake to something brilliant (I want to make a fig filling when they come back in season). But sometimes you just want something different. Something you wouldn’t know where to buy, but if you saw it on a menu you’d say to yourself (or out loud), “ah ha! that sounds fantastic. I’m ordering one of those!” Well… this is one of those cakes.
The ingredients are based on flavors found in Persian, Turkish, and Indian foods. I succeeded in finding 2 out of the 3 ingredients that I didnt have at home: ground cardamom and saffron threads (apparently the most expensive seasoning in the world, or so the bottle told me). I searched through four different stores to look for rose water/oil/essence with no luck – Boston/Holly fail. So I decided to make my own by using organic flowers from Whole Foods and letting the petals steep in boiling water. I’m not sure that the end result was what I would find in a store bought bottle (it wasnt especially strong), but it worked well enough with the light flavor. And honestly, I’m guessing it would be great completely without it.
The texture is light like angel food or chiffon cake. The cardamom is just enough to balance the lemon zest without overpowering the experience. The saffron adds a twist while visually providing the whipped cream with a beautiful yellow color and vibrant red streaks. If you’re feeling like something new for Mother’s Day or an upcoming celebration – you might consider this. I know I’ll make this again (and again).
Persian Spice Cake
adapted from Bon Appétit
1 c cake flour
1 c sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt (I like sea salt)
5 large eggs, separated (3 egg yolks, 5 egg whites)
1/4 c water
1 tsp rose water (optional)
1/4 c vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp grated lemon peel
2 tsp ground cardamom
2 1/2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
Small pinch of saffron threads
1 c powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Very slightly oil two 9″ cake pans and line with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, combine 1/2 c sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a separate small bowl wisk 3 yolks, waters, vegetable oil, cardamom and lemon zest. Add yolk mixture to dry ingredients; whisk until smooth.
3. Beat 5 egg whites in medium bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add 1/2 c sugar and beat until whites form solid peaks.
4. Slowly add the egg whites to the batter and mix well.
5. Divide batter between prepared pans and bake until cakes are golden, about 20-25 minutes.
6. Invert pans and cool upside down on rack for 25 minutes ( It doesn’t rise much so dont worry if it deflates a little).
To make the frosting:
1. Combine 1/2 cup cream and saffron in small saucepan and bring to a slight boil. Remove from heat and chill until cold.
2. Beat remaining 2 cups cream, powdered sugar, vanilla and rose water in large bowl until soft peaks form. Add saffron cream and continue to beat until solid peaks form.