I’ve always been fascinated with Middle Eastern cooking, and over the years I’ve built up a repertoire of favourite recipes. At first I was guided by cooking luminaries such as Claudia Rosen – her orange almond cake is cafe legend the world over – and the highly knowledgeable Elizabeth David.
And latterly, like so many people with a passion for good food, I have lapped up everything the wonderful Yotam Ottlenghi has said and written about Middle Eastern cooking, particularly the cooking of Israel and Palestine, where he developed his unique take on flavour.
This recipe is loosely a Persian Love Cake – I got a lot of inspiration from Turkish cooking too, in particular the recipes of Sevtap Yuce. My cake features lemon, rosewater and almonds as the principal flavours.
This cake is quite big – it’s essentially a sharing, celebration cake. You could scale it down if you wanted, or make 2 smaller cakes from the mixture.
330g caster sugar
zest of 1 1/2 lemon
6 large free-range eggs
300g plain flour
165g ground almonds *
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of sea salt
1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
300g Greek yoghurt
3 tablespoons rosewater
*If you like your almonds to be a little crunchy, instead of using ground almonds, try pulsing flaked or slivered almonds in a food processor until they are ground but still have a bit of texture.
125g caster sugar
Juice of a lemon
1-2 tablespoons rosewater
To serve – any of these are great!
1-2 tablespoons whole pistachios
Cardamom pistachio sugar**
Edible dried rose petals
Crystallised rose petals
Glacé fruit as decoration
** Here in Australia I use Cardamom Pistachio Sugar made by Gewürzhaus. Hopefully there will be other brands available where you live.
Preheat the oven to 160°C, non fan forced. Carefully butter a 24cm springform cake tin.
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing carefully after each addition to make sure the mixture doesn’t curdle. Add a dessertspoon of flour 3 times each time you’ve added 2 eggs. This will help stabilise the mixture and stop it curdling.
Sift the rest of the dry ingredients – it’s important to do this to give this rather dense cake some aeration.
Fold the sifted dry ingredients into the mixture.
Stir in the yoghurt and rosewater. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for 45 – 60 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. If you’re worried about the cake browning too much, after half an hour or so, you can place a piece of foil over the top of the cake.
Once cooked, remove the cake from the oven and cool for 5 minutes in the tin.
Remove the ring of springform tin, then remove the cake from its base.
Place on a serving plate.
For the syrup, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over a medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Add the lemon juice, and bring to the boil, and cook for 5 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add the rosewater. Cool the syrup to room temperature.
Pierce the cake all over with a skewer, and spoon the cool syrup over the hot cake. Leave at room temperature so that the syrup can soak into the cake.
Scatter any of the following over the syrupy cake – whole pistachios, cardamom pistachio sugar, edible dried rose petals, crystallised rose petals or glacé fruit.
Serve the cake at room temperature, with a dollop of thick cream or Greek yoghurt.