I remember when I first saw Rachel Allen demonstrate this very exotic, Persian-inspired cake with rose and pistachios on Rachel Allen: Bake. I thought it was just one of the prettiest flavour-combinations ever. It put me in mind of beautiful Middle Eastern desserts like baklava and romantic holiday escapades to Arabia ala Sex and the City and Disney's Aladdin.
I am glad that when I finally had a chance to make and taste this cake, it did not disappoint.
Refreshing with zesty lime, and fragrant with the floral scent of rosewater, it also has a very light and tender crumb. Ground almonds give this cake a pleasant nuttiness and a delicate 'fall-apart' texture. A welcome departure from the usual rich, buttery cakes that I am so fond of (this one has no butter at all). It is a subtle cake which is neither overpowering nor assertive. Beautifully ambrosial, with a flavour that improves over time. In a tea spread, it won't jostle for attention among richer cakes of chocolate, cream and butter. But, like a true Middle Eastern veiled beauty, its unique, alluring flavour will grow on you and have your guests returning for more.
Recipe for Lime Yogurt Cake with Rosewater and Pistachios
(slightly adapted from a recipe by Rachel Allen)
For the cake
225 g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 pinch salt
75 g ground almonds
100 g caster sugar
1 generous tbsp or 50g runny honey
250 ml natural yogurt
150 ml sunflower oil
1 lime, finely grated zest only
For the syrup150 ml water
100 g caster sugar
1 lime, juice only
1-2 tsp rose water (I used Nielssen Massey)
50 g unsalted pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
rose petals, (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Line the base and sides of a 22cm spring-form/loose-bottomed cake tin with greaseproof paper.
2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Stir in the ground almonds and caster sugar.
3. Mix together the eggs, honey, yogurt, sunflower oil and lime zest together well in a medium-sized bowl until smooth. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and slowly pour in the wet ingredients, bringing them together with a whisk until they are just combined. You can add some chopped pistachios to the mixture if you wish, or save them for decorating.
4. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for about 20 minutes.
5. While the cake is cooling, make the syrup. In a small saucepan, boil the water and sugar for about 5 minutes until it is reduced by half. Add the lime juice and boil for a further 2 minutes, then cool. Add rosewater to taste (about 1 teaspoon, see note below).
6. With a fine skewer, make holes on top of the warm cake and spoon the syrup all over the top. Scatter the pistachios over, if you wish, and leave to settle for 1 hour.
7. Decorate with rose petals, if using. Serve with cream, natural yogurt, sliced mangos or berries. It is a very moist cake so keeps extremely well in the fridge for a few days.
1) Rosewater can be overpowering if used excessively, so use sparingly. I used 1 teaspoon for the syrup. The original recipe calls for 1-2tbsp but that is excessive in my opinion.
2) Although this cake can be refrigerated, it is best served at room temperature. Part of its beauty is that it has a very delicate, tender and crumbly texture. However, this will not come through if the cake is cold and not thawed properly. I kept mine at room temperature for 3 days in an airtight container and found that it improved in taste and texture over time.
3) This cake looks best when baked into little rose or flower shaped mini cakes. I used a Nordic Ware bouquet pan. A Nordic Ware rose muffin pan, like the one I used for my Salted Caramel Banana Cakes, is also an excellent choice.