Persian Jeweled Cake
Whether your expertise lies in cooking or baking, I'm sure you're familiar with saffron, the one delicious and fragrant spice that we all use. Iran is the home to the best quality saffron and one of the largest producers in the world, so it's natural that we use a lot of saffron in both food and pastries. We add saffron to almost anything from ice cream to rice, to stews and to pastries.
One of my favorite Iranian dish that uses a lot of saffron is jeweled rice. Talented Mahroo from Noghlemey just recently did a blog post about jeweled rice and had this to say: "Persian jeweled rice (Javaher polo), also known as bride's rice, or Morasah polo, is a popular dish across Iran. Traditionally served in large dishes at weddings, festivals, family gatherings, and new year celebrations." This dish is an incredible mix of colors and flavors of basmati rice, scented with saffron, layered with slivered pistachios, almonds, barberries, carrots, and raisins, and sweetened by a light saffron syrup. All of which makes this lovely dish a feast for the eyes and stomach.
Sounds delicious isn't it? How can you mix saffron, pistachios, Almonds, and barberries and not get something incredibly flavorful, sweet, and delightful?
I'm sure you're wondering what jeweled rice has to do with me and my pastries? I know, it will all come together I promise. Even though I'm not like most lovely Iranian women, talented in the cooking department, I'm good at getting my inspiration for the food and use the same ingredients and create a pastry or in today's case a cake from it.
My passion for jeweled rice made me think, why not make a saffron cake; using a Swedish recipe, and top it with all the deliciousness of jeweled rice? I can see you shaking your head yes, yes...and I'm so glad you agree with me ;)
The saffron cake is soft, moist, and sweet with a golden crumb. It is dense without being heavy, with incredible flavors of saffron, rose water, orange peels, pistachios, and the explosions of tart barberries. The sweetness of saffron syrup pairs incredibly well with the tartness of barberries. This cake is so moist and tender even without the syrup and the reason is whipping the eggs and sugar together for few minutes, until they are lightened and increased in volume.
When I had the first bite of this cake, it took me back to my mom's kitchen, the smell of her cooking and her gentle and ever lasting love for creating foods that are good for the soul and body. I closed my eyes and tasted the flavors of Kerman bazaar, the spice markets "Attari", and Mahroo's incredible jeweled rice.
Even though saffron is rich enough flavor for this cake, but to make it more to our likings (Persian style) I added pistachio extract. If you don't have that available, be creative and use almond extract or use orange zest. This produces an outrageously fragrant cake that you will fall in love with.
Please note this batter makes a 6" cake. To make a 9" (24cm) round cake, you have to double the batter. I've also doubled the batter to make three small 4" ones and one 6", which worked out perfectly. Of course it's a bit tricky when you use two different size cake pans since they use a different baking time, so be aware and take out the small ones first.
Persian Jeweled Cake
- 200g (3/4 cup) butter; melted
- 1/2g saffron, crush the saffron with a sugar cube in a mortar and dissolve in few drops of boiling water
- 2 eggs
- 140g (1 1/4 cups) sugar
- 160g (2/3 cup) milk
- 241g (1 2/3 cups) flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon pistachio extract
- Orange peels; one medium size orange, scraped and cut in strips
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
- 1/2 cup slivered pistachios
- 1/2 cup barberries
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon powdered saffron; follow the same steps as you would for the batter
- 1/8 cup of rose water
- Powdered sugar for dusting the cake
- Preheat the oven to 350° F for regular oven and 325° for convection oven.
- Grease the cake pan or pans and set aside
- Melt the butter in a microwave and let it cool while we work on the other ingredients.
- With a stand mixer or hand held mixer, on medium speed and with the whisk attachment, beat the sugar with eggs for few minutes until they're light and doubled in volume, this is an important part.
- Sift the baking powder with flour.
- Lower the speed of the mixer, add melted butter, saffron, and pistachio extract
- Alternately, add flour and milk start with the flour and end with the flour
- Pour the batter in the prepared pans and place in the medium rack of your oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the inserted toothpick comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let it cool on a baking rack. This cake freezes really well, just wrap it in a two layers of plastic wraps.
- Remove the brightly colored zest from the orange . Be sure to leave behind any and all of the white pith directly underneath, it is very bitter. You might have to boil the peels in hot water a couple times to get the bitter flavor out of them. Cut the peels in ribbon-like strips for a more spreadable result. Set zest aside.
- In a small sauce pan, bring to a boil water and sugar until it reaches 210° F, add saffron, rose water, and all the other ingredients. Let it boil for few minutes until it reaches 215°F and remove from the heat and set aside.
Generously dust the cake with powdered sugar. Sprinkle the pistachio, almonds, orange peels and saffron syrup in the center of the cooled cake. I decided to put the remaining of the syrup in a bowl and serve along with the cake, in case someone likes to add more syrup or stuffing to their cakes. The cake is delicious with a cup of cardamom tea for a true Persian experience.
What to do next:
If you bake this cake, please let me know what you think, do you like? dislike? would you add anything ? Are you going to share it with your friends? I look forward to read your comments here and on Instagram, Facebook, Tweeter please use #jeweledcake
Until the next recipe and next time we chat, know that you're awesome & I love you :)