Pistachio-Rosewater Cake

By Krystina Castella

Iranian cakes are influenced by the traditions of India, the Middle East, and Europe. Here, rosewater, cumin, lime, and allspice combine in a marvelous blend. Sweet and nutty pistachios stud the cake, filling, and topping. For a special occasion, top each slice with a candied rose petal. And after you try the main recipe, try the variation with tangy apricots and almonds. Both are excellent with a glass of white wine.

Makes 1 cake (serves six to eight)

Pistachio Cake:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground allspice
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup honey
1 Tbsp rosewater
1 tsp lime juice
6 eggs, separated
1 cup pistachios, toasted & chopped

Candied Rose Petals:
¼ cup rose petals
2 egg whites
1 cup coarse sugar

Rosewater Icing:
2½ cups confectioners’ sugar
2 Tbsp milk
1½ Tbsp rosewater
2 tsp lime juice

¼ cup chopped pistachios
rose petals

To prepare:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan.

To make the cake:
Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cumin, and allspice in a medium bowl; mix well and set aside. In a separate large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the honey, rosewater, and lime juice, and mix well. Blend in the egg yolks. Gradually mix the flour mixture into the butter mixture, until fully incorporated.

Beat the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. Fold the whites into the batter, followed by the chopped pistachios.

To bake:
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the pan and set on a rack to cool.

To make the candied rose petals:
Using a small brush, lightly coat both sides of each rose petal with egg whites. Sprinkle each petal with sugar. Set the coated petals on waxed paper or parchment paper and let sit until firm, about 1 hour.

To make the icing:
Combine the confectioners’ sugar, milk, rosewater, and lime juice, and mix well. Add more milk or sugar as necessary to reach a spreading consistency.

To serve:
Spread the rosewater icing over the top and sides of the cake. Create a border around the edges with chopped pistachios and arrange the candied rose petals in the center.

Apricot-Almond Cake
Heat ½ cup dried apricots and ½ cup golden raisins in 1 cup white wine and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the wine is absorbed. Add the plumped fruit to the cake batter. Replace the pistachios with almonds.

Cherry-Pistachio Cake
Heat 1 cup dried cherries in ¾ cup cherry juice and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the juice is absorbed. Add the plumped fruit to the cake batter.

NOTE: Rosewater, made from a solution of rose petals in water, gives Iranian sweets a distinctive floral flavor. Muslims, who abstain from alcohol for religious reasons, often use it as a substitute for wine in cooking. It was common in European and American cooking until the nineteenth century, when vanilla extract became readily available.

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Excerpted from A World of Cake © by Krystina Castella, used with permission from Storey Publishing.