THERE are various versions of the story behind this cake but they all start thus: a girl bakes a cake to win the heart of a Persian prince. The ending can go one of two ways - in the tragic version, he has a fatal allergy to saffron and drops dead. I'm more comfortable with the happy-ever-after alternative.
Either way, this cake is phenomenal. It contains all my favourite things - pistachios, cardamom, saffron, almonds, rose water, orange zest - and I really can't recommend strongly enough that you bake it right now. And send me a big slice.
Persian love cake.
300g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
A pinch of saffron strands
Grated zest of 1 orange, plus 2 tbsp orange juice
300g caster sugar
2 tsp rose water
Seeds from 5 cardamom pods
½ tsp mixed spice
200g self-raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
60g pistachios, ground in a spice grinder or food processor to a coarse powder
60g ground almonds
A pinch of salt
FOR THE BUTTERCREAM:
100g full-fat cream cheese
50g unsalted butter, softened
300g icing sugar
½ tsp rose water
1 or 2 drops of red food colouring to decorate
Pistachios, lightly crushed
Dried rose petals (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line the base of three 17cm round cake tins with baking parchment.
Soak the saffron strands in the 2 tablespoons of orange juice for a few minutes. Meanwhile, cream the butter and sugar in a bowl until creamy and pale then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add the orange zest, rose water, cardamom seeds and mixed spice and beat again, then add the soaked saffron and orange juice, too.
Fold in the flour, baking powder, ground pistachios, ground almonds and salt.
Divide the mixture evenly between the three tins and bake for 25 minutes until golden, risen and starting to come away from the sides of the tin. A skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean. Leave to cool in the tins while you make the rose buttercream.
Making the buttercream is easiest if you just put everything in a food processor and whizz to a smooth, fluffy frosting with the palest pink hue, but you can also make it using a hand-held electric mixer: start by mixing the cream cheese and butter together, then whisk in the icing sugar and finally add the rose water and one or two drops of red food colouring to make it a pale pink colour.
To assemble the cake, sandwich the layers with two-thirds of the buttercream.
Spread the remaining buttercream over the top, then sprinkle with crushed pistachios and dried rose petals, if using.
Cherish by Anne Shooter is published by Hachette Australia. RRP $55.00.