Ottolenghi's Persian Love Cakes

As beautiful to look at as they are delicious to eat, Ottolenghi's Persian Love Cakes from his book, SWEET, make for lovely bake for a special occasion.

From the book

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Introduction

These little Persian cakes came to us by way of our Glaswegian colleague John Meechan, who adapted them from a Gerard Yaxley recipe in Gourmet Traveller. John’s stroke of genius was to add buckwheat flour, distinctive for its nutty and slightly sour taste, and the mahleb, a spice made from grinding the seed kernel of the St Lucie cherry. The spice is not often used outside of Greece, Turkey and the Middle East, so don’t worry if you can’t get hold of any: a few drops of almond extract work well as an alternative.

The cakes can be served warm, without the mascarpone, pistachio and pomegranate seed topping, or at room temperature with all the toppings. Presentation-wise, it’s a nice little trick to lay a piece of baking parchment on top of each cake, on the diagonal, held down flat, and sprinkle the icing sugar over the exposed side of the cake.

Ingredients

240g ground almonds
135g demerara sugar
135g soft light brown sugar
50g buckwheat flour
80g unsalted butter, fridge-cold, cubed
¾ tsp salt
160g Greek-style natural yoghurt
90g eggs (roughly 1½ large eggs)
1 tbsp mahleb (or ¼ tsp almond extract)
¾ tsp ground nutmeg
To serve (at room temperature):
60g mascarpone
1½ tsp pistachio kernels, slivered or finely crushed
12 pomegranate seeds (optional)
icing sugar, for dusting

Essential kit

You will need: 12 financier (or muffin tin) moulds.

Instructions

1 Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas Mark 4.

2 Place the ground almonds, both sugars, flour, butter and salt in a food processor and blitz a few times, until the mixture has the consistency of breadcrumbs. Transfer two-thirds of the mix – about 430g – to a large bowl along with the yoghurt, eggs, mahleb and nutmeg. Mix to combine and set aside.

3 Line the base of 12 financier (or muffin tin) moulds with the remaining third of the crumb mix: it should come about a third of the way up the sides of the moulds. Use your fingers or a teaspoon to press the mix into the base of the moulds, as you would a cheesecake, so that it is compact.

4 Using two teaspoons, fill each mould to the top with the yoghurt mix, and level off with a palette knife for an even finish. Place the moulds on a baking tray and cook for 30–35 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through, until the cakes are dark golden brown on top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. The cakes will look slightly uncooked and damp inside, but this is the way they should be and is part of their charm. Allow the cakes to cool in their tins for 15–30 minutes before unmoulding them. Serve as they are, slightly warm, or leave to cool before spooning a little mascarpone on top of each cake and topping with the crushed pistachios and 1 pomegranate seed, if using. Sprinkle a little icing sugar on one half of each cake, at a diagonal (see introduction), and serve.

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