Ottolenghi's Persian Love Cakes
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.
|135g||soft light brown sugar|
|80g||unsalted butter, fridge-cold, cubed|
|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):|
|1½ tsp||pistachio kernels, slivered or finely crushed|
|12||pomegranate seeds (optional)|
|icing sugar, for dusting|
You will need: 12 rectangular silicone financier moulds, or a regular muffin tin.
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.
- We make our cakes in small rectangular silicone financier moulds, which look so elegant. Alternatively, use a regular muffin tin.
- These cakes are at their best the day after they are made. They can be eaten on the day, however, and kept for up to 2 days in a sealed container (without the mascarpone topping). They don't keep for much longer than this - which is surprising, given how moist they are - because the texture becomes a bit gummy. Once the cakes have been topped with the mascarpone, they can be stored in the fridge and brought back to room temperature before serving.