Cardamom. Pistachio. Lemon. Almond. Rosewater. Even the ingredients list of these little two-bite cakes reads like a kind of delicious poetry.
There are many versions of Persian love cakes, all united by having these aromatic flavours in common. I first came up with my miniature version for a specific reason – a friend’s birthday – and I wanted them to be small and pretty, and a change from the usual cupcakes. I also wanted to play up the more interesting flavours, so they’re not overly sweet, and the presence of the cardamom, especially, will probably deter children’s palates. More for us grown-ups.
I make them in a mini-muffin tin and use paper patty pans because the egg-rich batter sticks too much without greasing (even in non-stick pans), and I wanted to keep them both dairy- and gluten-free – also much safer when you’re dealing with a group, these days. At this size, it takes just a tablespoon of batter to produce a cake that peeps over the edge once baked, and I can get 18 out of this recipe. I only have a 12-pan muffin tin, so I run it through the oven twice.
You can ice them with the lemony icing I suggest below. Alternatively, you can spoon over a syrup made from the juice of half a lemon and a couple of tablespoons of icing sugar as they come out of the oven. Or, if you like, both.
A few slivered pistachios and some food-grade dried rose petals make for a pretty decoration, but neither are absolutely essential. These little beauties are good just the way they are.
Little Persian love cakes
2 cardamom pods
50g (¾ cup) ground almonds
50g (⅓ cup) whole shelled pistachio nuts
25g (2 tablespoons) polenta (yellow cornmeal)
75g (⅓ cup) sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon rosewater
for the icing:
60g (⅓ cup) icing sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Split the cardamom pods under the flat of a knife blade and remove the tiny blacks seeds, placing them into the bowl of a small food processor. Add the ground almonds, pistachios, polenta, sugar and baking powder and process until the whole nuts are finely ground.
Add the eggs and whizz until combined.
Measure in the lemon juice and rosewater, giving a final pulse to mix them in.
Using a tablespoon measure, spoon one tablespoon of the batter into each paper case. Bake for 20 minutes, until risen and lightly golden on top. Let them cool in the tin for 5 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely.
Once they are completely cooled, you can ice them by mixing together the icing sugar with enough lemon juice (about ½ a lemon, in my experience) to produce a thick but still pourable mixture. Spoon this carefully over each cake. Let it set for a few seconds before sprinkling over any decorations, then leave to dry completely.