This Persian love cake has a wonderfully moist and buttery texture, as well as a subtly fragrant flavor. Use lemon or lime zest, just enough cardamom and rosewater, and drizzle it with a rosewater citrus icing for a nice and tangy-floral sweetness.
I’ve been in love with Persian love cake ever since trying Yasmin Khan’s recipe. Having grown up with my grandmother’s rich cardamom baklawa (AKA baklava), its particular flavor combination speaks my language. Over the years, I’ve written several recipes inspired by this pastry (e.g. Persian love madeleines, Persian love pop tarts, and even Persian love granola, which I’ll post soon enough).
But it recently occurred to me that I’ve never actually shared my own recipe for Persian love cake itself. So here it goes! Before I get to the recipe, I’ll share a few tips for cake decorating, or feel free to jump right in.
cake decorating tips
To get a similar look to the cake in these photos, all you’ve got to do is prep your ingredients carefully, and then assemble them whimsically. Here are 5 tips:
1) buy bright green raw pistachios
Roasted pistachios are the easiest to find, but they’re not so great for decorating things like this Persian love cake. When you want something bright green and stunning, go the extra mile to track down some raw green pistachios. You can find them in all Persian and South Asian markets, most bulk food shops, and online if all else fails.
These pistachios are a little on the pricey side, so you might want to also buy a more reasonable bag of Kirkland salted roasted ones for snacking. Hide your stash of raw green ones in the baking drawer, and don’t forget to add a passive aggressive note to deter roommates/partners/children. These are strictly 100% *for guests*.
2) finely grind your pistachios
Pistachios decorate many Middle Eastern sweets, but they are usually found in a few specific forms. While coarsely chopped pistachios are sometimes used to stuff things like baklawa, those big pistachio chunks are not usually found sprinkled on top. Slivered or ground are more traditional for sprinkling, and for good reason: they’re pretty dang striking!
To finely grind your pistachios, simply place them in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, and run it until they break down into a coarse meal. Stop way short of turning them into pistachio butter (but if you accidentally do… well, enjoy the pistachio butter!).
There will still be a few larger pieces, which is totally fine. I sometimes give them a shake so that the larger pieces rise to the top of the jar, and then skim those off for salads. Using a hand-held nut mill will get you a more consistent grind, but I’m going to assume you don’t have room in your life for another gadget (yeah, me neither!).
3) buy quality edible dried roses
There are basically two kinds of edible dried rose products you can buy: buds or petals. While whole buds look super pretty, they are only technically edible in whole form, so I separate the petals before decorating with them (as I’ve done in these photos).
Or if you prefer, you can totally buy dried petals instead of dried buds. But bear in mind they’ve got a very different aesthetic. This strawberry rose cake is a great example of one decorated with already-separate petals. As you can see, they’re a bit crinklier and look more like crepe paper. The Persian love cake in this post is an example of one that I decorated after separating a rose bud’s petals.
But whether you buy petals or whole buds, ensure that you find quality brightly-colored ones. They’re purely decorative, so there’s no point in wasting money on drab beige petals. Buy from a reliable source (my favorite is Rose Dose, though others seem to agree because they’re often sold out).
You should expect that separate petals will have a tiny bit of yellow/beige, but they should be primarily pink. Whole buds should be completely pink on the outside, with at least 2 layers of pink petals underneath. It’s pretty typical, though, for whole buds to have a dark brown center.
4) separate rose bud leaves carefully
If you’ve got already-separated petals, you’re good to go. But if you’re working with whole buds, make sure you prep them carefully (lest you wind up with rose petal dust instead of whole petals):
Gently squeeze one rosebud from its base, pop off the stem, and discard any green bits. Continue gently squeezing it from the base to loosen the petals and release the black seeds. Let the seeds fall out of the base of the bud, and gently encourage the outer petals to fall away, stopping once you reach the beige/brown core. Feel free to save the brown cores to make tea, or discard them. I love leaving the black seeds in with the petals for some contrast, but you can filter them out if you want a more monochromatic pink look.
5) make sure your icing is the right consistency
Make sure your icing is thick enough to set opaquely, but not so thick that it’s hard to pour. Follow the weight measurements in the recipe below, and you’ll be just fine, or feel free to eyeball it. Add liquid 1/2 teaspoon at a time to thin it out, or add powdered sugar a tablespoon at a time to thicken it.
how to get sharp cake edges:
1) bake your cake in a well-buttered parchment-lined pan for easy removal
This cake is pretty eggy and moist, and it’s semi-naked after decorating, so don’t skip the parchment liner step. This will ensure easy removal and sharp edges. Here’s a tutorial (it’s super easy). When you butter the pan, be sure to really get in the corners.
2) flip your cake upside-down before decorating if you want sharp edges
This recipe bakes up relatively flat, but sometimes it domes very slightly. If your cake domes significantly (more likely if you’re not using grams and accidentally use too much flour), feel free to shave off the top so it lies flat. Either way, you’ll want to flip it over before icing if you’re looking for a sharp and even top. I love the way a messy, drizzly icing looks on top of a cake with super crisp edges.
But it also looks cute with a domed top too, and it’s really a personal preference. If you’re decorating the top of a domed cake, you’ll want to make your icing a bit thicker. Otherwise, it’ll run down the sides too readily before it has a chance to set.Print
Persian Love Cake
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
- Yield: 8 to 12 servings
for the cake:
- Butter, for greasing the pan
- 195g (1½ cup) all purpose flour
- 265g (2⅔ cups) almond flour
- 9g (2 tsp) baking powder
- 2.5g (1 tsp) baking soda
- 5.5g (1 tsp) salt
- 115g (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
- 300g (1½ cups) sugar
- 2g (1 tsp) lemon or lime zest
- 1g (½ tsp) cardamom
- 200g eggs (4 large), room temperature
- 240g (1 cup) buttermilk
- 10 g (2 tsp) rosewater
for the icing and decorations:
- 110g (1 cup) powdered sugar
- 7.5g (1½ tsp) rosewater
- 15g (1 Tbsp) lemon or lime juice
- Edible dried rose petals (optional)
- Ground raw pistachios (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Butter and line a 9 inch (23 cm) or a tall 8 inch (20 cm) cake pan* with a parchment round.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, almond flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Break up any clumps with your whisk, or sift it if you’re having trouble working out all the lumps. Set aside.
- Place the butter, sugar, citrus zest, and cardamom in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or use a large mixing bowl with hand-beaters). Beat at medium-high speed for about 2 minutes, until fluffier and completely homogenous.
- Crack the eggs into a container that has a pour spout. Run the mixer at medium-high speed and add the eggs 1 at a time with the mixer running. Wait for each egg to completely incorporate before adding the next one. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl and beat again to make sure it’s fully incorporated.
- Add the buttermilk and rosewater and mix together just to incorporate. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl again to make sure it’s mixed evenly.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, turn the mixer to low, and let it mix just until smoothly incorporated. Do not overmix. Scrape the bottom of the bowl and give it just one or two folds by hand to make sure it’s evenly incorporated.
- Pour into the parchment-lined pan and smooth out the top.
- Bake for about 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out cleanly.
- Carefully trace around the edges of the pan with a thin knife. Flip it onto a cooling rack. Let it cool for at least 1 hour before decorating.
- While your cake cools, make the icing by whisking together the powdered sugar, rosewater, and citrus juice until completely smooth.
- Place your cooled cake bottom-side-up on a plate or cake stand. If your cake domed (usually from not measuring with weight and using too much flour), first shave off the top so it sits levelly, then place it bottom-side-up.
- Pour the icing on the top, then smooth it out to the edges using a knife or offset spatula. Sprinkle with pistachios and rose petals before it sets.
- Serve immediately, store leftovers at room temperature for a day or two, and store anything you won’t eat in the near future in the freezer ASAP (do not refrigerate or it will stale).
* While a tall 8 or 9 inch cake pan seems to work for most, a few folks have mentioned that it overflowed on them. If your pan is shallow, you might wish to use a slightly wider or deeper one to prevent overflow. Also note that a sloped-sided pan will hold less volume—a standard steep-sided pan will make it less likely to overflow.
Can we substitute butter milk with whole 3.25% milk or regular milk
A better substitute for buttermilk is a mixture of 1 part milk:1 part plain unstrained yogurt (not Greek yogurt, which is too thick). Mix together and thin out with extra milk if it’s too thick, just until it reaches the consistency of buttermilk. If you adjust to reach the right consistency, make sure you measure it again before adding to the batter (measure it just as you would regular old buttermilk from the carton).
So if a recipe calls for 1 cup buttermilk, whisk together 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup plain unstrained yogurt. Then just make sure it’s the right consistency. If it is, you should have 1 cup of buttermilk substitute!
i have a question about the egg part. do i add the eggs to the wet mixture and then mix them, or do you mix the egg and then add it to the wet mixture?
going to be making this for valentine’s day!
Oh my goodness, I’m so glad I saw your comment just in the nick of time!
Here’s a quick summary of the mixing steps in the recipe:
1) Get your dry ingredients whisked together (set aside).
2) Cream the butter, sugar, etc. until fluffy.
3) Add the eggs 1 at a time to the fluffy butter. (Wait for each egg to completely mix in before adding the next one)
4) Add the buttermilk and rosewater to the butter/sugar/egg mixture and combine until smooth.
5) Now that you’ve got all your wet ingredients together and emulsified, you’re ready to add the dry ingredients!
The reason you want to add the eggs to a container first is just to make it easier to add them one at a time without worrying about shells. So don’t beat the eggs, and leave them whole, so you can pour them out of the container one at a time. Or on the other hand, if you’re brave, you can totally just crack them one at a time right into the mixing bowl (but still make sure you wait between each one).
Happy Valentine’s Day and hope you enjoy!
I’m thinking about making these with little Bundt cake pan. Will this recipe work? Thanks.
I haven’t tested it that way, so I can’t say, but I think it’s worth a try! (As long as you don’t mind risking it sticking or falling flat, which it very well might do. Bundt pans are so tricky!) And if you give it a go, let me know how it turns out!
Will this really make people fall in love with you? Making it for a man I have a tad crush on..maybe it won’t work as an aphrodisiac, but I’m hoping if I make it well he’ll fall in love with my cooking!
Haha I love it! It certainly can’t hurt, and would make for a pretty cute story someday! Keep me posted!! 😉
I made this cake and everyone was in love! So weird question. Could I switch everything to orange? Orange blossom water and orange zest? I love the texture of this cake so much and I love how almond flour cakes dont feel heavy in my stomach so I’d love to use it as a base and experiment with other flavors.
Oh my gosh I hadn’t noticed your comment until just now! Yes absolutely—orange zest would work wonderfully here, and you can also use orange juice instead of lemon (it just won’t be as tangy).
I’m thinking of making this for a party I’m having in a week’s time. If I make the cake now and freeze it before icing, would that work? Does it affect the texture?
Oh man I’m so glad I checked my comments today—I think I’m catching you just in time? Yes you can absolutely freeze it before icing. Should work great! It might be slightly drier than it would’ve been otherwise, but I’ve frozen it before and it does beautifully.
I made this over the weekend and it turned out beautifully.
One question though…I was thinking of adapting to a cupcake version. What do you advice in terms of baking temperature and duration?
Hi Lynn! Oh I’m so glad you enjoyed it!! Unfortunately, I’ve never tried turning it into cupcakes, so I can’t say for sure. But this KAF article should help a ton: https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/blog/2019/04/25/how-to-convert-cake-to-cupcakes
If you try it, let me know how they turn out! Wishing you cupcake luck!
Just came across this cake and can’t wait to try it. Do you have any recommendations as to what other cake will go well with this if I make a two tier cake. As I understand two layers of Persian cake with glaze won’t hold up well.
Ooh interesting idea! The Persian love cake layer would make a good base, since it’s relatively sturdy and bakes up nice and flat. I would maybe go for something with a similar texture and a different flavor. Maybe a semolina chocolate cake? Let me know what you end up coming up with!
This is my go-to cake recipe! My family and friends always beg me to make it. Thank you so much for making this recipe – I’m so glad I found it.
aw that makes me so happy! 😊
Such an amazing cake! I made this for Valentines day this year and I have made it for family and friends everyone asks me to make it! What do you recommend for doubling this recipe ? Just double everything ?
I’m so glad you’ve been enjoying it! Yes totally, you can double everything and then just divide it between a couple of pans.
I’m glad you enjoyed!!
Absolutely wonderful! I actually baked into cupcakes and they rose quite nicely. Do you think the the milk+vinegar substitute would work in place of the buttermilk?
Oh that’s wonderful it worked well as cupcakes!
I prefer using a mixture of yogurt + milk in place of buttermilk (while milk + vinegar adds the necessary acidity, it doesn’t replicate the lovely texture of buttermilk). Just use about equal parts milk and plain, unstrained yogurt. Stir together until it’s the consistency of buttermilk, and adjust as necessary.
Can you substitute the almond flour if someone has an allergy?
Hi Gwendolyn! I haven’t tested it with a substitution for the almond flour, so I can’t say for sure. If this were a recipe with a less substantial amount of almond flour, I’d say you could probably get away with using pistachio flour instead. But because the almond flour is such a major part of the batter, I can’t say one way or another without actually testing it out myself. But if you’re up for an experiment, it might be worth a try! If you go for it, keep me posted!
Update to earlier comment: I trimmed off the overflow and put the icing on. It’s not beautiful, but I think it will taste fine. If I make it again, I’ll either use 2 pans or a 9 inch pan.
Yikes, I’m sorry that happened! I updated the recipe to indicate that you can use an 8 or 9 inch pan (I’ve tested it both ways)—if your 8 inch cake pan is short, there’s definitely a danger of overflow. Thanks for your note and for helping me prevent that from happening to others!
Kathryn, you have a fantastic recipe! Cakes are everyone’s favorite dessert, and a Persian cake with a distinct flavor is a wonderful treat to serve on special occasions. Gluten-free flour can be used by those who are allergic to gluten, and the taste will not be affected.
Aw thank you so much! And I agree, I think substituting a gluten free 1-for-1 blend shouldn’t pose any issues here (though I haven’t actually tested it out myself and can’t say 100% for sure). Also, I have to say, I’m such a fan of your falafel! I lived in New Haven for a little while, and it was one of our favorites.
I made it on Saturday, ate it on Sunday and everybody loved it!
Oh that’s wonderful! I’m so glad it was a hit! 😀
Do you think this would work if I replaced the eggs with flax or EnerG replacer and also with gluten-free flour?
Sorry — love Persian food and I want to try this cake, but I have food allergies.
Ooh good questions! I’ve gotten a couple gluten free and egg free requests on this one—maybe I’ll put together a gluten free vegan version one of these days!
Unfortunately, I haven’t tested it that way myself, so I can’t say for sure how it will work out, but your idea sounds worth experimenting with! Sometimes I start with a smaller batch when I’m really not so sure whether my experiment is going to work out, especially with expensive ingredients like almond flour and cardamom.
A few thoughts if you do try experimenting (let me know how it goes!):
My one reservation about the egg replacement: I think I’d be a little wary of using 100% alternative eggs in a recipe that’s so egg-heavy. I’d worry they’d affect the flavor and texture a little too much in that quantity. Not totally sure what the solution is. But I might just be wrong, and an egg replacement might work great!
Make sure you replace the flour with a 1-for-1 gluten free flour (I love Bob’s Red Mill’s 1-to-1). Stay away from blends with lots of chickpea flour, which would overpower the other flavors in this cake.
I do think the gluten free flour probably will not cause problems. It’s really just the eggs I’m worried about. But if you don’t mind experimenting, it’s worth a try!
Hello Kathryn! Does this recipe taste really egg-y? My family doesn’t like a strong taste of egg in their baking. Is there any alternative if so?
Hi Maggie! That’s a good question. I wouldn’t necessarily say it *tastes* eggy—it’s more that is has an eggy *texture.* But if you’re super sensitive to the flavor of eggs, you might not agree. I haven’t tested this recipe with any substitutions, so I don’t have a tried and true substitute I can tell you (I’d have to test it myself to let you know for sure), but if you’d like to try experimenting yourself, I would try replacing 1 of the eggs with 50g of buttermilk (about 3 tablespoons). I don’t think it will affect the structure of the cake too dramatically, but I can’t be 100% sure. Let me know if you try it!
I followed the instructions and used an 8 inch round cake pan. It’s overflowing the pan in the oven. The cake pan seemed pretty full, but I haven’t made a cake in a long time, so I went with it. Right now I’m just hoping to get something salveagable out of it.
I have the same problem. I am using a 9 inch pan and it’s in the oven rt now and overflowing ☹️
Yikes! I’m so sorry that happened! How tall is your pan? Maybe it’s shorter than the ones I use. Or perhaps it’s the baking powder—did you use just 2 teaspoons?
I just updated the recipe with a note letting folks know how deep their pan should be, based on the pans I used to test this one. I hope that helps a bit with the troubleshooting, and saves future bakers some grief! Oh also, I’ll add a note to the recipe about not using a sloped-sided pan here (those will hold much less volume than a standard steep-sided pan).