I don't know . . . maybe it was the sumptuous and exotic name that first hooked me. After all, I do love roses. And the very word, Persia, sounds kind of sumptuous, don't you think?
Luscious and rich, it's a soft mink coat of a word. (And do you know what trying on a mink coat feels like? It feels like every nice, handsome man you've ever met is gently putting his arm around you.) Say it slowly . . . Perrrsssiaa. See what I mean?
Well, anyway, it took me a while to get around to finally making this unusual cake. Moist and deeply flavorful, the warm cake is finished off with a sweet, tangy glaze that's still hot when you drizzle it on. When I first stumbled upon this recipe a couple of months ago, in a bean cookbook of all things, I mentally filed it away as an item that I knew I'd absolutely have to try. So, over a period of a few weeks, I haphazardly foraged local markets, prowling for the less common ingredients.
Speaking of which, what's the least common ingredient in the cake? That would have to be the chick pea flour. Initially I didn't know where I'd find it, but a couple of Middle Eastern grocery stores later, a chunky little package of chick-pea/garbanzo-bean flour was nestled in my shopping cart. It is, after all, the key ingredient in falafel, a fact that I'd completely forgotten. And, given that metro Detroit is home to a significant population of Middle Eastern families (thus metro Detroiters are the happy patrons of many small Middle Eastern restaurants), one can be sure that a lot of falafel is being fried up around here on a daily--if not hourly--basis.
So, anyway, having assembled all of the critical components--dried cherries, unsweetened cherry juice, rose water, pistachios, and chick pea flour--the planets aligned, as I knew they would, and today became the perfect day for Rose of Persia Cake.
About this recipe . . .
From Crescent Dragonwagon's award winning book, Bean by Bean, I stuck pretty closely to her original formula. That said, I did use less lemon zest in the cake than it called for, slightly more salt, and I modified the glaze recipe to tone down the citrus aspect a bit (it called for half a cup of lemon juice . . . that's a lot) and emphasize the cherry juice and rose water. And, I rewrote the instructions to reflect exactly what I did (I rearranged some of the less critical steps), but the recipe concept is still entirely Ms. Dragonwagon's, and I must give her props for coming up with such a truly unique and tasty cake.
And fair warning: You will be entranced by the scent of this cake baking, just as Crescent predicts in her book. The aroma is a curious and delicate mixture of fruity sweetness and something akin to freshly mown grass. Sounds weird, I know, but it was actually a really good smell. I kept sniffing the air, trying to put my finger on what the scent reminded me of. I am still pondering . . .
You'll need either a 10-inch tube pan, or a 12-cup bundt pan, or several small loaf pans. (I made mine in a 10-inch non-stick tube pan.)
Ingredients for the cake:
1/2 cup dried cherries (Crescent Dragonwagon recomments using dried Bing cherries, but I used dried tart Michigan cherries and they were delicious.)
1/2 cup sour cherry juice, not sweetened
vegetable oil cooking spray (Pam)
1 and 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour (measure it out after sifting),
unbleached, plus two extra tablespoons of flour for the pan
1 and 2/3 cups granulated sugar, plus two extra tablespoons of
sugar for the pan
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 and 1/2 cups sifted chick pea flour (measure it out after sifting)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
3/4 cup buttermilk or 1/2 cup plain yogurt thinned with water or milk (I actually used 1/2 cup buttermilk mixed with 1/4 plain yogurt because I didn't have enough buttermilk.)
2 tablespoons of rose water (Along with the chick pea flour, you can expect to find rose water in Middle Eastern markets, and in the imported foods section of major grocery stores.)
1 tablespoon of lemon zest, finely grated
Ingredients for the glaze:
2 teaspoons of rose water
2 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup unsweetened cherry juice (leftover from soaked cherries in cake recipe)
2 tablespoons of water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
To sprinkle over the glazed cake:
1/4 cup chopped pistachio nuts
To make the cake:
Several hours prior to assembling the cake, soak the dried cherries in the 1/2 cup of sour cherry juice to plump them up.
When ready to make the cake, preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
Spray your pan liberally with the vegetable oil spray. In a little bowl, whisk together the 2 tablespoons flour and the 2 tablespoons of sugar. (You may find you need even more of this mixture to fully prep your pan. I figure, better to over prep than under prep! The original recipe only called for 1 tablespoon of each. For me, that wasn't nearly enough.) Coat the inside of your pan evenly and thoroughly by shaking the flour/sugar all around. Tap out the excess. (If you're using a two-part tube pan, be sure to hold that inner part in there when doing this. It's kind of a messy procedure, so do it over your sink.)
In a large bowl, whisk together the two sifted flours, along with the baking soda and salt. Set aside.
Drain all the juice off of the soaked cherries and reserve it; don't toss it out! Place the cherries themselves in another bowl.
In the large bowl of your mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter on high speed until it looks light in color and very fluffy. Continuing on high speed, pour the sugar in slowly. Keep mixing for a few minutes, until the whole thing is really nice and fluffy. One at a time, on medium speed, add in the eggs, mixing each one in until well combined, about a minute or so.
In yet another medium size bowl (I know, lots of dirty dishes), stir together the buttermilk (or buttermilk & yogurt, or yogurt & water, etc.--whatever you end up using), the rose water, and 1/4 cup of the reserved cherry juice.
On the lowest speed of your mixer, add the flour mixture into the butter mixture, alternating with the buttermilk mixture (three equal portions of flour and two equal portions of buttermilk). Beat only long enough to combine after each addition. Stop and scrape the bowl and beaters as needed. Use care not to overbeat the batter. Take the bowl off of the mixer, and gently stir in the lemon zest and drained cherries.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, trying to avoid leaving big air gaps. Smooth the top so it's even. Firmly but gently tap the filled pan on your work surface once or twice to help remove big air bubbles.
On the middle rack of your oven, bake the cake for about an hour and ten minutes (less time if you're using smaller pans, or a bundt pan). The cake is done when a toothpick inserted comes out clean, the top is deeply golden brown, and the cake feels kind of firm to the touch if you lightly press on it with your finger. Let the cake cool on a rack for about ten minutes, then remove it from the pan and put it right on the serving plate you'll be using.
As it is cooling, make the glaze. Place all the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan and heat it on the stove until it just boils, then turn the heat down and let it simmer for about four or five minutes, just until it becomes slightly thicker. Stir it frequently and don't walk away; it's very easy to burn hot sugar. When the glaze looks ready, pour about one third of it over the warm cake. Then, poke several holes in the top of the cake with a toothpick, and drizzle the remainder of the glaze over the cake (I aimed for the holes).
If you like, chop 1/4 cup of pistachios and sprinkle them over the cake right after it has been glazed. Keep the cooled cake covered. The cake is so moist, it should be fine for several days.
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Jane's Sweets & Baking Journalwas born of my ever increasing desire to learn more about the baking and pastry arts, and of my love for anything and everything related to baking. Just as food is meant to be shared, so is knowledge among bakers and among those who enjoy delicious foods prepared from scratch. So, please partake, and feel free to share your thoughts and comments. I'd love to hear from you.
If you'd like to know a bit about me please click here, or look for the tiny photo of a pink cupcake topped by a strawberry, further down, in the "About me"section. You can also reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org . . .
. . . Michigan style, with Montmorency cherries. (Yeah, we know pie.)
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Glazed Black Cocoa Brownies
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Fluffy pumpkin muffins . . .
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Cream Cheese Blondies with Milk- and Dark-Chocolate Chips, and Honey Roasted Almonds . . .
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This one has a crust that's fragrant with herbs and garlic . . . it's easy, reliable, and really tasty.
Leave the bagel . . .
. . . take the bialy!
Marble Mint Milano Cake
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All year long, lazy mornings require . . .
. . . big, warm, blueberry muffins.
Espresso Chocolate Chip Pound Cake . . .
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An interesting variation on cherries jubilee . . .
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Dutch apple cake . . .
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What We Talk About . . .
. . . When We Talk About Banana Cake!
JANE'S FAVORITE BAKING BOOKS
About Professional Baking: The Essentials, by Gail Sokol. This is a textbook, but not one that's intimidating. It contains lots of useful info, including interesting personal profiles of professional chefs.
All-American Cookie Book, by Nancy Baggett. Another winner of the IACP award. Loads of good looking cookie recipes with lots of very appetizing photos. (Don't you love cookbooks with tons of pictures? I do.)
All-American Dessert Book, by Nancy Baggett. Wonderfully detailed, with very reliable recipes, Baggett does it again in this valuable cookbook. Definitely worth your time!
Art & Soul of Baking, by Cindy Mushet. This large Gourmet Cook Book Club Selection is a feast for the eyes. I love the page layout, the photos, and the author's reassuring tone. Recipes range from the quotidian ("classic sugar cookies") to the ridiculous ("Moroccan-spiced sweet-potato tiropetes") to the absolute sublime ("duo-tone chocolate pots de creme"). Worth acquiring.
Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft, by the Culinary Institute of America. This is a heavy duty textbook, not for the faint of heart. Intimidating, sure, but also kind of fascinating if you're an obsessive bake-a-holic like me.
Baking with Julia, written by Dorie Greenspan and based on the PBS series hosted by Julia Child. Yet another hefty and dazzling coffee-table-worthy cookbook. Wonderful to have around. (My copy was autographed by Julia herself!)
Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook, published in 1950 and available in a facsimile edition, holds a special place in my heart. This is the book my mom primarily used, or so it seemed, when I was a kid. The photos are such period pieces, and the little notations that accompany recipes are pricelessly cute and corny. I have an ancient copy that I still use. Every girl needs a copy of this in her house, for good karma if nothing else.
Bitter Sweet -- Recipes and Tales From a Life in Chocolate, by Alice Medrich. Much more than just a cookbook with a focus on fine dark chocolate, this is also a memoir of sorts from a legendary chocolate-dessert creator. Medrich is often credited with awakening American tastes to the finest aspects of superior chocolate. Very interesting read!
Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes,by Jeffrey Hamelman. An indispensable book for anyone who is seriously interested in learning to make fine yeast breads, Hamelman shares far more than just technical knowledge. Like fellow bread guru Peter Reinhart, his warmth of spirit and deep love for the tradition of bread baking shines through on every page.
Breakfast Book, by Marion Cunningham. Not to be confused with the character of the mom on Happy Days, the real Marion Cunningham has a long list of writing accomplishments, the most well known being that she completely revised The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. A contemporary of the late James Beard's, she is still held in high esteem.
Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Rose is really into the science of baking, which can be helpful in some respects and off-putting in others. Like gardeners who talk mostly about soil components without conveying their joy in the plants themselves. Maybe I'm too sensitive? Probably so, as many consider this to be an invaluable classic. Despite my reservations, I wouldn't part with my copy. One of several highly detailed books by Rose. Her latest book, Heavenly Cakes, is much more down to earth, loaded with photos, and truly beautiful.
Cake Book, by Tish Boyle. I've called it a treasure trove before and please allow me to say it again here. This book is jam packed with wonderful stuff that's well explained. I used the Sacher-torte recipe in the fall of '09 for a culinary school project and it didn't let me down. I can endorse this book without reservation. I love it.
Complete Book of Pastry Sweet & Savory, by Bernard Clayton, Jr. When this book appeared in 1981, famed food editor Craig Claiborne praised it in the NYT as "one of the most important cookbooks of this year, if not of this decade." No photos, but don't let that dissuade you.
Craft of Baking, by Karen DeMasco & Mindy Fox. In 2009, some great new cookbooks were published and this was one of them. Down to earth, straightforward without being condescending, this smart guide offers creative and simple twists on dozens of diverse and well-proven "cakes, cookies, and other sweets."
Dessert University, by Roland Mesnier. As the White House executive pastry chef for over two decades, Mesnier has a lot of wisdom to impart. He does so well in this book, which is designed specifically for home bakers. A good book!
Grand Central Baking Book, by Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson. Readers are welcomed into these pages with a tone of warmth and familiarity. The photos alone will have you scribbling a grocery list. Try the berry kuchen recipe--simple and scrumptious.
Hershey's Chocolate Treasury, published in 1984 by Hershey Foods and chock full of old reliables. The recipe for Black Magic cake is one I've used again and again--invaluable!
How to Bake, by Nick Malgieri. The writing style is matter of fact and fairly informal. That's one of my favorite things about Malgieri's books.
Magical Art of Cake Decorating, by Carole Collier. Sometimes at a used book sale you find an old gem like this. Published in '84, I found it very encouraging when I first began decorating cakes. The recipes are rock solid reliable.
Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts, by Maida Heatter. Famed baker (apparently her "Palm Beach Brownies" are known far and wide), whose work has centered on wondrous chocolate desserts, Heatter received a James Beard award for this book, one of many she's published over several active decades.
Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, by Martha Stewart. Beautiful photos, but I must admit I've come to have reservations about the reliability of some of the recipes. Is it just me? Though I love flipping through the book for ideas, I'm a bit on the fence with this one when it comes to actual usage.
Martha Stewart's Wedding Cakes by Martha Stewart. Talk about a stunning and inspiring book! Chances are you may never decide to actually make one of the cakes from this glorious volume, but it's enough just to page through the gorgeous pictures and interesting recipes. Expensive? For sure, but worth it.
Passion for Baking, A by Marcy Goldman. If you're curious about how professional bakers manage to make things come out nicely every time, you'll appreciate this book. Goldman, in her highly approachable style, divulges many of their simple--but enormously helpful--tricks and techniques, and shows readers how to implement them throughout the wondrous array of down-to-earth recipes that pack this great book. Loads of enticing photos, too! I love this book!
Perfect Cakes, by Nick Malgieri. Can't say enough about Malgieri's books. Absolutely worth using, versus just reading! The white and dark chocolate cheesecake is to die for; I've made it a few times, along with many other recipes from this book, and it is superb.
Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Everyday, by Peter Reinhart. This book is a revelation for anyone who approaches yeast recipes like a vampire approaches the dawn. Talk about down to earth, encouraging, and flexible! This guy knows how to talk to rookie breadmakers. Well worth reading, and using, this volume will find a comfy place in your cookbook collection--a worthwhile purchase, undoubtedly!
Professional Cake Decorating, by Toba Garrett. I get the impression that this book is perceived as the most thorough and comprehensive text available for serious students of cake decorating. This is the text that we used for my culinary school Beginning Cake Decorarting class (which means I finally own my own copy!).
Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours, by Sarabeth Levine. Almost too pretty to use, but use it anyway! This big book is so appealing, and the photos so remarkably enticing, you'll want to pick it up like a sandwich and bite right into it. Fine recipes for updated classics, well explained, from the famous Manhattan bakery. Worth buying. (You'll love it!)
Secrets of Baking, by Sherry Yard. A must have, bakers! This cookbook's forte is the way it's organized; master recipes are presented with full explanations of how they can be used, and related recipes follow, section by section. An exceptional manual to refer to. Get your own copy!
Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes, by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne. Huntsman is the professional pastry chef behind this beautiful book, filled with many tempting recipes, all designed specifically and scaled perfectly for three layers. I've made the Devil's food cake thus far, and it was exceptional--it rose well, was very moist, and had great depth of flavor. I'll be using this book more in the future, without a doubt. Love the photos also!
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I Pledge . . .
. . . to never endorse a product of any kind on Jane's Sweets & Baking Journal that I do not believe in. I've never done so thus far, and I vow never to do so. If I tell you I think something is great, or that I think it is worth spending real money on, then I mean it, rest assured. I promise. And, if I ever talk about a product that I've been given to review or try out, I will disclose that in the post.
I'm a mom with two great sons (both now in college), and a really nice husband. I left a long editorial career in reference publishing a few years ago and I've had nary a regret. I recently finished (after four part-time years!) a Baking & Pastry Arts Certificate program in the Culinary Studies Institute at a local community college. It was a lot of fun, a lot of work, and I am so glad I did it. These days, I do a lot of freelance editorial work, something that I really enjoy.
"Jane's Sweets" was the name of a very small baking enterprise that I started in late 2007. It bloomed a bit, for a little while, with encouragement from my husband, my aunt, and my first cake decorating teacher, Cindy. Because my Aunt Lydia was my most ardent female supporter in this baking endeavor (she was a lifelong independent business owner herself), this blog is dedicated to her memory. If heaven is real, then I know she's there with my mom, baking up a storm. Like Lydia said one day, just before her 80th birthday, while she and my mom and I were baking in my mom's kitchen, "It's been a fun ride. I'd do it all over again!"
If my house were on fire, I'd grab my family, then I'd grab my KitchenAid mixer.
Copyright 2009-2016, on original content and photos, Jane's Sweets & Baking Journal. Please contact me at email@example.com for permission if you'd like to reuse any of my photos or my content. Please consider informing me if you link to my blog--I'd love to know. --Thanks for visiting!