It is not a surprise that something called Persian Love Cake would whisk me off on a literary and culinary adventure. It is impossible not to taste, feel, hear, and see this cake in the context of a story.
A story of a prince, a girl, and love nudged along by the magic of a delicate rosewater cake laced with saffron accompanies some recipes. An origin story shrouded in mystery that I could find no references to outside of the recipes.
The story I imagine for this cake unfolds in a small, dark, secret corner of a crowded place that only two lovers know, surrounded by the smell of incense, the call of the muezzin, and the anticipated taste of sultry, love-inducing cardamom.
An image of two lovers is clear in my mind, hunched over a tiny table, sharing a single slice of magical love cake, engaged with each other as the only two people in the world.
This cake is as mysterious as it sounds. Its pedigree should be lodged in the history of Iran, but it isn’t. I found two general versions of this cake, one dense with intense syrupy flavors and the other subtle with restrained hints of its Middle Eastern origin. They share only two components, cardamom, and rose water.
The more subtle version is a light layered chiffon cake with saffron and rose water whipped cream separating the layers and coating the outside of the cake. You would never know the complex flavors of this cake by just looking at it; its appearance doesn’t hint at anything other than then a standard chiffon cake.
I have made the Bon Appetit version of this cake several times to serve on New Year’s Eve. That would hint that I was trying to induce some fantastical, romantic setting for the evening, but I wasn’t.
Instead, I baked this cake because making food like this, food that engages your five senses, is an escape. An hour-long adventure to a distant, mysterious place so very different than my own kitchen. A visit where your eyes, ears, mouth, and fingers so easily tell you a story of a place you want to experience, in person, over a slice of Persian Love Cake.
I use the Bon Appetit version of this recipe.
Here is a link to edible rose petals