Cake Yazdi — Persian Yazdi Cakes

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This is a first for Discover Discomfort — a recipe! In a time when we can’t travel much, we’re starting to cook food from places where we have some cultural connection, places to which we’ve travelled, or to which we want to travel but can’t (we can’t travel to Iran to learn Persian for a few reasons). There’ll be more of this to come!

I made this cake Yazdi (يزدي کيک, cake-e Yazdi) for my Dad’s birthday yesterday. I hadn’t made it before, but everyone who ate it (who weren’t straight outta Iran, but who knew their cakes) said it was perfect and it didn’t need any modifications.

It was my Dad’s special request. Actually he asked me to use artificial sweetener, too, which I did (Monkfruit).

I had combined elements of a few other recipes for cake-e Yazdi, so I’m putting the combined recipe up here for family members and friends, plus anyone else interested.

Cake yazdi - cut into squares from a cake baked in a cake pan

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A few quick notes on the method

Difficulty: This cake isn’t hard, but it’s not a basic sponge cake. The most important difference is the part when you’re beating egg and sugar over a simmering pan. Plan to be behind an electric egg beater for 15 minutes while you’re doing it.

Enhancements: This recipe is also enhanced for a moist cake Yazdi, using a few common baking tricks:

  • Oil, rather than butter. Butter is tasty, but oil leads to a moist cake. In a cake with other strong flavours like this one, oil is fine.
  • A small amount of rice or corn flour.
  • Greek yoghurt

Similar approaches are used in other moist cakes, like carrot cake recipes.

Cupcakes vs tin cake: Traditionally, these are made using cupcake moulds. But you don’t have to! I diddn’t have any, so I cooked it in a cake pan.

Ingredients

The only ingredient for cake Yazdi you might need to buy online or from a Persian food store is the rose water.

  • 300g self-raising flour (or 300g plain flour + 1 teaspoon baking powder)
  • 25g rice or corn flour
  • 180 ml vegetable/canola oil
  • 4 eggs (large, from a 700g pack, ~60g each)
  • 200g sugar or sweetener (I used Monkfruit sweetener, per Dad’s request)
  • 200 ml Greek yoghurt, unsweetened and thick
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom (I ground in mortar and pestle)
  • 2 tablespoons rose water (آب گل, aab-e gol)
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup chopped pistachio kernels

Tools you’ll need

I always weigh when making cakes or bread for the first time. There is a lot of variation in how much flour is in a “cup”.

Directions

  • Pre-heat oven to 175 degrees C (350 F), or a little more if it’s not fan-forced.
  • Grease/line with baking paper the cups of a cupcake or muffin pan — 24 cups. OR a cake pan ~20cm square or 25cm diameter.
  • Sift the 300g flour and 25g rice or corn flour (together with the baking powder, if you didn’t use self-raising flour) into a large separate bowl — you’ll combine this later.
  • Put the 4 eggs and 200g sugar into a large heat-proof bowl — glass or metal will be fine.
  • Bring a shallow pan of water to a simmer.
  • Put the bowl into the shallow pan of water and begin beating the eggs with the egg beater. They’ll begin to fluff up after a minute, but will still be uncooked. Keep beating it until they fluff up more and the mixture becomes paler — typically 5-8 minutes.
  • Take the bowl out of the pan. Keep beating it for another 10 minutes until it has cooled. (You could accelerate this by leaving it in a bowl of ice water as you beat it.)
  • Mix in the: 180 ml oil, 1 cup yoghurt, 1 1/2 teaspoons cardamom, 2 tablespoons of rose water, and pinch of salt.
  • Pour the mixture into your flour bowl and now stir with a spoon by hand. You don’t have to “fold”, but try not to crush your beaten egg and sugar mixture. The end mixture shouldn’t have flour pockets, but it may not be perfectly smooth.
  • Fold in the 1/2 cup of slivered almonds.
  • Pour into your cupcake moulds or cake tin until 3/4 full, allowing for rising.
  • Sprinkle the chopped pistachios on top as a garnish. It has to look the part!
  • Bake for 25-35 minutes — it should be golden brown on the top, springy on the surface, and a knife inserted in the middle should come out clean. The time is variable depending on a) how hot your oven actually is and b) how deep the mixture is.
  • When it’s done, warm up the honey in the microwave for 30 seconds, and brush it onto the cupcakes or cake.

You can serve Cake Yazdi right away, warm, or keep it for later.

Background of Cake Yazdi

In Persian, the name is cake-e Yazdi, which means a cake from Yazd. In Persian, you write it “کيک يزدي”.

Persians have quite a few baked sweets in their repertoire, such as qottaab (like doughnuts, but made with yoghurt) and noon-e khaame-i (cream buns). Persian history overlaps a lot with European history up to the end of the time of the Shah, so there was a lot of influence from the region.

But even though there was European influence, there are still some features of Persian baking that are unique, some of which are in Cake Yazdi.

For example

  • Baking with yoghurt. This is a bit of a “hack” in Western baking — you don’t normally see it as part of cake recipes. But many Persian recipes have yoghurt in them. I guess we love the stuff!
  • Very fragrant flavours — rose water, saffron, honey, and turmeric. You can add saffron to Cake Yazdi (but don’t add turmeric… weird)
  • Moderate sweetness: Persian desserts are, as my Dad would say, “not too sweet”. With the exception of baklava and baamieh, of course.

Aside from that, you really just need to think of Cake Yazdi as “a fragrant cupcake that’s not too sweet”. How you enjoy it!

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