Persian Almond Cake with Saffron and Rose Water
This recipe is adapted from Cooking in Iran: Regional Recipes & Kitchen Secrets author Najmieh Batmangli, who describes how a friend’s mother in Yazd, Iran, used to make the treats with aromatic pussy willow flowers, which she would spread across a tray of ground almonds, flavoring the nuts with their sweet fragrance. Here, the perfume comes from rose water. When using saffron, Batmanglij says, “to get the best flavor, aroma, and color,” grind whole threads with a mortar and pestle and dissolve them in warm water. In this case, the saffron is dissolved into a sugar syrup that binds the almond flour into a thick, marzipan-like paste.
What You Will Need
- Canola oil, for greasing
- 2 cups (14 oz.) sugar
- ½ tsp. finely ground saffron
- 3 tbsp. rose water
- 9¼ cups (2 ¼ lb.) blanched almond flour, sifted
- 2 tbsp. finely chopped pistachios
- 1 tsp. freshly ground cardamom seeds
- Lightly grease a 9½x13-inch baking pan or rimmed baking sheet with oil, then line with parchment paper and lightly grease the paper.
- In a small pot, bring the sugar and 1 cup water to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat, add the saffron and rose water, and stir well until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside to cool completely.
- Transfer the syrup to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until it is foamy and thickened, about 3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, gradually fold in the almond flour and mix until you have a thick, homogeneous paste. Transfer the paste to the prepared pan, place a sheet of greased parchment paper on top (oiled side down), and use your hands to flatten the paste. (It should be about 2 inches thick.) Using a rolling pin, flatten the paste further and even out the surface, then transfer to the fridge (still covered with parchment paper) for at least 24 hours or up to 3 days.
- Oil a long knife, then cut the cake into 25 diamond-shaped pieces. In a small bowl, stir together the pistachios and cardamom, then garnish each diamond with a generous pinch of the pistachio mixture. Serve immediately, or transfer in a single layer to an airtight container or cover tightly with plastic wrap, refrigerate, and serve within 1 week.