Roses first became associated with romance when the Victorian’s developed the art of floriography to communicate through flowers that which could not be said openly. Red roses signified passionate love whilst yellow ones represented friendship and devotion. Since then roses have become firmly embedded in the language of love through poetry, love songs and perfume.
Whilst I have no real desire to add to the vast commercialisation of romance (a £1bn industry in the uk) I do think Valentine’s Day is a wonderful opportunity to stop work, put down the phone and reconnect with the one we love.
This year, I thought it might be interesting to incorporate roses into a cake.
I was inspired by beautiful images of Persian Love Cakes and it was originally my plan to bake one. After a little research (ok a couple of hours on Google) I realised two things: Firstly, there are lots of food blogs reproducing two recipes, both which are called Persian love cakes. One of these is almond based (with the addition of rose water and spices) and the other is a chiffon cake draped in rose scented cream. They can’t both be authentic can they? Secondly, they all mention that the origin of the cake is said to be that a woman fell in love with a prince and baked him a cake.
What? Why? That’s not a story. I want to know who the woman was and who the prince was and whether or not she was succesful. I want to know if they overcame obstacles and triumphed over adversity and most of all I want to know if they lived happily ever after.
So here is my cake. Yes it is made with almonds and rose water and cardamom, yes it is topped with pistachio nuts and rose petals and yes they may be deemed to be vaguely Persian flavours but I resolutely refuse to call it a Persian Love Cake until I know the rest of the story.
If you know it please, please help to put me out of my agony.
In the meantime, have some cake. It’s got roses in it so share it with your Valentine.
5 oz / 140g Ground Almonds
5 oz / 140g Softened Butter
5oz / 140g Golden Caster Sugar
5oz / 140g Self-Raising Flour
2 tsp Rose Water
The seeds from 12 Cardomom Pods (discard the pods)
For the Syrup
2 tbsp Golden Caster Sugar
Juice of 1/2 a Lemon
1 tsp Rose Water
The seeds from 4 Cardamom Pods (discard the pods)
A handful of Pistachio Nuts
1 tbsp Icing Sugar
Crystallised Rose Petals (see below)
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4
Grease and base line a deep 8” / 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin.
Put all the cake ingredients into a bowl and mix well using an electric hand mixer. Make sure that the butter is well softened and go easy with the rose water and cardamom; they both have a tendency to taste soapy if you overdo it.
Pour into the cake tin and level. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes until springy.
Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes then remove and place on a cooling rack.
Put the syrup ingredients into a small pan over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat slightly until you have a syrup. If the syrup is a little too thick add a tablespoon of hot water and stir well. Prick the cake with a skewer and drizzle the syrup over the top of the still warm cake.
When the cake has completely cooled dust with icing sugar and decorate with the pistachio nuts and rose petals.
Serve to your loved one with a glass of sweet wine and the lights turned down low. The rest is up to you.
Crystallised Rose Petals
You can buy crystallised rose petals but it is so easy to make your own that I definitely recommend it.
Buy (or pick) a rose, make sure it is organic (unless you like eating pesticides) and try to choose one with pretty petals.
Whisk an egg white until light and frothy. Put two tablespoons of caster sugar in a bowl.
Carefully separate the petals from the rose and brush each one sparingly with egg white. Spoon sugar over the petal and shake very gently to remove any excess.
Place the coated petals on a sheet of baking parchment and leave to dry for 2 hours or more (overnight is good). Use to decorate your cake.