Persian Love Cake is a moist, aromatic cake flavored with rose water, orange flower water, nutmeg, and cardamom. It strikes the perfect balance between a tender, soft crumb and a rustic texture thanks to nutty almond flour and semolina flour. To really make it a work of art, this cake is topped with a scented glaze and decorated with rose petals and chopped pistachios.
I have a confession. Until I lived in the Middle East, I always thought that beautiful floral scents like rose and lavender were better suited for soap than for food.
But I had no idea what I was missing. (And if you're also on the fence with floral flavors, give this Rose Latte a try!)
This aromatic, beautifully decorated cake with rose petals and pistachios is every bit as enchanting as it looks.
What is Persian Love Cake?
As far as gorgeous (and delicious) Iranian cakes go, this one really takes the cake, pun intended.
Persian Love Cake is absolutely beautiful, and works well as a birthday cake, Valentine’s Day cake, or just an it’s-a-random-Tuesday-afternoon-and-I-want-cake cake.
This lovely pistachio rose cake is a real treat. First with your eyes; with rose petals and crushed pistachios decorating the top, this cake is as elegant as it is delicious. And then after one bite, you’ll be completely hooked!
Persian Love Cake is dense but not heavy with a moist, tender crumb. Almond flour and semolina flour add a touch of nutty flavor and slightly rustic cornbread-like texture.
Cardamom, nutmeg, rosewater, and orange blossom water add flavor and aroma.
A beautifully aromatic floral simple syrup adds moisture and helps this cake retain its freshness.
And last but not least, the glaze on top seals in the moisture, adds another layer of sweet aroma and flavor, and also gives the pistachio and rose decoration something to stick to.
What’s the Story Behind Persian Love Cake?
As legend has it, here’s the story behind why it’s called Persian Love Cake:
A woman was madly in love with a Persian prince. She decided to make him a romantic cake, either because she understood that the way to man’s heart is through his stomach or because she was trying to concoct a love potion in the form of a cake with magical love powers. Either way, she had her reasons. And her goal was ultimately to win over the prince’s heart.
This is where the lore gets even more unclear because this tale has two versions of the ending!
In the first rendition of the story, this romantic cake works its charms and the prince falls in love with the lady. And they lived happily ever after, as befitting a fairy tale.
And in the second accounting, the woman’s love is unrequited and she ends up eating the whole cake herself! (So maybe even though they don’t end up together, it’s not such an unhappy ending after all, lol!)
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Exotic flavor. Flavored with rose water, orange blossom water, nutmeg, and cardamom, this cake has a very unique, exotic flavor profile. Pistachio and rose petals on top pair are the perfect finishing touches.
- Small batch. This six-inch round cake means you won’t have a ton of leftovers on hand. It’s a beautiful romantic cake for Valentine’s dessert or any date night.
- It comes with a love story. And who doesn’t love food with an intriguing past, right?
Absolutely Delicious Persian Love Cake Recipe
Does it get any more romantic than a cake with rose petals adorning the top? Get ready to fall in love with this Iranian cake.
Ingredients in Persian Love Cake
Scented Sugar Syrup (Simple Syrup):
- Granulated sugar – this is the base of our simple syrup
- Water – the liquid ingredient in our sugar syrup
- Fresh lemon juice – to balance the sweetness
- Orange blossom water and rosewater – for flavor and aroma
- All-purpose flour – this is the base flour of this cake
- Almond flour – a classic ingredient in Persian Love Cake; almond flour adds a hint of nutty flavor
- Fine Semolina flour – similar to almond flour, this uncommon flour is a traditional component of Persian Love Cake; semolina flour lends rusticity to this cake, and gives it just the right texture
- Baking powder – the leavening agent in this cake
- Cardamom and nutmeg – these lovely cooling spices add flavor and aroma to this exotic cake
- Salt – to season the cake so it isn’t bland
- Unsalted butter – for rich flavor
- Granulated sugar – to sweeten the cake; the scented sugar syrup (that soaks in) and glaze (on top) also help sweeten this cake
- Eggs – to help achieve the perfect texture for this cake; the eggs help make cake fluffy and prevent the crumb from being too dense
- Plain unsweetened Greek yogurt – similar to buttermilk, yogurt adds a touch of tangy flavor to baked goods and helps create a moist, tender crumb
- Orange blossom water and rose water – these floral flavorings are classic components in traditional Persian Love Cake
- Powdered sugar – this is the base of our glaze
- Milk – the liquid in the glaze to make it pourable
- Orange blossom water and rosewater – to tie together the flavor and aroma of this cake
- Pistachios – use unsalted raw pistachios; they should be very finely chopped or crushed
- Food-grade rose buds and petals – this is the coup de grace that takes this gorgeous cake over the top and truly sets it apart as what is quite possibly the most romantic cake ever
How to Make Persian Love Cake
- Add the all-purpose flour, almond flour, semolina, baking powder, ground cardamom, ground nutmeg, and salt to a medium bowl.
- Whisk together.
- Add the butter, sugar, eggs, yogurt, orange blossom water, and rosewater to a large bowl.
- Use a handheld electric mixer to beat until well-combined.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet all at once.
- Beat to combine.
- Transfer the batter to the prepared cake pan and spread it out evenly.
- Bake until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes at 375F. If the cake starts browning too quickly, you can place a piece of foil on top.
The Scented Sugar Syrup:
- Add all ingredients to a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, and then let it boil for 1 minute.
- Remove from the heat and cool completely.
- Pour the cooled syrup on the hot cake. Let the cake cool completely before glazing.
- Once the cake is cooled, add all ingredients for the glaze to a medium bowl.
- Whisk until smooth. You can add more milk if needed to achieve the right consistency.
- Transfer the cake to a cake plate (I like to invert it so the flat bottom is now on top), and pour the glaze on top, letting it drip down the sides if you like that look. Sprinkle the pistachios and rose petals decoratively on the top.
Tips for Success
- Swap out the floral flavorings if they’re not your thing. You can omit the rose water and orange blossom water in this recipe and use fresh lemon or orange zest instead. Or simply flavor it with vanilla extract.
- Make the scented simple syrup first. This is because for the cake to properly absorb the sugar syrup, the syrup should be room temperature and the cake should be hot.
Persian Love Cake Recipe FAQs
Why Do You Add a Sugar Syrup on Cakes?
If you’ve heard of a poke cake (essentially a cake that you poke holes into after it’s baked, and then pour syrup on so that it soaks into the holes), you are already familiar with adding sugar syrup on cakes. (Check out the step-by-step instructional photos for my Carrot Cake recipe to see this in action.)
The reason you add sugar syrup to cakes is to help make it moist. Additionally, to help a cake retain its moisture. The syrup keeps the cake tasting fresh for a longer period.
What is Rose Water?
Rose water is made by steeping rose petals in water, or distilling rose petals with steam. The resulting floral liquid is highly aromatic and flavorful.
Rose water is typically a by-product from the production of rose oil for perfume, but it also has cosmetic, medical, and religious uses. And of course it has culinary purposes as well!
Rose water is commonly used in Middle Eastern cooking and baking, and adds a lovely exotic flair.
Most of the world’s rose water comes from Iran, and the Golabgiri festival each spring is a celebration of the rose harvest.
You can read more about rose water on Wikipedia.
What is Orange Blossom Water?
Similar to rose water, orange blossom water (which is also called orange flower water) is a liquid by-product from the distillation of fresh bitter orange blossoms for their essential oil. If you’re interested, find out more about orange flower water on Wikipedia.
More Unique Cake Recipes to Try
- Ptichye Moloko (Russian Bird’s Milk Cake)
- Qors Ogaily (Kuwaiti Cardamom Saffron Cake)
- Banana Coffee Cake Recipe with Brown Sugar Pecan Swirl
- Matzo Tiramisu
- Tropical Papaya Coconut Cake
- Basbousa (Middle Eastern Coconut Semolina Cake)
- Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake
Persian Love Cake Recipe
Scented Sugar Syrup:
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup almond flour
- ¼ cup fine semolina
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
- 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- ½ cup plain unsweetened Greek yogurt at room temperature
- ¾ teaspoon orange blossom water
- ¼ teaspoon rose water
For the Scented Sugar Syrup:
- Add all ingredients to a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, and then let it boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and cool completely before pouring on the hot cake.
For the Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 375F. Butter and flour a 6-inch springform pan. If you don’t have a springform pan, you can use a regular 6-inch cake pan lined with a piece of parchment paper that’s trimmed to fit in the bottom.
- Whisk together the all-purpose flour, almond flour, semolina, baking powder, ground cardamom, ground nutmeg, and salt in a medium bowl.
- Add the butter, sugar, eggs, yogurt, orange blossom water, and rosewater to a large bowl. Use a handheld electric mixer to beat until well-combined.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet all at once, and beat to combine.
- Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread it out evenly.
- Bake until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. If the cake starts browning too quickly, you can place a piece of foil on top.
- Once the cake is out of the oven, place it on a rimmed baking tray (in case some of the syrup spills) and immediately pour on the scented sugar syrup.
- Let the cake cool completely.
For the Glaze:
- Once the cake is cooled, whisk together all ingredients for the glaze in a medium bowl until smooth. You can add more milk if needed to achieve the right consistency.
- Transfer the cake to a cake plate (I like to invert it so the flat bottom is now on top), and pour the glaze on top, letting it drip down the sides if you like that look.
- Sprinkle the pistachios and rose petals decoratively on the top.
- Let the glaze set before serving.
- Change the Flavor: You can omit the rose water and orange blossom water in this recipe and use fresh lemon or orange zest instead. Or simply flavor it with vanilla extract.
- Tip: Make the scented simple syrup first. This is because for the cake to properly absorb the sugar syrup, the syrup should be room temperature and the cake should be hot.