I have an orange blossom candle which I’ve placed on my radiator. Whenever the heat is on, it releases the slow, lazy smell of desert blooms — the Orient, powdery and sweet.
In my dreams, I invite the women of Marjane Satrapi‘s family over. They sip strong tea from a samovar, perhaps in glass cups hugged by metal filigree. The steam rises in double brushstrokes from their thin cups. I sit on the floor at their feet, knees together, ankles tucked next to one hip.
I serve these cakes. They are the secret held behind Ilsa Lund’s plush lips when Rick Blaine corners her at the bazaar. They are a pink silk nightgown trimmed with cream lace, pinned to a clothesline. They are the sillage of an arch-browed woman in seamed stockings, the thin embroidered lines like the continuation of her spine down into the tips of her heels. They are the inner courtyard of a tiled blue palace, a rose garden where a teenage girl fans her long, wild hair in the grass for a sun bath.
Persian Tea Cakes
The base of this cake is Smitten Kitchen’s yellow cake recipe, which I am officially obsessed with. With cardamom, rosewater, orange and pistachio, they are impossibly feminine and perfumey and delicate. They’re perfect with a strong cup of tea. I used foil cupcake cups, but you could easily use a greased cupcake tin and pop ‘em out before icing for prettier presentation. I am in love with them, and I can’t wait to show them off again.
2 cups plus 2 tbsp. cake flour
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temp
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temp
1 c. buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. rosewater
1 tsp. cardamom seeds, ground in mortar and pestle
Juice of 1 orange
1 tsp. orange zest, grated AND chopped fine
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 pinch salt
1/2 c. Turkish pistachios, chopped
22 cupcake foil cups
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt together. Set aside.
- Beat butter and sugar together.
- Beat in one egg at a time on low speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
- Add buttermilk, vanilla, rosewater and cardamom. Beat on low until blended.
- Beat in dry ingredients, a third at a time, until just blended, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
- Drop cupcake cups onto baking sheet. Fill cups about 1/3 full.
- Bake for 23-28 minutes until barely golden brown on top. Cool completely.
For the icing:
- Put powdered sugar, grated zest and salt into a bowl. Add enough orange juice to make a thin, drizzle-able icing.
- Ice the cupcakes with plenty of orange icing. Top with chopped pistachios.
I submitted these for my office’s bake-off today. Though they came in second place, two of the judges (one of whom was Jim Oseland, EIC of Saveur) said they gave it 10 out of 10, meaning the third judge was my downfall. DAMMIT! But, BUT, Jim Oseland said my cake and the olive oil cake (which just happened to be from a Saveur recipe) were his favorites (!). So take that, pedestrian caramel oat chocolate chip WHATEVER in first place. Harumph.