Persian Love Cake

This chiffon cake filled with rose-scented whipped cream is inspired by the aromatics found in Persian, Turkish, and Indian confections. Cardamom seeds have more flavor than the ground powder and are like little explosions of spice in the cake.


Candied rose petals
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Petals from 2 organic roses
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 3/4 cups baker’s sugar or superfine sugar, divided
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 10 large eggs, separated (6 yolks + 10 egg whites)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (from about one large lemon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cardamom seeds (removed from about 10 green cardamom pods)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds (removed from about 10 green cardamom pods)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar (optional, but recommended)
  • 2 1/2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream, divided
  • Pinch of saffron threads
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon rose water (or more, to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons natural unsalted pistachios


For candied rose petals:

Whisk egg whites in small bowl until foamy. Using pastry brush, brush rose petals on both sides with egg whites; sprinkle on both sides with sugar. Dry on nonstick rack at least 6 hours or overnight.

Cook’s Note: While organic rose petals are preferable, you can make due with conventionally grown roses from your local grocer or florist, provided you wash them thoroughly (I recommend using a good produce wash for this). Gently pat petals dry with a towel, and prepare as above. You can use any color roses you like, but be aware that the color of your finished candied petals will be somewhat lighter due to the coating of sugar, so you should use flowers with vivid color for best results.

For cake:

Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly butter two 9-inch-diameter cake pans (with 3-inch high sides), and line pan bottoms and sides with parchment paper. Sift flour, half of the baker’s sugar (14 tablespoons), baking powder, and salt into large bowl. Stir in whole cardamom seeds and ground cardamom. Whisk yolks and next 4 ingredients in small bowl until smooth. Add yolk mixture to dry ingredients; whisk until smooth. Beat egg whites in medium bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining half of the baker’s sugar, along with cream of tartar; beat until whites resemble thick marshmallow fluff. Fold whites into batter in 3 additions. Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake until cakes are golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool in pans on racks 15 minutes (if the cakes have risen above the height of the pan, allow them to cool and deflate until just below the rims- there will be some deflation on the bottom of the cakes as well). Turn out onto parchment-lined racks, peel off the baking off parchment, and cool completely.

Cook’s Note:  Cakes can be prepared 1 day ahead. Wrap in plastic wrap and store at room temperature. The recipe or the cakes was originally written using half the quantity of ingredients specified, for enough batter to fill two 8-inch pans with 1 1/2-inch high sides. I have adjusted the quantities of the original recipe to use standard 9-inch cake pans which can be more easily found in most stores. For lift, use only enough butter to ensure the parchment sticks to the pan- chiffon and angel food cakes tend to have difficulty rising in greased pans. Although you can omit the cream of tartar, I highly recommend using it to stabilize the meringue and ensure proper lift. If your cakes rise high enough, you may wish to cut each cake in half to make four layers. If you don’t want whole cardamom seeds in your cake, coarsely grind the seeds using a mortar and pestle or substitute additional ground cardamom. Lightly toasting the cardamom seeds before adding them to the batter will enhance the flavor in the finished cake as well. If you can’t find bakers sugar, you can make your own extra-fine sugar by pulsing regular granulated sugar in a food processor (you can also use your food processor to sift the dry ingredients more efficiently- just a few pulses should do the trick). To make the cakes extra fragrant, I also like to swap out 1-2 tablespoons of the water with rosewater.)

For Frosting:

Combine 1/2 cup cream and saffron in small saucepan. Bring to simmer. Remove from heat; let steep 20 minutes. Chill until cold.

Beat remaining 2 cups cream, powdered sugar, and rose water in large bowl until soft peaks form; strain in saffron cream. Beat until peaks form.

Place 1 cake layer, flat side up, on platter. Spread 1 cup frosting over. Top with second cake layer, flat side down. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Chill at least 1 hour and up to 6 hours. Garnish cake with rose petals and pistachios.

Cook’s Note: You can make the whipped cream a day in advance, provided you take out a little extra insurance and use a stabilizer. Baking supply stores carry several commercial stabilizers, but if you don’t want to buy a specialized product that you won’t need to use that often, I recommend plain unflavored gelatin, which will enable your whipped cream to retain its loft (Cook’s Illustrated has a good article on how to use gelatin to stabilize whipped cream). If you find your whipped cream has fallen a bit overnight, beat again until light and fluffy. Do not over-beat the whipped cream, or you will end up with rose and saffron butter. I recommend decorating the cake just prior to serving- as sugar is hydroscopic, the candy coating on the petals will absorb moisture from the whipped cream and eventually melt away if allowed to sit for an extended period of time.