These Persian love cake cupcakes are the perfect way to enjoy the wonderful flavors in individual servings. Flavored with the classic Persian flavors of cardamom, rosewater and lemon, they are light, aromatic and delicious.
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I'll be honest, I am not someone who is automatically drawn to cake. Particularly ones heavily laden with frosting. At birthday parties I have been known to go for the smallest slice and leave some of the frosting behind as I find it too much sweetness.
There are some flavors that will always draw me to try, though, and cardamom and lemon are definitely among them. Since this Persian treat has both, it is one I knew I would love before I even tried it.
How did Persian love cake get its name?
It's not entirely clear where the name for this cake came from. Many seem to believe it is based on a legend of a girl baking a cake with magical powers to win over a prince she was in love with.
While Persians do love their stories, it's a little hard to tell if this is the origin of the name. After all, there's no consistent ending to it. Some say it worked, others that he rebuffed the attempt, and yet others that he ate it then died from being allergic to an ingredient.
Another report I saw was that the name was first coined by Yasmin Khan, a British/Iranian/Pakistani food writer. Less interesting, but maybe more realistic.
I also read that the cake itself is, in fact, a relatively recent creation to highlight some favorite Iranian ingredients. So much so, that some Iranians are not aware of it and you will not find it in traditional cookbooks. Love is an important theme in Iranian storytelling, and I imagine it might be just as true that the story was made to fit the cake.
Whatever the origins of the name (in English at least), there's no denying that this is a beautifully flavored and pretty looking cake. With aromatic flavors inside, and decorative pistachio and rose petals on top, there's a lot to love.
Variations in how this cake is made
Even being a relatively recent creation (assuming that's the case), there are a few variations in what goes in to this Persian cake. Rosewater is in pretty much all versions, and most use some or all of the following as well:
- orange blossom water.
Most recipes use at least part oil, if not all, rather than butter to help these aromatic flavors come through. Some use yogurt to help the cake stay moist, while others use a sweet drizzle over the warm cake. Some use both.
Here I've kept the key flavors, while avoiding making the list too long. Then, I decided to make them in cupcake form. Making Persian love cake cupcakes is easier for us to get through (as I can make a smaller batch) and it's fun to have ready-formed individual servings.
There are a couple things to bear in mind using rosewater, cardamom and saffron. All of them have pretty distinct flavors and so you want to make sure you don't use too much. A little goes a long way, so don't be tempted to add more until you have at least tried the recipe as it is once.
Also, rosewater can vary in strength, so if you know yours is on the stronger side, you may want to reduce the quantity used here. If unsure, use less and have the flavor less distinct rather than have it overpower the other flavors.
Why is there both a drizzle and a glaze?
While it may seem an extra step, adding both the drizzle and glaze is definitely worthwhile, in my opinion. The drizzle helps to add a little extra moisture and also adds the saffron flavor (true, you could bake it in, but I think it works better this way).
If you don't really like the flavor of saffron, you can make the syrup without saffron instead. However, it is one of the quintessential Persian flavors, so some would argue it's a must in there somewhere. Plus it gives the lovely slight glow to the top of them.
The glaze, meanwhile, is more decorative and to add a final bright flavor. Some make the glaze with rosewater or saffron, which you could also do, but I think lemon is my favorite for its fresh citrus finish.
I only added a very light glaze to these rather than a true frosting. You could easily double the glaze to make it a bit of a thicker coating.
I also admit to maybe being a little too eager to put the glaze on when the cupcakes were still very slightly warm, so it ran a bit more than I would typically want. Hopefully you may have more patience, and so it will stay more to the middle. However, I think when you decorate with the pistachio and rose petals, then take a bite, you soon ignore it!
These Persian love cake cupcakes are less sweet than your typical cupcake, but packed with wonderfully aromatic flavors. They are tender, moist and a flavorful little treat.
Try these other individual-sized treats:
- Swedish cardamon buns
- Pear chocolate chip sourdough muffins
- Lemon slice (no bake cookie bars)
- Plus get more snack recipes, both sweet and savory, in the archives.
Persian love cake cupcakes
- 1 cup sugar 200g
- ¼ cup vegetable oil 60ml
- ½ cup butter 115g, 1 stick - softened or melted and allowed to cool
- 4 eggs
- 2 tablespoon rosewater see notes
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest 1 small lemon
- 1 cup all purpose flour 140g plain flour
- ½ cup almond flour 55g (ground almonds)
- ½ cup fine semolina 75g
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
For the drizzle:
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon water
- 2 tablespoon honey
- ⅛ teaspoon saffron approx - 2 pinches, ground
For the glaze:
- ½ cup powdered sugar 55g
- 4 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon pistachios approx
- 1 teaspoon edible rose petals approx
To make cupcakes:
- Preheat oven to 350F/175C. Line 12 cupcake moulds in a cupcake/muffin mould.
- Cream together the sugar, oil and butter until well combined.
- Add the eggs one at a time, mixing it in before adding the next. Add the rosewater, lemon juice and zest and mix well.
- Separately, mix together the flour, almond flour, semolina, cardamom, baking powder and salt. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients part at a time and mix until just combined.
- Spoon the mixture into the prepared cupcake moulds - they should be around ¾ full.
- Bake the cupcakes for around 20-22 minutes until a cocktail stick/toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- While the cupcakes are baking, mix together the lemon, water and honey. Warm them together so that the honey dissolves (you can do this by putting in the microwave in a small bowl for around 30 seconds, check then if needed a bit longer). Once dissolved, add the crushed saffron and mix then leave to infuse.
- As soon as the cupcakes are cooked, prick the top of them all over with a cocktail stick/toothpick then carefully drizzle the honey-saffron mixture over them evenly trying to make sure you put about the same on each and that it spreads over the whole of the top. Leave them to cool in the tin a minute then transfer to a cooling rack.
- Once the cupcakes have cooled, mix together the powdered sugar and lemon juice to forma smooth glaze. Finely chop the pistachios and break up the rose petals into small pieces.
- Drizzle the glaze over the top of each cupcake and top with some pieces of pistachio and rose petals.
I first shared the recipe for Persian love cake cupcakes in Curious Cuisiniere where I am a contributor.
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