In homage to some of my favorite Persian writers, authors, and cooks -- namely, Louisa Shafia, Donia Bijan, and Team Yogurt's own Naz Deravian -- I've created my new favorite yogurt cake, one that's elegant but unfussy. Featuring tart, sour cherries, buttery pistachios, and fragrant hits of cardamom and rose, this is a cake for sharing. It's just too pretty to eat alone.
And while it's cliché to assert that a cake like this will fill your home with warm, intoxicating scents while it bakes, I'll mention it anyway. Perhaps you'll forgive me, perhaps not, but either way, the truth's the truth.
Yogurt features here twice: in the batter, where it adds richness and tenderness, and in the icing, where, along with almond extract, it transforms powdered sugar into a superfast glaze. You can't see the icing, hidden as it is beneath the pistachio-rose crush, but it's there, content to do its job quietly, without fanfare or pomp.
Isn't it nice when something commands attention without begging for it?
One more point of pleasure: This cake can be made in its entirety one day ahead and stored, covered with plastic, at room temperature. The flavors and textures mature, so even though making it ahead isn't necessary, it's a nice option for those who may be entertaining.
Recipe for Sour Cherry Yogurt Cake with Pistachio-Cardamom Crush
With classic Persian flavors, this gorgeous cake is strewn with plump sour cherries, slicked with a yogurt-based icing, and crowned with a heady mix of pistachio, cardamom, and rose. Find all the ingredients you need at your local Middle Eastern market, including the sour cherries, which are often stored in the freezer aisle. World Spice Merchants in Seattle carries mail-order rose petals should you need an online source.
Makes 8 servings
For the cake:
1-1/2 cups pitted sour cherries (frozen are fine -- do not thaw)
3/4 cup + 2-1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3/4 cup (unsalted) pistachios
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom, divided
2 tablespoons dried rose petals (unsprayed), plus a few for garnish
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk yogurt
For the icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons whole milk yogurt
1 teaspoon almond extract
Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the center position. Grease a 9-inch springform pan, and line the bottom with a parchment round.
Macerate the cherries. Place the sour cherries in a small bowl. Toss with the lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the sugar.
Make the pistachio crush. In a food processor, grind the pistachios with 1-1/2 tablespoons of the sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of the cardamom for 30 seconds, until somewhere between finely chopped and powdery. Add the rose petals and pulse twice in 1-second bursts. Transfer contents to a small bowl. (You should have 1 scant cup.)
Make the cake. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, remaining 1/2 teaspoon cardamom, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, cream the butter and the remaining 3/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes on medium-high speed, scraping the sides once or twice. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Turn off the mixer, add half the sifted dry ingredients, and pulse in. Add the yogurt and beat in just to blend. Add the remaining dry ingredients, pulse to incorporate, then raise the speed to medium and beat for 1 minute. Fold in 1/3 cup of the pistachio crush.
Transfer batter to the prepared springform and smooth the top. Scatter the macerated sour cherries on top, scraping in any residual juices from the bowl.
Sprinkle with 1/3 cup of the remaining pistachio-cardamom crush. Bake for 50 minutes. Cover very lightly with foil, reduce the heat to 325°F, and bake 10 to 15 minutes longer, until nicely browned, a skewer comes out clean from the center, and the cake feels firm.
Transfer the cake to a wire rack and spring the sides. Allow to cool completely on the base before proceeding, at least 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the icing. Sift the powdered sugar into a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the 2 tablespoons yogurt and the almond extract until smooth. Cover until ready to use.
To serve: Transfer the cake to a platter, leaving the base and parchment behind. Smooth the icing on top. Scatter with the remaining pistachio-cardamom crush and a few scant rose petals, if desired.
Recipe, Words + Photographs © Cheryl Sternman Rule