Pomegranate cake recipe, Iranian style

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My best friend is from Iran.  We’ve known each other for 11 years, and we’ve seen each other through so many transitions in life.  Our friendship started when she approached me from a crowd outside a bookstore during a fire evacuation.  Since that day, our friendship blossomed so quickly in what could only be described as a merging of cultures.  We couldn’t be any more different from one another in every way!  Despite the fact that I speak Chinese while she speaks Farsi, our connection stemmed from a mutual deep respect even through the unlikelihood of any close match between us.  And that’s what makes our friendship so special.

She shared many of her life experiences with me, which were of course so different from mine, and I started taking an interest in the Persian culture and language.  She taught me a few words and phrases in Farsi, told me stories about her cultural customs, and gave me a Farsi name.

Today I decided to make an Iranian cake and dedicate it to my best friend.  She doesn’t know that I’m doing this, so if she’s reading my blog, she’s in for a big surprise.  This is an appropriate time since mid March is Nowruz, the Persian New Year on the Iranian calendar.  Nowruz lands on the first day of spring (spring equinox) in the northern hemisphere, celebrated in many areas formerly under Persian rule.  The sun is directly over the equator, and night and day are equalized since sunlight is evenly divided between the north and south hemispheres.  And this year, Nowruz is on March 20 in many parts of the world.  To my best friend, Sal-e No Mobarak!

The word “Nowruz” is made up of two Persian words:  Now which means “new”, and ruz which means “day”.  Quite simply, Norwuz is known as the Persian New Year.  It is the oldest of Iranian traditions, and a celebration of life with many colorful festivities.  Preparations for Nowruz begin in the last month of winter in the Persian solar calendar, involving a thorough spring cleaning of the house (Khouneh Tekouni), house visits with one another, and a traditional feasting festival on the night before the last Wednesday of the year (Chaharshanbe Suri).

My cake is inspired by the Iranian butter cake with pomegranate seeds, which have roots in ancient times in the Middle East.  I’ve also used rosewater, which is believed to have magical cleansing powers.  While it pales in comparison to truly traditional Iranian cuisine, it’s the thought that counts, isn’t it?  I know, I am missing the Haft-seen, a major traditional table setting consisting of 7 specific items starting with the letter “S” in the Persian alphabet.  Each item is symbolic, and families traditionally set the most beautiful Haft-seen as they can for their traditional and spiritual value, as well as for visitors to notice.  I’m still quite far from having a beautifully traditional Haft-seen, but here is my very best so far:

my Haft-seen








Pomegranate cake

Iranian Pomegranate cake

Grocery list

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
Pinch salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup pomegranate juice
Juice of half lime
1 tsp grated lime zest
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp rosewater
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

Pomegranate sauce

1/2 cup pomegranate juice
Juice of half lime
1/8 cup sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 tsp rosewater

Preheat the oven to 350oF with a rack it the middle.  Butter and flour a 6-inch round cake pan.  Line with parchment paper and then butter and flour the paper.  Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sugars and butter and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at time, beating well after each addition.

Beat sugar and butter until fluffy  add eggs one at a time

Beat in the flour mixture, alternating with the milk and ending with the flour, beating well after each addition.

alternate flour and milk

Stir in the pomegranate juice, lime juice, lime zest, vanilla, and rosewater.

Add pomegranate juice to batter

Fold in the pomegranate seeds.

add pomegranate seeds to batter

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake for about 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the pomegranate sauce:  Heat a small saucepan over medium heat and combine the pomegranate juice, lime juice, sugar, and cornstarch.  Stir until the solids are dissolved.  Add the pomegranate seeds and cook for another 5 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the rosewater.

combine pomegranate juice and sugars  combine pomegranate juice and sugars

Slice the cake and serve with the sauce on the side or drizzled on top.

Pomegranate cake Iranian style  Pomegranate cake Iranian recipe


Related posts:

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  2. Chinese New Year red date cake 紅棗年糕
  3. Four layer vanilla-berry cake
  4. German chocolate cake with coconut pecan frosting
  5. Coconut vanilla cake with coconut buttercream
4 Responses to Pomegranate cake recipe, Iranian style
  1. Kalyani
    May 24, 2014 | 7:27 am

    Hello! Thank you for this wonderful recipe here. Would love to try making it as soon as I can. Just have one query. Will the cake as good even without the sauce for company? Thanks much in advance! – Kalyani

    • Dr. Grace
      June 21, 2014 | 4:40 pm

      Some people might find the cake a little dry without the sauce, but perhaps you can serve it with tea? Let me know how it goes!

  2. Kalyani
    May 24, 2014 | 7:30 am

    And also, I loved the narration as much esp. about your Iranian friend. :)

    • Dr. Grace
      June 21, 2014 | 4:39 pm

      Thanks for the comment Kalyani! Nice to know that readers are reading my stories too. :)

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