Persian love cake is a moist and light cake flavored with citrus, cardamom, cinnamon, and rosewater. Finished with a tart lemon glaze and a final sprinkle of rose petals and crushed pistachios, this fragrant sweet treat comes with a touch of romance.

Slice of Persian love cake being lifted with a small wooden utensil.
Photo Credits: Bella Karragiannidis

The exact origin story of Persian Love Cake is unknown. One theory, suggests it's a well traveled adaptation of the Portuguese Love Cake, Bolo di Amor, which in the 16th century was transformed by Sri Lankans into a semolina cake often served at Christmastime. From there the cake eventually made its way to Iran, where it evolved further with the addition of rosewater, a flavoring very familiar to the Middle Eastern palette.

Once in Iran, the story becomes a legend stating that Persian love cake came about when a young Persian woman fell in love with a prince. To make him fall in love with her, she baked a cake infused with aromatic spices and rose water. To complicate matters further, many Iranians are not familiar with the cake. Most of us were introduced to it through our Western upbringing, me included. However I'm so glad this delightful dessert has become part of my modern Persian life.

Regardless, of how this beautifully flavored dessert began, Persian love cake is a divine addition to your catalog of cake recipes. With nutty almond flour, a not-too-sweet lemony glaze, and aromatic warming spices, this sophisticated dessert is universally adored by everyone in my family!

Table of Contents
  1. Persian Love Cake Ingredients
  2. How to Make This Cake Recipe
    1. Make the Batter
    2. Bake, Soak, and Decorate the Cake
  3. A Note about Rose Water
  4. Variations to this Persian Love Cake Recipe
  5. What to Serve with Persian Love Cake
  6. More Cake Recipes To Try
  7. Persian Love Cake Recipe
Ingredients for Persian Love Cake, including flour, cardamom, lemon, eggs, orange, and butter.

Persian Love Cake Ingredients

Most of the ingredients required for this cake are readily available in well-stocked supermarkets, with the exception of edible dried rose petals. Luckily, you can find dried rose petals in Middle-Eastern markets, online, or you can leave them off. 

  • Almond flour: Also known as almond meal, almond flour is made from finely ground skinned almonds. Ground almonds give the cake a moist, crumbly texture and nutty flavor. 
  • All-purpose flour: Made from wheat, all-purpose flour provides structure to the cake. You can use a gluten-free all-purpose flour blend, however, the cake will be denser than the original.
  • Baking powder and baking soda: Help the cake to rise and to create an airy texture.
  • Unsalted butter: Adds stability and flavor to the cake. Make sure the butter is soft (around room temperature) before creaming with the sugar, which allows you to incorporate air more easily.
  • Superfine sugar: Also known as caster or castor sugar, superfine sugar’s fine grain allows it to dissolve easily. However, regular granulated sugar will also work just fine in this recipe.
  • Eggs: Eggs add structure and richness to the cake. 
  • Greek yogurt: Makes the cake lighter and adds a tangy flavor to balance the sweetness.
  • Rose water: Adds a distinct floral flavor to the cake. You can find it in the baking or international foods aisle, or find our favorite all-natural rose water from our shop. Feel free to adjust rosewater quantities up or down to your taste.
  • Citrus: The juice and zest of fresh orange and lemon adds a burst of bright flavor and aroma.
  • Cardamom and cinnamon: Ground cardamom and cinnamon give the cake a warming and aromatic flavor profile.
  • Powdered sugar: Powdered sugar, mixed with lemon juice and a dash of rose water, provides a simple yet elegant glaze for this cake.
  • Garnish: Dried edible rose petals and crushed pistachios decorate the cake. Make sure the pistachios are raw and unsalted. Most specialist Middle-Eastern food shops have dried rose petals if you can’t find them in your local supermarket, or you can leave them off.
A slice of Persian love cake with a bite taken out, showing the crumb.

How to Make This Cake Recipe

To make this Persian love cake, you’ll need one 9-inch cake pan and parchment paper. However, if you have a 10-inch cake pan don't worry it will still work just fine. Just check on the cake 5 minutes earlier. It's ready when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Make the Batter

  • Get ready. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of your cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  • Sift together dry ingredients: Set a fine mesh sieve or sifter over a large bowl. To the sieve add 1 ¼ cup all purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, ½ teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and ½ teaspoon ground cardamom. Tap the sieve with the palm of your hand until everything falls into a fine powder in the bowl. Add 1 ¾ cup almond flour and use a whisk to combine. 
  • Cream the butter and sugar. Fit a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or an electric hand mixer with the beaters. To a large bowl or a bowl of a stand mixer, add 8 tablespoons of softened butter and 1 cup of sugar. Beat on medium high until the mixture is pale, light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl about halfway through. The goal is to incorporate air into the mixture.Creamed butter in a metal bowl.
  • Add the eggs and yogurt. Add 4 eggs to the butter mixture one at a time. Mix each until fully incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula between each addition. Add ½ cup of yogurt and beat again until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the zest and juice of ½ lemon and ½ orange, and 1 tablespoon of rosewater. Mix again.Creamed butter, yogurt, and eggs that have been incorporated in a metal bowl.
  • Combine: Add the dry ingredients to the wet. Beat until the batter becomes thick and cohesive, scraping down the sides of the bowl when needed. This should only take a minute or two.A bowl of Persian love Cake batter that has been stirred until everything is incorporated.

Bake, Soak, and Decorate the Cake

  • Bake the cake. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake pan. Use the back of a spoon to spread the batter evenly. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the cake is well risen and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. 
  • Cool. Leave the cake to cool in the pan for 2 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack. Remove the parchment and leave it to cool completely, about 1 hour. 
  • Add the lemon drizzle. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, lemon juice and rosewater until the sugar is completely dissolved. A cup of lemon drizzle.
  • Soak the cake. Use a thin skewer or toothpick to poke tiny holes evenly across the surface of the cake. Pour the lemon drizzle across the cake and let it soak in.Unglazed Persian love cake with holes poked into the top and a person pouring lemon drizzle over top.
  • Make the glaze and decorate the cake. Gently stir the icing sugar with enough lemon juice to make icing that’s smooth and thick yet pourable. Stir in a few drops of rosewater to taste. 
  • Ice the cake. Spoon the icing over the cake, allowing it to run down the sides. Leave for 5 minutes for the icing to set slightly and then decorate with rose petals and pistachios. Leave to set completely before slicing and serving.Overhead shot of a person pouring glaze on Persian love cake using a large metal spoon.

A Note about Rose Water

High quality rosewaters don’t have an strong alcoholic smell or flavor. You really just want the essence of rose captured in water. If yours has an alcohol hit to your nose when you open it, reduce measurement down from 1 tablespoon to 1 to 2 teaspoons for the cake batter and one drop for the glaze and drizzle. To learn more about rose water read: What Is Rose Water And How Do You Use It?

Once you get the hang of using rose water you'll add it to so many recipes to make them just a little more wonderful. Try it in everything from drinks, like this Strawberry Lemonade, candy like Turkish Delight, desserts like Mahalabia, a milk pudding, or a fruity side like Strawberry Compote.

Variations to this Persian Love Cake Recipe

The recipe below accounts for both a lemony drizzle and then a glaze to top the cake, which makes it extra decadent and flavorful. If you’d like a simpler cake, you can skip either the drizzle or the glaze.  

You can add ground pistachios to the cake mixture before baking to add further richness to the cake. Just replace half of the almond flour with the equivalent weight in ground pistachios.

If you are not a fan of rose water, you can use orange blossom water as an alternative. This cake is also delicious without the rose water, simply flavored with the warming spices. 

Overhead shot of Persian love cake on a platter with two slices cut out.

What to Serve with Persian Love Cake

With a light sponge, this cake suits all seasons. Follow a Middle Eastern-themed dinner party starting with Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Lemony Whipped Feta, Easy Pita Bread and Tabouli Salad (Tabbouleh).

This cake also makes a lovely addition to an afternoon tea with friends. Serve with coffee or Arabic Tea with Fresh Mint.

A close up shot of Persian love cake with rose petals and pistachios sprinkled over top.

More Cake Recipes To Try

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Ó•Florale 100% Natural Rose Water

Made using a time-honored distillation process, a splash adds a delicate and aromatic quality to sweet and savory dishes, from compotes and rice pudding to ice-cold lemonade.

a bottle of O Florale rose water.
4.85 from 20 votes

Persian Love Cake

photo of author mersedeh prewer.Mersedeh Prewer
Overhead shot of Persian love cake on a platter with two slices cut out.
This moist cake scented with rosewater, citrus, and aromatic spices will bring the flavors of the Middle East to your kitchen. Serve for an unexpected dinner party dessert, Valentine’s day treat, or for a Sunday afternoon tea with friends.
Prep – 20 minutes
Cook – 40 minutes
Cooling time 1 hour
Total – 2 hours
Cuisine:
Persian
Serves – 12
Course:
Dessert

Equipment

  • 9-inch cake tin
  • Parchment paper

Ingredients
  

For the Cake Batter:

  • 1 ¼ cup (150g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 ¾ cup (200g) almond flour
  • 8 tablespoons (113g) unsalted butter, softened or at room temperature, plus more for greasing the cake pan
  • 1 cup (225g) granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • Zest and juice of ½ lemon
  • Zest and juice of ½ orange
  • 1 tablespoon rosewater

For the Lemon Drizzle:

  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 drops of rosewater

For the Cake Glaze:

  • 1 cup (125g) powdered sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 drops of rosewater
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons edible dried rose petals
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons crushed pistachios

Instructions
 

  • Get ready. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  • Sift together dry ingredients. Set a fine mesh sieve or sifter over a large bowl. To the sieve, add the all purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground cinnamon, and ground cardamom. Tap the sieve with the palm of your hand until everything falls into a fine powder in the bowl. Add the almond flour and use a whisk to combine.
  • Cream the butter and sugar. Fit a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or an electric hand mixer with the beaters. Add the butter and sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl and beat on medium-high, until the mixture is pale, light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl about halfway through. The goal is to incorporate air into the mixture.
  • Add the eggs and yogurt. Add the eggs to the butter mixture, one at a time. Mix each until fully incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula between each addition. Add the yogurt and beat again until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the zest and juice of ½ lemon and ½ orange, and the rosewater. Mix again.
  • Combine. Add the dry ingredients to the wet. Beat until the batter becomes thick and cohesive, scraping down the sides of the bowl when needed. This should only take a minute or two.
  • Bake the cake. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake pan. Use the back of a spoon to spread the batter evenly. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the cake is well risen and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  • Cool. Leave the cake to cool in the cake pan for 2 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack, remove the parchment and leave it to cool completely, about 1 hour.
  • Add the lemon drizzle. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, lemon juice and rosewater until the sugar is completely dissolved. Use a thin skewer or toothpick to poke tiny holes evenly across the surface of the cake. Pour the lemon drizzle evenly across the cake and let it soak in.
  • Make the glaze. Gently stir the icing sugar with enough lemon juice to make icing that’s smooth and thick yet pourable. Stir in a few drops of rosewater to taste.
  • Ice and serve. Spoon the icing over the cake, allowing it to run down the sides. Leave for 5 minutes for the icing to set slightly and then decorate with rose petals and pistachios. Leave to set completely before slicing and serving.

Video

Notes

  • To store: Store this cake, covered in the refrigerator, for up to 5 days. Remove from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature before serving.
  • Adjust rosewater quantities up or down to your taste. High quality rosewaters don’t typically have an strong alcoholic smell or flavor. If yours has an alcohol hit to your nose when you open it then reduce measurement down to 1 to 2 teaspoons for the cake batter and one drop for the glaze and drizzle. 
  • Look for unroasted, unsalted pistachios to let the delicate cake’s flavors shine.
  • Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oils, honey, jams, and spices.

Nutrition

Calories: 447.2kcalCarbohydrates: 47gProtein: 10.8gFat: 26.5gSaturated Fat: 6.5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.7gMonounsaturated Fat: 2.7gTrans Fat: 0.3gCholesterol: 74.6mgSodium: 197.9mgPotassium: 53.1mgFiber: 4.3gSugar: 29.9gVitamin A: 317IUVitamin C: 3.1mgCalcium: 128.5mgIron: 2.3mg
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Mersedeh Prewer is a Persian-British recipe developer born, raised and currently living in the United Kingdom. She is passionate about all cuisines but her writing primarily focuses on Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. She is a recipe contributor to both The Kitchn and Simply Recipes.
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Comments

  1. I’m just in the process of icing the cake but I think that the amount of icing sugar in the recipe may be wrong? I think that one cup is 120 grams rather than 225? I weighed out the 225 and is definitely more than one cup! My only concern is that when I made up the batter, it’s the same with the granulated sugar, one cup as 225 grams.. I didn’t think to check the volume.

  2. Hello,
    I am in the process of measuring out my ingredients to make this beautiful cake and I noticed there is no salt in the recipe (and we are using unsalted butter). I’m wondering if this is an oversight or if the salt is intentionally left out? Baking usually includes a bit of salt so I’m feeling a bit conflicted as I am just about ready t begin making the batter - oh no!! I think I might add 1/2 tsp….

    1. Hi, Patricia! I'm Summer and I work here at The Mediterranean Dish. It is not an oversight. There isn't any salt in this recipe. But don't worry if you've already added the amount of salt you mentioned in your comment. It won't harm it.

      1. 5 stars
        Oh my goodness, this cake is SOOOOOO good!!! The flavors and texture make your taste buds dance. Will definitely be making this again. It’s a keeper!

  3. 5 stars
    Absolutely phenomenal recipe! I wanted to make something special for my partner for an early Valentine's Day treat, and when I heard about Persian love cakes, I knew one would be perfect. I am so glad I went with this recipe -- the cake was perfectly moist! The texture was slightly denser and crumblier with the almond flour than your average "american" cake, but it was not dry or heavy at all! It almost gave it a "melt in your mouth" quality. The ratio of flavors were also perfectly balanced, the only thing I did was add an extra drop of rosewater to the glaze, but that's because I wanted a slightly stronger rosewater flavor in that. I also used a 9inch pan, so it was filled close to the top with the batter, and I had to bake it for an extra 5-10 minutes. The cake does naturally brown quite a bit, mine was darker than pictured in the recipe, but it did not taste burned/overdone at all, just a bit caramelized around the sides (which was a bonus for us!). I did end up tenting with foil for the last 15 minutes or so to prevent the top from overbrowning though, but that was necessary to cook the cake fully. I also topped the cake with walnuts instead of pistachios due to personal preference. I seriously cannot praise this recipe enough -- if these are flavors you like, you must try making this cake, it is now one of my top 5 baked goods recipes, and it might just be the best cake I've personally ever made. Do yourself a favor and make it!! (I also wow'd my partner with it, so that was a lovely plus as well!)

  4. My guests absolutely loved this cake. I followed the recipe to a T, almost! I misread the directions and used the juice from a whole lemon and whole orange in the batter. The cake still turned out great. I do recommend trying to find the dried rose petals - they made the cake so beautiful.

  5. 5 stars
    Can you please clarify, the video shows using a 9 inch cake pan, however the recipe says to use a 10 inch. Which is the preferred?

    1. Hi, Fran. Generally, something like Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1 gluten free baking flour may work as a replacement for all purpose flour here, but it's not something we've actually tested. It still may be worth a try, though! If you don't have a stand mixer, you can use a hand mixer.

  6. It would be so helpful if you could add gluten free modifications to your recipes. They look and sound so yummy that we gluten intolerant readers would be able to enjoy them.

    1. Hi, Jeanne! Thanks for sharing your request with us. We are a small but mighty team, so sadly we don't have the resources to test every recipe with both conventional and gluten-free alternatives, but we do have a favorite gluten-free flour and it's Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1 baking flour. It generally works as a great replacement for all purpose flours in most recipes. We also have gluten free recipes on the site, Farinata is a savory chickpea flour "pancake" or we have these Date Bars are out of this world and personal favorite of mine. This fig and almond cake recommends using the 1 to 1 Gluten-Free Baking Flour to replace the almond flour and make it gluten free. I hope this helps. We will do our best to mention gluten-free swaps in the baking recipes. I hope you have a good day.

    1. Hi, Lauren. We've never tested this in cupcake form, but I think it would work! If you give it a try please stop back and share your thoughts!

  7. 5 stars
    I’ve never commented on a recipe before so you know this one is good- my friends and I absolutely loved this cake!!! I replaced the all purpose flour with almond flour (so 3 cups almond flour in total), didn’t use 100% of the sugar in the recipe, and I think next time I’ll add less syrup because the cake was already super moist. Excited to make it again

  8. 2 stars
    I followed this recipe exactly but it over cooked on the top and undercooked in the middle. Maybe I should have left it in for longer and then trimmed off the over browned top?

    1. Hi, Astrid! I'm sorry to hear the recipe didn't work out for you. Without being in your kitchen it's hard to know what caused the problem. This cake does take on a deep golden color. You always want to check the center with a skewer and make sure it comes out clean and follow time as a secondary measure of doneness because all ovens vary. I would also make sure the rack is in the center of the oven. If any cake or pie seems to be browning faster than you'd like you can always tent it with a piece of foil to protect it while it finishes cooking.

    1. Hi, Alex! Thanks for the catch. The proper amount of butter is 8 tablespoons (113g). We have corrected it in the recipe. Thank you!

  9. I can't wait to try this. I used to live in Raleigh, NC and ate at a Mediterranean deli called Neomonde. I sure do miss them!