Tale of Travel, Friendship, and Culinary Find - Yazdee Cake

by Marjan

Last year, I had the wonderful fortune to travel back to my mother homeland of Iran with my entire family. Ironically I left Iran a week before Anthony Bourdain's journey there for his CNN series Parts Unknown- Iran. For those of us who are born in one culture and raised in another, we have the fortitude to reflect both countries and cultures with (hopefully) an introspective and unique view beyond clamity created by outside forces. Bourdain's sensitivity to my country's deep culture of tradition, hospitality, food, and complexity of the world's impression of 'state of affairs' in Iran brought me to tears. My heart was deeply moved by our mutual experience while in Iran; and my soul stirred with joy witnessing an American world renown chef take pleasure in Persian culture and cuisine.

It had been almost forty years since my family initially left Iran to live in the States. As a six year old living in Tehran prior to the revolution, my blissful perspective of my grandmother's house, the grand streets in which I played, good memories of family and friends, and the elegant Shahyad Tower in the heart of the capital city, had all changed upon our visit. My grandmother's house appeared smaller, the streets more narrow and congested, and a veil covered people's faces hiding their struggle and hardship induced upon them from sanctions, pollution, governments, and economy. Yet when in conversation with those whose paths crossed mine, their vibrant souls, experiences, enthusiasm for life, and will to survive became powerfully palpable while in the land of mystic beauty and culture full of unearthly energy.

My goal was to travel to as many cities during my short visit. I wanted to breath the air and walk the dirt on which many great Kings such as Cyrus the Great and mystic poets as Rumi, Hafez, Khayyam, and luminaries of science such as Avecinna had graced. My footsteps seemed to take me back into a hypnotic dream; my eyes limited my experience in space and time. My heart felt the pulse of a thousand centuries with an ambrosia of rosewater and night jasmine. I was overwhelmed with the beauty of Iranian hospitality and spirit. The harsh reality of oppression seemed like a nightmare that could not possibly be true; but each time I woke up, it was a daunting reality.
Tehran, Shiraz, Esfahan, Kermansha, Abee-yaneh, and Yazd were a few cities I explored in Iran. The history and culture of each bewildered my imagination to the greatness of these robust and ancient cities. Of course, I can write a book about my travels and experiences. For our Savorychic's readers, I would like to share with you a glimpse into my personal journey to the ancient land of Yazd.

While in Tehran with one of my very good friends from San Diego, Nazanin (who introduced me to one of my favorite coffee roasters in La Jolla), we spontaneously planned a short visit to Yazd.
During our short trip to Yazd, we had the opportunity to tour many historical landmarks, royal homes, gardens, in addition to mosques, bazaars, and ancient caravan stops. We learned about the resiliency of the people of Yazd. Prior to modern day pluming and electricity, settlers survived in the desert by ingeniously creating underground water wells, cooling systems in homes and streets, and inventive methods to preserve food and make ice in 'ice wells' called yakh-chall

Of all the cities I visited, Yazd had a special place in my heart. Not only was I exploring this magical historic land with Nazanin, who comforts my heart with her soul, but I was understanding and relating to our mutual friend Mojdah whose family originates from Yazd and has lived in the States for over forty years.

I met Mojdah 25 years ago at USC where we both embarked our studies in the field of dentistry. My admiration for Mojdah has always been for her  strength, intellect, positive attitude, deep spiritual intuition and acceptance of different cultures, food, and practices.

While in Yazd, I learned these unique qualities she embraces to be deeply rooted in the land of the people of which she is from. A good example of this became lucid for me as I explored Jameh Mosque in Yazd; which displayed ceramic tiles encompassing symbols of the swastika (sacred and auspicious symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism), in Arabic the words Allah and Ali, and also the Star of Soloman (symbol more commonly associated with the Star of David for people of the Jewish faith). All three symbols under the roof of one mosque in central Iran? Yes, it is possible in Yazd! Their truth of accepting different faiths and beliefs under one roof reinforced my truth of Mojdah's spirit whose heart is open to accepting and exploring all cultures, practices and faiths.

Together, Mojdeh and I have braved many of our adventurous travels, culinary finds, and non-conformist beliefs. I owe her much gratitude for sharing her spirit which is boundlessly unique and infinitely accepting of all things possible. Thanks to Mojdah, I have learned how to be a better friend. Therefore, as we celebrate her 50th Birthday this month, I wanted to dedicate this special post to her. My gratitude to her for expanding my world with more color, meaning, and enthusiasm. May she celebrate 50 more years with as much joy, excitement, love and adventure. Thank you Mojdah for being the 'uni' in my life.

Now that you have a little history about my travel and friend, I want to share with you one of my culinary finds which will transport you to the magical land of Yazd- which is also well known for it's pastries such as Ghotab and Yazdee cake (I later discovered it is actually a cupcake and not cake), named after this great City. 

Cardamom, rosewater, and yogurt make this cupcake a little time machine that will transport your palate to the ancient city of Yazd. As you can imagine, my trip was even more sweet thanks to these pastries! I fell in love with Yazdee cake and wanted to share with you the recipe.

Happy Birthday Mojdah and may all of the days of your life be sweet and inspired.

Serves 6-8

2 cups all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups of vegetable oil (or melted butter)
1 cup plain Greek Yogurt
2 teaspoons freshly ground cardamom
1 tablespoon rosewater
1/2 cup sliver almonds crushed
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped/ground raw pistachios
1 teaspoon of sugar dissolved in 2 tablespoons of hot water

1. Butter cupcake pan generously (about 24 slots)

2. Sift together flour, salt and baking powder in a small bowl

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

4. In a double broiler or heatproof large bowl set on top of a pan of simmering water, beat eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until batter appears light yellow (approximately 7-9 minutes). Remove from heat and continue to beat a couple of minutes longer until mix is not as hot. Mix in yogurt, oil, cardamom and rosewater. Add half a cup at a time flour mix until just well blended. Do not over beat. With a large spoon or spatula, fold in almonds

4. Spoon batter in cupcake slots until 3/4 of the way full

5. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden

6. Remove cupcakes from oven and while still hot, use back end of a spoon to dip into dissolved sugar water and lace the top middle of the cupcake with syrup. Then sprinkle wet syrup area with pistachios


From our partner: LO+JUNE

From our partner: LO+JUNE
Artisanal French products in our Swiss fine food boutique