We can all agree that food is a lot more fun and interesting when it comes along with a story. This cake was posted by my facebook friend Annie Vas with the story that it is to celebrate Saint Sarkis, a patron saint for the Armenian community in Lebanon; I was intrigued, especially after reading that a coin is hidden in the cake. I then asked Mr. Serop and his son Joseph in Beirut what are the food traditions for Mar Sarkis (Saint Sarkis) this Saturday and they said “let’s ask mom”.
And mom said “we only eat vegan food made with olive oil”.
This cake is a specialty of the Armenian community in the town of Anjar, (a World Heritage Site dating to the 8th century).
For more info on the cake and the traditions related to it, click here.
Image courtesy of Melkan Bassil.com
INGREDIENTS: 12 servings
- 3 cups of all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup of olive oil
- 1/2 cup of boiling water (I added another 1/4 cup)(enough water for the dough to be moist but thick and firm)
- 1/3 cup of honey
- 1 cup of brown sugar
- 1/2 cup of raisins
- 1/4 cup of dried apricots, diced (I used candied orange rind also)
- 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts or almonds
- 1/4 cup of pine nuts or other nuts, plus extra to garnish the top
- 1/2 cup of sesame seeds
- Spices: 3/4 tsp of ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp of cardamom, 1/2 tsp of nutmeg, 1/2 tsp of mahlab
- 2 tsp of baking powder
- 1 coin, wrapped in foil
- Place the flour in a large skillet over medium-low heat and stir gently until the flour turns a light tan color. Transfer to a mixing bowl and add the sugar, spices and baking powder. Add the olive oil then the boiling water and mix until a thick dough is formed similar to a cookie dough; add the honey, nuts, raisins, apricots and mix to combine.
- Spread the dough in a greased and floured round pan (9 to 12″ in diameter), inserting the foil-wrapped coin. Cut a piece of plastic wrap and place it over the dough and with your fingers pat the dough to smooth it out. Sprinkle sesame seeds on the surface and garnish with almonds or walnuts or other nuts. Bake at 350F for about 25 minutes until the surface is dry and golden brown. Cool and serve.
Note: This cake tasted more like a dense cookie; it is flavorful, rustic, the kind of pastry you can take with you on a hike or at a picnic. I adapted the recipe to use up what I had available (dried apricots, candied orange rind, etc). You can replace the mahlab with another spice or just not use it if you can’t find it.