Saint Sarkis cake (vegan)

January 25, 2013  •  Category:

 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

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


  1. 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. 
  2. 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.

Mar Sarkis cake-3

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.


25 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Rosa says:

    A delightful cake and wonderful recipe!



  2. Sanjeeta kk says:

    I like how this recipe needs to roast the flour before baking…the cake looks lovely! Would be baking it this weekend. Pinning it right away.

  3. Paula Mello says:

    Joumana, thank you for your words on my blog. I really appreciate!! Do you already try this tart with figs? Or other dried fruit, beside apricot? I love the spices you use, specially mahlab, but this cherry seeds are hard to find here… And they’re expensive too 🙁

    Hope you have a great weekend

    • Joumana says:

      @Paula: you can easily substitute. Mahlab can be switched to cardamom or clove or a mixture of the two. Have a wonderful weekend as well!

  4. Stamatia says:

    Hi Joumana,

    Looks really yummy! Greeks also hide a coin in a saint-related cake – in the New Year’s Vassilopita, or Saint Basil’s cake. Saint Basil, rather than Saint Nicholas, delivers presents to Greek children during the holidays.

  5. Needful Things says:

    The fact that it’s so cookie-like would make this the perfect snack cake. Why is the coin hidden inside the cake? Is it for good luck (for the person who gets it in their slice)?

  6. Aleks says:

    it mus be great! I will try it for sure..but i’m going to use whole-wheat flour instead of all-puprose – i hope it will go out well :))

  7. Joan Nova says:

    That looks delicious – I love a cake that is less about flour and more about crunch and taste!

  8. Jamie says:

    Mmmm like an exotic, rustic tea cake perfect for an afternoon snack with a cup of coffee. I love all the nuts, seeds and dried fruit against the honey and cinnamon. A great cake!

  9. Sarah G says:

    This is my kind of cake. I like dense and rich. We used to put coins in birthday cakes. Everyone would look for one in their slice.

  10. Velva says:

    Food is always extra amazing when it has a story. What caught my attention with this one was that it was Armenian. A cuisine that I got to experience first hand with so many wonderful memories.


  11. Barbara says:

    Bet browning the flour first gives this a nice nutty flavor, Joumana. Really like the flavors and spices in it….a cookie/cake that looks like it travels well.

  12. Susan says:

    What a wonderful fruit and nut dessert. I love the dense style and I so prefer desserts without a lot of sweet toppings.

  13. domi says:

    Cette pâtisserie ” arménienne ” déborde d’energie positive, j’adore…

  14. Velva says:

    I am experimenting with vegetarian and you are a step ahead with vegan (smile).

    I like the rustic style of this dessert. Perfect with coffee or like you wrote for a long hike.


  15. Elena says:

    Joumana, I baked this cake ( reduced all cap of sugar and sesame seeds). Thank you very much for this really divine cake. I mean to bake it more and more…..

  16. Coco says:

    I’ve gotta ask my mom if she knows about this cake.
    It looks dangerous!

  17. Lea says:

    This recipe says Vegan however honey, which is an animal product, is listed as an ingredient. What is a suitable substitute please?

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