Almond-Rosewater and Walnut-Cardamom Zebra Cake

Cake again because it’s holiday time! This Persian-inspired gluten-free zebra cake is perfumed with the intoxicating scents of rosewater and cardamom, tastes fabulous and is a bit showy too, perfect for a special occasion like this! The recipe makes a large cake good for a party.

The beautiful zebra pattern emerges when you cut the cake.

I also like this cake because it’s gluten-free and when I make it I have no worries about friends and family who are gluten intolerant. The trick to make nuts work in this recipe is to use a bit of rice flour to give body to the batter.

This luscious cake was inspired by the flavours of my mum’s Nowruz (Persian New Year) baked goods. The whole house filled with the aroma of rosewater and the cardamom seeds that she ground to flavour her baghlava (Persian almond baklavas) and other sweets. She made walnut cookies, tiny mulberry-shaped marzipans (tut, toot), saffron-almond lozenges (loz) and lots more.

The best thing about this cake is that it tastes even better and gets moister and more fragrant after two or three days so you can make it ahead and have less work and stress to deal with on the day. But don’t worry, making this beautiful cake is not as difficult as it might look. I’ve made it all simple for you!

Food processor makes grinding walnuts very easy.
Food processor makes grinding walnuts very easy. The texture must be a bit coarse.
Pouring the batter in alternate circles will create a beautiful pattern in the cake.
Pouring the batter in alternate circles will create a beautiful pattern in the cake.

So if you are going to give this a try here are the ingredients that you will need:

For the almond-rosewater batter

  • 200g ground almonds
  • 30g rice flour
  • A large pinch of salt
  • ¼ tsp baking powder4 large eggs, separated
  • 225g caster sugar250m
  • l olive oil
  • 4 tbsp rosewater
  • A few drops of almond essence (optional)

For the walnut-cardamom batter

  • 200g ground walnuts
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom seeds
  • 20g rice flour
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • A large pinch of salt
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 250ml olive oil

To decorate and serve

  • Icing sugar, to decorate
  • 30g flaked almonds
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Line a 30cm springform cake tin with baking paper and very lightly oil the sides.
  2. To make the almond batter, mix the ground almonds with the rice flour, salt and baking powder, then beat the egg whites in a separate, grease-free dry bowl until stiff peaks form.
  3. Beat the sugar with the olive oil in another bowl for two minutes. Add the yolks one by one, beating well after each addition (about a minute). Beat in the rosewater and almond essence (if using), then add the almond mixture by spoonfuls and beat after each addition to mix well. Add ⅓ of the batter to the whipped egg whites and gently fold to mix. Repeat until all the batter is mixed with the whites. Set aside.
  4. To make the walnut batter, mix the ground walnuts, cardamom, rice flour, baking powder and salt, then mix the rest of the ingredients in the same ways as you did for the almond batter.
  5. To make the zebra pattern in the cake tin, pour one cupful of the almond batter in the tin. Wait until it spreads a little. Pour a cupful of the walnut batter in the center of the almond batter and wait for a few seconds so it spreads a little, too. Continue alternating walnut and almond batters until all batter is used up, then bake the cake for 50 minutes in the centre of the oven or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Loosen the sides and remove the ring from the bottom of the tin. Invert the cake on a cooling rack and carefully remove the baking paper. Let the cake cool completely before transferring to a plate.
  6. To decorate, put a paper doily on top of the cake and liberally sprinkle with icing sugar, then carefully lift off the doily. Put the flaked almonds in a small heavy frying pan, add the sugar and cook over medium heat for a few minutes, stirring all the time, until the sugar melts and the almond flakes are golden. Put mounds of the mix in the middle and around the top of the cake. Enjoy with a cup of strong tea or coffee.


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