Our dad’s mom, Yiayia Maria, would make this cake for us and we loved it, still do! It was a favorite of our grandfather’s who hailed originally from Smyrna (now Izmir in Turkey) and he preferred it to all other sweets. That tells you something right there because he had one, SWEET tooth 🙂
You can tell this cake recipe has it’s roots in Asia Minor from these key ingredients: white (fancy) flour, white sugar AND spiced almond milk. The Persians brought almond milk to Constantinople and the trick to using it in baking will change the way you use, and drink, almond milk forever more!
Because almond milk is made up of some crazy-percent water, baking with it is like using – well, plain water. The trick here is to spice the milk and then to reduce it by more than half over low heat. Takes about 10 minutes, no fussing with it, and the end product is a much thicker (though not ‘thick’) almost creamy liquid. Persians would add a drop of honey or grape molasses for sweetness and drink before bed. I’ve tried it and it’s a lovely, light, aromatic way to go off to sleep.
In this recipe, a bit of citrus juice is added to the cooled almond milk reduction giving you something akin to buttermilk for the most perfect, light, airy cake crumb. The cake flavor is delicately spiced enough to stand on it’s own with just a dusting of powdered sugar OR, and equally authentic, topped with your favorite jam and sprinkled with coconut flakes. Can’t you just taste it?!
Traditionally served in small slices with Greek coffee, Constantinople cake is the perfect way to celebrate an occasion or end a lovely meal. However, whenever you choose to enjoy it – you will not be disappointed!
The recipe below is compiled from a few different sources as, unfortunately, my yiayia’s original recipe was never written down. It’s a simple recipe and I’ve detailed all your steps so no guessing. This recipe is the very closest I can get to the original, reminds me so much of Yiayia, and it is WONDERFUL.
- 2 1/4 cups unsweetened almond milk
- 2 tbsp rosewater
- cinnamon stick
- 2 tbsp orange zest (1 medium orange)
- 10 pods cardamom pods, use crushed seeds or scant 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
- 1 tbsp orange juice
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup sesame (or vegetable) oil
- 1, 12 ounce jar of your favorite jam or 1 cup powdered sugar