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Mawa Cake – A Cardamom Flavoured Milk Cake (Version 2) : Daring Bakers Challenge August, 2013 (A Cake & Two Cookies Part 1

Posted Aug 27 2013 12:00am

ugust has been a special month in many ways. Apart from the fact that we celebrate my husband’s birthday and our anniversary in August, this was also the first time I participated in a photography competition and my photograph won me the third prize! I also hosted my second Daring Bakers Challenge this month.
The last time I hosted a Daring Baker Challenge, we all made a Tiramisu from scratch which meant making our own Savoiardi biscuits and Mascarpone cheese. This time it seemed only fair to introduce the Daring Bakers to some typically Indian bakes. So I chose to have them bake not one, but three recipes – the Mawa Cake, some Goan coconut cookies known as Bolinhas de Coco and savoury and spicy Indian Masala Biscuits/ Cookies.

It seems a bit silly to put in these “blog checking lines” when I’m hosting this challenge, but what needs to be done must be done! So here goes - Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen was our August 2013 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she challenged us to make some amazing regional Indian desserts.  The Mawa Cake, the Bolinhas de Coco cookies and the Masala cookies – beautifully spiced and delicious!

I shall be presenting each recipe as a separate post for ease of posting and for your reading as well. I’ll start with the post pon the Mawa Cake. But, first a little bit of Mawa Cake history.

  Mawa Cakes are a specialty cake that is the hallmark of Irani cafés in India. The Iranis are Zoroastrians who left Persia/ Iran in the 19th and early 20th centuries to escape persecution of non-Muslims, and settled down and thrived here mostly in the cities of Mumbai, Hyderabad and Pune. They’re most famous in India for their friendly informal cafés/ restaurants that serve the most awesome food. The brun pav or maska pav(kinds of bread) with Irani chai (thick, strong, sweet and milky cardamom flavoured tea), their Shrewsbury biscuits and Mawa cakes are but a few of them.

Mawa (also known as Khoya/ Khoa) is made by slowly reducing milk (usually full-fat) until all that remain is a mass of slightly caramelized granular dough-like milk solids. Mawa is used in a wide variety of Indian sweets like Gulab Jamun and Peda, to mention just two.  Mawa is pronounced as Maa-vaa; Khoya is pronounced as KhOh-yaa.

  In this cake, the Mawa lends a rich and a caramelized milky taste to this cake which is slightly dense and reminiscent of a pound cake. Cardamom and cashewnuts are typical of a Mawa Cake, though blanched almonds are also used instead of the cashewnuts . Mawa Cakes are usually baked as small loaves, round cakes and also as cupcakes. They’re served as they are, plain with tea or coffee.
The cake itself is not much of a challenge and very easy to make so what makes this challenge interesting is that the Daring Bakers had to start the cake from scratch, which was by making their own Mawa.  Mawa is not too difficult to make, it just requires some time, patience and a lot of stirring! You can find the detailed recipe for this Mawa Cake at the Daring Bakers site
Mawa Cake – A Cardamom Flavoured Milk Cake  
For the Mawa:
1 litre full fat milk (6% fat)  
For the cake:
115gm unsalted butter (soft at room temperature) 3/4 cup packed crumbled mawa 1-1/4 cups castor sugar 3 eggs 5 to 6 cardamom pods, powdered 2 cups cake flour 1 tsp baking powder 1/4 tsp salt 1/2 cup milk Cashewnuts (or blanched almonds) to decorate (about 18 to 20)  
First make the “Mawa”. Pour the milk into a heavy bottomed saucepan, preferably a non-stick one. Bring the milk to a boil, stirring it on and off, making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom.   Turn down the heat to medium and keep cooking the milk until reduces to about a quarter of its original volume. This should take about an hour to an hour and a half.      The important thing during this process is to watch the milk and stir it frequently to make sure it doesn’t stick to the sides or bottom of the pan and get burnt. The danger of this happening increases as the milk reduces and gets thicker. Once the milk it has reduced to about one fourth, 1/4 quantity, lower the heat to low and let cook for a little while longer. Keep stirring regularly, until the milk solids (mawa) take on a lumpy appearance.  There should be no visible liquid left in the pan, but the mawa should be moist and not stick to the sides of the pan.      Remove the pan from heat and transfer the mawa to a bowl and let it cool completely. Then cover and refrigerate it for a day or two (not more) till you’re ready to make the cake. It will harden in the fridge so let it come to room temperature before using it. You should get about 3/4 to 1 cup of mawa from 1 litre of full-fat milk.      Now start preparations for the cake by pre-heating your oven to moderate 180C (350F). Beat the butter, the crumbled mawa and the sugar in a largish bowl, using a hand held electric beater, on high speed until soft and fluffy.                                              Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat on medium speed till well incorporated. Add the milk and beat till mixed well.
Sift the cake flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt onto the batter and beat at medium speed and well blended. If you cannot find cake flour, place 2 tablespoon of cornstarch in the bottom of your 1-cup measure and then fill it with all-purpose (plain) flour to make up to 1 cup.      Grease and line only the bottom of an 8 inch (20 cm) spring form pan. Pour the batter into this and lightly smooth the top. Place the cashew nuts (or blanched almonds) on top of the batter randomly. Do not press the nuts down into the batter. A Mawa Cake always has a rustic finished look rather than a decorated look. 
Bake in a preheated moderate oven for about 1 hour until the cake is a golden brown and a skewer pushed into the centre comes out clean. Do not over bake the cake or it will dry out. If the cake seems to be browning too quickly, cover it will aluminium foil hallway through the baking time. Remove from oven and allow it to cool for 10 min in the tin. Release the cake, peel off the parchment from the base and let it cool completely. This recipe serves 8 to 10.
You can make the “Mawa” a day or two ahead of making the cake and store it in an airtight container in the fridge. When you take it out, it will look dry and a little lumpy because of the fat in the milk solids, which is normal. Just let it come to room temperature before you use it to make the cake. You may use blanched almonds instead of cashew nuts for the Mawa Cake. You may also substitute nutmeg for cardamom if using almonds, though almonds pair up wonderfully with cardamom in this cake. If you have never powdered cardamom, then crush the seeds after discarding the pods. The pods do not need to be roasted before using the cardamom. In India, the Mawa Cake is usually served as it is, without any other accompaniment, with coffee or tea.

The other recipes that are a part of this Daring Bakers challenge:
Bolinhas de Coco (Goan Cardamom Flavoured Coconut Cookies) Indian Masala Biscuits (Spicy Savoury Indian Cookies)


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