My somewhat nefarious love affair with pomegranates started as a child when my friend and I would sneak onto a neighbor’s property to snatch the fruit from their large, abundant pomegranate bush. We would take refuge in my old playhouse, breaking open the tough skin and spending the next hour indulging in the brightly colored seeds. Unfortunately, our gig was up our third year, when the neighbor caught us red-handed, abruptly ending my foray into childhood delinquency. Flavored with pomegranate molasses, this cake is wonderfully moist and tender and sweetened with a pomegranate juice syrup that is scented with cardamom and rose water. The dark chocolate ganache glaze contrasts beautifully the traditional Middle Eastern flavors and spices of the cake.
Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz, 1885
Girl with a Pomegranate by William-Adolphe Bouguereau
This fascinating fruit has been cultivated since ancient times throughout the Mediterranean, the Middle East, India and in Egypt before the time of Moses. So ancient that there is a word for pomegranate in Sanskrit and mentions in Homer’s Odyssey ~ so revered that it is referred to in the Bible as adorning the hems of priestly garments. The abundance of hundreds of little seeds within its protective, womb-like exterior doesn’t take a huge stretch of the imagination to understand its symbology of fertility and fruitfulness. This fruit’s allure has continued through the centuries, often depicted in paintings and other artwork.
This cake is similar to traditional single-layer Israeli honey cakes and wonder cakes, but with the addition of some of the Middle East’s most treasured flavors and spices. The cake batter is easily mixed by hand or with a standard mixer in a matter of minutes.
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Pomegranate juice and a little sugar are boiled for 2-3 minutes with the cardamom pods, making this simple syrup fast and easy to prepare. After straining out the cardamom pods, the rosewater is added just before pouring it over the cooling cake.
With the subtle tang of the pomegranate molasses, the touch of floral sweetness from the pomegranate syrup and the decadence of the dark chocolate glaze, this cake becomes worthy of a dinner or tea party dessert.