This recipe holds a special place in my heart, and I’m excited to finally share it with you.
So before I delve into why this cake recipe means a lot to me, I want to give you a little background on it. Mawa (Urdu: Khoya) is basically just milk solids. It’s obtained by cooking off large quantities of milk (full-fat) on medium to low heat, until most of the water content has evaporated, and you’re left with just milk solids. These solids are used in a variety of dishes, but mostly sweets. You can make Khoya at home, which will most definitely be superior in terms of taste and quality, but these days it can easily be found at your local South Asian markets as well. For the sake of ease, I have used store-bought.
Baking isn’t very traditional to South Asian cuisine, but is a result of trade, immigration, and colonization. Mawa Cake is a confection that was brought to India by ways of the Parsi community (an ethnic group of people whose ancestors immigrated from Persia to the Subcontinent in the 7th century). It’s a lightly sweetened cake that can be enjoyed alongside a steaming cup of tea or coffee. I first stumbled upon this cake more than 8 years ago when I used to participate in a monthly baking challenge aptly called Daring Bakers. I have since adapted the recipe to be more fitting to our tastebuds, so while my recipe may not be 100% traditional, it is 100% delicious 😜
Now, as to why this recipe holds a special place in my heart- my Papa loved this cake. I first made it in 2013, as something to be served alongside tea on Eid. Ramadan had just come to an end, and my mom had recently come home from the hospital after going through cardiac triple bypass surgery. Since she couldn’t leave home, many of her and my Papa’s close friends came to visit her at the house. I had set out this cake and some snacks with tea to serve to our guests, but my Papa had his heart set on this cake. He urged every single person that came to try it, and to each of them he said, “Try the cake! Henna made it!”
It’s a very special memory for me, and I hold it close to my heart. That Eid happened to be our last one together, and I am so grateful for the memories left behind with it. Today marks what would have been my Papa’s 72nd birthday, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate him. I love you Papa, and I miss you every single day.
Note: This cake is not meant to be ultra sweet. It is slightly sweet and dry, and is meant to be enjoyed alongside tea or coffee.
Mawa Cake (Khoya Cake)
- 1½ cups cake flour
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup neutral flavored oil
- ¾ cup whole milk
- ½ cup full-fat plain yogurt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 120 grams khoya/mawa (milk solids), finely shredded or crumbled
- Sliced nuts, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350°F and set aside a greased 9-inch springform pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together cake flour, ground cardamom, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk together sugar and oil until completely incorporated . Add milk, yogurt, and vanilla, whisking until smooth with each addition.
Add the flour mixture to the liquid mixture, and gently whisk until thoroughly combined. Gently fold in shredded khoya/mawa.
Transfer batter to prepared pan and garnish with sliced nuts. Bake until golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean, about 40 to 45 minutes. Check on the cake at the 30-minute mark; if it seems to be browning too fast, loosely tent the cake with aluminum foil.
Remove cake from oven and cool for 20 minutes before attempting to remove from the pan.
You can make your own cake flour by pouring 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour into a bowl. Remove 3 tablespoons of the flour, and add 3 tablespoons cornstarch. Sift this mixture a few times. Homemade cake flour is ready.