Mahlab is an aromatic spice which comes from the stones or kernels from black cherries. The kernels are cracked open, the seeds removed and dried. These little gems are sold whole (which I prefer), or in powdered form. Mahlab is used mainly as a flavoring in baked goods –such as choreg, cookies, and cakes. It’s sold in Middle Eastern stores, or can be purchased online.
|Jar of Mahlab purchased in a Middle Eastern store.|
|From Left to Right: Whole mahlab kernels, finely ground mahlab; less-fine particles of ground mahlab in sifter.|
Powdered mahlab will lose its flavorful punch rather quickly, so it’s best to buy it in small quantities, and store it in a cool, dry place.
Whole mahlab seeds, which I prefer, store well in the freezer for a very long time. Be sure to grind the whle mahlab just before using for best results.
of flavors that work very well together.
|Mahlab Cake ready to serve with coffee or tea.|
|Use a pastry blender (seen here) or two knives or forks to ‘cut’ the butter into the sugar.|
In a large mixing bowl, cut the butter into the sugar using a pastry blender or two knives. The mixture should be crumbly and resemble small peas.Then mix the butter-sugar crumbles together until blended. Beat in eggs until just combined. Set aside.
(Note: A food processor fitted with a metal ‘S’ blade can also be used. Pulse the butter-sugar mixture for a few seconds to break down the butter. Return the crumbly mixture to a mixing bowl to continue.)
|Sugar and butter cut together to resemble small peas.|
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, mahlab, and baking powder.
Alternately add the flour mixture and warm milk to the butter mixture to create a batter.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter and flour the bottom of a 9”x13” baking pan. (Shake out any excess flour.)
|The batter is evenly spread in a lightly buttered and floured pan.|
Pour batter into pan, spreading it evenly. Sprinkle the top with toasted sesame seeds, if desired.
Cut cake into squares and serve with coffee or tea.
Servings: The cake yields 12-16 pieces, depending on the size you cut.