A new twist on an old classic
I don’t know about you guys, but my family is OD-ing on whatsapp groups. Sometimes I feel (or rather AK feels) that they have taken over my life. There are groups within groups within groups – so much so that I’m always worried about saying the wrong thing to the wrong group! So now you know what keeps me on my toes these days. Ha!
Anyhow, a few weeks ago it was my late grandmother’s birthday. On the day, my paternal aunts and uncles were busy reminiscing (on the family whatsapp group) about their childhood in Ferozpur and how my (vegetarian) grandma would have a treat for everyone on their birthday – Sooji Halwa Cake! I was intrigued so I kept plying them with questions. The one clear answer I got was that she would make Sooji Halwa, press it into a katori and upturn it on a plate for the birthday boy/girl to cut. I couldn’t help but wonder if I could translate the idea into a baked cake which was eggless and used all the basic ingredients and flavours of Sooji Halwa.
I got my chance to try it out for my Dad’s birthday, earlier this week. Although I didn’t bake the cake to blog and have virtually no pictures, except these 2-3 from my phone, I decided to post a quick recipe here after the requests on Instagram and Facebook.
I’m not a fan of eggless baking in general. I found one great basic eggless cake recipe, which I continue to adapt into as many flavours that I like! That’s exactly what I did this time too – used sooji/semolina as the main starch, ghee as the fat and cardamom+saffron as the flavouring. It was soft and moist, if a little crumblier than a standard sponge cake. I decided to blame the crumbly texture on the sooji, and then I promptly decided that I loved it anyway!
So here’s a quick post on the recipe, sans the step-by-step pictures!
Sooji Halwa Cake
Serves: 6-8 | Difficulty: Easy | Prep: 15 minutes | Bake Time: 25-30 minutes
1 cup sooji (semolina)
1/2 cup atta (whole wheat flour) + extra for dusting the cake pan
1/2 cup ghee + extra for greasing pan
2 tbsp warm milk
8 green cardamom pods, pounded and skin discarded
2 generous pinches saffron strands
1 cup thick curd, not too sour
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1-1/4 tsp baking powder
Handful of chopped/flaked almonds (and/or cashews)
- Pre-heat oven to 180 C
- Line an 8″ round/square pan with parchment paper and grease using a little ghee. Dust with flour and keep aside.
- Whisk the atta and sooji together. In a kadhai or wok, warm the ghee until it melts. Add the sooji+atta mixture and roast on a medium-low flame until it turns a few shades darker and smells delicious, approximately 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to return to room temperature.
- In the meanwhile, soak the saffron strands and cardamom powder in the warm milk.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk the curd until smooth. Add the sugar, baking powder and baking soda and mix well. Set aside for about 5 minutes and let it froth up.
- Add the cooled sooji+atta+ghee mixture to the curd and stir until there are no lumps.
- Add the saffron+cardamom+milk to this and stir to combine.
- Add the almonds and stir to combine.
- Spoon into the prepared cake pan and bake for about 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
- Cool in the pan for 15-20 minutes before inverting and serving the cake.
The sooji does make the texture a little crumbly. If you don’t prefer this, feel free to play around with the proportion of sooji and atta. You could even try a version with 1/2 cup each of sooji, atta and maida (all purpose flour). Do note that if you increase the proportion of atta or add maida, the baking time will go up by about 5-7 minutes.