Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tea For Two, Or Three, Or More? Try These Cardamom Mava Cakes for Holiday Entertaining.

   I have to admit when I think of Indian food, and I do - a lot -the word cupcake has never come to mind. The cupcake craze in the US seemed to be everywhere a few years back, epitomized by  Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell's short, Lazy Sunday. After that,  Cupcakes seemed to jump the shark or get eaten by it or whatever.

   For better or worse, cupcakes have receded back into the rest of the bakery goods department being elbowed aside by stuff such as cronuts, crumbnuts, and God help us, pretzel croissants. But one place that still reveres the cupcake is Mumbai and that's when I first heard about Mava, or Mawa Cakes earlier this year. A number of Indian food writers had been talking about them, photographing them and baking them. Bawi Bride, SinfullyspicyMy Diverse Kitchen, and Eat and Dust had all featured Mava cakes in various forms and I was eager to try my hand at them.

   If you've never heard of Mava cakes (I hadn't until just this year) they are a delicious, buttery, cardamomy cake that orginated in the Parsi, (Iranian) cafes in India just a tad over a century ago. The orginator and most famous purveyor of these treats was a place called B. Merwans in Mumbai.

Earlier this year they announced they were closing up shop due to building renovations, and that's when the Mava hit the fan. Anyone who'd ever enjoyed these sweet treats started writing about them. Mava cakes were everywhere in the Indian food media.
   Once I heard about them of course I had to try them. The sticking point for me seemed to be the mava in the mava cake. Mava, mawa, either way, is khoya. Khoya is made by cooking milk down slowly. You can make it or buy it in Indian markets, or as I've done in the past, use dense, full fat ricotta as a substitute. However if you've got an hour to spare and you'd like to make your own khoya, it's not very difficult at all, plus it keeps really well in the fridge or freezer. Once made, the mava is added to the batter which is just like any other cake batter and can be baked in a variety of sizes and shapes. Cupcakes, layer, whatever the heart desires. So, remember you can use ricotta as a substitute but if you'd like to try making your own mava, here's how to do it. The rest of the recipe follows.

Cardamom Mava Cakes

Here's What You Need:
For Mava
 2 cans of full fat evaporated milk
1 cup of whipping cream

Here's What to Do:
Pour the evaporated milk...

...and whipping cream into a pot.

Mix it together well and bring it to a boil.

When it's boiling, turn it down to high medium heat and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring to make sure to doesn't stick and burn.
It'll start to thicken.
Lower the heat to medium low and continue to stir it till it thickens some more.

Cook it down for another 10 minutes, till it thickens further.
Now lower the heat to low and cook for about another 10 minutes when it's the thickness of thick pudding, dude, you've got mava!

This recipe only calls for using 1/2 cup of mava so put what's left int he fridge for a short while  or in a tight container in the freezer where it can safely stay for about 3 months.
Each batch of mava is good for three batches of cakes.

The Mava Cakes

Here's What You Need:
1/2 cup of mava (room temperature)
2 eggs
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp freshly ground cardamom
a pinch of salt
1 stick of unsalted butter
1 cup of sugar
1 and 1/4 cup of flour
6 Tbs of milk

Here's What To Do: 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly oil whatever pan you're going to be using to bake your mava cakes in. I used silicone molds so no greasing required.

In a large bowl mix together the flour, salt, and baking powder.
Select a few whole green cardamom pods.

Crack them in the mortar, toss the husks and remove the seeds and start grinding them.

When you have 1/4 teaspoon worth, add it to the flour, salt, and baking powder mixture. Set it aside.
Using a stand mixer or a hand beater, add  butter to a bowl.

Toss in the sugar...

...and 1/2 cup of mava.

Beat  them together at medium speed until they're light and fluffy.

Turn the beater speed to low and add the eggs one at a time.

Make sure each of them is completely mixed into the batter before adding the next.
Keep the speed on low and add in the flour, baking powder, salt , and cardamom mixture.

As that's mixing together, add in the 6 Tbs of milk.
When you have a nice smooth batter, pour it into whatever you're baking it in.
Fill the cupcake cups or molds only about halfway as the mava cakes will rise.
Pop them into the oven and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes.
When they're done unmold them onto a baking rack.

These are delicious buttery little cakes, fragrant with cardamom. You can also add lemon, or orange zest, cashews or pistachios to the batter.

   If you've  already made your mava or you have ricotta to add to the batter instead, these bake up quickly and easily making them the perfect little snack when holiday visitors come calling. Coming up next more Indian treats and gluten free and vegan sides for the festive table. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


  1. Looks scrummy!
    Khoya and evaporated milk are pretty scarce here in Nepal so I usually mix 1 cup of full cream buffalo milk with 2 cups of full cream powdered milk. I roll this mixture into a ball & store it in the freezer. Then when I need khoya I can just grate off as much as I need from the frozen ball. (A chef from a 5 start hotel in Kathmandu taught me this recipe.)

    1. that's a great idea Bibi!!! I'm going to have to try that one. Hope you have a happy new year!

  2. Could dulce de leche, which is sold in Spanish groceries, be the same thing as khoya? What about sweetened condensed milk as a substitute?
    Also, please could you clarify, the butter in the recipe, is it cold butter, or room temperature butter?

    1. yes, the butter is room temperature, as to dulce de leche, I've not tried doing that but I can see where that might be a possibility. Most of the time I use a nice dense ricotta in place of the mava, did you see Bibis' post above about what she uses?



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