The people of Bombay, Bombayites or Mumbaikars as they are now known, love their tea. Not just at home or in restaurants… every street corner seems to have its own tea-cart, brewing fresh tea at all hours of the day or night.
Among iconic tea establishments, the Parsi or Irani cafes of Mumbai deserve a special mention. Established in the 19th century by Zoroastrians fleeing the Islamic regime in Iran, these are like time capsules of an era gone by…
They serve specialty Parsi dishes, tea time snacks (brun-maska, anyone?) and of course tea, all at very reasonable prices. Only a handful of these are left now, like Britannia and Co., Yazdani bakery, Sassanian and a few others.
One of the most well-known Irani cafes was B. Merwans and Co. which sadly closed down earlier this year after serving its patrons for exactly 100 years! Imagine that! :(
B. Merwans was renowned for their Mawa Cakes. Cardamom-scented buttery cakes made with the addition of mawa (milk solids), these are arguably the butteriest (yes, that must be a word) little delights.
Since there was no refrigeration available in the 19th century and milk wasn’t pasteurized, cafe owners had to boil the milk over and over. And this lead to a lot of milk solids or mawa being available at the end of the day. The cafe owners experimented with adding this mawa to a cake and voila! the iconic mawa cake was born :D
I have fond memories of devouring quite a few of these as a kid. Also, for a couple of months, right out of college I did an internship at a bank in Grant Road (where B. Merwans was located) and I loved queuing up on Saturday afternoons to buy mawa cakes and other goodies to take home for the weekend.
The only reason I haven’t made these beloved cakes at home so far is because I can’t buy any mawa here and it does take a long time to make it from scratch as you are basically cooking down milk till all the water evaporates.
Then a few months ago, while Pinteresting (yes, that is a word too!), I saw this gorgeous post about mawa cakes on Helene Dujardin’s wonderful Tartelette blog, that she got from her Indian friend Bina. Fortunately, she also included a quick recipe for making mawa! All my problems solved, I had to make these at the first opportunity. It still takes close to an hour to make the mawa, so cold weather is the perfect time to try your hand at making these lovelies :D
These are not too sweet and are laced with just the right hint of cardamom. And the butteriness comes not just from the butter. The rich, fragrant mawa adds another sort of nutty butteriness, which is quite amazing. Try these, you won’t be sorry. Plus, it is a bite right out of history :D
I have to share these with my lovely friends gathering over at Angie’s Friday Fiesta, co-hosted today by Nancy @Feasting With Friends and Loretta @Safari of the Mind. Hope they enjoy this hometown favorite of mine.
Here’s the recipe.
For the Mawa
2 cans (14 oz each) Evaporated Milk (not low fat)
1 cup (250 ml) Heavy Cream
For the Cakes
1 1/4 cups (155 grams) All Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Cardamom
Pinch of Salt
1/2 cup (100 grams) Mawa, at room temperature
6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted Butter, at room temperature
1 cup (100 grams) Sugar
6 tablespoons Whole Milk
Almond or Cashew Slivers (optional)
Prepare the mawa
Place the evaporated milk and heavy cream in a large stainless steel pot or wide saucepan (12-inch) with tall sides.
Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium high and let it cook, stirring more than occasionally for about 10 minutes.
Turn the heat to medium and let the mixture cook for another 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture starts to thicken.
Turn the heat to medium low and cook another 10 minutes.
At this point, the mixture starts looking like a grainy butterscotch pudding.
No worries, everything is going according to plan.
Turn the heat down to low and continue cooking another 10-15 minutes.
Do more than stirring occasionally there too: there is very little moisture left and the higher risks of scorching happen at that point.
The whole process should take about 50 minutes, pay close attention to the mixture during the first and last 10 minutes of cooking.
The final consistency is that of a very thick pudding.
Let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate if not using right away. The mawa can also be frozen for up to 3 months. With this mawa recipe, you have 3/4 cup to 1 cup of mawa.
Prepare the cakes
Preheat the oven to 180 C and position a rack in the middle.
Lightly spray with cooking spray (or brush with melted butter) small cupcake, muffin tins or other mini cake moulds. Set aside.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, cardamom and salt. Reserve.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or with hand-held beaters), beat together the mava, butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy.
Turn the speed to low and add the eggs, one at a time and beating well after each addition.
Still with the motor running on low, add the reserved flour mixture and the milk.
Turn the speed back up to medium and beat until the mixture is smooth.
Divide evenly among the prepared cake tins, top each with almond or cashew slivers if using and bake for 20-25 minutes.