M’hanncha (Snake Cake)

12 Jan

Going off of Alice’s use of the rose water in her tea, I used this recipe that calls for orange-flower water. The use of dried fruits and nuts in Middle Eastern cuisine fascinates me.
It’s very different from our typical rich chocolate or moist sweet cakes
here in the US and it uses flavors that I don’t typically use in my daily cuisine. I like almond paste a lot and I also like the light crispiness of phyllo dough. It is a difficult pastry to work with, but it yields a great finished product.
Thankfully, I had Randy and Sarah’s 12 ft granite topped kitchen island to work on for this dessert and I used the whole counter… I’m sure there’s an easier way to make this dish and still achieve the same delicious results. If you try it and find an easier way to do this, please let me know.

Grinding up the almonds paste was made very easy with a food processor,

but once it was made, it was terribly difficult to work it. It was like trying to make play-doh snakes out of wet sand.

I squished and mashed it together as best I could,

then laid the sheets of phyllo dough out on the counter,

Sarah brushed egg white to seal them together, then brushed the whole sheet
with some melted butter.
Then all we had to do was put the almond paste snakes along the edge of
the sheets

roll them on up,

then coil them onto the buttered pan, brush with butter and bake.

Once it was a nice golden brown, we removed it from the oven and brushed
it with warmed honey,

let it cool for a bit, then served with Randy’s AMAZING home made
cardamom ice cream.

M’hanncha (Snake Cake)

Almond Paste

1 lb (500g) raw almonds
2/3 cup superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons orange-flower water

12 (12- by 17-inch) sheets phyllo dough
1/2 cup (1 stick/110g) unsalted butter, melted
1 egg white, whisked

3 oz (90g) warmed honey


To Make the Almond Paste:
Combine the almonds, sugar, and cinnamon in a food processor and pulse to grind into a coarse meal. Add the butter and orange-flower water and pulse until blended. Scrape the paste into a bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll the paste into a snake (or many snakes) the width of your thumb.

To Assemble the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a large baking sheet. Dust a work surface with confectioners’ sugar. Place a sheet of phyllo pastry on the sugared work surface, brush the sheet with melted butter, slightly overlap it with another sheet, brushing with whisked egg white to “glue” sheets together. Keep adding sheets, slightly overlapped, as long as you have counter space. Set almond paste logs in a row down one long end of the phyllo, and roll the pastry up over them into a cylinder. Fold over the ends and brush on some melted butter to seal the seams. Shape the cylinder into a small,
tight coil and place on the baking sheet, seam side down.

Continue adding phyllo sheets and the almond paste and rolling, all the while adding to the end of the coil on the baking sheet, forming a large coil. Brush the top of the coil with more melted butter.

To Bake:
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Remove the cake from the oven, brush with warmed honey and let cool on the baking sheet. Serve.

Alright, Alice – I can’t wait to see what you come up with!!

4 Responses to “M’hanncha (Snake Cake)”

  1. Alice 12/01/2012 at 11:35 am #

    Wow. Just wow. That looks stunning.

  2. Randy 12/01/2012 at 5:48 pm #

    B forgot to mention her breathtaking idea to serve this with a cardamom ice cream! OMG was it good and paired beautifully!


    • Randy 12/01/2012 at 5:50 pm #

      Oops–I saw the mention but I have to give all the credit for the idea to B–who would have ever even have thought of cardamom ice cream? That woman is a culinary picasso!

      • Brenda 12/01/2012 at 8:21 pm #

        Thank you for all the nice things you’ve said Randy…but I have to give the credit for the cardamom to Alice. It was all her idea.

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