Kitchen Headquarters Banner
Recipes for survival!


Contact us by email button

Want to leave a comment?
Send an email by clicking here


Recipes Section

Igaili - (Arabic cardamom-saffron sponge cake)

The perfect accompaniment for coffee, with that exotic touch!
Here's proof it is possible to eat exciting tasty healthy food on a tight budget, without breaking the bank.
You can have more variety in your meals and with a recipe like this; you can even afford to have friends over for morning or afternoon tea without blowing the budget

wedge of igaili with lemon yoghurt on a plate

A large wedge of igaili served the traditional way with lemon yoghurt on a small dish.

Igaili is an Arabic cake, served to special favoured visitors, with sweet tea, flavoured with cinnamon. The dates in it make it quite sweet, so it is usually served in small portions.

The cake does not rise as much as a western cake recipes would and has a coarser texture than most western recipes but the flavour is delightfully unusual. Our guests are usually quick to detect an unusual pleasantly exotic spice flavour but rarely guess what the spice is. With an aromatic variety of seductive ingredients like sweet dates, sesame seeds, saffron, cardamom and walnuts this cake is delightfully different. Cardamom has a strong pine spice flavour, if using fresh pods, decrease the amount for a lighter taste.

Ingredients - Serves 12

  • A pinch of saffron threads (these are very expensive and can be left out for an extra pinch of tumeric).

  • 6 soft-packed dates, pitted

  • 5 eggs

  • 3/4 cup sugar

  • 1 rounded teaspoon ground cardamom (or ½ teaspoon of fresh ground from the pod)

  • Pinch of turmeric

  • 1 cup flour

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds - divide into two lots of two teaspoons full each

  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, or other nuts of your choice


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Soak the saffron in 2 tablespoons of very warm water for 20 minutes, then set aside

  2. Mash the dates with a fork (they end up like sticky plasticine eventually), then roll the small mashed pieces into small pea-sized balls (about 2 dozen) and set aside.

  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, whisk together the eggs and sugar until light, fluffy and almost meringue-like in texture, 7 to 10 minutes. Gently whisk in the cardamom and turmeric.

  4. In a small bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder, then slowly add them to the egg mixture while whisking. Continue whisking while you add the saffron-infused water and oil until all is evenly combined.

  5. Grease a round 9-inch cake pan with butter and line with greaseproof paper. Lightly grease the paper with butter and dust the bottom and sides with 2 teaspoons of the sesame seeds.

  6. Pour half the cake mixture into the pan, scatter with the tiny date balls, then cover with the remaining mixture and at last a sprinkling of the rest of the sesame seeds. Top with chopped walnuts.

  7. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown on top (a toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean).

  8. Cool the cake, fully and turn upside down onto a plate.

Coconut Palms

Worth more than gold
Cardamom is ground with coffee to make Turkish coffee and was in such demand that it was worth almost twice as much as gold. The seeds rapidly lose their aroma when ground so it's best bought as pale green pods.

Bluehost Web hosting advertisement and link

We've use and recommend Bluehost for webhosting (been with them since 2006). We receive a small commission if you sign up through us. This doesn't add to your fee but helps keep our sites running.

Bar - Gold bar with Granny Smith Apple

Serving Suggestions

Igaili is traditionally served with thick sweet lemon flavoured yoghurt (see the recipe in the yoghurt dishes section) and sweet tea spiced with cinnamon. To make the tea, simply break into strips, a small cinnamon stick for every two cups and add it to the tea leaves (or tea bags) before pouring the hot water to brew the tea.
We used to serve it to bus tourists in our resaurant because it handles well for catering use and doesn't want to fall apart. The squares can be cut and stacked on top of each other without compressing, unlike most western cakes. But most of all it was something novel and pleasantly exotic that made their trip all the more memorable.

Small squares of igaili ready to serve

A pile of small squares of igaili, waiting to be served

In response to your questions:

I am a type 2 diabetic, I'm sick of tasteless food can I make tasty meals and keep to my diet?

I need to lose weight but the weight loss food is all so tasteless can I eat tasty food and still lose weight?

Igiali gets it's moisture and much of it's sweetness from dates, which are a complex sugar that is digested slower than sucrose (normal sugar) so unlike western cake, the sugar spike is lower and more prolonged, a valuable property for diabetics. It contains less sugar and flour than western cakes and is consumed in smaller pieces, so although it's not actually a diet food on it's own, if it replaces a a much worse food - cake and biscuits, then it is like a diet food but far more tastier. Cinnamon has been proven to act like insulin in the body, so served in the traditional manner with sweet cinnamon tea, this also helps.

I am at a loss to explain why we have this conception that diet food should be bland. All the herbs and spices contain no carbohydrates or sugar. If fat is removed from stock before it is added to a dish, it is also virtually free of anything fattening too but boosts the taste. Even wine in cooking is hardly fattening so why is diet food so bland?
(I suspect some sadistic skinny swine felt we had to suffer for the excesses that made us fat and inflicted us with tasteless bland food).

Bar - Gold bar with Granny Smith Apple

Basket of Fresh herbs

Go to:

Home Page
Nutrition Section
Recipes Section
Herbs and Spices
Products Section

Fruit Motif