Indian Mava Minicakes With Pistachios & Saffron

Update 05/23/2011

A reader successfully tried this cake.You can see the link here.Thank you so much for trying out.

Tuesday,8th March is our wedding anniversay.I wanted to make something to refresh memories of Pune,a bustling metropolis near Mumbai,India.I couldn’t think of anything else but Mava cake, a unique speciality from Pune/Mumbai bakeries to recapture the moments we spent there.City of Pune has always been special,it is the city from where my career took off with first job and then I met P there for the first time 7 years back.Also referred to as the “Oxford of the East”, Pune is a youthful city with pleasant weather all round the year and attracts a lot of foreign students.I lived in Pune for almost 2 years, and while I was there I got a chance to enjoy the cultural heritage of the city.Due to presence of Osho Ashram ,Pune is a haven for foreign tourists who come here to seek relaxation through meditation and simple, natural living.

The influence of cosmopolitan elements is quite explicit in the city’s culture and lifestyle.Thanks to influx of foreigners, the city has a plethora of world cuisine restaurants and bakeries to choose from. My two favorite  bakeries from the city were Kayani Bakery on MG Road and German Bakery in Koregaon Park[den of the Osho Ashram]. A visit to German Bakery and you won’t feel you are in India.I usually frequented there to catch up with friends over Masala Chai.The place has less of a bakery feel but its more like a mini eatery serving some of the best cheese sandwiches, toasts and burgers.One of the highlight was that except for chai they don’t serve any indian food.

Anyhow, since we are talking Mava cakes here, I want to focus on Kayani Bakery, a reminiscent of Irani/Parsi Cafés specializing in some of the best milk cakes and biscuits [cookies].Wiki tells me that these Iranian cafés were first opened by Persian travellers to India in the 19th century.Iranian cafés used to be numerous and popular but competition from modern cafés and fast food restaurants have left them behind.One of the most popular eating places is the 102-year-old Kayani Café, a heritage landmark in south Mumbai.Though I m not sure but I think from the similarities between the setting and menu of both places that Kayani Bakery in Pune is an offshoot of the same legacy.The bakery is very ordinary looking, always packed with people, with crowds thronging to queue up as early as 6 or 7 in the morning to get their daily quota of fresh baked goodies. The bakery opens at 8 and by noon, they are out of most of their stuff.I have had the best and most unusual biscuits [cookies] and cakes of my life here.To name a few, if you get a chance to visit, you should not come back without Shrewsbury biscuits and wine [yes] biscuits.

The mention of Kayani bakery is incomplete without mention of  Mava cake.Infact, mava cakes have been their shot to fame.A no-frill, milky cake, made with flour, eggs, butter, sugar, cardamom and mava.Mava or Khoya is nothing but solidified milk, quite comparable to ricotta but less moist.It is used in making most of the indian sweets and desserts. You take one bite of the mava cake and you can discern that unique flavor-dense,scrumptious and milky.It is difficult to describe the luscious mava tingling on your taste buds,the delectable lively aroma of sweet-smelling cardamom complete with a delightful sensation of the dense texture rendered by baked flour and butter.It a feeling you want to prolong.You want to take bite, sit back and enjoy without dunking it down with coffee or tea.Trust me it would be a sacrilege if you want to wash down the cake with a beverage.If you must, couple it with hot milk, it doubles the warmth. Mava cakes from Kayani Bakery are superb, unique, matchless, delicious – the best and freshest milky cake in the world.If you are looking for a fluffy, light cake, this cake is not for you.It is the dense and heavy texture along with exotic taste that leaves you with a full feeling when you eat it.

When I told P abt mava cake, I dont know from where he came up with this idea and suggested a twist with pistachios and saffron.He is totally saffron loving person but in this cake saffron did wonders.It made us feel at home 🙂 However, the authentic version is made with almonds/cashews and cardamom.You can replace these if you feel.I saw a lot of recipes on the internet, but I settled for this recipe from one of my favorite blogs, Tartelette.I used her cake recipe with my additions.For the mava, I used my own proportions.Though I stuck to using evaporated milk and cream for making mava as done by Helen, you can use whole milk to make it too.I do it many a times and there is not much of a difference in taste.But working with whole milk will take little more time to make mava.Below goes the recipe:

Ingredients [Makes 3 mini cakes of the size shown]

For the Mava/Khoya [Yield 1 cup ]

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cup full fat milk

For the Mini cakes [Makes 3 mini cakes of the size shown]

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder [use aluminium free]
  • 1/2 tsp green cardamom powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup mava, softened at room temperature
  • 7 tbsp  unsalted butter,softened
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 tbsp  whole milk
  • 2 tsp saffron threads
  • 1/2 cup fine chopped unsalted pistachios for mixing in cake batter
  • 1/4 cup chopped unsalted pistachios for topping.

Mava making is basically a process involving low heat cooking of whole milk and/or cream till the moisture content of the milk is reduced and it becomes paste like.Once it is cooked for such a long time,the remaining milk solids and fats in the milk take a butterscotch/caramel color.This paste is then poured into moulds and cooled.Once cooled, mava can be cubed using a sharp knife or crumbled with fingers. First important thing to note while making mava at home is that you have to check on the mix quite regularly, scrape it down the sides and prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pot.Second being that the last few minutes in the process are very important, because the paste can turn into a dry crumble within second so keep a watch. I recommend that if you plan to make this cake, prepare mava a day or two in advance because mava making takes about 1-1.5 hours alone and  cooling time is separate.Mava can be refrigerated for up to 4-5 days and frozen for 1-2 months without losing taste and freshness.

Making Mava at home:

In a heavy bottomed, wide-mouthed and preferably non stick pan, pour in both  milk and heavy cream.A non stick pan helps to avoid the milk & cream from getting burnt and sticking to bottom while cooking.Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.About 10 minutes.Once boiled, reduce the heat to medium on your burner. Cook with continuous stirring for about 15 minutes.The milk mix will start changing color slightly and start to thicken.At ths point,turn the heat to low on your stove and let cook with occasional cooking.The milk will keep on thickening and start turning into a sauce like consistency.Another 20 minutes.You have to stir the mix continuously now and scrape from the sides. At the end of 20 minutes, the mixture starts looking like a smooth caramel colored sauce.In some cases, it can turn grainy too.Continue cooking on low heat for another 10-15 minutes with continuous stirring.Cook down till there is very little moisture left in the mixture and its pasty, smooth and little shiny due to fats in the cream.At this point remove from heat.

Mava Making 

What I do is to immediately measure out 1/2 cup paste and pour it into individual bowl.Such pre measured bowl are easy to use anytime.Just run a sharp knife all around the bowl.and unmould.Let the paste in the bowls cool down, cover with cling film and refrigerate. The whole process took me about 1.5 hours with the quantities I have mentioned.

Note: You can also get Mava/khoya at any of the indian stores easily.It can be used to make this cake.You will just need to measure out, soften it a bit in a pot on low heat for 5 minutes and use.


  • Night before: Let the butter, eggs and mava sit on the kitchen countertop to come to a room temperature.
  • Preparing before cake making :Preheat the oven to 350F.Grease thoroughly the sides of whatever baking pan, cupcake pan, spring foam pan you are using for making these cakes.
  • Heat up the milk for 20 seconds in microwave to luke warm.Add saffron strands to the milk and let dissolve.
  • Mix flour, salt, baking powder, cardamom powder thoroughly and set aside.
  • Making the cake: In a large mixing bowl, on medium speed beat the butter with softened mava and sugar until creamy and light brown in color.About 3 minutes.
  • Once creamy , add the eggs, one at a time and beat to combine well.About 2 minutes.

 Mava Cake Step-By-Step

  • Next add the milk + saffron mixture and blend well on low-speed until a smooth mixture is formed.About 1 minute.
  • Add the flour mixture all at once to the wet ingredients and beat well on medium speed to make a smooth, creamy batter.About 2 minutes.
  • Fold in the fine chopped pistachios in the batter.
  • Divide the cake batter evenly into the pan to leaving some room for rising and top with more chopped pistachios.
  • Bake in oven for 22-25 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Mine took 24 minutes exact.
  • Once baked, remove from oven, let sit for 10 minutes to cool and then unmould.
  • Let cool completely before slicing.


  • The quality of mava plays and important role in the texture of this cake.Generally, the store bought mava has less oil content so if using one u will need to adjust the amount of butter so that the cake does not turn dry.I recommend making mava at home to best use the proportions given above.
  • The cake sits fresh for upto two days unrefrigerated.
  • Any kind of nuts : almonds, cashews etc can be used in place of pistachios.


80 thoughts on “Indian Mava Minicakes With Pistachios & Saffron

  1. My hearty wishes for ur anniversary Tanvi,i have never seen an elegant mava cake like urs, thats definitely a rich and absolutely irresistible cake..

  2. I just don’t know where to start and what to say. I just frantically tweeted you while reading this post. This brings so many memories, I could fill your entire page 🙂 So keeping it short this time – I’m SO making this!

  3. WOW WOW WOW Tanvi!!! The cakes look beautiful!!! I could;nt think of a better way to celebrate an anniversary!! Wish you a very Happy wedding anniversary 🙂

  4. Hé, this is a nice cake! Lovely with the green color of the pistachios!
    Thanks for the ‘mava’-information!

  5. Tanvi you take some amazing photos of your recipes…Feel like making this mava cake right now 🙂 And yes next time when my hubby goes to Pune for his office work I will not let him enter home without shrewsbury biscuits and wine one 😉 Bookmarked. And thanks a ton for the step by step pics. very helpful

    Hamaree Rasoi

  6. OMG Tanvi…the cake looks amazing. How I wish to get a bite off that. And I love Pune too. It’s soo green and beautiful.

  7. pegasuslegend – United States – I love Italian food and everything I was brought up on. Trying to recreate my moms and grandmothers recipes.
    c on said:

    wow it must be pistachio cake month I just made one and waiting to post for St Pattys Day~ this one looks awesome~

  8. pegasuslegend – United States – I love Italian food and everything I was brought up on. Trying to recreate my moms and grandmothers recipes.
    claudia lamascolo on said:

    I just made pistachio cake too saving the post for St Pattys Day boy yours look fabulous~

  9. Sandra Mihic – Nashville – Hello everyone, and welcome to my blog. I am Sandra, FOOD BLOGGER, Recipe Developer & Photographer. Mom of 3 + 2 fur babies, wife, music & art lover and my blog is Open To All.
    Sandra@Sandra's Easy Cooking on said:

    Wowww really wowww..Looks amazing, awesome tutorial! Nicely done, and I wish you happy anniversary!

  10. Your cake looks beautiful…I never had mava, and would love to try as it seems very tasty 🙂 Love the idea of pistachio as well…happy anniversary and have a beautiful week ahead!

  11. OmGod i loveee German bakery and Kayani’s in Pune too 🙂
    I lovee that road that houses German bakery ,super cool:-)
    And loveeee the shewsberry at kayani’s , dont ask me how many of those boxes i loveee to some down with.
    Am soo excited about this mava cake now, must try it sometime.
    Do u have any more of their recipe ideas?
    I love how u adapted the recipe to very deliciously accommodate ur hubbys pista and saffron idea.

  12. It looks delicious, as always.
    I’ve never been to Pune, personally…but one of my friends spent her first year of college there (and finished up at Berkeley)…

  13. Happy Anniversary Tanvi 🙂 A perfect cake for the ocassion.. love the clicks and presentation dear… you look like you are pretty nostalgic 🙂

  14. Congratulations on the nniversary. What a great cake to celebrate with. I have to admit I don’t use mava much except when I make gulab jamuns!

  15. Happy anniversary Tanvi. … I love mava cake too but i have to try your version with nuts. It looks delicious … Thanks for sharing!!!

  16. Happy Anniversary, Dear Tanvi and Happy women’s day!
    This amazing cake is surely a very festive and delicious one! It’s been some time that I am dreaming of a cake with Saffron and pistacchios and you made it come true!

  17. OMG Tanvi, these mini cakes look so delicious, that I’m still staring at the pictures and the steps to making this cake. I must admit, I am a bit overwhelmed because I;m not sure I can make this, but it definitely looks yummy. I love this!

  18. ohhh Happy anniversary!! The cakes look wonderfully fit for the occasion. I saw them on flickr a few days back and wondered when you would post it 😀

  19. Just gorgeous Tanvi. I love your addition of pistachios and saffron as well. I only wish I could have a piece of it right now!

  20. Wow you made mava cake at home and it looks so yummy and irrestitalbe!! Lovely step by step cliks..very useful.
    Happy Anniversary dear.

  21. The mava sounds and looks a lot like dulce de leche, which you can get in stores that carry South American or Mexican foods. I wonder if it would work as a substitute? At any rate, your cake sounds fabulous.

  22. Wow I love this– I’ve never heard of it before but I love the saffron twist. Question: I’ve never seen cardamom powder before (assuming I can get it at an Indian grocery store?) but u think I could somehow use cardamom seeds, like infused into milk somehow? I have a ton that would be nice to use up. Happy Anniversary!

  23. Anna Johnston – Canberra – “I am a Fun Loving, Adventure Seeking, Enthusiastic, Super Positive Aussie Gal & creator of The Hospitality Guru! I’m a Chef, a Teacher, Trainer, Functions, Wedding & Event Architect; General Manager & all round Nice Girl who loves nothing more than great food paired with wonderful wines & beers.”
    Anna Johnston on said:

    I loved this post Tanvi. Happy Wedding Anniversary & thanks so much for telling us all about Pune & this gorgeous cake. I love the green tinge the Pistachios give it too. A big congratulations., thanks for sharing my friend 🙂

  24. Happy wedding anniversary, Tanvi! Love those mini mawa cakes, never tried using mawa in cakes before. Idea of adding pistachios and saffron is too good.

  25. Happy anniversary and congratulations! That is awesome!

    I love pistachios and this cake sounds delicious! I’m pretty sure I could eat the whole thing by myself.

  26. Hi,
    Beautiful post, very informative and pictures Yummmmy.
    Beautiful delicious looking cake. Have never been to pune but Kayani bakery is going to be in my minds for years because of ur cake.
    Must try cake, will let u know after baking..
    Thank u very much for mava recipe with pictures. Holi is around the corner have to make mava for gunjiyas.
    Happy Anniversary.

  27. First of all, happy wedding anniversary to you and your very lucky husband. How do you always manage to make things that are sooooooooo delicious, so me! This cake just looks so amazing, and brimming with all the flavours that I love.
    I wish you could box one up and send me one here in the UK.
    *kisses* HH

  28. Happy Anniversary…what a lovely way to celebrate it. These are just stunning. I want to make these cakes tonight! Thank you for sharing this loveliness tonight. I hope that tomorrow is full of happy moments, joyful conversation and plates of satisfying food!

  29. As always, Tanvi, such a great post. You stories, your recipes, your pictures, always inspire me and make me want to run straight to the kitchen to good. I’m so thankful that you shared with the Hearth and Soul hop.

  30. This city sounds so much fun! The cake with all these pistachios is terrific!

  31. Happy Anniversary! These cakes are amazing, I love the flavors. Mava is new to me…
    Just gorgeous!

  32. Hey Tanvi…wishing you for a happy life…wishes are never late i believe…

    You made mawa at home by reducing the milk???
    Bravo….I make a microwave mawa using milk powder . This cake i have to try with my homemade mawa for sure 🙂
    The pictures are great…

  33. Oh my goodness!!!!
    I can’t believe this delish cake – I am drooling…no waaay past drooling. Fantastic!!!! A taste of home in a slice…yesss please 🙂 Gorgeous post – excellent job, Tanvi! 🙂

    chow! Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  34. Oh god! The temptation—your homemade khoya looks abs. wonderful—there’s no substitute for the real thing, right? Your cakes have me drooling…………….hope you had a very very happy anniversary sweetie!


  35. What incredible tutorials for both the cake and the mava – I have never heard of mava and am completely intrigued by it. What does it taste like? Is it like sweetened condensed milk? Maybe not, as it is not sweetened. I am completely charmed with these cakes. They are gorgeous and I MUST try this. I must.
    Happy anniversary. Thank you for sharing your culture and your tradition. I so appreciate it and am learning so much.!

  36. Tanvi –
    Your beautiful pics and yummy cake drives me again and again to this page.
    I have been longing to eat a Mava cake since many many years.
    As a child I use to have an occassional treat from the Kayani/Bastani Bakeries in Dhobi Talao (Mumbai’s suburb) of their heavenly mini Mava cakes-cooked and wrapped in paper.
    It was so delicious that me and my friend (ages 7 ish) would even chew on the paper to extract the last bit of scrumptiousness!! So I made my MAVA today!
    Hope to make the cake soon too
    Many Thanks for your recipe
    PS Wish my pic did not looks so sad as I am happy!

  37. Martina Trattoria da Martina – Introversa ma espansiva, sorridente e introspettiva, sensibile e pragmatica, creativa e un po' pazzerella. Mi piace fotografare, cucinare e viaggiare. Per il resto mi bastano gli amici e un po' di serenità per vivere bene.
    Trattoria da Martina on said:

    Hi, my name is Martina. I have just made the mava following your instruction…Anyway, I have a doubt: did you use an unsweetened evaporated milk or a sweetened one? I have used a sweetened one because here in Italy it is difficult to find the other…
    Another question is: is it normal that near the end the compound separates in a compact paste and a sort of oil? This is what I have obtained….then I have tried to drain the oil and i have packed the paste in a cup…

    • Hi Martina,
      I used unsweetened evaporated milk. Towards the end when the milk soilds start coming together, you see oil separation but its not so much that you need to drain. If there is so much oil that you need to separate it there could be high fat content in your milk or you might have overcooked the milk.
      Anyhow, need not worry, drain off the oil and then pour the paste into moulds and let set. You should be able to see the consistency of my milk solid paste in the step by step pictures. Secondly if you still feel that your mava is greasy, you can reduce the amount of butter in the cake batter using discretion. Also, if your mava is sweet (coz you used sweetened milk), cut down sugar accordingly.
      Hope it comes out well. All the best!

  38. Martina Trattoria da Martina – Introversa ma espansiva, sorridente e introspettiva, sensibile e pragmatica, creativa e un po' pazzerella. Mi piace fotografare, cucinare e viaggiare. Per il resto mi bastano gli amici e un po' di serenità per vivere bene.
    Trattoria da Martina on said:

    Hi Tanvi, thank you for answering so soon…I haven’ used milk, but i have used heavy cream and sweetened evaporated milk and follwed your instructions…I have drained 4 or five spoons of oil….Anyway, I will cut down the sugar as you recommend. I will omitt the cardamom because I don’t like it: it flavours like dishwash to my taste…I will let you know the result of the cake…Thank you…
    p.s. sorry for letting you two identical messages, but i was fearing you didn’t read this one…;)

  39. Martina Trattoria da Martina – Introversa ma espansiva, sorridente e introspettiva, sensibile e pragmatica, creativa e un po' pazzerella. Mi piace fotografare, cucinare e viaggiare. Per il resto mi bastano gli amici e un po' di serenità per vivere bene.
    Trattoria da Martina on said:

    Wih sweetened evaporated milk mava tastes like toffee!

  40. Martina Trattoria da Martina – Introversa ma espansiva, sorridente e introspettiva, sensibile e pragmatica, creativa e un po' pazzerella. Mi piace fotografare, cucinare e viaggiare. Per il resto mi bastano gli amici e un po' di serenità per vivere bene.
    Trattoria da Martina on said:

    Can I ask you another question? Which was the diameter of the pans you used? Looking at your photos I intended they were 20cm (about, 8 inch) each, but I guess they were smaller since I have used a 24cm (about 9 inch) diameter pan and I have obtained a lower cake…Thanks, Martina

    • I used three nos 4″ mini cake pans 🙂 The cake is not supposed to be fluffy or airy. It is dense and doesnt rise much.So need not worry!

  41. Martina Trattoria da Martina – Introversa ma espansiva, sorridente e introspettiva, sensibile e pragmatica, creativa e un po' pazzerella. Mi piace fotografare, cucinare e viaggiare. Per il resto mi bastano gli amici e un po' di serenità per vivere bene.
    Trattoria da Martina on said:

    Here is my indian cake with mava…
    Really delicious! Thank you very much for the recipe. Bye bye, Martina

  42. Thank you Tanvi!!
    I’m from Pune and i almost grew up on kayani cakes and wine biscuits. I moved out 4 years ago but each time I visit my family I bring back loads of goodies from kayani.. I just tried these out this afternoon and the cakes turned out great!! Bang on!!
    I would really appreciate it if you could share the recipe of the good old wine biscuits if possible..
    Thanks again!

  43. Dear Tanvi
    so here i tried one more recipe from your blog..and i swear i havnt tried as many recipes from any blog so far! and i tell you i am an avid blog surfer and i love cooking/baking good food. But while maywseriously, while the success rate with other blogs is may be as high as 90% but 100% of the food cooked from your blog has gone touching hearts in my friend and family i owe it bigtime to you!

    my latest trial from your blog were these mava cakes! My hubby loved sister-in-law loved it (you know what it means to earn praise from one’s in-laws right?!) and i gave one 6′ cake to my only daughter’s pediatrician as a “thank you” gesture..i loved the taste and the texture of these cakes..and you know..there is one last cup cake sitting in the box and everyone is eyeing it! (shhh..i will give it to my 2 years old this evening with milk! 😉 )

    once again..Thanks a zillion….for your recipes..for sharing them…and for fighting the odds to brighten up the food blogosphere…WAY TO GO!!


    • Thanks Pooja. I m glad that my recipes are turning out good for you.
      These mava cakes is one of my favorite too. I hope you keep on enjoying the blog 🙂

  44. Thanks for this recipe Tanvi, You are an inspiration. Every time I find a new recipe on your blog, I am dying to make it. These cakes have been bookmarked for some time now. I am going to make them soon. My son has nut allergies, I cannot use any nuts in my cooking. I am sure that the use of pistachios is optional, but since the quantity of pistachios is almost 3/4 cup, I thought of asking you. Would the recipe work if I omit nuts?

    • Thanks Aparna. Definitely this recipe will work without nuts. The quantity is more because I wanted a good pistachio flavor in each bite.You can try the recipe & completely omit them.

  45. Hi Tanvi,
    I made mawa cup cakes with ur recipe. They did rise and then fall but, the end result was tooo good. They were not at all dense. Nice fluffy, soft and moist. This recipe is a keeper. Thanks a million.

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