Do you like biscotti? Then you’ll probably like jugu cake. Whereas biscotti is hard and supremely dippable, with the odd nut here and there, jugu cake is a dense, slightly crumbly treat packed full of the flavours of toasted nuts and cardamom. For any Indian person with East African heritage, it’s more than likely a bit of a family institution. Back in September, I posted my families’ jugu cake recipe – jugu means peanut in Swahili, and traditionally, roughly ground peanuts are the basis of the recipe. However, I’ve been wanting to deviate from the norm for a while now, and try an almond and pistachio version – a combination I love. But it turned into even more of an experiment – I’ve had some left over marzipan sitting around, and wondered if I could use it in place of the butter and sugar in the original recipe. It worked even better than I thought it would – it’s definitely recognisable as a take on jugu cake, but with a bit of a twist. It goes down very well with a cup of chai or a strong coffee! Incidentally, another tip is to throw a bit of cardamom in with the ground coffee before you brew it up, it works very well…
225g nuts of your choice (I was going to use two parts almonds to one part pistachios, but had to make up the numbers with a few hazelnuts, too)
90g marzipan, cut up into nut sized pieces
About 100ml milk (you may need a little more)
150g plain flour
½ tsp. baking powder
A pinch of salt
½ tsp. spice of your choice (traditionally, cardamom, but I used a grating of nutmeg in this version)
Pre-heat oven to 180°C.
Pulse the nuts in a food processor until you get a roughly ground mix. Remove about two thirds, then continue to pulse the remaining nuts until they’re more finely ground (they don’t need to be quite as fine as ground almonds, but don’t worry if they are!)
Spread the nuts evenly onto a baking tray, and toast for about five minutes (remember to keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t start to burn!) Set aside to cool. Reduce oven temperature to 150°C.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and spice into a large bowl. Mix the marzipan in – adding it at this stage stops it all from clumping together when things start to get a little sticky!
Lightly beat the egg with half of the milk. Remove half and keep aside for later.
Add the nuts to the flour mixture, and pour in about half of the egg. Stir with a wooden spoon until more or less evenly combined. Add the remainder of the egg and a splash of milk, and do the same. Then, get your hands in there and knead well until it all starts to come together – you may need to add more milk, but try and add just enough to form into a ball, because the marzipan will melt in the oven and help to keep it all together.
Work the dough into a sausage shape, then transfer (with care – it’s delicate) to a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Brush with egg, then bake for about 25 – 35 minutes, until it’s evenly golden on top and a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. Let it cool for ten minutes, but make sure you slice it whilst still warm (much easier that way.) Lay the slices out on a wire rack to cool completely – they dry out a little this way.