Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Indian Sweets: Mawa Cake and Bolinhas de Coco Cookies

When I saw the two required elements of this month's Daring Bakers challenge, it seemed pretty simple and like much other baking I'd done. I was surprised, through the process, that both of these desserts involved techniques I'd never dreamed of! Namely, cooking milk until it basically turns to dough, toasting flour on the stovetop, and cooking cookie dough before mixing in separated eggs.

Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen was our August 2013 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she challenged us to make some amazing regional Indian desserts. The Mawa Cake, the Bolinhas de Coco cookies and the Masala cookies – beautifully spiced and delicious!
Bolinhas de Coco Cookies

Mawa Cake

This is what Aparna, our challenge host, had to say of Mawa:  Mawa [pronounced maw-vaw], also known as Khoya [pronounced k-oh-yaw], is made by slowly reducing milk until all that remains is a mass of slightly caramelized dough-like milk solids. Mawa is used in a wide variety of Indian sweets such as Gulab Jamun and Peda.  In this cake, Mawa lends a rich and a caramelized milky taste to this cake which is slightly dense and reminiscent of a pound cake.

The photos above were taken at 30 minute intervals through the milk cooking process.  As you can see, not much happens for a while...besides babysitting to ensure your milk doesn't burn.

The texture of the Mawa Cake is close to pound cake, and the cake is heavily spiced with cardamom. Cardamom is a major element of both of these Indian sweets.  I would highly recommend grinding your own cardamom rather than buying it pre-ground.  I like to process mine in little coffee grinder to a course consistency so there are poppy seed sized bits throughout.

It turns out, after reading some other Daring Bakers trials, that semolina is often sold in the US at a fine ground consistency, and is sold course ground in other areas.  I used what I found at my grocery store, and the texture of the cookies turned out kind of rubbery and tough, especially after they had cooled.  Word to the wise, use course ground semolina and they say you shouldn't have this problem :)

The following recipes are slightly adapted though very close to Aparna's recipes. You can find Aparna's original Daring Baker recipes, including a savory Indian cracker that I opted not to make, here!

Mawa Cake


For the Mawa:
4 cups whole milk

For the cake:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup packed crumbled mawa
1-1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1-1/2 tsp fresh ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
Nuts, to decorate


To make the Mawa: Pour the milk into a heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring the milk to a boil, stirring it on and off, making sure it doesn't stick to the bottom. Turn down the heat to medium and keep cooking the milk until reduces to about a quarter of its original volume. This took me about an hour and a half.

Watch the milk and stir it frequently to make sure it doesn't stick to the sides or bottom of the pan and burn.

Once the milk it has reduced to about one fourth of the original amount, lower the heat to low. Keep stirring regularly, until the milk solids take on a lumpy appearance. There should be no visible liquid left in the pan, but the mawa should be moist and not sticking to the sides of the pan.

Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the mawa to a bowl to cool completely. Cover and refrigerate for a day or two if preferred or use immediately.  It will harden in the fridge so you will need to let it come to room temperature before using it.

You should get about 3/4 to 1 cup of mawa from 4 cups of milk.

To make the cake:
Preheat your oven to 350F. Beat the butter, the crumbled mawa and the sugar in a large bowl, using a hand held electric beater, on high speed until soft and fluffy.

Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat on medium speed until fully incorporated. Add the vanilla and milk and beat until mixed well.

Sift the cake flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt onto the batter and beat at medium speed and well blended.

Grease and line the bottom of an 8 or 9 inch spring form pan with parchment paper. Pour the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Scatter the nuts on top of the batter. Do not press the nuts down into the batter.

Bake for about 50 to 60 minutes or until the cake is a golden brown and a skewer pushed into the center comes out clean. Do not over bake the cake or it will dry out. If the cake seems to be browning too quickly, cover it with aluminum foil halfway through the baking time.

Remove from the oven and allow it to cool for 10 minutes in the pan. Release the cake, peel off the parchment from the base and let it cool completely on a wire rack.

Bolinhas De Coco (Cardamom Flavored Coconut Cookies)
Bolinhas are cardamom flavored coconut and semolina cakelets or biscuits (In India they call them biscuits and not cookies) from the Indian state of Goa. They are a little crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

*Note that there is one point in this process that requires an 8 hour or overnight chill in the fridge.


2 cups fresh grated coconut, packed**
1-1/2 cups semolina
1-1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
A pinch of salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
1-1/2 teaspoons fresh ground cardamom

**You may use dried shredded coconut (unsweetened). Rehydrate by adding about 1/2 to 2/3 cup warm water to 2 cups of dried coconut and let it sit for about half an hour. After half an hour, drain off any excess water and then use in the recipe. You should have moist but not wet coconut.


Run the grated coconut in your processor or the small jar of your blender a couple of times so that the flakes are small and uniform in texture. Do not grind into a paste.

Put the semolina in a medium saucepan and toast over low to medium heat, until it starts giving off an aroma, and looks like it’s about to start changing color. This should take a couple of minutes. Do not brown. Transfer the semolina into a bowl and keep aside.

In the same pan, pour the water and add the sugar to it. Place it on medium heat and keep stirring until the sugar dissolves completely. Once the sugar has dissolved, keep stirring the solution and let it cook for about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat. The sugar solution should just begin to start forming a syrup but will still be watery.

Add the toasted semolina and mix well. Then add the coconut, salt and melted butter and mix well. Put the pan back on the stove, and over medium heat stir the coconut mixture until it is really hot and forms a thick clump. This should take about 2 to 3 minutes.

Take the pan off the heat and let the semolina coconut mixture cool to room temperature. Transfer this into a bowl or container, cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, ideally overnight.

The next day, take the dough out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites. Lightly beat the yolks with a fork to break them and add to the dough along with the ground cardamom. Mix well with a wooden spoon or fork.

Whisk the egg whites until frothy and add to the dough. Mix well until incorporated.

You will now have a slightly moist and sticky dough. Refrigerate this dough for about half an hour so it firms up a bit.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper or grease the pan well with melted butter.

Scoop walnut sized balls of dough onto your sheet pan, about 2 inches apart. Flatten them slightly and mark with a crisscross pattern using the tines of a fork.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown. Let them cool on the pan for about 5 minutes and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Store the cookies in an airtight container.



  1. Both look fabulous! I don't know which one I'd like to try first! Have a wonderful day Hannah!

  2. I tried a lot of South Asian desserts because I have been to 3 Indian weddings in the past 3 years. They are tasty and thanks for the recipe breakdown. Sheila @ The Frugal Exerciser

  3. Your cookies and cake look great! I really like how green yours came out. There seem to be so many different results from grinding your own cardamom. I also couldn't find the right semolina, but the cookies tasted good despite the toughness.

  4. This was a crowd pleaser Dessert at our home. My Mom made it frequently . We ( my cousins and I) would slip into the kitchen and beg for samples - just to make sure that they are good for all our guests ;)
    I love the color and the taste of course iAll I can say is Sllllllllluuuuuuuuuuuuuuurpp~ !

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  5. I like this blog, Thanks for sharing this blog of indian sweets


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