Celebrate Makar Sankranti with this Delectable Til Gul Cake

Barring the Malpua, the Til Gul Cake was definitely a highlight of my last visit to The Bombay Canteen. Seems fitting on occasion of Makar Sankranti, known as Lohri, Maghi, Bihu, or Pongal – depending on the state/region you’re living in. 

Background

Makar Sankranti is the Indian festival that celebrates the migration of the sun in to the zodiac constellation of Capricorn [Makar]. This festival also marks the beginning of Uttarayan, or the Northward Apparent Migration of the sun. In simple terms, it marks the transition of winter turning into spring. 
We Maharashtrians celebrate by offering each other til gul, and saying “Til gul ghya aani goad goad bola“. Meaning – “Here’s some til gul, let’s speak sweet.” The primary aim of the activity is to get people to forget past hostilities, and resolve to be better by speaking sweetly/kindly. 
Til gul is basically a fudge/candy made from sesame seeds and jaggery, that comes in a variety of forms – chikki [fudge], hard candy, soft candy, laddoos, squares, and so on. 

Ayurvedic Connotations

As far as Ayurveda is concerned, both sesame and jaggery are hot in nature, meaning they generate heat in the body. Makes sense – sesame is an oilseed and jaggery is a sweetener, meaning calorie-dense. In fact, Ayurveda also prescribes the kind of ingredients to be used – ideally black sesame, if not then the white variant, and unrefined jaggery [contains more molasses, has a deeper richer flavor] aged for at least one year. Winters can be harsh, so it makes sense to eat rich [as in fatty], heat inducing foods. 

The Til Gul Cake

Til Gul Cake at The Bombay Canteen

Pastry chef Heena Punwani [@tiffintales] is a Rockstar.  The former software engineer turned pastry chef loves drawing inspiration from local ingredients and personal anecdotes. Undoubtedly, the cake was inspired by til gul. Her desserts are marvellous to say the least, and obviously Instagrammable. 

The Til Gul Cake I had at The Bombay Canteen was composed of a Sesame sponge frosted with a jaggery and dark chocolate ganache, topped with a sesame tuile and served with a citrus custard sauce. Although it seemed dense, the sponge was pretty light, the citrus cutting through the sweetness of the jaggery. The sesame tuile was reminiscent of chikki – a peanut and jaggery fudge that Lonavala is quite popular for. 

I wasn’t sure how it would taste until I had the first bite. Mind = blown. 

My Version

Of course, that night I had planned on recreating the dessert, albeit with my own touch. Mine is a shabby chic version of what Chef Heena does at The Bombay Canteen. The Tahini based sponge I prepared wasn’t exactly light as the sponge I’d had, but it didn’t really hinder the final taste or texture. I also incorporated jaggery into the cake batter instead of simply all out brown sugar.

The cake I prepared was soaked in a jaggery syrup [I was itching to add Rum to it 😅😅], frosted with a dark chocolate ganache flavored with jaggery. Instead of the tuile, I went for a sesame and jaggery brittle [like a caramel brittle, but much better]. And for the citrus element, I use the lemon curd I had lying in my refrigerator. 

Til Gul Cake

Shabby Chic Til Gul Cake
  • Servings: 8
  • Time: 2 hour, 30 mins + chilling
  • Difficulty: Medium

Ingredients

a) Sponge

  • 100g butter
  • 100g tahini*
  • 50g jaggery powder*
  • 50g Demerara/brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 5mL vanilla extract
  • 80g flour
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 50mL milk

b) Ganache

  • 250g dark chocolate
  • 150mL heavy cream
  • 30g jaggery powder
  • 10g butter

c) Syrup

  • 30g jaggery powder
  • warm water, as required

d) Brittle

  • 80g jaggery powder
  • 10g black sesame seeds
  • 10g white sesame seeds

e) Lemon Curd

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 80g castor sugar
  • 5mL vanilla extract
  • 100mL lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 20g butter

Procedure

a) Pre-preparation

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
  2. Grease and line a 7” round tin with butter paper.
  3. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder, and set aside.
  4. Toast the sesame seeds separately, and set aside.
  5. In a bowl, add warm water and stir in the jaggery powder for the syrup.
  6. Chop the dark chocolate and set aside.

b) Preparation

i) For the Sponge

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the butter, tahini, jaggery powder and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. Crack in the eggs one at a time, whisk until properly mixed. Add the vanilla extract, and whisk again.
  3. Fold in the sifted flour mixture. Mix well until combined.
  4. Add to the lined tin, and bake at 180C for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

ii) For the Ganache

  1. In a saucepan, add the cream. Boil it over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
  2. Add the chopped dark chocolate to the cream. Let it stand for 2-3 minutes before whisking.
  3. Whisk in the jaggery powder, followed by the butter.
  4. Cool and refrigerate this mixture until firm but spreadable.

iii) For the Brittle

  1. In a medium non-stick pan, add the jaggery powder and just enough water to soak it.
  2. Over medium heat, bring it to a boil, lightly stirring with a fork [up to 160C if you’re using a thermometer].
  3. Once it reaches a medium amber colour, switch off the heat and remove the pan. Stir in the sesame seeds.
  4. Pour the mixture over a greased parchment paper. Cool until set.

iv) For the Lemon Curd

  1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla over low heat.
  2. Stir in the lemon juice, cornstarch and zest, carefully without simmering the mixture.
  3. Once thickened, remove from heat. Stir in the butter, allow to cool completely. Refrigerate until use.

c) Assembly

  1. Once cooled completely, slice the cake. Drizzle with jaggery syrup.
  2. Frost the cake using the ganache, proceed as like you would for a regular icing cake. Sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds between every layer [optional]. Once frosted, refrigerate the cake for half an hour.
  3. Crack the brittle, place the shards on the top of the cake.

d) Finishing

A plated slice of Til Gul Cake

Once done, slice the cake into your desirable portion. Place the slice on a dessert plate with a dollop of lemon curd. Sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds if desired. Serve.

Notes

  • Tahini is a paste made from toasted sesame seeds, extensively used in Middle Eastern cuisine. It is commercially available in the market.
  • Jaggery is a cane sugar that is distinctive in its appearance due to the amount of molasses present. It is available in block and powder forms.
  • For the ganache –
    Use the best quality dark chocolate available at hand. If using a microwave, heat the heavy cream in cycles of 30 seconds.
  • I prefer my lemon curd to be gluten-free, so here it is. Imma do an extensive recipe soon.
  • If you’re being lazy to prepare the brittle, simply buy chikki, and place shards on the cake.
  • I love black sesame. So if possible, substitute black sesame everywhere. [I used the white variant simply for the color contrast.]

What Wine to Pair with?

A dessert wine, or a fortified wine like Sherry.

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