Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich
It was the result of furious experimentation, this rustic yet luscious pistachio-coconut cake topped with cherries. It was 2012, and Israeli chefs Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich were preparing to open Honey & Co., a cozy London eatery that has since spawned a small empire dedicated to their modern rethinking of Middle Eastern food.
They wanted a showstopper dessert as comforting as it was representative of their heritage. And when Packer emerged from the kitchen with her cake—something to “make people stare,” she says—they knew they had their winner. And it’s been on Honey & Co.’s menu ever since.
The recipe draws inspiration from the canon of classic Levantine desserts: gleaming trays of baklava, syrup-soaked semolina-coconut basbousa, and the fruit- or nut-filled shortbreads known as ma’amoul.
Cherrypicking the best elements from each, Packer combined shredded coconut with ground pistachios and almonds to give the cake its tender crumb. “When you use almonds, you don’t need syrup to keep the cake moist,” she says. A dash of mahleb—a powerful aromatic spice derived from cherry pits that finds its way into both sweet and savory Honey & Co. dishes— enhances the rich marzipan notes of the almonds.
But what truly elevates this treat is the scattering of cherries on top. Here, Packer skips the manicured look of French patisserie, instead channeling the enticing tumult of Israel’s markets, where heaps of gleaming fruits, nuts and sweets seduce passersby. “We wanted these cakes to look like abundance,” she says.
“We wanted these cakes to look like abundance."
Before baking, she simply tears pitted fresh cherries directly over the cake, scattering the pieces and letting the vibrant juice soak into the batter. “The splashes of color, it just looks very natural,” she says.