Handvo (Indian Spice Cake)
Growing up, weekend mornings consisted of an Indian breakfast, and handvo was always on the monthly rotation. As we would be waking up, the aroma of the handvo baking would fill our rooms and help us rush down the stairs to meet our parents who would have some chai waiting for us. Which as kids, it was mainly a big glass of milk with a splash of chai (and lots of sugar). We’d sit down to a family meal and indulge in a few pieces too many, always taking the crispy end pieces of handvo first! It was a great way for us to spend quality time together after a busy week at work and school.
Now that we’re adults we still love the tradition of having Indian brunches on the weekend. It’s a great way to preserve our mom’s recipes and also a nice reminder to slow down and enjoy the weekend mornings.
If you have never tried handvo before, it’s hard to accurately describe the taste and texture but here it goes. The inside is savory and moist from the addition of shredded bottle gourd (dudhi) and the outside is crispy and flavorful from the sautéed spices and brief time in the broiler. It does require a good amount of ingredients and a little prep, but well worth it!
Pairs with: Chundo (shredded pickled mango), achar, cilantro chutney and chai
Serving size: Makes one 9×13 in baking dish – leftovers also freeze well!
- 3.5 cups handvo flour (found at any Indian store)
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt
- 2 cups cups warm water (if after fermenting overnight it looks too dry gradually add 1/3 cup more water)
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1 inch knob of ginger
- 2 serrano peppers
- 1 medium bottle gourd (dudhi) lightly squeezed of excess water
- salt to taste (we use 3/4 tbsp)
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 3/4 tsp haldi
- 2 tbsp eno
- 2 tbsp sesame seeds
- 2 tbsp oil
- 3/4 tsp mustard seeds
- 1/2 tsp ajwain (carom)
- 2 dried red chilis
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- 3/4 tsp red chili powder
- 3/4 tsp hing
- Combine handvo flour, yogurt and warm water in a large bowl and mix well. Cover and let it sit out on the counter overnight to ferment.
- Pre heat oven to 350 degrees
- Shred garlic, ginger and serrano peppers (by hand or using food processor) and add to the flour mix
- Wash bottle gourd and shred, leaving skin on and add to the flour mix along with salt, sugar and haldi. Stir well to combine
- Using a small pot, heat 2 tbsp oil over medium heat and add in mustard seeds, ajwain (carom), dried red chilis and cinnamon stick until mustard seeds pop. This will start to splatter so keep a small lid nearby
- Once the mustard seeds start to pop, add in the red chili powder and hing and take off the stove
- Add eno to the flour mix and stir very well to combine. You’ll start to see the mixture form bubbles and get frothy which is what you want.
- Spray a 3 quart glass baking dish with cooking spray and pour in the flour mix. Using a spoon, drizzle the tempering mix over the batter and then sprinkle sesame seeds in an even layer.
- Put into the oven and bake for 40-55 minutes on 350 degrees. Insert a knife to check if the handvo is done, if it comes out clean you’re good to go.
- Turn on the broiler and insert handvo for 1-2 minutes to crisp the top. You MUST stand right next to the oven and watch intently because the handvo can go from perfectly crisp to a burnt mess in 30 seconds.
- Remove from the broiler and let sit to cool slightly before cutting and serving.