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Qirs agaili

Do you ever crave a food you’ve never even tried and have only seen on TV?

July 17, 2020 at 9:30 am

Do you ever crave a food you’ve never even tried and have only seen on TV? It may sound strange, but I do! I like to watch Kuwaiti dramas from time to time and I watched a pretty popular one on Netflix and all I could focus on was this cake they kept talking about. I finally caved in and looked it up and I am so glad I made it because it is absolutely delicious!

Qirs agaili is a Kuwaiti cake traditionally eaten for breakfast on Eid day with a glass of warm milk, but of course you can eat it any time of the year. What I love about this cake is it is the plain style cake made across the Middle East and enjoyed with a cup of tea or coffee. There is something comforting about these uncomplicated cakes that just takes us back to our grandparents’ houses.

The name of this cake basically describes how it looks. Qirs means disc in Arabic and the cake was traditionally made out of metal pots they would make a hole in and agaili means small agal, which is round headpiece worn by men in the Gulf to hold the ghutrah, or scarf in place. Another thing I love about this cake is that it tastes like the Gulf, with the cardamom and saffron, which many people associate with savoury foods, but are actually quite delicious in desserts. These spices, along with the fragrant rose water and nutty sesame seeds create such a lovely and unique balance of flavours, none overpowering the other.

READ: Cardamom and vanilla cupcakes with date and tahini frosting

This is a great cake to whip up for unexpected guests because we usually have the ingredients on hand, and it is all made in one bowl! Since this cake is so simple, you want to make sure it remains light and airy, so make sure you don’t skip the sifting step so that your flour is easy to incorporate, and you don’t overmix the batter. It is best to use untoasted sesame seeds to coat your cake tin because they will toast as the cake cooks and you don’t want burnt seeds! Try this out with a steaming hot cup of Arabic coffee or tea, or go the more traditional route of warm milk, and be transported to the Gulf with a single bite!


4 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

250 g sugar

10 saffron strands steeped in 5 tbsp rose water

2 tsp ground cardamom

125 ml milk

60 ml oil

240 g flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder

150 g sesame seeds

Tahini to grease tin


  1. In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer or whisk, whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the oil, milk and saffron with rose water and mix.
  2. Sift in the flour, baking powder and cardamom and fold it gently into the wet ingredients.
  3. Grease the baking tin with the tahini paste and coat with sesame seeds.
  4. Pour in the batter and bake in preheated oven at 170C for about 25 minutes, or until cooked through.
  5. Serve with a cup of warm milk, tea, or coffee and enjoy!

READ: Mabrousheh (grated jam tartlets)