If you are a libertine, don’t turn from the cup of pure wine
If you are wise, take your glass in the direction of Galata
Pious one, should you see those Frankish (European) boys but once
You would never cast an eye on the houris in paradise
Everywhere is filled with paradisiacal boys and girls, Revani,
Who enters it looks no more to the highest heaven
(from The Age of Beloveds by Walter Andrews and Mehmet Kalpakli)
These lines which depict the life in Istanbul of 16th century are from a poem by Revani, an Ottoman poet, an infamous libertine who lived in late 15th and early 16th centuries. And revani the dessert is said to be named after Revani the poet. The association is not rooted in Revani’s notorious ways in entertainment or financial matters (he never gets any positive remarks on his character in biographies), but in his famous unique and novel work İşretname (Book of Wassail) which deals with anything related to Ottoman carousals: the wine, best seasons for drinking wine, wine glasses, flagons, young men serving wine, and, of course, food. E.J.W. Gibb in his colossal work on Ottoman poetry defines Revani as a “thorough-going hedonist” but not a “mystic.” In “Book of Wassail” he proves Gibb right. Revani gives a long list of delicasies in his lines and with vivid metaphors likens them to serpents (sausages), pearl (rice), or blond beauty (saffron) (see Gibb for more info on “Book of Wassail”).
Although he wrote couplet after couplet praising pleasures of food, I don’t know why particularly revani, a sponge cake, a semolina sponge cake to be accurate, soaked in syrup is named after Revani.
for the cake
2/3 cup semolina
1/3 cup flour (white)
5 eggs, separated
2/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp or less orange zest (optional)
for the syrup
2 1/2 cup water
2 1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp lemon zest (optional)
for the top
coconut flakes or
-Beat egg yolk with sugar until creamy.
-Add orange zest, semolina, and flour gradually as your mixing them all with a whisker or a mixer.
-In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until they turn into firm foam and add them into the cake.
-Grease a deep cake pan 9-10 inch in diameter.
-Pour the batter and bake in a preheated oven at 350F for approximately 30 minutes or until golden brown. Check with a knife or a toothpick to make sure the cake is done. They should come out clean.
-Meanwhile, mix sugar, water, and lemon juice + zest in a pot and bring to a boil. Then simmer on medium for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
-When revani is still in the cake pan and warm, not hot but warm, cut in into diamond shape slices or in squares.
-Pour the lukewarm syrup on top with a scoop slowly, waiting the cake to soak it in.
-Serve diamond with coconut flakes or ground pistachio on top. Revani is also good with vanilla ice cream or clotted cream on the side.