Recipe: Moroccan M’hanncha (The Snake) Cake

Recipe: Moroccan M’hanncha (The Snake) Cake


6 oz (12 tbsp) butter, melted plus another cup for brushing phyllo dough
4 oz (1 cup) sliced almonds, toasted
4 oz (2/3 cup) granulated sugar
11 oz (2 3/4 cups) almond meal
2 oz (1/2 cup) powdered sugar
1 egg lightly beaten
1 ½ tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp orange flower water, divided
12 oz phyllo dough
1 egg yolk lightly beaten with some water
¼ cup honey


Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit with the rack in the middle. Let the phyllo dough thaw if you have not already.

Place the sliced almonds in a dry skillet over medium heat, mix often and toast until the nuts are golden fragrant, about 5 minutes. Watch carefully as the almonds can burn easily. Transfer nuts to a heat safe bowl to cool.

Pulse the toasted almonds with the granulated sugar in a food processor until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. The sugar will help prevent the nuts from turning into almond butter. Add the 6oz melted butter, almond meal, the whole egg, powdered sugar and cinnamon to the food processor, keeping almond/sugar in the bowl. Process until the mixture is well combined, scraping down the edges as needed.

Grease the 12 inch cast iron skillet with butter. Unroll the phyllo dough, place on a large clean work surface. Have the 1 cup melted butter handy. While you are working, keep the stack of unrolled phyllo dough lightly covered with a clean damp cloth or plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out. Carefully take one sheet of the phyllo dough and place it longways in front of you. Lightly brush with a layer of the melted butter. Continue to layer in this way with two more sheets, brushing butter in between each layer and on the top most layer.
Roll a golf ball sized piece of the almond mixture in your hands until you have a 1/2 inch snake. Piece the snakes together until they are long enough to fit the entire length of the stacked phyllo sheets. Place the almond snake at the edge of the phyllo dough, lay the snakes across the dough so they fit end to end. Starting at the side closest to you, roll the dough until you have a long coil. Continue to make these coils in the same way until you have enough to make a single layer in the skillet. They will resemble cinnamon buns. Place the coils in the skillet, they can and will touch.

Brush the tops of the pastries with the egg yolk wash. Bake for about 30 minutes or until crisp and golden brown. Gently heat the honey and the 1 tbsp of orange flower water, drizzle it over the pastry. Serve warm or at room temperature.

~ Marla Meridith