A Birthday cake - Tavsalli

As a child I often celebrated my birthday in May at my grandparent's house along with a horde of mischievous cousins and whichever aunt or uncle happened to be chaperoning us that summer (the poor things!). The party would be a riotous affair in the big, old house and the cake would be the 'tavsalli' made fresh that morning.

My birthdays were actually a sore point for me then, for the one reason that I never got to wear a "color dress" to school like the other kids who had the good sense to be born during school term (does anyone identify with this?). So these spontaneous, whimsical and often chaotic parties were an apt consolation.

I particularly remember one birthday when my aunt decided to jazz things up by decorating the cake with Gems. She ran out of the candy mid-way (the house had 7 kids; what was she thinking?) and my cake read "Hap BDay"! Even this abbreviated wish lasted for about a second after I blew the candle as we picked them out immediately!

I had several birthday parties at home of course with elaborate cakes that are attractive to a girl of that age, but those simple parties continue to be a treasured memory.


TAVSALLI (Cucumber Cake)
(serves 3-4)
2 cups grated cucumber
1 cup cream of wheat (rawa/ sooji)
3/4 cup grated jaggery
5-6 cashews, chopped
4-5 cardamoms, peeled and powdered
5-6 tbsp grated coconut (slivers of coconut would be ideal)
a pinch of salt

Roast semolina in two teaspoons of ghee over moderate heat for 2-3 minutes. Do not allow it to brown, roast only till it changes texture. Mix cucumber, jaggery, cashews, cardamom powder and salt. Break lumps of jaggery if any. Add this mixture to the wheat and mix well. Keep aside for half an hour.

Grease a deep steel container. Pour the batter into the container and steam in a cooker for 10-12 minutes (without the weight). Let cool. Insert a toothpick in the cake to see if it's done. Cut into pieces, drizzle with ghee and serve.

Alternately you can cook the cucumber-semolina mixture and then bake it in the oven till it browns on top. The cake lasts for several days if stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. It makes a great tea time snack.


* Tavsalli is named after the large cucumbers that are used to make it (taushe). Long English cucumbers that come individually wrapped in plastic work well as a substitute.
* Amount of jaggery/ sugar will vary; however tausalli is not an overly sweet cake. The flavor of the cucumber should be stronger.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Ashwini ! What a nice way to treat yourself !
I have never tasted a cucumber cake before but seeing the picture i can only imagine how delicious and satisfying they can be,cant wait to try it. The recipe seems to very simple.
Thank you for the recipe and hope you had wonderful time on your birthday.

8:55 PM  
Blogger RP said...

Belated birthday wishes ashwini! The cake looks delicious.

11:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ashwini,
You made me remember those good old days.One of my fav dishes is Tausalli......thank you sooooo much for posting this recipe....belated wishes


11:24 PM  
Blogger Ashwini said...

Hey Priya my birthday isnt today but thanks so much for your wishes.
RP & Rajini - thank you so much but this is really embarassing. I just wanted to put up the recipe and post for nostalgia sake :-)
Rajini - welcome to my blog. I am glad you like tausalli as much as I do. Let me know if you try it.

12:46 AM  
Blogger Vineela said...

Hi Ashwini,
Belated Happy Birthday Wishes to You.
My mom makes this kind of sweet with bottle gourd.The cake looks delicious.


10:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My agony continued through my adult life. I share my birthday with the Father of the Nation. Yup, always a holiday. To make it worse, it's a "dry day," too. So we just started "bringing in" my birthday instead. And I also had to suffer through calls saying "Happy Gandhi Jayanti." Bringing in my birthday became second nature and we still do it even though I don't have a school uniform to wear and it's not a "dry day" here in the US.

2:31 PM  
Blogger Ashwini said...

Vineela - wow, a cake with bottle gourd must be unique
CT - Welcome to my blog. So you know exactly what I am talking about!
Manisha - and I thought I was in a bad situation. I dont think anything can be more annoying than people calling up and saying "Happy Gandhi Jayanti" :-)

3:37 PM  
Blogger Menu Today said...

My Belated birthday wishes Ashwini.
Cucumber Cake sounds good.Thanx for
sharing your recipe.

9:59 PM  
Blogger archana said...

"Hap BDay" Ashwini, hope u enjoyed a fun time.
Very interesting recipe, havn't even heard of this before. I collect cake recipes, from all ethnic cuisine backgrounds, and you just gave me one. Thank you, will try this out soon. Sometimes i do wonder about the diversity of our cuisine, and i do realise the importance of understanding it.

12:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You truly have an uncanny way of picking just those recipes that were so ubiquitous in konkani homes many moons ago and now have been replaced by store bought so called fancy cakes. But, tausalli does take the cake if I may say so:-) It is a quintessentially a Konkani recipe I think.

12:55 AM  
Blogger Sumitha said...

Hi Ashwini,
Belated Bday wishes,Oh sorry.I have eaten the gems(words),Birthday!

5:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ashwini,

Your cake is very imaginative just like the way your photography is. Very creative indeed.

I read your first post, and thought i would tell you something. You could start blogging after a week, mine took almost a month to travel through this world.

You have a very wonderful way of writing.

Happy Birthday!!!

7:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your birthday wishes from me could be belated or in advance. I just read Priya's comment and wished you back.

7:28 AM  
Blogger Ashwini said...

MT - Thanks
Archana - I am glad you can add our Konkani specialty to your list. Considering you are such a wonderful baker I am sure you will give it a unique touch. Everytime I check a blog, I learn something new about Indian cuisine. I think it will take us years to even scratch the surface :-)
Deepa - Tausalli is very close to my heart for the reasons I mentioned. I understand the pressure to have the trendiest cakes for your child's birthday but I strongly feel we should hold on to these dishes in any way we can. As you rightly said they are quintessentially Konkani. And I loved the cake pun :-)
Sumitha - welcome to my blog. Haha thanks for your half eaten wishes!
Aparna - glad you dropped by. Thanks for all your kind words. Why did it take you one month to decide? In any case I am glad you jumped on the bandwagon :-)

1:01 PM  
Blogger Vaishali said...

Hope you had a great birthday. Tausalli looks yummmmy. As for the 'colour dress', I always got nighmares as a child that it is my birthday and it is suddenly declared a holiday. Thankfully it never happened. However, considering how important it was for me to wear a new dress to school and to proudly distribute pencils/erasers/sharpeners, I can fairly well imagine what trying times you must have gone through in your childhood. :)

4:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Same thing reg. the birthday. I winced with visceral anguish when I read your post for the same reason that my birthday was in summer break. I used to celebrate it in my maternal granny's house.

And ... a very very happy birthday. Hope you had a ball.

7:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Belated Birthday Wishes to you, Dear Ashwini! Gosh, what a delicious looking treat,looks very yumm,Never heard of this before....would love to try this soon:)

10:11 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Happy belated b'day to u.
This is a very different cake recipe. Thanx for sharing the recipe.

4:46 AM  
Blogger GourmayMasala said...

Happy belated BDay ( :) ) Ashwini! I am loving all your descriptions of traditions and traditional recipes! This is another new one for me. Keep it coming!

8:26 AM  
Blogger Tanuja said...

Belated birthday wishes Asgwini! The cake looks yummy.

11:11 AM  
Blogger lost in thoughts said...

Happy Birthday Ashwini !!
Guess I am a bit late but I know you wont mind (not blogging since a etc).

Hope you had a great birthday ! The pics look great and what a great idea of the 'ingredients plant' :).

12:39 PM  
Blogger Ashwini said...

Vaishali - you were a lucky girl werent you?
Mythili - visceral anguish?? Looks like you have been scarred for life :-) Maybe we should start a support group for children of the holidays to make up for the non distributed chocolated all through childhood
Lera, Pushpa, GM, Tanuja & Sonali -thanks y'all

1:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ashwini, what a lovely post! the cake recipe is so unusual and sounds very interesting.

My son has the same complaint that you had...his birthday is in July when school has summer break. In his school, they celebrate 1/2 birthdays specifically for children that "don't have the good sense to be born during school term"...haha...oh, I enjoyed reading your witty post!


2:16 PM  
Blogger author said...

nice recipe...but i thought tausali was baked ...i did not knwo it is a steamed dish

7:55 AM  
Blogger KA said...

Ashwini, I hope you had a great birthday. Quite an unusual cake, looks delicious!

9:24 AM  
Blogger Kitchenmate said...

Looks like I entered very late for the party! Belated b'day wishes:) one.. very interesting and good one

9:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

:-) I too have my bday on a Holiday. Oh! How I wanted to wear "color" dress and distribute sweets.

7:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Belated Happy Birthday Ashwini...

What lovely narration and pictures...
Hope U had fun..

6:20 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Belated birthday wishes Ashwini! This cake sounds absolutely fabulous and 100% Indian- am definitely going to try it out :)

Your environment friendly looking blog is a HIt too !!

10:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


12:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ashwini,
How did you get that lovely green colour in your tausalli? Whenever I use jaggery it always gives a brownish colour to the dish prepared ( my tausalli was brown even before I baked it in the oven ).


11:33 PM  
Blogger Ashwini said...

Alka - yep, we call the pumpkin version kadamb. Will try to post it sometime

Anon - I am also particular about getting a nice cumcumbery color to my tavsalli. I don't do anything special, I have always felt the jaggery here (U.S.) is not as brown as the one we get in India. I use the one which comes as a lump not cubes. It isn't dark brown and sticky. Look for the lighter colored jaggery in the grocery store. It isnt too sweet so you might need to add more. Good luck

12:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is truly an outstanding recipe...

We tried this in our apartment food festival and came first!. Thanks a lot.


9:59 AM  
Blogger Ashwini said...

Congratulations Reshmi :)

12:07 PM  

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