Luoyang Peony Cake: A Culinary Gem from Henan Province

Luoyang Peony Cake

Luoyang Peony Cake (洛阳牡丹饼) is a traditional snack from Luoyang, a city in Henan Province, China. Known for its rich historical background, meticulous preparation, and unique flavor, this delectable treat serves as a culinary symbol of the city. Here’s a detailed exploration of Luoyang Peony Cake, from its historical origins to its distinctive taste and nutritional benefits.

Historical Origins

The story of Luoyang Peony Cake is closely linked to Wu Zetian, China’s only female emperor of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). According to legend, during her time as a nun at Gan’ge Temple, Wu Zetian was feeling melancholic and decided to make a sweet vegetarian cake using peony petals, beans, and red dates to lift her spirits and amuse her fellow nuns.

Later, as the first and only female emperor of China, Wu Zetian continued to be fascinated by peonies and promoted their cultivation. Her fondness for peonies led her to create the “Peony Cake” as a tribute to this flower, which became a symbol of her reign and cultural legacy. Over time, the recipe and the tradition of making Peony Cake spread from the royal court to the general public, eventually becoming a celebrated local specialty in Luoyang.

Main Ingredients and Components

The primary ingredients for Luoyang Peony Cake include a variety of beans and a special peony flower paste. These ingredients are carefully selected and prepared to create a cake that is both flavorful and nutritious.

  • Red Beans (Adzuki Beans): These beans are known for their subtle sweetness and are a staple in many Chinese desserts.
  • Green Peas: Used to add a fresh and slightly earthy flavor.
  • Green Beans and Kidney Beans: These beans provide additional texture and flavor to the cake filling.
  • Peony Flower Paste: A special ingredient made from soaked and finely ground peony petals. This paste gives the cake its distinctive floral aroma.
  • White Sugar: Added to sweeten the bean paste.
  • Cooking Oil: Used to achieve the perfect texture for the cake dough.
  • Baking Powder: Helps the cake rise and achieve the desired fluffiness.

Preparation Process

The preparation of Luoyang Peony Cake involves several meticulous steps to ensure the final product meets traditional standards of quality and taste:

  1. Prepare Ingredients:
    • Bean Mixture: Beans are soaked, cooked, and then mashed into a smooth paste.
    • Peony Paste: Peony petals are soaked and ground into a fine paste mixed with sugar to create a fragrant and flavorful filling.
  2. Make the Cake Dough:
    • Cake Base: A dough is prepared using a blend of bean powders, rice flour, and baking powder. This dough forms the outer layer of the cake.
  3. Form the Cake:
    • Filling and Shaping: The bean paste is encased in the dough, which is then pressed into molds to form cakes of uniform shape and size.
  4. Bake the Cakes:
    • Baking: The cakes are baked at a temperature of 210°C to 225°C (410°F to 437°F) for approximately 11 to 12 minutes until they are golden brown and crispy on the outside.

Flavor Profile

Luoyang Peony Cake is celebrated for its distinct flavor and texture. The cake features a crispy, flaky exterior and a soft, sweet interior. The blend of bean paste and the unique peony flower paste creates a delightful taste experience:

  • Exterior: The cake’s crust is golden brown, crispy, and slightly flaky.
  • Interior: The filling is smooth and sweet, with a hint of floral aroma from the peony paste.

The combination of these textures and flavors makes Luoyang Peony Cake both satisfying and enjoyable, offering a treat that is sweet but not overly sugary.

Nutritional Value

Luoyang Peony Cake is not only delicious but also nutritious. Its ingredients offer several health benefits:

  • Protein and Fiber: Beans are a great source of plant-based protein and dietary fiber, which support muscle health and digestive function.
  • Vitamins and Minerals: Beans provide essential nutrients like iron, magnesium, and potassium, while peony flowers add antioxidants and vitamins.
  • Low in Fat: The cake’s low-fat content makes it a relatively healthy snack option compared to many other desserts.


Luoyang Peony Cake stands as a testament to the rich culinary heritage of Luoyang. With its historical roots linked to the Tang Dynasty, its intricate preparation process, and its unique flavor profile, this traditional snack offers a window into Chinese culture and cuisine. Whether you are a local resident or a visitor to Luoyang, savoring a piece of Peony Cake is a wonderful way to experience the city’s history and enjoy a delicious, nutritious treat.

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