"'The snake' is one of the best desserts in Moroccan confectionery, a treat not to be missed," writes Paula Wolfert. "It is served most often after a special dinner, with a glass of mint tea. The cake is prepared in the form of a coiled snake, and guests are invited to break off pieces the size they desire. Some cooks have taken to remaking the dish by dividing the almond paste and paper-thin pastry into individual servings. I like it in a snake form and have opted to present it that way here. The cake will keep for several days in an airtight tin stored in a cool place. You can decorate the top with chopped blanched almonds or dust with icing sugar and lines of cinnamon. The almond paste improves in flavour if made a few days in advance. The almonds are best ground when soft. Moroccan cooks boil them, then soak them in hot water for at least an hour before peeling in order to obtain the proper softness. I soften them by blanching them in a bowl of water set in the microwave for several minutes." In The Food of Morocco, Paula Wolfert gives instructions for making warqa, "the most prestigious pastry in Moroccan cuisine," and offers it as a traditional alternative to the fillo pastry used in this recipe.
Note Gum arabic, also known as mastic, is a
plant resin; it's available from Middle Eastern grocers and Greek
The Food of Morocco ($65, hbk) by Paula Wolfert is published by Bloomsbury. This recipe has been reproduced with minor GT style changes.