I, obsessively, love all things pistachio and pomegranate, both which I grew up eating with carefree abundance. But after I moved to the east coast, they became rare indulgences because of the cost of importing them. In recent years we have started seeing more of both in supermarkets (thank you cali!) although I am still unconsolably upset I can’t get them as often as say, peanuts and oranges. Gah.
So I feel like, if you are going to use them in baking – they gotta be central. The problem is, so many other ingredients want to steal the show from this humble nut. Chocolate overwhelms, vanilla can completely mask it and other flavor additions get in the way. Most of the time when I’ve had it at restaurants or bakeries, pistachio cake just doesn’t taste like pistachio. Possibly because other stronger ingredients are added (rose water anyone?) or because the actual nut wasn’t used. (Side note: don’t get me started on those fake-green muffins sold everywhere that claim to be pistachio but are actually green effing jello.)
Enter this cake. She has, most joyfully, more pistachio than flour. She invites one guest, lemon, which serves only to subtly and sweetly complement. You will not mistake this cake for anything else but pistachio. And it’s glorious.
I made it the first time with green pistachios (because I was totally smitten with Edd Kimber’s vibrant cake photos +3 years ago) but these are awfully difficult to come by and the price is atrocious. So I made it a second time with the raw shelled variety. The second time I also found myself wanting a bit more cake-like texture so I bumped up the flour. Both are equally delicious.
I cut the original recipe in half to fit into a loaf pan and used lemon instead of orange zest, as lemon tends to complement pistachios better imo. This thus makes one short loaf, but the taste is so intense you won’t want for a taller slice.
This cake can be made either with regular pistachios or Sicilian green. You needn’t toast them before using but I am curious if that would drum up the taste a bit.
For a dense cake with more nut-like texture, use the lesser amount of flour. For a slightly fluffier cake (which liked more and found less oily overall) use the higher amount. Take a close look at the photos to see which you prefer.
The first time I made it I topped it with the glaze but skipped it the second time and found it just delightful on it’s own.