Bake this fluffy pistachio cake from scratch and frost it with rose water frosting for a unique dessert, also known as Persian love cake.
Every celebration needs a nice dessert, and this cake is ideal because the velvety, melt-in-your-mouth texture is combined perfectly with the fluffy buttercream.
You could say that it's another type of Persian love cake, except that the almond flour is being replaced with ground pistachios.
Since pistachios, cardamom, and rose water are ingredients commonly used in the Mediterranean cuisine, this cake couldn't be missing from this blog!
So, for those of you who are wondering if you can bake with pistachios, my answer is this: A pistachio and rose cake and some pistachio cookies are probably the two best things you can bake with pistachios.
This real pistachio ice cream (no ice cream machine needed) is another great thing you can do with pistachios.
How to make this cake from scratch.
Making a pistachio cake from scratch is something that I enjoy very much, mostly because I get to see every ingredient that goes into my mixing bowl. The steps for the recipe are:
- Ground the pistachios in a food processor until they resemble almond flour. If you add some sugar and flour, they will absorb some of the oils from the nuts and will not let the mixture become pasty.
- Combine the dry ingredients with the butter in the bowl of your electric mixer.
- Combine the wet ingredients in another bowl.
- Add the wet ingredients to the bowl of your mixer in two batches while mixing.
- Bake the cakes.
- Make the rose water frosting. This maybe be a Persian love cake, but the frosting is your typical American buttercream scented with rosewater and vanilla. You can add a tiny portion of red food coloring for a beautiful pink color.
- Frost the cake and serve.
This Persian love cake recipe follows the one-bowl method. I've learned this method from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible. It produces a very light, velvety and fluffy cake with an amazingly tender crumb. You have to be very careful though, because all the ingredients must be at room temperature and the butter soft enough.
How do you enhance the pistachio flavor?
Pistachios have a very delicate flavor which is complemented by some vanilla extract and ground cardamom (you could also use a tiny bit of lemon zest and a pinch of cinnamon).
Roasting fresh pistachios helps to intensify their flavor by far. If you want to enhance the pistachio flavor more, you can add some more ground pistachios but that may have a negative effect to the texture of the cake. Your other solution is to add 2-3 drops of almond extract for extra nuttiness.
Since pistachio desserts are often correlated with green color, you can use some drops of green food coloring in order to achieve the desired hue.
Can you use salted pistachios in cake?
I will have to say no, because you can never know how much salt will go into the recipe.
If salted roasted pistachios is the only thing you have, I would advise you to rinse them very well under running water, let them drain in a sieve and bake them in the oven for 5-10 minutes until they're completely dry (this will also freshen they're aroma).
Do pistachios need to be roasted?
Yes, mainly for two reasons: Their flavor is much more better and intense, and they will also lose some moisture so they will become like flour more easily when you ground them.
Making a cake from scratch can be a time consuming job, especially nowadays when we have so much more on our plates. That's why I've kept the frosting simple, like a classic American buttercream vanilla frosting, only it is flavored with some additional rose water. You can also add a few drops of almond extract, but I don't feel it is necessary, especially if the rose water is good quality.
An even easier solution is to make a rose water glaze with two cups of icing sugar and as much rose water needed (add it drop by drop) until it reaches a pouring consistency. The rose water glaze is ideal if you want to make half the recipe in one 8-inch pan. Don't forget to add a pinch of salt to cut down the sweetness. I'm guessing you will have a lot of rose water left, so make sure to also try this no-churn Turkish delight ice cream!
If you can’t find or don’t like rose water, you can always use only vanilla extract (increase it to 3 teaspoons), or try it with some orange blossom water for a different flavor profile. Either way, it will be delicious!
For these photos I used two cakes with one layer of filling in the middle, but if you want an even more spectacular birthday pistachio cake, you can cut each cake horizontally into two layers. This way you’ll end up with four cake layers and three layers of filling.
How to bake level cakes:
This is my trick for baking a level cake: I wrap the pans with towel strips soaked in water (squeeze them lightly before wrapping the pans) and secure them with safety pins. If you have an old, worn out towel, this is the perfect use for it!
These strips (usually called cake strips) prevent the edges of the cake from baking too quickly, so the whole surface rises at the same time, thus remaining level. Of course, a good cake recipe helps too! You can see my DIY cake strips below:
(they’re not dirty, they’re just a little browned from the times they've been in the oven!). You can also buy them on line.
And here's the cake with minimum dome:
- Bring all the ingredients at room temperature. This is very important for the proper emulsification which will result in a great texture.
- If possible, weight the ingredients for better accuracy.
- If you only have large eggs, use 3 whole and one egg white.
Pistachio cake recipe with rose water frosting
For the pistachio cakes
- 3 ⅓ cups (400 grams) cake flour, sifted
- 5 teaspoons (25 grams) baking powder
- ¾ to 1 cups (90 grams) roasted pistachios, unsalted
- 2 cups (400 grams) sugar
- ¾ teaspoon fine salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 cup minus 1 heaped tablespoon (210 grams) soft butter
- 4 medium eggs (200 grams), room temperature
- 1 ¼ cups (300 grams) milk, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons (10 grams) vanilla
- 2-3 drops green food coloring, optional
For the rosewater buttercream
- 1 cup (2 sticks / 250 grams) unsalted butter, softened
- 4-5 cups (500-625 grams) confectioners (powdered) sugar, sifted (you’ll adjust this according to your preference)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2-3 tablespoons rose water (or to taste)
- 3-4 drops pink food coloring
- Some chopped pistachios for decoration
- 2 8-inch (20 cm) round pans
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C) and grease and line with baking paper two 8-inch round pans. Then, wrap them with wet cake/towel-strips.
- Ground the pistachios: In a food processor, process one cup flour, one cup sugar and the pistachios until finely ground (processing nuts with the flour and sugar prevents them from turning pasty).
- Prepare the dry ingredients: In the bowl of your electric mixer combine all of the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, pistachios, salt, baking powder, and cardamom) and mix for 10-20 seconds until well combined. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the mixture resembles wet sand.
- Make the cake: Combine the milk, the vanilla and the eggs in a jug and mix with a fork just to break down the eggs. Add about three-quarters of the wet ingredients in the bowl and beat on medium to medium-high speed for 2 minutes, scraping the bowl halfway. You will see the mixture to lighten in color and get fluffier. Add the rest of the wet ingredients and beat for another 30seconds until well combined. Add the green food coloring (if using) and mix well.
- Bake: Divide mixture into two pans and bake for 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Invert onto a rack and let the cakes cool.
- Make the buttercream: For the buttercream, beat the butter and 3 ½ cups sugar on low speed until well incorporated. Increase speed to high and beat well for 3-4 minutes until very fluffy. Add the salt, the vanilla, the food coloring, and two tablespoons rosewater and beat to incorporate. Taste the buttercream and add more sugar or rosewater to your preference, until you get the consistency you want.
- Assemble the cake: When cakes are completely cooled, frost with buttercream and decorate with chopped pistachios.
- Make sure that all of the ingredients are at room temperature and the butter very soft.
- From what I know, many products with pistachio flavor (especially ice cream) actually have almond extract as the main flavoring. This cake gets its' delicate aroma from real, roasted pistachios. Some vanilla and cardamom is used to complement the pistachio flavor. If you want a stronger flavor, you can add 3-4 drops of almond extract, but this might overpower the real pistachio taste.
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