Pistachio Cake with Lemon, Cardamom, and Rose Water

February  1, 2015
6 Ratings
Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 50 minutes
  • Serves 10 to 12
Author Notes

This recipe was adapted slightly from Julie Powell, who adapted it from Nigel Slater, who published it in his book "The Kitchen Diaries." —Sarah Jampel

What You'll Need
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) butter, slightly softened
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon superfine sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup finely ground salted pistachios
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1 Meyer lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 teaspoon rose water
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom (1/2 teaspoon if preferred)
  • 2 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  1. Butter an 8- or 9-inch round baking pan and line it with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and the sugar until pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the ground pistachios and almond meal and mix to combine. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, and rose water and mix well.
  4. Whisk the flour and cardamom together in a small bowl. (If you have used unsalted pistachios, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt at this stage.) Then use a rubber spatula to gently fold this dry mixture into the wet butter and egg mixture. Be careful not to overmix.
  5. Transfer the mixture into the prepared cake pan, spread it out evenly, then bake for 40 minutes. Tent the top of the cake with aluminum foil and bake for another 10 minutes, or until the sides are starting to brown, a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, and the cake is no longer wet-looking or sticky. Allow the cake to cool completely in the pan for several minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  6. To make the icing, whisk together the lemon juice and confectioners' sugar. Pour this over the cooled cake, then wait for at least 30 minutes for the icing to set before slicing and serving.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Danielle Evelena Doell
    Danielle Evelena Doell
  • katy
  • Miriam Isserow
    Miriam Isserow
  • Suzie
  • Stephanie Snell
    Stephanie Snell

103 Reviews

Danielle E. June 13, 2022
I love this recipe! But, has anyone tried to make this dairy free? I’ve made with Earth Balance as a substitute and it’s worked okay. Leaves the cake a bit denser. Would love to get a nicer rise! Any recommendations? Egg whites peaked? Baking pow?
[email protected] February 19, 2022
A new favorite for 3 reasons: 1) The recipe works well with gluten free flour for those who need that 2) It is a small goodie for small households. 3) I love lemon! I make extra frosting and baste the sides of the cake with frosting while it's cooling, because the more lemon, the better.
aclincol November 8, 2020
Loved this cake. I skipped the icing, and it was still divine.
katy June 13, 2020
what is almond meal
reub June 13, 2020
synonymous with almond flour. You can buy it or make it. Google is your friend for more info.
katy June 13, 2020
So Almond meal is the same as Almond flour
Thank you for clarifying.
Miriam I. June 12, 2020
I have been making this cake as a Passover cake (without flour) since it first appeared in the NYT. It’s my signature cake!
Esther G. June 12, 2020
What do you use in place of the flour?
Miriam I. June 12, 2020
I use matza cake meal but I used less of it than the amount of flour called for in the recipe and increase the almond meal. I also don't use cardamom and rose water which I can't find Kosher for Passover.
RP June 19, 2019
Can I use pistachio flour instead of grinding the nuts? Can I use additional almond meal (or pistachio flour) instead of the all-purpose flour (I can't eat grain)? Do you think it would work with erythritol instead of sugar (I don't eat sugar)?
melissa July 30, 2018
Made this cake last night for my dad's birthday. It was excellent! Followed the recipe as was but replaced meyer with regular lemons, upped the rose water a wee bit and ground granulated sugar in a food processor to get the superfine sugar. Came out so lovely. It's even better with coffee this morning. :) Would be perfect for an afternoon tea. It's delicate so if you like a bolder flavor, I wouldn't be shy with the lemon, rose water, and/or cardamon. To decorate, I sprinkled some of the left over pistachio meal and added a thin ribbon of lemon rind. Enjoy!
pbf April 23, 2016
I never buy salted butter. I love the fresh sweet taste of unsalted butter and when I cook with it I like to be able to control how much salt I want. In a recipe that calls for salted butter I just add a bit of salt to the mix.

On a separate note, I just made this cake for the Seder last night and I substituted matzoh meal/matzoh cake meal (half and half) for the amount of flour. It tested done -- but still moist -- after 40 minutes with the sides nicely browned. I added much more Meyer lemon juice to the glaze and didn't wait for the cake to cool before adding the glaze because I wanted it to soak in a bit to make sure the cake would be moist. It cut beautifully and was a hit at the Seder. This is indeed a good recipe.
neighome April 23, 2016
Salted butter? Unsalted? What have people been using?
Suzie April 8, 2016
I made this cake for a meeting. It turned out beautifully, and everyone wanted the recipe. I am making it again for my book club. I did sprinkle toasted almonds on top and a bit of lemon zest....very pretty...I am wondering.....will this cake freeze well? Would be great to have one made up ahead of time.
Stephanie S. April 6, 2016
I have made this cake twice now, both with very tasty results.

I personally did not enjoy the texture of the purchased almond meal, so I set it through a fine mesh to get the finer bits for my cake. To me this improved its mouth feel.
Highly, highly suggest adding just a bit of blood orange juice with your lemon juice for the icing. It will produce a pink icing to compliment the green cake.
A bit of yogurt was also pretty darn good in here (about a half cup)
Thank you for the recipe, I'll be breaking it out every Easter for its spring time color scheme!
Andrea Y. February 11, 2016
This is one of those recipes that I've had saved for awhile and I want to make it but (you knew there was a big but coming), it will be expensive. Although I have a fairly well-stocked kitchen, I'll have to buy superfine sugar (I have granulated, powdered, and turbinado, but not superfine), almond meal (I have 8 kinds of flour on hand, but not almond flour), meyer lemons (I have standard lemons, but not meyer lemons), cardamom (I have probably 40 spices on hand, but not cardamom), and pistachios (I have walnuts and pecans on hand, but not pistachios). I just happen to have rose water on hand. And nuts are never cheap. I will probably spend $25 at least on this cake; more when I go to the gourmet grocery hoping they have all these not quite standard ingredients. And finely ground pistachios? I will admit that I don't have an eye for this, but is that 2 cups of whole pistachios? 1.5 cups? 4 cups? I wish it would give the measurements (especially for ground items) in weight rather than volume. As in, "6.5 oz (or grams) of pistachios, finely ground." I will probably table this recipe again because just getting the ingredients sounds too complicated today....
Chris V. February 16, 2016
Hi Andrea,
You can easily substitute regular gran. sugar for the superfine sugar (if you want to replicate the texture you can just process sugar for a few pulses in a food processor or blender), and regular lemons for Meyer lemons. You can eliminate the cardamom or replace with vanilla (not the same taste, but it will work). If getting pistachios is an issue you replace with nuts of your choice. Almond meal creates a wonderful texture in cakes so if you bake often it's good to have on hand. But at the end of the day you decide what your shopping budget is, and if you can't get key ingredients then it's your right to make something else.
Francoise V. May 8, 2020
I agree with Chris V. You do what you can. Many of the food items will be MUCH cheaper at bulk food stores and you can buy only what you need. If you are interested in baking, a lot of newer recipes have cardamom so you may want to get some at some point.
Measurements like "1 cup ground pistachios" mean that you grind the item to fill 1 cup. If it says "1 cup pistachios" you measure 1 cup whole pistachios although it may tell you to grind them in the recipe steps. Go by the ingredients list. As for metric measurements, you can buy a food scale for $15 and you'll use it all the time. So long as you don't drop it, keep it clean, and turn it off (I switch the batteries around) it should last a long time. It has lb, kg, g, oz. Another handy inexpensive thing to consider buying is a chopper. You can grind nuts, turn regular sugar into superfine sugar and more, saving you money and work. They also are maybe $15. Finally here are two links that help with food substitutions etc.

Cooking, especially baking, is supposed to be fun. Do what you can but don't put pressure on yourself. Good luck!
Francoise V. May 8, 2020
Sorry, scale has milliliters, grams, ounces.
tilo July 13, 2015
I simply loved the recipe,the flavors and texture are very unique. Everybody loved it.
MB June 26, 2015
Can I reduce the butter in this recipe and replace it with half applesauce or yogurt?
radovanovic.rade June 4, 2015
Hi! Please, can we get the rose water recipe since I cannot find to buy it here? Thanks!
pbf June 4, 2015
Rose water is very difficult to make and requires a huge amount of rose petals which have no pesticides or other chemicals on them. That is why it is so expensive for such a small bottle. However, it is also very strong so you only use a few drops of it in a recipe, so it isn't all that expensive in the long run. I suggest you try Amazon or some other web site.
Sophia H. July 2, 2015
Try ordering it on line, many Mediterranean and or finer baking supply places should have it.
JBF O. February 17, 2020
Sahadis in Brooklyn sells rose water
Amy S. May 9, 2015
This is an awesome recipe that takes kindly to modifications. I used a regular lemon and because I had lavender simple syrup on hand, substituted that for the rose water. I also added a little of the simple syrup to the glaze to intensify the lavender flavor. I put the batter in tiny springforms and just watched it carefully-- it yielded a dense yet pleasantly tender and flavorful cake that stayed just as moist the next day. Definitely going to put this in my regular baking rotation!
Sarah J. May 16, 2015
So glad you love it, Amy!
olive April 27, 2015
does anyone know is there really no baking powder in this cake? it must not rise very much? is it a very shallow cake? thanks!
Skilletlicker April 27, 2015
Yes it's shallow-ish and it's FANTASTIC!!! A very sophisticated dessert.
Ginny April 5, 2015
I made this cake today for Easter. As always, I followed the recipe to the letter. I am no novice to baking, so this is not unchartered waters. :) However, the rose water was so pronounced and the lemon on the icing was so bitter, the cake was not quite what I expected. Deeply disappointed. i wonder what went wrong.
Jennifer W. March 28, 2015
I'm new to baking you really need a standup mixer for this cake? can i use my handheld and my arm muscles? Thanks!
Karen F. March 19, 2015
Made this for a friend's birthday. So beautiful, and turned out perfect! Will wait to hear how it tasted, but it was a show stopper to present.