Friday, July 1, 2011

Ready For Dessert: Pistachio-Cardamom Cake

I wanted to bake a dessert yesterday so that I didn't show up to my first book club meeting empty handed. In my experience, it's easier to make friends when you come bearing cake. I had no time to factor in a supermarket trip, so I needed a recipe that I already had all the ingredients for. Nothing from Giada at Home fit the bill, so I moved on to Ready for Dessert. My lack of chocolate or quantities of fresh fruit limited my choices. Then, I found it. Of all the bizarre recipes in the world, the only one that I had every ingredient for was Pistachio-Cardamom Cake (pg 57). I thank Dorie and Around My French Table for stocking my pantry with pistachios (from her wonderful Beggar's Linguine) and cardamom pods, which showed up in a whole bunch of her recipes.

This is not really a great cake to make during your toddler's naptime, as it utilizes every appliance in the kitchen. Live and learn.

First, melt butter in a cake pan, then evenly distribute sugar and sliced almonds in the pan. In a food processor, pulse pistachios with flour until the nuts are finely ground. With a mortar and pestle (or, in my case, a hammer and the concrete garage floor), crush cardamom seeds. Don't worry, I put the seeds in a baggy first. It was at this point that I began to worry about presenting such an off-the-wall cake to strangers. Would I be the weird girl with bad beet and onion breath who bakes weird cakes? I shrugged it off and added the cardamom to the pistachio mixture.

In a mixer, beat butter and sugar. Add eggs, then a flour/salt/baking powder mixture, then the pistachio mixture. This is a thick batter, so you drop globs of it into the pan and then spread them out with a spoon, trying not to disturb the almonds too much.

All the nut and pod shelling made this cake pretty labor-intensive. Do you know how many cardamom pods it takes to get two teaspoons of seeds? Approximately a million.  Okay, maybe not that many. Easily twenty, though.

This cake smelled amazingly warm and spicy as it baked, and I knew as soon as I turned it out onto a plate and saw those pretty brown almonds that I would love it, even if no one else did.
You and I are going to get along just fine, Cake.
I'm happy to report that the cake was a HUGE hit at book club. Two women went back for thirds, and one took a chunk home with her and requested the recipe. I snagged one slice to bring home for Matt, but I may have accidentally eaten it for breakfast this morning. Woops.

Now that I know better, in the future I would serve it more as a breakfast or tea cake. The crumb was a little dry for dessert, but was perfect with a cup of coffee this morning. The pistachios provide more texture than flavor. The recipe calls for unsalted pistachios. I used salted anyway, because it's what I had, and I actually liked it when every now and then there would be a hit of salt in the bite. This cake is perfectly balanced--not too sweet, with exactly the right amount of cardamom.

Conclusion: Loved it. This is a new favorite.


  1. This cake looks and sounds fantastic! I'm going to have to get some almonds because everything else is luckily in stock at my place!

  2. I can see why the cake was a huge hit at the book club-it is packed with wonderful flavors. Wow.


  3. the cake is gorgeous looking ( and yummy sounding) good job whipping it up with pantry ingredients!

  4. This sounds awesome. This reminds me of toscana torta, a Swedish almond cake topped with shredded almonds. Its awesome