Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Pistachio-Cardamom Cake with an Almond "Crust"

I dread packing. My heart is already beating faster than it should. I made a list so that I do not forget anything even though, knowing me, I will forget something. I have clothes and shoes and toiletries splayed on the floor. Oh goodness, shoes. I always bring more shoes than I need, but somehow I always convince myself that every pair is necessary.

I'm going on a trip if you haven't noticed. I'm going on a Euro-trip: London, Amsterdam, Lucerne, the Rhine Valley, Innsbruck (Austria), Italy, France. Whew, I'm exhausted already. I leave tomorrow and I will be gone for one month. Aside from my packing nerves, I am extremely excited. FOOD, beautiful architecture, new culture, history, language, people...

As a final baking hurrah before I depart from my kitchen for a month, I made a cake. Pistachio-Cardamom Cake with a Sliced Almond "Crust". The recipe is from David Lebovitz's newest cookbook. He was inspired to make the cake when Niloufer Ichaporia King came to work with him at Chez Panisse to prepare a traditional Parsi New Year's feast. Lebovitz claims that out of all the "authentic and wonderfully aromatic Indian food" he tasted, this cake was his favorite dish (granted, she enrobed the cake in a sheet of gold leaf...).

Cardamom is my favorite spice. I love it in everything from savory to sweet (cardamom ice cream is just divine!). The spice gives off a nice sweet, feminine, sophisticated vibe, which, well, I think fits my vibe. Oddly enough, at the same time, when I think of cardamom, I imagine some older men sitting around on a hot evening, smoking and having a few drinks...?

The cake calls for whole cardamom seeds. A friend brought me back some pods from Israel so I opened the pods and crushed the seeds using a mortar and pestle. Immediately I could smell the sweet spicy seeds. Just a rough crush will suffice.

The pistachios brighten up the batter with their nice green hue. The cake would be lovely served with some fresh apricots (or you could poach them in a little water, sugar, and wine).

Pistachio-Cardamom Cake with an Almond "Crust"

makes one 9-inch (23-cm) cake; 10-12 servings (**I used a springform pan and it worked fine)

from David Lebovitz's Ready for Dessert


2 tablespoons butter (salted or unsalted, it doesn't really matter here)
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cups sliced almonds, preferably unblanched


3/4 cup shelled unsalted pistachios
1/4 cup plus 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cardamom seeds
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. To make the topping: melt 2 tablespoons butter in a 9-inch round cake pan set directly on the stovetop over low heat. Once melted, remove from the heat and let cool briefly. Sprinkle the 1 teaspoon sugar evenly over the melted butter, then add the almonds, tilting and shaking the pan to distribute them evenly. Set the pan aside.

3. To make the cake: in a blender or food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulverize the pistachios with the 1/4 cup flour until as finely ground as possible. Transfer to a small bowl.

4. Crush the cardamom seeds in a mortar and pestle or seal them inside a sturdy plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin. Add the crushed seeds to the pistachio mixture and stir to combine. Set aside.

5. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a bowl by hand), beat together the 1/2 cup butter and 1 cup sugar on medium speed until very light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until completely incorporated.

6. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 3/4 cup flour, baking powder, and salt, and stir it into the butter-egg mixture. Stir in the pistachio mixture just until combined.

7. Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan by dropping 4 or 5 mounds on top of the almonds. Carefully spread the batter into an even layer, trying not to disturb the almonds. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the sides of the cake to help it loosen from the pan. Invert the cake onto a serving plate. Let cool completely.

SERVING: This cake will keep for up to 4 days at room temperature, well wrapped. It can be frozen for up to 1 month.


  1. OMG Stephanie. This one hit home for me. I love cardamom and anything pistachio! Ooo and now you convinced me to try cardamom icecream. Have a fun trip! - Lindsay

  2. I had a box of Soan Papdi (Indian Sweet)that I wanted to use up. It was too sweet to keep eating as-is. It had a nice cardamom flavor and other good ingredients, so I thought it would make a nice cookie or cake. I found this recipe - exactly what I was looking for. I substituted the Soan Papdi for the sugar and skipped the pistachios since there were some in the sweet (and I didn't have any in my kitchen). I reduced the time to 30 minutes. What a delicious not-too-sweet simple cake!