Lemon Pistachio Cake, And Another Birthday


So it was my birthday two days ago. I am now closer to thirty than I am to twenty. Is that an eyeroll-worthy statement? Doesn't matter, it's true. I'm not saying I'm old, I'm just saying that I'm in a place in my life that I feel a little unprepared for.


Until relatively recently, I was always a 5-year plan sort of person. I thought I had everything worked out, present and future. And then things started deviating so much from what I had anticipated that the only way to live with everything was to let go, and accept that things will happen the way they're going to happen, not the way you want them to.


Don't get me wrong, I am in no way complaining. I think I'm just saying everything out loud to remind myself not to get caught in a web of small anxieties. And to remember that I'm a happier person for it. Things change, yes. But when they do, new things (and people) walk into your life, and make you see yourself in a different, and maybe even better way.


I am genuinely excited to see what the rest of this year holds, but I'm more than happy with simply pleasures, little joys and steady achievements. This cake is a beauty, but not in a wham bam kind of way. It's understated, comforting and just a little rough around the edges, but in the end, it can't help but be delicious – a little how I'd like my year to turn out.


Lemon and Pistachio Cake
[adapted from Huckleberry by Zoe Nathan]

For the cake:
430g/1 cups + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
450g/2 cups caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Zest of 3 lemons
Seeds from 4 cardamom pods, ground
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 eggs
200g/2 cups toasted, ground pistachios (just whizz up shelled pistachios to a powder)
200g/2 cups ground almonds
100g/3/4 cup plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

For the Lemon-Pistachio syrup:
100g/1/2 cup roasted pistachios
100g/1/2 cup caster sugar
100g/1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat your oven to 170c and grease and line a 10-inch/25-cm round cake tin.

Using a handheld whisk or stand mixer fitted with a paddle, cream the butter, sugar salt and lemon zest on medium-high speed, until it becomes fluffy and pale. This takes about 2-3 minutes.

Add the vanilla extract and eggs one at a time, beating after every egg. Stop halfway through to scrape the sides of the bowl down with a spatula. Next, add the ground pistachios, ground almonds, flour, ground cardamom and baking powder and mix on a low speed, just until all the ingredients are blended.

Scrape the batter out into the prepared cake tin, and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until a cake tester or skewer stuck into the centre comes out clean. If it begins to brown too much on top but still wobbles in the centre, cover the top loosely with foil, lower the oven temperature to 160c and add 15 minutes to the cooking time.

Cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a serving plate.

Make the syrup by combining all the ingredients in a saucepan. Simmer together for about 5 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved and the syrup has thickened slightly.

Using a thin skewer or chopstick, poke small holes through the cake. Slowly drizzle the syrup and nuts onto the cake and let it sit for about 30 minutes, so the sticky sweet syrup really gets absorbed by the cake crumb. Serve!

If you'd like to add a more heady, Middle Eastern perfume to the cake, 1 teaspoon of rose water is really nice added to the cooked syrup.