Pistachio Cardamom Pound Cake features a classic Middle Eastern flavor pairing — it’s an unusual and delicious cake perfect with coffee or tea.
My last pistachio cardamom pairing was in a granola, and I’ve been plotting another way to use the two flavors for a while now. Pistachio and cardamom go hand in hand in lots of recipes from India and throughout the Middle East. You’ll find the combination in ice cream, (kulfi) and rice puddings, to cakes, candies and cookies.
I used lots of fresh shelled pistachios in my pound cake, with cardamom in the batter and the glaze. I also added vanilla bean paste to round out the flavors. I keep two jars of the stuff in the cupboard at all times because I’m completely hooked on it. It’s a thick paste made with vanilla beans, and one tablespoon of the paste is equal to a whole vanilla bean. I’ve been so disappointed by those thin, dried out beans that cost $13, that I’ve switched to the paste for most recipes. It gives great flavor, and all the vanilla specks you could want.
It shouldn’t be so hard to find unsalted pistachio nuts, but it can be. Sometimes they’re stored in out of the way spots in stores, so be sure to ask if you can’t locate them. They are freshest in their shells, and it doesn’t take long to shell them because as pistachios ripen their shells pop open naturally.
I love the parrot green color of these nuts. I include both ground and chopped nuts in this cake. The ground nuts act almost like additional flour, and the chopped nuts add texture. I used a good amount of cardamom both in the cake and in the frosting, and it’s definitely assertive, but not overwhelming. I can’t get enough cardamom. Is everybody with me on this? I love the color, the floral aroma, the mellow complex flavor…I love the ground stuff and the whole pods. Cinnamon can’t even begin to compete.
I did add one drop of green food coloring, but looking back on it, I’m not sure it did anything. I wanted the cake to have a hint of color, and I was worried that the nuts alone wouldn’t do it. The choice is up to you.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup ground pistachios (see note)
- 1/2 cup chopped pistachios (plus extra for garnish)
- 1 rounded tsp ground cardamom
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1 drop (no more!) green food coloring
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- for the glaze, mix together:
- 2/3 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
- 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
- enough heavy cream for thinning
- Set oven to 350F
- Mix the first 7 dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.
- Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
- Add in the eggs, one at a time, and blend until smooth.
- Mix the buttermilk, food coloring (if using) and vanilla paste together in a bowl or measuring cup.
- Add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet to the butter and sugar. Begin and end with the dry ingredients, beating just until blended with each addition.
- Turn the batter into a buttered and floured 9x5 loaf pan. I like to line it with parchment paper with overhanging edges to make it easier to remove for glazing and slicing.
- Bake for about 55 minutes to an hour, until a toothpick comes out without raw batter clinging to it. The top will be risen and lightly golden.
- Cool for a few minutes in the pan, and then remove to a rack.
- Glaze the cake when it is almost completely cool. Dust with crushed pistachio nuts.
Notes: For the ground pistachios use a small food processor to grind the nuts into a flour-like texture. Then do another batch but leave them chunky. Save a bit to garnish the cake after glazing.
You can see I’m having a bit of a love fest with these photos. Those nuts on the cardamom and vanilla laced glaze is too much.
I hope you try this one, you won’t regret it. And you have all weekend to track down those nuts!