Pistachio Cake with Lemon or Rose Water

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With the simple swap of one ingredient you can visit the flavors of Sicily or the Middle East. Pistachio cakes are found in both regions but using either lemon or rose water will teleport you to either location.

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There are a lot of pistachio cakes out in the world and I’ve tried more than my share. This is the version I make the most, as it’s the most consistent. It’s a cake that I’ve developed over time by trial and error.

Another pistachio cake I like is Martha Stewart’s, but it’s a bit finicky and tends to dry on the edges unless you watch it like a hawk. Hers uses butter and is an overnight process. Mine uses pistachio and olive oils  and can be prepped faster than your oven can pre-heat. Try both over time. Both have room on your table.


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Pistachio Cake with Lemon or Rose Water

  • Servings: 8-12
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 cup pistachio flour (finely ground pistachios)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup pistachio oil (found at many grocery stores. But if you cannot find it, replace it with olive oil in addition to the olive oil, below)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 and 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons rose water – OR – 1 tablespoon of lemon zest (from 1-2 lemons, depending on the size of the lemons)
  • Powdered sugar or whipped cream, for garnish (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 10-inch spring form cake pan with parchment paper or foil for easy removal. If you have a 9-inch spring form pan, fill it to 75%, and use the rest of the batter in muffin tins (remove muffins at the 25 or 30-minute mark)
  2. If using whole pistachios, roast raw, unsalted pistachios for 7 minutes. Let cool
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, pistachio and olive oils, milk, lemon juice, and rose water OR lemon zest. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, pistachio flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix the dry mixture into the wet mixture. Whisk until well blended
    • If using whole pistachios, process with one cup of the sugar in a food processor until very finely ground. Stop short of it becoming a paste
  4. Pour the batter into the buttered or parchment lined cake pan. Batter will be very loose
  5. Rotate pan halfway through baking time for even cooking and cover the cake with foil to avoid over browning
  6. Bake for a 70 minutes for 10″ springform pan; 60 – 65 minutes for a 9″ springform pan; or 25-30 minutes for cupcakes
    1. NOTE: This cake over-browns quickly, even though it’s not burnt. Cover with foil for the last 25 minutes. Test with a toothpick. When it comes out clean, it’s done.  Place on a rack to cool. Run a knife around the edges and place it on a plate. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or dollop with whipped cream and serve.  Alternatively, create a simple glaze with 1 cup powdered (10X) sugar, 1 tablespoon milk, water, or lemon juice if you made the lemon version. Alternatively add 1/4 teaspoon rosewater plus 1 tablespoon milk or warer to the powdered sugar if you’ve made the rose water version

Author: gregnelsoncooks

Visit weekly for original and adapted recipes as well as cooking tips to make your kitchen life easier — and more delicious! I’ll include simple, straight forward instructions along with recipes that are truly worth your time making. And, recipes that elevate the familiar and introduce you to the new and unexpected.

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