Jordan: This is a good cake.
Kitra: I’d make this again on a non-Cake Day. It was so easy, so low stress, and so damn good.
One of the best effort-to-outcome ratios we’ve ever had for sure.
This all started with honey powder that we picked up on trip to New York over 2 years ago. As soon as we saw it, a pistachio cake with honey frosting was the goal.
Like baklava, but in cake form and without having to wrestle phyllo dough. The cake has a great pistachio flavor, nutty and not too sweet.
The frosting is so delightful, I’d like to put it on everything. The topping adds just the right baklava flair (and more pistachios!).
Honestly, we don’t know what else to say about this cake. We ate it in total silence: no critique, no chit chat. Just cake.
Honey Pistachio Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
This frosting uses honey powder, which is essentially just dehydrated honey. We bought ours at Kalustyan’s in New York, but you can also order it online or check at specialty food stores near you. If you don’t want to seek it out, feel free to try one of the many honey buttercreams on the internet. Stella Parks’s Honey Italian Buttercream is probably great, albeit a bit more complicated than a standard buttercream.
We used a food processor for the cake itself, but you can also make this with a stand or handheld electric mixer and it won’t add much time to the process. We thought of it too late, but in the directions below we have you make the frosting in food processor before the cake so you only have to wash it once. We did our frosting in a mixer, but no one likes extra dishes.
Pistachios should be roasted, shelled, and unsalted in both the cake and the topping. If you want a fun green color and a boring task to entertain yourself, you could probably blanch the pistachios before using. If using a mixer, you’ll need to find pistachio meal instead; use 140g rather than trying to measure by volume.
Feel free to add some spices to the cake batter to really emphasize the baklava flavor. A bit of cinnamon and/or cardamom would be great here.
- 1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup (70g) honey powder
- 1 cup (120g) powdered sugar
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (140g) pistachios (see note)
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 10 tablespoons (5 oz.) unsalted butter, cold is fine if using a food processor, softened if using a mixer
- 3 eggs
- ¼ cup milk
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- Slightly heaped 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons (115g) flour
- ½ cup (60g) pistachios
- 2 ½ tablespoons (50g) honey
- 2 tablespoons water
- pinch of salt
In a food processor: Add all frosting ingredients to the bowl of your food processor. Process until thick and fluffy, scraping down as necessary. Transfer to a separate bowl and scrape/wipe out the food processor as best as possible, but no need to wash.
With a mixer: Beat the butter on its own until it is soft. Sift in the honey powder and powdered sugar and mix to combine. Add the vanilla extract and beat until the frosting is thick and fluffy. Transfer frosting to a separate bowl and scrape/wipe out the mixer bowl and beater as best as possible, but no need to wash.
Preheat oven to 325°. Line the bottom of an 8-inch cake pan with parchment paper, then butter or spray the sides of the pan.
In a food processor: Add the pistachios, sugar, and salt and process until they are a very fine powder. Chunk up the butter, add it to the mix, and process until it becomes smooth and soft. Add eggs one at a time, blending in between and scraping the bowl down if need be, then blend in the milk and extracts. Add baking powder and blend again. Add the flour and pulse until everything is just combined.
With a mixer: Beat the softened butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating in between each, then add milk and extracts and beat to combine. Mix in salt and baking powder. Add flour and mix until just combined.
Both methods: Spread the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Move to a wire rack to cool.
Topping & Assembly
Once the cake has cooled fully, make the pistachio topping. Combine pistachios, honey, salt, and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, until the liquid is slightly thickened and everything smells great. Remove from heat and allow to cool while you assemble the rest of the cake.
Carefully divide the cake into two layers. Spread frosting gently on top of the bottom layer, going all the way to the edges. Replace the top layer.
Once the pistachio glaze has cooled enough to no longer be runny, use a spoon to scoop the pistachios out and place them on top of the cake. Drizzle the remaining liquid over top. Serve.