Exquisite Cake!

celebration! / pistachio & almond cake

Three weeks ago we married each other for the second (and probably final) time in our short romantic history. We celebrated in my parents’ garden in Hawke’s Bay, lightyears away from the greysome German February in which we first made our vows.

Instead of chugging cheap champagne from plastic cups on the sidewalk outside the Standesamt, this time we had what looked like a civilised Garden Party! And it appeared significantly more wedding-like than either of us had anticipated, thanks to practically-minded meddlers and friends with hidden talents.

A view from the trees
Image credit: Daniel Li

Up unti the day, our attentions had been almost entirely consumed by what we would feed our guests. We wanted to make all the food, from breads to sausages to cakes, making use of the bounty of summer garden produce along the way. This meant our first month home was full to the brim with culinary experiments, gardening expeditions, baking days and lively food-based discussions as we finalised the menu.

A menu in progress
Image credit: Daniel Li

Yet, in a maddening oversight, we systematically neglected to take decent pictures of all that food. But we do have a picture of the cake we made! And this is where it came from, the New Zealand Herald’s Viva magazine:

Recipe Clipping

Our friend Genny had been enthusing about this supposedly extraordinary cake at length, and had enumerated its virtues – deliciousness being at least four of them. I took a photo of the recipe clipping on her refrigerator while we were in Auckland and though I was almost sure she was guilty of exaggeration, I vowed to bake it immediately upon our return to Hawke’s Bay.

And I surprised myself by actually doing so. We omitted the raspberries as we had the blackcurrant bush in my parents’ garden to pillage, and instead of using a loaf tin, we made two 7-inch rounds, which were then sandwiched together and inexpertly decorated with improvised blackcurrant jam and a lazily whipped cream. As predicted, this excellent cake blew my mind.

Exquisite Cake!

Pistachio, almond, lemon and blackcurrants, united in crumb and vibrancy! We were convinced.

Tim and I harvested the rest of the blackcurrants soon after, during which a certain difference in our dispositions was made suddenly apparent. He (left) announced he had focussed on ‘picking efficiency’, to which I said ‘pah!’ as he spent the next hour separating berries from twigs.

Gardening personalities

Onwards we strode! We calculated we would have to septuple the cake recipe for the big party, making six layers in two large batches. Genny (of the recipe clipping) arrived a week before the event to provide much-needed assistance in this endeavour. Other family and friends, being wonderful, followed suit.

The cakes were not as tender and light as in previous un-magnified attempts – perhaps the multiplication resulted in overmixing, or our brains were too fuzzy and hands too heavy. But by that point, in the midst of kitchen chaos, we were so giddy with excitement (and rather uncomposed) that it didn’t matter, and it was, after all, delicious. There is an art to baking enormous cakes, ensuring they remain unsquished and do not fall over, which I am now moderately determined to master. I particularly enjoy the rogue capsicums hanging out in the following image, having nothing to do with the cake whatsoever.

Cake 2
Image credit: Daniel Li

We used a heavenly swiss meringue buttercream to ice the cakes, and spread homemade blackcurrant jam between each layer. I roughly followed this recipe. Then we fluffled about decorating the cake with roses, cornflowers and rosemary sprigs picked from the garden with the help of our head flowergirl, J.

Cake 3
Image credit: Daniel Li

Nothing fell over, everything edible was eaten, and so we danced!

And while we danced, it rained splendidly and I spilled so much wine on my dress. It was brilliant.


Pistachio and Almond Cake
Adapted from Viva Magazine. This is the original volume of cake, serving 12.

220g salted butter, softened
200g caster sugar
Zest of 1 lemon (reserve juice for glaze)
4 eggs
100g ground pistachio
100g ground almonds, whole or blanched
50g flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

for glaze
Zest of 1 and juice of 2 lemons
100g sugar

Preheat oven to 170C, grease and line a loaf tin or two 7-inch cake pans.

Beat butter, sugar and zest until pale and creamy. Add eggs one by one, beating until well combined.

If using whole nuts (as we did) grind pistachios and almonds first in a food processor. Whisk grounds nuts together with flour and baking powder to combine, then stir these dry ingredients gently into the butter mixture and then spoon into your pants. I mean pan.

Slide cake into preheated oven for ~50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Allow cake to cool while you make the glaze: combine zest, juice and sugar in a pot over medium heat, simmer for 8 minutes or until syrupy. Poke holes in the cooled cake and spoon or brush over the hot syrup.

As the original recipe suggests, you could serve it simply with yogurt, or you could dress it up in elaborate costume, jewelled with berries and satiny buttercream. The colour of the cake is lovely, the texture is gorgeous, and I imagine this could be adapted into excellent miniature cakelets …


  1. Jess says:

    Wonderful! The swiss meringue buttercream icing sounds incredible and it was a good idea to follow Gen’s recipe advice 🙂 The cake itself looks gorgeous too Emma, well done!

    • Emma says:

      Thanks, Stu! Greysome originated from my inaccurate translation of the German word grausam, which actually means ‘cruel’, and has nothing to do with being grey (grau) at all, though it certainly sounds grey-ish to me (!)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *