This simple one-layer cake has a rich and creamy texture flavored with roasted pistachios, a generous amount of cardamom, and a thick layer of cream cheese buttercream.
It's somehow both casual and elegant, rustic and refined, as appropriate for a dinner party as it is for an afternoon snack.
"Thank you for this lovely recipe. I've baked one cake with this recipe and I'm going to make another one tomorrow ♥️ This recipe was the easiest cake recipe I've ever used!!!!" - Jenny
Why This Recipe Works
The idea for this cake came from a recipe in one of my favorite baking cookbooks, Pastry Love by Joanne Chang. The book includes a recipe for Syrian Nutmeg Cake baked atop a shortbread crust. I baked the cake a few months ago and fell in love with the idea of a cake with a tender, buttery bottom crust.
The crust makes slicing and serving the cake a piece of cake (😂) and the crispy crust and soft cake creates a delicious contrast. It's almost like eating cake served over buttery shortbread cookies.
It's not a technique you'd want to employ for a layer cake... but it's perfect for a simple one layer cake that somehow manages to be as equally suited to a dinner party as it is for a casual snacking cake.
In this pistachio cardamom version of Chang's nutmeg cake, the bottom crust is made by simply blending brown sugar, whole wheat and all purpose flours, and some melted butter, and pressing 1 cup of the mixture into the bottom of a cake pan. The rest of the butter-flour-sugar mixture forms the base of the cake batter.
I love this cake. It is amazing! It is so simple to make and the result is everything wonderful. Simple yet sophisticated, homey and comforting, yet somehow exotic. Every time I make it, it causes a reaction. My brother-in-law, who does not like cake in general and is hard to impress, raved about the cake! Everyone was surprised. My husband wants the cake to always be in the house. It’s a magic cake! Thank-you for it.- Valerie
Love the combo of pistachios and chocolate? Try these double chocolate pistachio shortbread cookies. Covered in white chocolate on one side and dark chocolate on the other, they are and nutty, crispy, salty-sweet, and so buttery they practically melt in your mouth. Or, try these tasty little pistachio chocolate chip cookies. They are soft, chewy, and a pretty chocolate-studded mint green color.
What Does This Cake Taste Like?
I love how much variety there is in the category of pastry we call "Cake". A cake can be a grand multi-layered affair or a casual snack, eaten with your fingers. They are frosted, unfrosted, filled, plain, stacked, and decorated.
Even more impressive are all the excuses we give ourselves to eat cake. All around the world, in nearly every culinary tradition, cakes are used to commemorate and celebrate every kind of event from weddings to birthdays to anniversaries, graduations, and retirements.
I am a fan of every single reason there is to bake and eat cake. There's a cake for every tastebud and every occasion. Cheers to that. 🥂
This pistachio cardamom cake is rich, creamy, and both casual and elegant
The texture is dense and incredibly moist, studded with roasted pistachios, and flavored with a hearty dose of ground cardamom. The tender crumb is accentuated with a shortbread crust and covered with a thick layer of cream cheese buttercream.
It's the kind of cake you might want to make when...
- You're hosting a dinner party
- You want to thank your kid's teacher
- It's your neighbor's birthday
- You need something to bring to bookclub
- You want to impress your coworkers
- You had a good day.
- You had a bad day.
- It's Monday. Or Tuesday. Or Wednesday. Or any day.
2 Tips for Baking the Best Pistachio Cardamom Cake
#1. Use Greek Yogurt
What makes Greek yogurt unique is a straining process that removes the whey - the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled. This straining process is what makes Greek yogurt thicker than other varieties of yogurt, with a lower water content and slightly less sugar.
In this recipe, the acidity in Greek yogurt tenderizes the cake's crumb and adds a slight tang to the flavor that helps to balance the sweetness. While this can be achieved with other varieties of plain, unsweetened yogurt, the lower water content in Greek yogurt is important to the overall chemistry of this particular cake recipe.
You can use 2% or full fat Greek yogurt, but stay away from non-fat Greek yogurt. The little bit of fat contained in the yogurt is important to the cake's overall richness and tender texture.
#2. Bake This One Layer Cake in a Pan That's at Least 3-Inches Tall
There is quite a bit of variety in the depth of round cake pans. Some can be quite shallow, with sides that are no more than 1-inch tall. Others can have sides that are 4-inches or higher.
In many layer cake recipes, where the goal is to bake several thin layers, the depth of the cake pan doesn't matter.
But, for this cake, it's important to use a cake pan that is at least 3-inches deep. The cake bakes up nice and tall and you don't want any of that delicious batter spilling out over the sides of the pan and making a mess in the bottom of your oven.
I used this 8-inch Wilton Cake Pan for this cake, which is 3-inches deep.
- Serve slices of this cake with spoonfuls of this super simple, easy-to-make cherry sauce that can be made with fresh or frozen cherries or this quick mixed berry sauce that can be made with fresh or frozen berries.
- A delicious and mild-tasting alternative to Cream Cheese Buttercream is Mascarpone Frosting.
- For a delicious pop of color, decorate this cake with candied orange slices!
- To add some fresh fruit flavor and blushing pink color, swap out the cream cheese buttercream for raspberry cream cheese buttercream.
It’s important to use an 8-inch cake pan that is at least 3 inches deep. The cake bakes up nice and tall and you don’t want any of that delicious batter spilling out over the sides of the pan and making a mess in the bottom of your oven. See the link below to the cake pan I recommend using.
Greek yogurt tenderizes this cake’s crumb and adds a slight tang to the flavor that helps to balance the sweetness. While this can be achieved with other varieties of plain, unsweetened yogurt, the lower water content in Greek yogurt is important to the overall chemistry of this particular cake recipe.
You can use 2% or full-fat Greek yogurt but stay away from non-fat Greek yogurt. The little bit of fat contained in the yogurt is important to the cake’s overall richness and tender texture.
The intensity of cardamom can vary quite a bit depending on the brand and how fresh it is. Start with 1 ¼ teaspoon cardamom then taste the batter and add more if you want a more pronounced cardamom flavor.
- 1 ¾ cup (373g) packed light brown sugar
- 1 cup (113g) whole wheat flour
- 1 cup (120g) all-purpose flour
- 2 ounces (4 tablespoons/ 57g) salted butter, melted
- 1 cup (227g) plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt (not non-fat)
- 1 cup (120g) roasted, lightly salted shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon (4g) baking powder
- 1 ¼ - 2 teaspoon ground cardamom (*See note)
- ½ teaspoon (3g) baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon (1.5g) table salt
For the Cream Cheese Buttercream:
- Heat oven to 350° F (176° C). Prepare a deep 8-inch round cake pan by coating the inside with vegetable shortening or butter. Line the bottom with parchment paper, grease the parchment paper, and then coat the inside of the pan with flour. (Here's how to prepare a cake pan so the cake won't stick.)
- Add the brown sugar, both flours, and melted butter to a bowl and stir by hand or with an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-low speed, until the mixture resembles course crumbs.
- Remove 1 cup of the crumb mixture and press it into the bottom of the cake pan in an even layer.
- Add the remaining ingredients to the mixing bowl with the rest of the crumb mixture and mix on low speed just until the batter is smooth. Scoop the batter into the cake pan, spreading evenly it over the crumb layer.
- Bake the cake in the center of the oven for 60-70 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out without any raw batter on it. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 5 minutes then gently turn it out onto a wire rack to allow it to cool completely before frosting.
Make the Cream Cheese Buttercream:
- Add all the buttercream ingredients to a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until completely smooth and fluffy - about 5 minutes. Spread the buttercream over the top of a completely cooled pistachio cardamom cake.
Unfrosted, this cake will stay fresh, tightly wrapped, at room temperature for up to 2 days. Once frosted with cream cheese buttercream, it should be refrigerated. Frosted, the cake will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1 slice (⅛th of the cake)
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 544Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 18gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 103mgSodium: 555mgCarbohydrates: 64gFiber: 2gSugar: 41gProtein: 8g