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 an other 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.
Two other good options are this 4-inch deep cake pan from Fat Daddio and this set of three 3-inch tall cake pans from Aunt Sharon's Kitchen.
Pistachio Cardamom Cake
This super 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.
Add even more flavor by serving slices of this cake with a spoonful of this simple cherry sauce.
- 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:
- 3 ounces (6 tbsp/ 85g) butter, at room temperature
- 6 oz (¾ cup/ 170g) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon (3g) salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 ¾ cup (200g) powdered (confectioners) sugar
- 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.
How to store this 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.
What's the best kind of cake pan to use for this cake?
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.
Can I use another kind of yogurt besides Greek yogurt in this cake?
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.
How much cardamom should you use in this cake?
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.
- 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!
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
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
Try using Emmer flour for the whole wheat and grass fed butter and take it over the top of deliciousness! Emmer flour has a beautiful taste that compliments the cardamom and pistachio flavors.
Rebecca Blackwell says
I've never used Emmer flour but now I'm dying to try it! I'm going to order some soon and play around with it. Thank you so much!
I love this cake and find 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.
Rebecca Blackwell says
Hi Valerie! I'm so happy to hear that you like this recipe! This is truly one of my all-time favorite cakes. It's been a little while since I've made it, and I'm thinking I might need to change that this week! Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment for me. I truly appreciate it! xo
I think an hour was a little long in my oven, or the fact I used a springform pan. Do you have any tips on using a springform pan for this cake? All my regular cake pans are only 2 inches.
Rebecca Blackwell says
Hmmmm.... my guess is that your springform pan is 9 or 10 inches, which means you were baking a slightly thinner cake. This could definitely cut down the bake time. I think baking it in a springform pan will work fine, but you probably need to just cut the bake time down a bit. If you try it again, check it after 45 minutes, and then every 5 minutes after that. I hope that helps! Please let me know if you have any other questions! And, if you try it again, I'd love to hear how it works for you the second time. xo
Hi Rebecca, for the cup of crumb, is that meant to be at the top or bottom of the final cake?
Rebecca Blackwell says
Hi Miranda! The crumb is pressed into the bottom of the cake pan. I know it sounds strange... normally, you would pile crumbs on top of a cake. In this case, the crumbs form this tender, delicious crust on the bottom of the cake. I hope that answers your question! Please let me know if you have any other questions and I'd love to hear what you think of this cake after you make it! xo
Thank you for this lovely recipe. I've baked one cake with this recipe and I'm going to make an other one tomorrow ♥️ This recipe was the easiest cake recipe I've ever used!!!!
Rebecca Blackwell says
Hi Jenny! I am so happy to hear that you are enjoying this recipe! One of my favorite things about this cake is that it is so quick and easy to make. That, and I'm a sucker for anything with pistachios and cardamom. 🙂 Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment for me. I truly appreciate it! xo