Chocolate Pound Cake with Pistachio Buttercream

We agreed, ‘No Gifts’ this year. I still traipsed through the shops looking for something small to commemorate the occasion. Nine years, is nine years I thought, it has weight and merit. Could I find something that wouldn’t bust the budget? Something that was relevant, maybe offbeat, charming? No chance, and of course, I left it too late to do the necessary pavement pounding to find a gift for a person you know too well. Sometimes mystery is good in that regard; there is an ambivalence that makes choosing gifts easier. But being acutely aware of what they will absolutely not appreciate hampers ideas a fair bit.

I can bake though. And I can make a cake that I know will definitely tickle his taste buds. I know that he loves pistachios and that he likes dousing every single bake in cream. I could work with that, this once. Chocolate would marry perfectly with pistachios. They would contrast each other in every way; colour, flavour and texture, yet the differences would be the very thing that amalgamates it to a perfect whole. Like our nine years together. It’s a study of contrasts.

I’m yappy, he chooses his words carefully. He likes house music and eighties tunes are a nostalgia trip. I’m a rock girl at heart but been moving onto crafted, folk type music. He wears different shades of blue and I put on all colours under the sun. He’s blonde, and brightly blue eyed in the morning, I’m dark – skin, eyes, hair as well as mood until ten am. Calm and pragmatic opposing/balancing my sense of dramatics. He loves custard and I just don’t get that.

We did agree on this cake. This Chocolate Sponge Cake by Marlene Matar was first brought to our collective attention on the forum by the Hostess with the Mostess (with a mean nose for a good recipe), Sam. Thanh introduced her blog with it baked in a beautiful shaped tin, Meenakshi of Masala Art followed suit with added almonds, Jodie made it with dark sugars and it has appeared in gothic Nordicware tins, square tins, muffin tins, loaf tins and long slabs online with rum custards, berries, creme fraiche and glazes. In other words, this majestic cake is your willing servant, it does as it’s bid.

With a close, densely held crumb, you would be forgiven for thinking it would feel as heavy as it looks. Yoghurt is the magic ingredient that keeps the cake softly yielding to the pressure of a fork. With a heart pounding amount of cocoa powder only, it ensure lightness, and an intense chocolate flavour, with it’s slight bitter notes coming through and a velvety feel in the mouth. Best part is that it keeps supremely well, maturing in flavour. Mhairi, my baker pal extraordinaire, suggested a good dousing of orange syrup on the hot un-moulded cakes and it was an inspired addition, bringing out the flavour of both, bean and nut. Pistachios have an amazing delicate, perfumed flavour and are very sweet nuts. The icing makes no concession on that account, but when eaten with such a deep, rich cake, the sweetness is perfectly balanced. Also, the slight rubbliness in the icing offers textural differences that are entirely desirable. In short, I simply adore this cake in it’s entirety.

The Scotsman did douse it in cream, but this time I didn’t find that offensive to my sense of culinary balance. The kids licked their bowls or would have if I didn’t scowl hard at them. We all had multiple slices while watching Lilo and Stitch. I love the concept of the movie. A fitting cake, for the day and the movie. Love in the midst of differences.

Chocolate Pound Cake with Pistachio Buttercream

For the cake
1 cup of plain, all-purpose flour
2/3 cup good quality cocoa powder, sifted
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
170g unsalted butter, softened
1 cup plus 1/3 cup caster sugar (I used one cup only as the buttercream is quite sweet)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 + 1/2 large eggs or 2 large + one small egg as I did
2/3 cup natural runny yoghurt at room temperature
Juice of one orange
100g icing sugar

For the frosting
75 gm of pistachios
250g icing sugar
180 g butter, softened

Pre heat oven to 165 deg C

Measure the flour, cocoa, baking powder, soda and salt into a mixing bowl and whisk well to combine.
Beat the butter and sugar until light, pale and fluffy, doubling in volume. If using vanilla extract, add it now.

Add the eggs one a time, with a tablespoon of the dry ingredients, beating well to incorporate before adding the next egg.

Add the rest of the dry ingredients as well as the yoghurt and beat just until the batter is smooth and thick.

Butter and flour two 6 inch cake tins well. Divide the batter equally between the two and smooth with a palette knife.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until the cakes are risen, starts pulling away from the sides of the tin, springs up when the top is lightly pressed and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave for a couple of minutes to cool and invert onto cooling racks.

While the cake is baking, get on with the syrup. Mix the icing sugar and orange juice in a small saucepan and place on a low heat. Cook gently until the sugar is dissolved and set aside.

When the cakes are inverted, poke all over with a skewer and spoon over the syrup over both hot cakes, it will soak in immediately. Leave to cool completely.

To make the frosting, put the icing sugar and the pistachios into a food processor and process until it is as fine as you can get it.

Whisk the butter until smooth and lighter in colour. Add the nutty sugar and whisk well for 5 minutes until lightened and fluffy. If you feel the buttercream is too thick, loosen with a tablespoon or two of milk.

When the cake is completely cool, sandwich the layers with a third of the icing. Use the remaining icing to cover to the cake in a design of your choice.

This cake will keep for a week, stored in an airtight tin somewhere cool.


  • Do use the best cocoa you can afford. It’s a lot that’s used here and so the quality makes the difference. I promise you, it’s worth it! I used Dean & Deluca’s Bendcorp Dutch Process Cocoa which is reserved only for special bakes like these. Green & Blacks too, produce a good bake and is much less of a pinch on the purse.
  • This recipe has been halved from the original. If you have a 12 cup capacity (the full recipe makes around 10 cups of batter) mammoth bundt cake tin, double up the recipe for it. Ensure, that the tin is buttered and floured really well, or spray with PAM.
  • If you want to bake this quantity of cake as a plain bundt, then use a 7 cup capacity bundt tin as this batter is about 5 cups.
  • The original also contains coffee, just enough to bring out the chocolateyness further. Should you want to do this, dissolve 1 1/2 teaspoons of instant coffee powder in 10ml of hot water and add at the stage you add the vanilla, before adding the eggs. Double up for 10 cup batter.
  • Another way to go, would be to replace half of the caster sugar with a dark brown sugar of your choice. The cake will have a treacle edge if you use dark muscovado and will taste sweeter over time. Light brown soft sugar will have a toffeeish tone to it and won’t be as sweet.
  • Add the zest of an orange and half the juice if you want an orange infused version. In that case, leave out the coffee!
  • You could serve the plain cake with rum flavoured custard and berries to take it into dessert territory.

83 thoughts on “Chocolate Pound Cake with Pistachio Buttercream

  1. Sam

    Happy anniversary again. What an absolutely gorgeous looking cake Carrie, fit for a king! and I especially liked the hidden chocolate behind that beautiful gloss of pistachio.

    Now tell me, was this the cake that you offered me, and I have yet to try 😉

  2. Rushi!

    Happy Anniversary Carrie, may you be blessed with many more. I must say that it’s one stunning cake. I got my hands on this recipe some time back thanks to a good friend and I must admit that it has been one of my favourites. My mom had been bugging me to frost it but I’ve refused point blank thinking that the frosting would take the attention away from the cake. Now I have to make it for her with frosting, I love that you’ve paired it with pistachios, they really do add sparkle also I love that you can douse it with orange syrup. You made my day! 😀

    1. The Patterned Plate

      Aww thanks Rushi! I had my doubts, I will admit it, but because this cake isn’t heavy, it can take on a glaze or frosting. But there has to be balance, that’s why it’s just two layers. It could have easily been four but that would mean more frosting, and I didn’t want that. For all it’s delicacy, pistachios are strong in flavour.

      If you are going the bundt route, then a chocolate glaze would be lovely, dripping over it! Of course, you can add the zest and juice of an orange into the cake itself, to oomph it up…I mean there are SO many options! Coffee, maybe even go with some cardamom in there!

      1. Rushi!

        Now you’ve given me too many options and I’ll have to keep trying them out because I’m crazy about this cake. I made it for a few people at work and they thought I was a cake genius, he he he.

  3. NYinRome

    Haha! What a post, what a couple and what a cake!! Loved it all…very best wishes for many more happy married years and bakes!

    1. The Patterned Plate

      Hmmm, tough one 😉 I wouldn’t recommend both at the same time!
      The coffee in the original recipe is added to enhance flavour, so it won’t have a pronounced coffee taste. If you do want it that way, then add more to taste.

  4. Heather @ SugarDish(Me)

    Car. O. Line. I can’t even believe this cake. It might have been done before, but as always you made it look soooo crazy special and amazing! Your scotsman is a lucky fella. I loved this story as much as I love the addition of pistachios. You are truly talented with words. And dessert.
    On a quick, slightly different note- I moved my hosting, so Sugar Dish Me won’t appear in your reader anymore, but I would absolutely love it if you’d still find me by email, rss feed, or on facebook! The address is still the same Thanks, Carrie, for all the gorgeous recipes, friendly comments, and spectacular writing style!

    1. The Patterned Plate

      HAHAHA! Now I’ve never seen it spelt like that, but man, I had your voice in my head saying my name that way Heather! That is, err, my idea of your voice!

      OOooh you too?? I am in the midst of decoding coding! Must shoot you a mail on the subject. You will definitely see me on the other side 🙂

      In fact, done, my love!

  5. TheSpicySaffron

    Happy anniversary! Chocolate pound cake with pistachio buttercream frosting sounds so elegant. I color of the frosting looks rich and tempting.I am loving the neatly cut cake slice pointing towards me:)

  6. NickkiT

    Happy Anniversary to you both 🙂 Lovely post and what a stunning cake! I am so in love with that cake stand!

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  8. thelittleloaf

    This cake looks utterly divine. I pin and bookmark a lot of recipes that never get made but this one DEFINITELY WILL BE! Love the pistachio buttercream too – pistachio and chocolate is such an incredible combination.

    1. The Patterned Plate

      Completely agree! This cake is without a doubt in my top three chocolate cakes. It’s so versatile (birthday/dessert/plain/frosted/with custard/creme anglaise/creme fraiche/berries…you get the idea!) and deep in flavour without being OTT on the texture and weight front. Do make it, I think you would approve of it happily 🙂 And let me know for sure!

  9. Deepa

    Carrie, ever since I read this post I’ve been dreaming about this cake (and I realize how weird that sounds!). I finally made it for my mum’s birthday, with a few minor changes, and it was divine! Loads of compliments poured forth as well 🙂 This is going to be one of my ‘go to’ chocolate cakes as well. Thank you!

    1. The Patterned Plate

      Oh Deepa, that’s fantastic to hear! Its the perfect cake for a mum’s birthday 🙂 Thank you for posting feedback, much appreciated. Am pleased it hit the right notes for you. May I ask what your tweaks were? Love it when people have a different take on one thing .

      1. Deepa

        And she loved it! I had some lovely dark chocolate that I was dying to use in something so I melted about 1/3 cup of it and put it in the batter. I reduced the butter slightly to 160g. I used 1/2 cup ‘smart sugar’ which is part stevia instead of 1 cup sugar. I also used low fat vanilla yoghurt as that’s what I had in the fridge! I was too lazy to make the orange syrup so brushed the cake with kahlua instead. Sounds like a lot of changes but I don’t think they were too major really!
        Thanks again for the recipe!

        1. The Patterned Plate

          You had me kahlua!!! Adore the stuff and love that addition, as well as the melted chocolate (the fat in there would compensate for the lower butter content 🙂 ) Did you use the pistachio buttercream, or another one or leave it plain? It’s good any which way, this cake!

          1. Deepa

            Yeah that’s what I figured about the fat. In hindsight I would’ve been more generous with the kahlua maybe brushed both cut surfaces with it? More kahlua is always better than less kahlua, right? 🙂 I used the pistachio buttercream (which was half of what attracted me to the cake, but ended up adding more icing sugar which I know defeats the purpose of using stevia in the cake…..haha…… I didn’t end up getting as tall a cake as in your pics but I think that’s on account of my larger cake pan.

  10. Pingback: Sunshine and Cake | onesmallpot

    1. The Patterned Plate

      Hello! I have a Magimix food processor (chopping, slicing, grating, mincing, pulversing, juicing) and love it. For a lot of the baking stuff (breads, cakes, cookies etc) I have a Kitchen Aid Mixer and I adore that. Couldn’t be without these two. They take the work out of my hands and saves me time to boot!

  11. Meenakshi

    This come oh-so-incredibly late, but wish you and the Scotsman many many more years of happiness and love. This post was just so beautiful. Really enjoyed reading about your little couple quirks- I am into year 4 of marriage and still uncovering some! And you bake and photograph so wonderfully; it matches your writing style perfectly! And thanks for linking to me- always appreciate it! (Even though I replied ridiculously late. I end up drooling at everything on your Facebook page and skip coming here. I need to stop that.)

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  13. Lenka

    I tried the cake, the pistachio buttercream icing was absolutely amazing, I could just eat it with a spoon 😀 Don´t know where I went wrong with the cake tho, it was too dense and heavy, it was almost like a big piece of chocolate than a cake 😦 Too rich for me.. It didn´t raise much either so had to make another batch..

    1. Caroline @ The Patterned Plate

      Hi Lenka, thank you for posting. Am sorry to hear the cake didn’t turn out the way it should.
      This isn’t a light, fluffy chiffon style cake, it is closer to a pound, which means it should have even, closely set crumbs but still airy. It could be several reasons why a cake doesn’t work out. All ingredients have to be at room temperature, including the yoghurt. Raising agents like bicarb lose their vitality quite quickly and it plays a big role in this cake to counter the acidity of cocoa, so ensure it’s in date. Also, this cake does rise decently, so am perplexed by that. It could mean your oven is running a bit cool perhaps. Hope these tips help.

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