This slightly dense but still light, moist lemon pistachio cake is flavored with ground pistachios, fresh lemon juice and fragrant olive oil. Use a high-quality olive oil and you'll be rewarded with a subtle but nuanced flavor of fruity olive oil. This is an easy, no-mixer-required cake that has an elegant feel to it. The cake can stand on it's own, but is extra delicious served with some very lightly sweetened whipped cream on top.
What is an olive oil cake?
Olive oil cakes are a Mediterranean specialty. Using olive oil as the fat in a cake adds incredible moisture that keeps the cake moist for days.
Olive oil cakes and especially this lemon pistachio cake are also incredibly easy to make. Wet ingredients are mixed in one bowl and dry ingredients in another bowl and then the two are combined to form the luscious cake batter.
Traditionally olive oil cakes are served with a drizzle of olive oil and maybe some fruit on the side. They are not cloyingly sweet and depending on the olive oil that is used can have a slightly fruity flavor. The cake won't taste of straight olive oil but just the essence of the flavors of the olive oil used.
What type of olive oil is best?
Just like cooking with wine, you always want to choose something you would want to consume on its own. Don't use a low-quality, cheap olive oil here as it's the main ingredient and the cake will only be as good as the ingredients used.
With that said, you don't have to spend a fortune on olive oil either. A good quality grocery store brand extra-vigin olive oil is more than sufficient. I like California Olive Ranch olive oil and can find it at Target or Amazon.
Other than good quality olive oil, here are a few other ingredients to highlight in this lemon pistachio cake.
- Pistachios- Ideally you want unsalted shelled pistachios like these pistachios from Amazon. To be honest, I did not have unsalted pistachios when testing this cake and instead used roasted, salted pistachios from Target. I left out the salt in the recipe when I tested it with the salted pistachios. So, if you can't find unsalted ones, go for the salted and leave out the salt. Of course, you can always shell whole pistachios yourself but that's like my least favorite task.
- Lemon juice and zest- Since you need to use the zest, it's best to use real fresh squeezed lemon juice and not the bottled stuff. The zest has natural oils in it with concentrated lemon flavor.
- Leaveners- A mix of baking powder and baking soda is used to provide some lift to the cake.
- Kosher Salt- I always use kosher salt when baking (or cooking). My favorite brand is Diamond Crystal Kosher salt. If you only have table salt, use half of what the recipe states.
- Buttermilk- Buttermilk is used for richness in this recipe. Use it for the best results. If you don't have any on hand, make your own by measuring 1 tablespoon of vinegar into a 1 cup measuring cup and then add milk (ideally whole milk but 2% works too). Let it sit for 5-10 minutes until it starts curdling.
This is an easy cake to make with no special techniques required. That said, there are 2 pieces of equipment that you will need for this lemon pistachio cake.
- Food processor or high-powdered blender- To add the pistachio flavor to the cake, ground pistachios are used. One of my most frequently used pieces of kitchen equipment aside from my Kitchen Aid stand mixer is my Cuisinart 14 cup food processor. I've had mine for over 15 years and have only had to replace the top lid once. It's a high powered food processor that will grind down the pistachios to a fine consistency. If you don't have a food processor, a high powdered blender like a Ninja or Vitamix can be used instead.
- 9-inch springform pan- This lemon pistachio cake is a tall cake with a good amount of batter. A regular 9 inch pan will be too short and will overflow while baking. A 9-inch springform pan is what you need to bake this in. I use my springform pan so often for the many cheesecakes I make, so if you don't have one yet, don't fear that you won't ever use this type of pan. The pan has higher sides that will hold all the batter. If you don't have one, then use a 9-inch cake pan and just don't use all the batter. It shouldn't be more than ⅔'s full of batter.
If you use a 9 inch cake pan with all the batter, it will overflow and you will not like me anymore :-). A 9 inch springform pan has higher sides to hold all the batter for this cake. If you don't have one, you can use the 9 inch cake pan but you will need to hold back some of the batter. Don't fill the pan more than ⅔'s full.
I highly recommend buttermilk for this cake. If you don't have any, measure 1 tablespoon of vinegar into a 1 cup measuring cup and then fill it to the top with milk. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes to start curdling.
How to store the cake
Because of the olive oil, the cake will stay moist for many days. If you've topped it with whipped cream, store it covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Without the whipped cream on top, it can be stored on the counter, covered, for up to 3 days. If it's not eaten at the end of 3 days, then store it in the refrigerator.
It's best served with the whipped cream, but you can serve it on the side instead of on top like in the pictures if you plan to store the cake for later.
For more easy cake recipes, check out:
- White Chocolate Raspberry Bundt Cake
- Chocolate Loaf Cake with Pomegranate Glaze
- Chai Cake with Chai Cream Cheese Frosting
- Chocolate Sheet Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream
Tag me on Instagram @themarblekitchenblog if you make this and leave a star rating and comment below! Thank you and enjoy!
Lemon Pistachio Cake
- 2 cups (240 grams) all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup finely ground pistachios (a heaping ½ cup shelled whole pistachios)
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 ¾ cup sugar
- 3 large eggs
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice from about 1 ½ lemons
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest from 1 lemon
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper and spray the sides with baking spray.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, ground pistachios, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, lemon juice, lemon zest, buttermilk, olive oil and vanilla until combined.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir together until just combined without over mixing.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick comes out with moist crumbs.
- Let the cake cool in the pan. Once cooled, run a sharp knife around the edges and then remove the ring of the springform pan. Either top the cake with the whipped cream or serve it on the side. Top with more lemon zest and pistachios if desired.
- Place the heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl. Beat until medium peaks form.
- To make your own buttermilk, measure one tablespoon of vinegar into a 1 cup measuring cup and fill it to the top with whole or 2% milk. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes to start to curdle before using.