Persian Pistachio Cake (Cayk-e pesteh)

It was, of course, Cyrus who introduced the flavors of Persian cuisine into my life and passed on many of the wisdoms of Oriental food preparation to me, which he in turn picked up from his grandmother – by all accounts a masterchef of Persian cuisine. So it has been long overdue that I fused this knowledge with whatever little I may know about the sweet sides of making food.

The basic recipe is taken from Najmieh Batmanglij’s wonderful „Food of Life“ which according to Cyrus provides a good and authentic presentation of Iranian cuisine (I certainly find it most inspiring). I followed her recipe rather closely although I slightly changed and altered the order of some of the steps. In the end, (at least Cyrus assures me) I seem to have gotten one tiny step closer to whatever it is that constitutes the ideal sponge cake to him 😀

This cake should be eaten very fresh, so I prefer making it in smaller portions. The proportions below are sufficient for a 16 cm Ø cake pan.



Ingredients (serves 6 to 8):

  • 65 grams of Iranian (green) pistachio kernels
  • 65 grams of finely granulated sugar
  • 60 grams of butter (soft)
  • 2 eggs (room temperature)
  • 1/2 vanilla pod
  • zest of 1/2 orange
  • 1 tablespoon rose water
  • 125 grams of Greek yoghurt (alternatively crème fraîche)
  • tip of knife of sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon of baking powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon of baking soda
  • 130 grams of (cake) flour
  • For decoration: 1 tablespoon of green pistachios, 1 tablespoon of dried rose petals, icing sugar and 1/4 tablespoon of ground cardamon



  1. In a food processor, grind the pistachio kernels together with the sugar until finely ground.
  2. Beat the butter to a pommade (for instructions see: Bourdaloue Tart with Frangipane (Tarte Bourdaloue à la Frangipane)).
  3. With a baking spatula or a wooden spoon, fold in the pistachio and sugar mix.
  4. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites. Set aside the egg whites. Whisk the egg yolks in a separate bowl until well mixed and foamy, then fold into the butter and pistachio mixture.
  5. Cut the vanilla pod in half and scrape out the seeds with the back of the blade of a knife.
  6. Fold the vanilla seeds, the orange zest, the rose water and the yoghurt into the butter, egg and pistachio mixture.
  7. In a separate bowl, mix the salt, the baking powder, the baking soda, and the flour (passed through a fine sieve). Then fold into the dough in 2 to 3 batches until you have a smooth batter.
  8. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Then fold into the dough until you have a smooth dough.
  9. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Butter a round cake pan (Ø 16 cm). Dust with very finely granulated sugar until bottom and sides are covered with a layer of sugar crystals.
  10. Pour the dough into the pan and smooth evenly (I find the back of a tablespoon works best).
  11. Bake for approximately 25 to 30 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius (check the cake does not turn too dark or turn down the temperature). Continue baking for another 15 to 20 minutes at 160 degrees Celsius. During this time, check several time whether the cake is done: Stick, e.g., a skewer or a knitting needle into the cake; it should come out with no dough attached.
  12. Remove the mold while still warm and let cool down completely before serving.
  13. For decoration mix the icing sugar with the cardamon powder. Roughly chop the pistachios. Dust the cake with the sugar and cardamon mix and sprinkle the chopped pistachios and rose petals over the cake.


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