Pistachio & Rosewater Cake with Cardamom Frosting

— the dusk light, the cloud pattern,
recorded always in your heart

and the rest of the world — chaos
circling your winter boat.

– from ‘Last Ink’, Michael Ondaatje

The hot days are starting to roll across Melbourne, stretching out, settling in. The trees lining our street are heavy with new green leaves, the sky is a high blue question mark up above, dissolving at the horizon. Sweat beads across my upper lip as I bake bread in the morning. 

The rainbow YES posters in our window, and those across the windows and telephone poles of our inner-northern suburb, are starting to fade in the sunshine. I’ve been reading Quinn Eades’ ‘I can’t stop crying…’ series on The Lifted Brow and, reading it, I can’t stop crying. I think about what it means to move through the world in a guise. I think about what it means to live in a world that wants to exclude you, that tells you who you are is not good or right or the proper way of things. I think about how fucked up it all is. The kids, though, they love the jungle of rainbows and hearts that have sprung up these past few months. And so we talk about love.

The kids are obsessed with Star Wars at the moment. Over the weekend they spent a full morning following S from room to room, peppering him with questions. Where is Princess Leia from? Why does Luke drink blue milk? Is Yoda a good fighter? Why did the emperor kill Darth Vader? S answers their endless questions patiently. Sometimes the three of them will cuddle up on the couch to watch one of the movies, but despite their excitement the kids are actually too scared to watch much of it. W in particular is stricken by the prospect of bad things happening to her favourite characters, so buries her face in S’s chest as the tension mounts, waiting until one of us tells her she can open her eyes, it is all okay.

I watch my kids invent lego worlds on our sun-dappled, crumb-flecked lounge room floor, and I am overwhelmed at the privileges they have been born into. S and I will never know the fear of being parents to black children in a world that imprisons and targets and kills and insidiously undermines people of colour. Our children will have schooling and swimming lessons and Christmas presents every year. We will never have to defend our (relatively traditional) family against false charges of immorality. We will never have to choose between the risk of a leaky boat over rough seas or the mouth of a sharkOur children will never go hungry, or lack for love.

It seems that one thing we can do – that we are obliged to do – is raise our children to be compassionate and empathic. To be angry and unafraid. To be gentle and to listen. To be good allies. To be advocates. To see the world beyond their own privilege. To be good people. And we do our best, S and I, to nurture our family, to be a part of society without always adhering to its rules, to live by our values. We’re not doing a perfect job, but we are doing what we can. And there is a lot of love in our home, which is something.

It was my birthday last week, and so I baked this Pistachio & Rosewater Cake with Cardamom Frosting, because it is one of my favourite things and my birthday is the one day of the year that I get to bake something that I like best. I didn’t do anything special for my birthday, but I did do what I wanted to. And I got to be with S and with our kids, and what more can one ask for of a birthday than to spend it with the people that one loves best.

Sarah x

Pistachio & Rosewater Cake with Cardamom Frosting

Pistachio and rosewater are a classic pairing, and go together beautifully in the this simple, almost-rustic cake. If you’re going for something a little fancier (or feeding a bigger crowd), increase the cake ingredients by half again and bake in two pans, double the frosting, and you’ve got yourself a lovely layer cake!


1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup yoghurt
2 tbsps rosewater
1/2 cup olive oil
2 eggs
80 grams pistachios, shelled

60 grams butter, soft
1 cup icing sugar
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp rosewater
1 – 2 tbsps milk
2 tbsps pistachios, shelled and roughly chopped
1 tbsp edible rose petals (optional)


Preheat your oven to 180°c/350°f. Grease a 19cm round springform pan.

Using a mortar and pestle crush the pistachio nuts – you want them to be uneven in size, some bigger chunks and plenty of smaller crumbs. Set aside.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl.

In a medium-sized bowl whisk the eggs together with the sugar until light and fluffy. Stir through the yoghurt, rosewater and oil until thoroughly combined.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just combined. Stir through the pistachios and transfer to the pre-greased pan. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Leave for about ten minutes to cool in the pan, then turn out onto a rack and let cool completely.

When the cake is cooled and ready to frost, prepare the frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer beat the butter until light and fluffy (or just use a regular ol’ bowl and fork!). Add the icing sugar, the cardamom and the rose water and continue to beat/fork until combined and lump-free. If needed, add the milk, a drizzle at a time – you want the frosting thick, but spreadable.

Using an offset spatula, or simple a butter knife, frost the top of the cake. Decorate with the remaining pistachios and rose petals, if using. Serve with a cup of something hot.


    1. Thanks Chez. I know what you mean – rosewater and pistachio are the most poetic of ingredients! And a great result here in Australia #lovewins 🙂

  1. I am a bit late to see this recipe but I love cardamom and would love to make it. I have a question: when you say 80g of pistachios, shelled, do you mean measure then remove shells or remove shells and then measure? I am assuming it’s the former as you would probably say 80g of shelled pistachios but wanted to confirm. This type of thing always confuses me :-).

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