Vegetarian food blog featuring delicious and nutritious whole food recipes, creative baking and luscious chocolate.

Nigella’s Chocolate Pistachio Cake

Nigella's Chocolate Pistachio Cake

Gluten Free, Large Cakes | 6th February 2011 | By

If you like flourless chocolate cakes, you’ll love this recipe. It’s based on Nigella’s chocolate pistachio cake and it replaces the usual ground almonds for ground pistachios. It has a delightful light and smooth mousse-like texture and is topped with a slightly fruity chocolate ganache. Serve it for a birthday or celebratory party or as an elegant dessert. It works well in either situation.

Forever Nigella

As soon as I saw that this month’s Maison Cupcake’s Forever Nigella challenge had a chocolate theme, I couldn’t resist entering. How could I not? I only have one Nigella book, but its a good one, How to be a Domestic Goddess. As I hunted through it, I came across a rather decadent sounding cake – this chocolate pistachio cake. I was now in a quandary: having no special occasion to celebrate, this was quite an expensive cake for just the two of us. However, what I did have were some pistachios whose sell by date was fast approaching – the deal was sealed!

Nigella’s Chocolate Pistachio Cake

Nigella blithely states this is a simple cake to make. Well I guess it depends what you mean by simple. Melting chocolate in one bowl, beating egg whites in another and the batter in a third maybe simple, but it involves a lot of washing up. I don’t have a large enough food processor to make cakes in, so I also had to grind up the pistachios in a coffee grinder. On top of this the butter was rock hard and the house not warm enough to soften it properly, so much arm power was needed. So, actually not that simple after all.

As I have said on a number of occasions, I am almost incapable of following a recipe exactly and this time was no exception. As I lack a suitable food processor, I had to follow a different method to Nigella even before I started tinkering with the ingredients. I didn’t quite get what the lemon was about, so I didn’t use it. I also used unrefined granulated sugar rather than caster, as that’s what I had in the cupboard.

When it came to the topping, I was a bit concerned that the pistachio flavour might be overpowered if there was too much of it. As a result, I only made a third of the ganache from Nigella’s recipe. Instead of the orange blossom water, which I didn’t have anyway, I used a home made liqueur. I wanted something that wouldn’t be too strong and fruity, so I used a small amount of homemade sea buckthorn liqueur. But you can use the fruit liqueur of your choice, or the original orange blossom water.

A slice of Nigella's gluten free chocolate pistachio cake.

The Result

The cake had risen amazingly high when I took it out of the oven but like a soufflé, it quickly sank! Luckily it sank gracefully to a nice flat top. The texture was mousse like, moist, light and smooth in the mouth – not nearly as dense as it looked. The cake itself was not at all sweet, almost savoury in flavour, but the ganache added a dessert quality.  I was slightly concerned that the delicate flavour of pistachios would be lost in the rich chocolate, but no, they had a subtle but definite presence. The nuts added a slight crunch.

As for the ganache, there was just enough to form a glaze over the top. The liqueur worked well, augmenting the overall effect rather than as a flavour in its own right. I suspect orange blossom water would have been completely drowned out by the rich chocolate. But I won’t know that unless I try it.

Sometimes it’s good to celebrate, even when there’s nothing specific going on. We both very much enjoyed this cake and it will keep us going for a few days.

Other Flourless Chocolate Cakes You Might Like

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Thanks for visiting Tin and Thyme. If you make this sumptuous chocolate pistachio cake, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below or via social media. Do share photos on your preferred social media site and use the hashtag #tinandthyme, so I can spot them.

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Chocolate Pistachio Cake. PIN IT.

Nigella's Chocolate Pistachio Cake

Nigella’s Chocolate Pistachio Cake – The Recipe

Nigella's Chocolate Pistachio Cake
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5 from 1 vote

Chocolate Pistachio Cake

A light and smooth mousse-like cake with a subtle crunch and flavour of pistachios. Topped with a slightly fruity chocolate ganache. Based on Nigella's chocolate pistachio cake.
Prep Time25 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Afternoon Tea, Dessert
Cuisine: British
Keyword: birthday cake, cake, chocolate cake, dark chocolate, gluten-free, pistachios
Servings: 10 slices
Calories: 426kcal


  • 150 g dark chocolate (70%)
  • 150 g pistachios + a few extra to scatter over the top
  • 150 g granulated sugar (can substitute for caster sugar)
  • 150 g unsalted butter
  • 6 large eggs - separated
  • pinch of sea or rock salt

Chocolate Ganache

  • 50 g dark chocolate (70%)
  • 50 ml double cream
  • 2 tsp fruit liqueur of your choice


  • Melt the chocolate in a bowl placed over a pan of hot, but not boiling, water. As soon as the chocolate has melted, remove the bowl from the heat and leave to cool a little.
  • Grind the pistachios with 50g of the granulated sugar in a coffee grinder or blender until finely ground.
  • Cream the butter with another 50g of sugar until very pale. Beat in the ground pistachios.
  • Separate the eggs. Beat the egg yolks into the cream and butter mixture one by one. Stir in the melted chocolate. Don't wash the bowl, you will need it again.
  • Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt in a separate bowl until stiff. This is made easier if you have electric beaters or a food mixer. Whiske in the remaining 50g of granulated sugar. Fold this into the cake mixture one third at a time.
  • Spoon mixture into a 23 cm round silicone cake mould or lined tin. Bake for 15 minutes at 190℃ (375℉, Gas 5). Turn the oven down to 180℃ (350℉, Gas 4) and bake for a further 20-25 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Chocolate Ganache

  • Melt the dark chocolate in a bowl over hot water with the cream and fruit liqueur (I used homemade sea buckthorn liqueur). Stir together lightly with a small whisk to avoid the mixture splitting.
  • Spread on top of the cooled cake. Scatter with a few chopped pistachios.


Please note: calories and other nutritional information are per serving. They're approximate and will depend on serving size and exact ingredients used.


Calories: 426kcal | Carbohydrates: 28.4g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 33g | Saturated Fat: 15.6g | Cholesterol: 151mg | Sodium: 237mg | Potassium: 203mg | Fiber: 3.5g | Sugar: 21.3g | Calcium: 40mg | Iron: 2.9mg


  1. Sarah, Maison Cupcake

    6th February 2011 at 12:15 pm

    Mmm yummy that looks fantastic! I love chocolate and pistachio together and had totally forgotten about this cake.

    Thanks for taking part in Forever Nigella!

  2. Dom at Belleau Kitchen

    6th February 2011 at 12:44 pm

    Looks really good. I love the way you, like me and I fear most of us never follow a recipe exactly. Always turns out fabulous anyway and makes it more fun I find. X

  3. manu

    6th February 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Sounds delicious!!

  4. Jill Colonna

    6th February 2011 at 1:39 pm

    I love your description of the chocolate. I feel I’m eating it with you on screen! Absolutely adore mix of chocolate-pistachio. I honestly don’t think this will last as much as a few days! Too good.

  5. Chele

    6th February 2011 at 1:58 pm

    What a cake! And your description has my mouth watering too ;0)
    Can’t go far wrong when pistachio and chocolate gets used in the same sentance.

  6. Suelle

    6th February 2011 at 2:35 pm

    What a great looking cake! I love these mousse-like chocolate cakes cakes.

    I’m surprised you think sea buckthorn would be a more subtle flavour than orange flower water, but I guess in small amounts with other strong flavours it might be. Or maybe I’ve only had poor quality orange flower water in the past, as I find it rather insipid.

    Have you ever baked anything to showcase the sea buckthorn flavour?

  7. Janice

    6th February 2011 at 2:42 pm

    Gosh that is gorgeous. Love the green on the dark chocolate.

  8. Ananda Rajashekar

    6th February 2011 at 3:05 pm

    Oh i’m eyeing that book now and cake is gorgeous the green pistachio is brought a special zing to the cake 🙂

  9. Brownieville Girl

    6th February 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Love your tinkering with the recipe!

    I would really love a slice right now!!

  10. Louise

    6th February 2011 at 6:26 pm

    It looks divine, and I like your little amendments to the recipe 😉

  11. Choclette

    6th February 2011 at 8:32 pm

    Sarah – thanks for getting me to make some of Nigella’s chocolate recipes I haven’t yet tried.

    Dom – listening to the Food Programme earlier today and heard that the French don’t understand the English obsession with following recipes so maybe it’s not actually as much of an obsession as they think!

    Manu – it was.

    JIll – thank you. It’s made it to day 3 so far!

    Chele – I agree, although isn’t it pretty much anything and chocolate (apart from dates of course) 😉

    Suelle – thank you. What I meant to say was that I thought orange flower water would be too subtle so wanted to use something else, but not a strong liqueur like orange. And as I didn’t use much of the sea buckthorn, it was fine. This is the first time I’ve used sea buckthorn in a cake (I think) but you’re right, I should perhaps be a bit more adventurous.

    Janice – thank you. I liked the green / chocolate contrast too.

    Ananda – thank you. It’s a good book isn’t it?

    BVG – thanks. You mean to say you never tinker with a recipe 😉

    Louise – thank you

  12. freerangegirl

    6th February 2011 at 10:25 pm

    Mmmm gorgeous-I nearly baked this today – I don’t know I’d mine would have come together so well – it looks very elegant x

  13. Ann

    7th February 2011 at 12:15 am

    I wanted to give you the Stylish Blogger Award. Pick it up over at my blog. (if you want)Just want you to how much I like your blog!

  14. Les rêves d'une boulangère (Brittany)

    7th February 2011 at 12:49 am

    It looks like it’s worth all that washing up! I love the look of the moist and chocolatey but studded with nuts! Perfect. Good luck with your entry

  15. Bridgett

    7th February 2011 at 5:50 am

    What a gorgeous cake! I have had my eye on this recipe for a while but never got around to trying it. definitely worth your entry!

  16. The Caked Crusader

    7th February 2011 at 8:51 am

    Looks rich and delicious.

    “Simple” is one of my pet hates in cookery – the number of times a chef cooks something in Saturday Kitchen that requires all 4 hob rings to be used plus the oven, has another chef assisting him and then he says “this is a lovely simple dish”. Aghhhhh!

  17. Johanna GGG

    8th February 2011 at 10:20 am

    sounds delicious – but I agree with your idea of simple – if there is more than one bowl involved I get annoyed. I do have a microwave so if the butter is hard from the fridge I soften it gently in the microwave which means I have flabby arm muscles 🙂

  18. Domestic Goddess Wannabe

    8th February 2011 at 2:31 pm

    Looks great and well worth the effort! I have baked a few Nigella cakes where there are lots of mixing bowls involved and the washing bit is not much fun, I agree. At least you didn’t have to shell the pistachios!

  19. cityhippyfarmgirl

    9th February 2011 at 3:08 am

    got to love any cake that sinks gracefully 🙂
    looks lovely.

  20. Catherine

    9th February 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Home made liqueur?? Well done you, that sounds amazing! Your description of the cake has literally made me salivate. I’m going to enter the Nigella challenge this month too 🙂

  21. Edible Art

    9th February 2011 at 10:14 pm

    this cake looks amazing an the making-process doesnt seem too difficult either, thank your for the recipe (:
    im looking forward to trying this out.

  22. Choclette

    10th February 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Freerangegirl – thank you, good to know I can manage elegent occasionally – it’s not my forte!

    Ann – that’s very kind of you. Thank you very much.

    Brittany – it was worth the washing up, I just objected to the “simple” tag.

    Bridgett – well worth giving this a try. We’ll be having our last peice tonight and I shall miss it when it’s gone.

    CC – glad it’s not just me being pedantic

    Johanna – so it’s a case of creaming hard butter or having flabby arm muscles – hmmm!

    Domestic Goddess – you’re right about shelling those nuts. I’ve done it for a hazelnut cake before and it took ages.

    CityHippy – if my cake is going to sink, it usually sinks most ungracefully. I was quite happy with this one – it did it perfectly.

    Catherine – liquer sounds a bit grand – fruit soaked in sugar and vodka for a few monghts.

    Edible Art – thank you. It’s a good one.

  23. Baking Addict

    10th February 2011 at 11:07 pm

    Wow looks absolutely delicious! I love Nigella’s recipes – cant go wrong with them! I’ll have to jump on the forever Nigella bandwagon too.

  24. Choclette

    11th February 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Baking Addict – I’ve just finished the last piece and one week on, it was still very nice – yum.

  25. sophiesfoodiefiles

    12th February 2011 at 5:38 pm

    I love every recipe from Nigella!! She rocks!! this chocolate tarte looks just STUNNING & must taste FABULOUS too!

    It is gluten free too! MMMMMM,…!

  26. Choclette

    12th February 2011 at 8:35 pm

    Sophie – I think you might be a bit of a Nigella fan 😉

  27. Katie

    13th February 2011 at 3:32 pm

    Wow looks so good. I’ve never had a cake using pistachios in this way before. I love the look of the texture. Sounds fab

  28. Choclette

    13th February 2011 at 4:20 pm

    Katie – and it’s gluten free too 😉

  29. Sally - My Custard Pie

    26th February 2011 at 9:52 am

    I really like your explanation of how you got your end result. I’m great at tinkering with savoury recipes but not sweet baking ones. It’s inspired me to be braver and to make this cake (with liqueur).

  30. JaynesDen

    18th March 2013 at 1:14 pm

    This cake looks amazing. So rich.

  31. JaynesDen

    3rd April 2013 at 12:52 pm

    This cake looks delicious. Especially as I love the taste of pistachios.

  32. Anonymous

    25th May 2013 at 10:29 am

    dont you have to use flour for this recipe.

    • Choclette

      26th May 2013 at 10:16 am

      No flour needed in this recipe, the nuts and flour do the action.

  33. Herbert Appleby

    28th November 2013 at 11:22 pm

    A classy cake indeed


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