Aoife Noonan: An Easter cake that transports me to Rome

The combination of pistachio and citrus in this cake is light, subtle and a match made in heaven

This week’s recipe is a gorgeous alternative to the traditional simnel cake and the overload of chocolate recipes we see at Easter. The combination of pistachio and citrus is a match made in heaven, light and subtle.

This cake is inspired by a work trip I took a few years ago. It was early spring and I was in Rome. There was a freshness in the air and the smell of strong espresso wafted through the streets.

I love using nuts in cakes, they add a beautiful moistness and act as a sort of nut flour

My research led me to experience the city’s vibrant food scene; scouring markets for bergamots, eating ricotta gelato in the sunshine and learning how to make cannoli. Cannoli, those little tube-shaped crisp pastries sold in pastry shops, filled with beautiful flavours. I remember eating a nutty green pistachio and candied orange version outside a tiny pasticceria down a hidden side street. It was magic.

I love using nuts in cakes, they add a beautiful moistness and act as a sort of nut flour. I’m using a mix of pistachios and almonds in this cake, but the flavour of the pistachios really comes through and they lend a beautiful green hue to the sponge. The absence of flour here also makes this cake gluten free.


The icing is a classic buttercream, with a little less sugar than a traditional one, scented with orange zest and juice and loosened with a little milk. While it may seem as if it is quite a substantial amount of buttercream, this is enough to give a three-layered sponge cake two coats; first, a thin crumb coat, which locks in any straggly crumbs, and a final coat, which is gorgeously white and smooth and speckled with little flecks of orange zest.

This cake, which is a perfect celebration of light spring flavours, will keep for a few days well-covered, or in an airtight container, and can also be frozen for up to a month.

Recipe: Pistachio and orange Easter cake