Citrus Pistachio Cake — Pound Cake on Steroids


Green Oranges

Green oranges

“On the table, with candlesticks around it, was a big white cake and a box of chocolates, and beside these a basket with a magnum of champagne peeking out of crushed ice.”

East of Eden, John Steinbeck


Before I introduce the ultimate pound cake I should explain how green oranges became this weeks obsession. Around the block from our house is a vacant lot. Mr R tells me there once was a house there. It must have been a long time ago because only the foundation, a ramshackle shed and a few trees and shrubs remain. The apples on the huge apple tree ripened early and I missed harvesting them. Across the lot a small citrus tree clings to life. It’s hugging the fence. Maybe there’s water on the other side of the property line. After I missed the apples I started keeping closer tabs on the citrus tree. I was amazed at the amount of fruit the little tree was producing. The fruit was very small, green, hard and round. At first I thought I’d found lemons that just weren’t ripening. Finally when some of the fruit began to get a touch of color and was dropping to the ground I brought one home. The exterior had a coat of dull fuzz that I scrubbed off. The fruit was a pale luminescent green inside and the juice was very bitter, but not unpleasant. I was convinced I had found a lime tree. But what I had found was a very sad orange tree with bitter fruit.

Green oranges

I’ve been making this pound cake recipe for years. It’s one on my favorite recipes. Easy to make and a buttery pleasure to eat. Often I’ll take it to a gathering as it travels and ages well. A favorite pairing is with seasonal fruit which is a natural partner for the rich Citrus Pistachio Cake. I’d choose a slice of the Citrus Pistachio Cake with fresh strawberries instead of shortcake every time.


It’s the cream cheese that is beaten in with the butter that is the key to this special cake. The addition of cream cheese adds moistness that a traditional pound cake lacks. It also keeps the citrus zest from drying out which is another plus. All that buttery goodness benefits from a touch of citrus to balance the decadence of the butter and cream cheese in the Citrus Pistachio Cake. Truly, this is Pound Cake on Steroids.

Green oranges

The original recipe includes walnuts and lemons. But any type of citrus — lemons, limes, oranges, tangerines, mandarins are fabulous in this cake. My favorite nuts to pair with the citrus are pistachios, walnuts or pecans. I’ve had plans to try pine nuts for the longest time but am stuck on pistachios. The recipe is a photocopy from long ago so I cannot offer proper attribution. I have changed the method of preparation to mixing the cream cheese into the butter before adding the sugar for a flawlessly smooth, creamy batter.

And the green oranges? I could have added more zest. My little green oranges were just as lost in my Citrus Pistachio Cake as they are in the vacant lot. However the glaze had all the tangy citrus sparkle I could ask for! I doubt that any of these moisture starved oranges will actually ripen and turn orange before they drop from the sturdy little tree but I’ll be checking in…just in case.

Cake preparation

2C all-purpose flour
2t baking powder
1t fine grain sea salt
1C unsalted butter, softened
1/2 pound/8oz cream cheese, softened
1-1/2C granulated sugar
1T citrus zest (see recipe notes above)
1t vanilla extract
4 eggs
1C chopped pistachios or walnuts or pecans
1C powdered sugar
2T citrus juice (see recipe notes above)
  1. Heat the oven 300°. Throughly grease and flour a 10 cup Bundt pan.
  2. Into a medium size bowl sift or shake through a large sieve the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer add the butter and beat until softened. With the mixer on low add the cream cheese in four additions. Beat well before adding more cream cheese. Stop and scrape down the sides and bottom of the mixer bowl. There should be no visible lumps of cream cheese in the bowl and the mixture should be thoroughly homogenized and creamy. Add the sugar, zest and vanilla. Mix until the mixture lightens in color and becomes creamy, 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing throughly after each egg. Add the dry ingredients and mix to combine with the wet ingredients. Stop to scrape down the sides and bottom of the mixer bowl. Do not over-mix. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and fold in the pistachios.
  4. Scoop the batter into prepared Bundt pan, evening out the surface of the top of the cake. Bake for 1 hour and 15-20 minutes. When done, a cake tester will come out cleanly and the cake will have pulled away from the sides of the pan and be golden brown. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then invert the cake onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.
  5. While the cake cools make the gaze by combining the powdered sugar and citrus juice, mix throughly. Once the cake has cooled drizzle the glaze across the top of the cake. Garnish the glazed cake with citrus zest if desired. Serve the cake with any remaining glaze.

Citrus Pistachio Cake

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