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

Good News!

My recipe for Pumpkin Bread with Toasted Pecans is a finalist in the #switch2Star recipe contest. I need your vote to win the contest. As an enticement, every day you vote you are entered in a drawing for a gorgeous Kitchenaid 4.5 quart stand mixer. Your support is appreciated!

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42 Responses to Citrus Pistachio Cake — Pound Cake on Steroids

  1. Congrats! I have just cast my vote… Of course, I voted for your pumpkin bread. You have a wonderful treat that makes everyone want to taste it.
    This citrus pistachio cake is a winner as well. It looks amazing, Deb! You made me want to have it for breakfast.

    • Deb says:

      Thank you Denise! Your support has brightened my day. And yes a piece of cake would make for a wonderful morning.

  2. cristina says:

    I love cakes and desserts like this that incorporate using fruits and nuts. This looks and sounds fantastic, especially with the use of cream cheese! Luv the drizzle of icing on top within the intro image. 🙂

  3. Claire says:

    Hi there, oh my I do want to try this one out! And I tried clicking on th elinks but they don’t seem to be working…… I’d love to vote for your recipe!

    • Deb says:

      Thank you Claire! I would love for you to vote! I just tried the links and they worked for me on my desktop computer using Safari as my browser. Logging on with my I-Pad is not always a success though….

  4. That poor tree! but they were well-spent on that GORGEOUS cake. I need to make it for sure. I’ve definitely had citrus-pinenut concoctions before (I think they often throw rosemary into the mix as well) but I love the ideas of pistachios. Really, I just love pistachios.

    • Deb says:

      Oh my goodness, I had not thought of rosemary with pine nuts and lemon. What a fabulous pairing of flavors! Thank you for the tasty comment Natalie!

  5. Carol Sacks says:

    Deb, I can’t wait to make this cake — all of my favorites in one gorgeous package!

  6. Ala says:

    Wonnnnderful use of these little gems! I love that you embraced them wholeheartedly in your kitchen 🙂 goodness knows I would’ve been deterred much more quickly. I’ll definitely keep this pound cake recipe on file, it sounds absolutely swell, Deb!

    • Deb says:

      I was so intrigued by the colors of the green oranges I had to give it a try. Experimenting with new ingredients, techniques and recipes is a favorite adventure of mine. Thank you for the wonderful comment Ala!

  7. Lynda says:

    I will take my cake with steroids any day. Especially this one with lime and pistachios – it looks like a slice of sunshine.

  8. Deb, you are a foster mom to all the homeless fruit in your neighborhood, and of course your readers are the beneficiaries of your kind heart. I can hardly wait to see what little fruity gem will land in a cake or cookie next. Citrus and pistachios all nestled into a buttery cake sounds like a heaven to me.

  9. Patty says:

    I enjoyed this post Deb and I just bought a new 10 cup Bundt pan..oh happy day!
    Beautiful dreamy photos..time to start baking with citrus..thanks for inspiration 🙂

  10. Deena kakaya says:

    All my senses want this cake, my tongue is tingling at the idea of green oranges and sugar x

  11. Oh how I love your foraging and willingness to use underripe oranges to benefit. That bundt pan is stunning and I’m loving that you used cream cheese and butter. Works great in my rugelach! Oh my – definitely pound cake on steroids and worthy of the exercise I would have to do after eating a piece. Another work of art my friend!

  12. What a gorgeous pound cake, Deb! I love the mix of citrus and pistachios, and the cream cheese is sure to add such a lush texture!

  13. valentina says:

    So bright, beautiful and delicious looking. What a find that tree was! Off to vote now. 🙂

  14. Gerlinde says:

    This cake on steroids would also be my first choice. It looks fabulous . There is so much wasted food these days and you transfer this green oranges into a delicious desert. Good job Deb.

  15. Jacquee says:

    Pound cake just went up a few notches! Love the flavour combination and that is one of my favorite Bundt pans (I don’t use it as often as I’d like).

    • Deb says:

      Thank you Jacquee! I adore my Bundt pan too, just need to butter and flour with care to make sure to capture those sharp angles.

  16. Deb, this cake looks so lovely. Good on you for being adventurous with found ingredients… it’s always a gamble, but the pound cake sounds like it turned out great, and you put these poor little oranges to use when they otherwise would have been wasted. The green zest is visually quite stunning!

  17. This sounds so amazing! Pistachios are one of my very favorite ingredients to bake with, and pairing them with citrus in buttery pound cake? Yes please!

  18. Your cake is beautiful and has to be delicious. When we lived in Florida, we had a sour orange tree in our yard. I think that might be what the oranges you used are…in that case they will never turn real orange and sweet. They are perfect for marmalade.

    • Deb says:

      Thank you Karen! I’m off to research sour oranges, I really have no idea what type of citrus tree I’ve found!

  19. Liren says:

    Green oranges! I love how you found use for these forgotten fruit, Deb. And I really love how you use cream cheese in this pound cake. This will be haunting me until I try it myself!

  20. mjskit says:

    Love the name of this cake. 🙂 Oh, just looking at your pictures allows me to taste this cake. WOW – it’s good!

  21. Deb, I can’t believe it. I came across this very same type of bitter green orange ~ in Abruzzo, Italy, when I was there at the end of September. Several vendors at the market in Sulmona were selling them. I had never seen or heard of them. I asked a vendor what they are called but I don’t remember the name. It sounded Japanese. At any rate, I really liked them. Lucky you to find them so close to home! I’ll bet they were delicious in this pound cake. I use the same trick as you, but instead of cream cheese I use mascarpone, or sometimes sour cream. Your cake looks heavenly and I’m sure it was.

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