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Handbag cake

Orange, pistachio and almond dairy free cake

"I'll bring dessert" is something I say pretty often. Twice in the last week, in fact.

On the back of a scooter, it's quite difficult to transport a tart or any sort of round cake. You need a lot of core strength and a very steady hand. Even if I'm taking the metro, a cake is annoying to hold, and people look at you funny. Which is why I love a loaf. Into the backpack it goes, protected by its tin and ready to withstand even the worst of rush hour traffic buffeting. Ready to reveal with flourish.

My loaf of the moment is this: a moist, citrusy, nutty and fragrant cake with orange, pistachio, almond and olive oil. So moreish. It's a cobbled together version of a few of my favourite orange cake recipes - thanks are due to Nigel Slater, Claudia Roden, Honey and Co, and Orangette.

I'd decided on oranges as DS has a cold and I figure I'd take all the vitamin C I could get. I should probably admit that my first attempt was a resounding failure. As a nod towards January masochism I tried to create a dairy, gluten and sugar free cake using mostly orange juice and polenta. It was dutifully forced down by the dinner guinea pigs and met with plenty a 'it's not that bad'. But it was.

Attempt number two yielded this, which is possibly my most successful cake to date. Yippee. This recipe contains sugar. And a little flour. That's just how it is. The olive oil and whole pureed citrus fruits provide plenty of moisture, so you really don't miss the butter. Phew.

In case you're wondering, the picture below is of the tiny tester I made before baking the rest of the batter. Just to make sure I hadn't botched it again. If you're making the cake to eat at home there's no reason why you couldn't bake it in a round tin - just reduce the baking time slightly.

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Orange, pistachio and almond dairy free cake

Serves 6, takes an hour, plus an hour baking time

dessert / party / perennial / dairy free / show off / easy peasy / vegetarian / date night / baking

Orange, pistachio, almond and olive oil cake

This cake is moist and complex, so a sprinkling of icing sugar over the top is all it needs. I served mine with a dollop of thick crème fraîche for good measure. For something richer and more festive, you could add a dark chocolate ganache, which would be exceedingly decadent.

Try to use organic citrus fruits as you'll be eating the skin too.

* Orange – 1

* Lemon – 1 (or use the left over skin of one you've already juiced...)

* Plain flour – ½ cup

* Baking powder – 1 tbsp

* Salt – ½ tsp

* Eggs – 3

* Sugar - 1 1/4 cups

* Olive oil – ½ cup

* Shelled pistachio – ½ cup

* Ground almonds – 1 cup

* Icing sugar - for dusting

Place the whole orange and lemon in a medium saucepan with enough water to cover them comfortably. They'll float, that's fine. Bring to the boil and simmer for half an hour. Drain and leave the fruit to cool.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a separate bowl until thick and frothy. Add the olive oil and whisk again.

When the orange and lemon are cool enough to handle, cut each one in half. Remove any pips and central pith from the orange, and scoop out and discard the flesh from the lemon (I used the skin from a lemon I'd juiced earlier that day so I skipped this step). Place the whole orange and the lemon skin in a blender and blend to a rough pulp.

Add the egg mixture to the flour and whisk to combine. Then add the fruit pulp and mix again.

Grind the pistachios in the blender. You can use the same bowl that you did for the citrus.

Add the pistachios and almonds to the batter and stir to combine.

Pour the cake mix into a well greased and floured loaf tin. Cover the top of the tin with foil and bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for a further 15 minutes. When a toothpick comes out clean from the centre of the cake, it's done. It will be dense and moist, just as it should be.


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