This moreish cake has a wonderfully soft sponge thanks to ground pistachios. The whipped milk, or ‘ermine’ frosting is an unusual, old-fashioned recipe that is silky smooth and less sweet than standard buttercream. A hint of cardamom complements the flavours of honey and pistachios, making it feel extra special.

Serves 12.  Hands-on time: 1 hour 45 mins. Cooking: 40 mins.


Pistachio sponges
250g Butter, room temperature
175g Soft light brown sugar
225g Honey, soft or runny
250g Self-raising flour
¼ tsp Salt
100ml Milk
200g Pistachios
6 medium eggs, room temperature (or 5 large eggs)

60g Plain flour
150g Caster sugar
50g Honey
375ml Milk
¼ tsp Salt
375g Butter, room temperature
3 tsp Ground cardamom (or the seeds from about 60 cardamom pods, finely ground)
A sprinkle of edible gold dust (optional)

Tip: Start the frosting in advance so that there’s plenty of time for it to cool before you construct the cake.


1.   For the frosting milk paste, put the flour, caster sugar, honey and milk into a pan and whisk to combine. Bring to a gentle boil, whisking continuously, and cook on medium heat for 2–3 minutes until thickened and the flavour of raw flour is cooked out. Scrape the mixture into a bowl or lidded container, cover, and leave to cool before placing in the fridge to cool completely.

2.  Preheat oven to 190°C/170°C fan and line two 20cm/8-inch circular tins with parchment.

3.   Reserve 25g of pistachios for decoration and finely chop the rest (175g) in a food processor or mini-chopper to the texture of coarse sand. Do not grind the nuts too finely or they will release oils and create a paste.

4.   For the sponges, using a mixer whisk the butter, sugar, and honey until pale and fluffy. This will take 5–10 minutes on high speed with the mixture being regularly scraped from the sides of the bowl. Separate the eggs and briefly whisk the yolks into the mixture, followed by the salt, ground pistachios and milk, whisking until combined.

5.   In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites to soft peaks (until they look foamy and form peaks when you lift out the whisk).

6.   Gently fold half of the flour into the batter, followed by half of the egg whites, the remaining flour and finally the remaining egg whites.

7.   Divide the mixture between the tins, level the batter with a spoon, and bake for 30 minutes at 190°C /170°C fan, lowering the temperature to 180°C/160°C fan for a further 10 minutes until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean. The cakes will be fragile while warm so leave to cool for at least 20 minutes in the tins before turning out to cool completely on a rack.

8.   Finish the frosting using a mixer. First whisk the soft butter, salt, and cardamom for 1–2 minutes until smooth and light. Then add the now solidified, cold milk paste into the butter mixture a few tablespoons at a time, whisking the mixture until no lumps remain after each addition and regularly scraping down the sides of the bowl. This will take about 10 minutes on high speed.

9.   Slice each cake in half and sandwich the layers with 1/5th of the frosting, using the remaining 2/5ths for the top and sides. Apply some of the frosting to the sides before scraping back with a pallet knife for a ‘naked cake’ look and pipe the remaining frosting in peaks on top. Alternatively, liberally spread the frosting over the sides and top, smoothing with a pallet knife or the back of a spoon for a rustic finish. Roughly chop the remaining pistachios and sprinkle on top with a little gold dust, if using.