Spring has arrived when the daffodils are in bloom and you can step outside without needing three layers of clothing.

And so, to signify the start of spring, it seemed only right to bake a cake. For me, a spring cake is a floral one. Light, fresh, zesty, nutty and vibrant. An orange, almond and pistachio cake.

I love how much you can get out of an orange. There’s the juice that adds a moistness and sweet flavour. Then you can make an orange syrup which is sweet and sticky when poured over the cake, and finally, the zest that adds flavour and a beautiful colour on top of the white icing.

It’ll come as no surprise that I’m partial to a ground nut cake, whether it’s the classic almond, a sweet hazelnut or a rich pistachio. Ground nuts add a lightness to the cake (meaning you can have a bigger slice…win win), as well as a richer flavour. Pistachios have a depth to them and are quite savoury, so the cake is not too sweet overall.

I often find icing way too sickly (which is saying something considering my sweet tooth), but using mascarpone as the topping adds the smooth creamy texture, but with a subtle sweetness.

This cake is not only one that tastes delicious, but is a feast for the eyes, too.

The Recipe – Originally from Bake and decorate by Fiona Cairns, pg. 38

175g unsalted butter, softened
100g shelled pistachios
70g self-raising flour
1 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
200g golden caster sugar
4 eggs
70g ground almonds
2 tsp. orange blossom water

Syrup:
1 orange, juiced
45g golden caster sugar
1 tbsp. orange blossom water

Topping:
250g mascarpone
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. orange blossom water
30g golden caster sugar

– Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.
– Grease a 20cm round cake tin and line with baking parchment.
– Scatter the pistachios on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 5 minutes.
– Keep checking during the 5 minutes to make sure they’re not burning, then remove from the oven and whizz in a food processor or place in a bag and hit with a rolling pin!
– In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and zest of the orange.
– In a separate bowl beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
– Add the eggs one at a time, adding a spoonful of the flour mixture too.
– Mix together and fold in the almonds, pistachios (reserving a handful for decoration), remaining flour and orange water.
– Fold everything together and pour into the tin.
– Bake for 40 minutes until golden brown.
– Meanwhile, make the orange syrup. Place everything for the syrup in a pan and bring to a boil.
– After a few minutes take off the heat.
– Once the cake has cooked, remove from the oven and prick all over.
– Pour over the orange syrup and leave to cool.
– In another bowl, beat together everything for the topping, leaving a bit of orange zest to the side for the topping.
– Once the cake has cooled, spread with the mascarpone and sprinkle with the remaining pistachios and orange zest.