Pistachio Blood Orange Baklava Cake

Recently, I have become slightly obsessed with pistachios. I am not sure whether it’s because of their glorious green hue and the vibrancy they add to any bake or whether it’s just a fad, but I find myself using them more and more. That’s how I came across this cake, which I found on Instagram – the original recipe can be found here. As it happens, more or less at the same time I finally managed to get my hands on some blood oranges, which I had been looking for. They remind me of when I was a child and we used to find them very easily in supermarkets. Their deep orange/red flesh is also a very welcome change to the usual lighter oranges you tend to find in the UK, not to mention they have a slightly richer flavour, which I really like.

Therefore, I decided to combine it all into one (massive) dessert. Needless to say, I had no idea it was going to be the biggest cake I had ever baked. And still, it is delicious. I also like the gem-like drops of ruby red on the top, which really add to the overall colour scheme of the cake. You will also find that the cake, weirdly enough, does not contain any flour. Rather, the bulk is provided by breadcrumbs. If this sounds too odd and exotic for you, then feel free to substitute with an equal amount of flour, wholemeal preferably. The process to make this cake may sound very long and complicated, but believe me it is perfectly manageable, provided you are somewhat good at multitasking. Otherwise, don’t worry and take your time, it will still be delicious!

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Ingredients (for the cake)

  • 360g panko breadcrumbs
  • 260g roasted pistachios
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp (freshly grated) nutmeg
  • 8 large eggs
  • 300g golden caster sugar
  • 226g unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Ingredients (for the blood orange syrup)

  • 5 blood oranges, zest and juice
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp rose water
  • 2 large oranges, juice only

Ingredients (for the baklava layers)

  • 150g unsalted butter, melted (you might need more)
  • 3 x packets of 6 filo pastry sheets
  • 100g pistachios, roasted and ground

Ingredient (to decorate the cake)

  • 200g pistachios, finely ground

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line the base and grease the sides of 2 x 20cm cake tins. Ensure the tins are quite tall on the sides or the cake will overflow.
  2. In a food processor, add the panko crumbs, pistachios, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg, then process until finely ground. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a freestanding food mixer, add the eggs and the sugar, then whisk on high speed until the mixture has at least doubled in volume and falls back on itself by creating a ribbon when the whisk is lifted from the bowl. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold in the ground nut mixture and the melted butter. Do not overbeat the mixture or you will deflate it.
  4. Divide the mixture equally between the two cake tins, then bake for 25-30 minutes. Check whether the cakes are cooked through by inserting a skewer in the middle and ensuring it comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool completely. Leave the oven on.
  5. To make the baklava layers, use a 20cm round cake tin base as a template to cut the filo layers into circles. You will need 2 x 8 layers for each baklava ‘cake’, so 32 in total.
  6. Line the inside of a 20cm cake tin with some baking parchment, then start assembling the baklava layer. Place a sheet of filo in the tin, then gently and liberally brush with butter. Top with another layer of filo and brush with butter again, repeating until you have used 8 circles of filo pastry. Brush the 8th layer with butter too, then sprinkle a good amount of the ground pistachios, enough to cover the pastry sheet. Repeat the process by covering with a circle of filo, brushing with butter, etc. You will need to add 8 more layers. As before, brush the top (16th) layer with butter too, then only gently sprinkle with pistachios. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the baklava is golden brown on the top and cooked all the way through. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Repeat the whole process one more time to create another 16-layer baklava.
  7. To make the blood orange syrup, pour the blood orange juice (only) and sugar into a saucepan, then add the zest and honey. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, then gently simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until the mixture has a syrup-like consistency. Remove from the heat, pour into a jug through a strainer (to get rid of the zest) and add the rosewater. Leave to cool completely.
  8. To assemble the cakes, brush the two thick layers with the juice from the two large oranges, making sure the cake absorbs the juice. Then, place the ground pistachios into a large tray and flatten out to an even layer. Brush the cake layers with the blood orange syrup, making sure the sides are also generously covered. Holding the cake sponges vertically, gently roll them into the ground pistachios to cover the sides, then lay them flat onto a cake stand/board/plate.
  9. Top with the least attractive of the baklava layers, then generously drizzle with the blood orange syrup. Repeat the same process with the second sponge and baklava layer, then gently sprinkle the whole cake with the remaining ground pistachio.
  10. This is completely optional, but you could also use the pastry scraps to create small triangles to put on the top. Just brush them with butter, sprinkle them with pistachios and bake for 25 minutes until golden, then place on top of the last baklava layer, drizzle with the syrup and sprinkle with pistachios. Enjoy!

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