Pistachio and Lemon Layer Cake (Gluten Free)

Pistachio and Lemon Layer Cake (Gluten Free)When I started this blog nearly three years ago, I had no idea how much I would learn following that first moment I pressed  publish. What started out as quick snaps of dinners and scones quickly grew into brainstorming ideas for flavour combinations, researching techniques like chocolate shards and spun sugar and gradually building up the confidence in my baking ability. But I have also learned that the learning will never be over. Just like this cake, each bake has taught me something new – whether it’s that gluten free cakes are more delicate, that over whipped cream cheese frosting will collapse into liquid or that folding is a harder technique than it looks. Of course there have been tears – I’m a passionate baker I guess – but what’s more important is that with every failure, I’ve found a way to step back, reassess the situation and problem solve my way out of the mess I’ve created to stop my future cakes crumbling.

Pistachio and Lemon Layer Cake (Gluten Free)

Pistachio and Lemon Layer Cake (Gluten Free)This cake has been four months in the making. On a whim, I decided that I wanted to make a pistachio and lemon cake, but make it gluten free. I don’t know why I wanted to push myself in this way as I am not accustomed to using gluten free flours, but tackling recipes that seem rather daunting has become something of a new hobby for me. But this baby just would not rise, despite the three versions I made, one after the other. I changed the ratio of flour to pistachio, added more – then less – lemon and tried different pan sizes to no avail. It looked nice but in my mind it could be better. I took my finger off the publish button and left the recipe, determined to make it just as good as any cake but with gluten free ingredients. It was a lesson in perseverance and determination that I’ve not yet come across. Who else do you know that has waited four months for cake perfection?

Pistachio and Lemon Layer Cake (Gluten Free)I don’t think it is any coincidence that on the sunny August afternoon that version four of the cake was baking in the oven, I settled down to read this post on A Beautiful Mess about success and achieving your goals. In it, Emma talks about achieving, no matter how impossible the task may be. For other more experienced bakers, working with rice, buckwheat or coconut flours comes naturally, but for me it is more of a challenge. So finishing that final lick of lemon cream cheese frosting and scatter of pistachios after months of attempts, for me, was (excuse the pun) the icing on the cake.

Pistachio and Lemon Layer Cake (Gluten Free)Now, for the actual cake. Like so many others before it, cakes bound with flours without gluten are often difficult to handle and i am not ashamed to say I almost split a layer transferring it to the cake stand. No matter, a swirl of cream cheese frosting sorts that particular issue out. As for the cake itself, it’s light and fluffy and the addition of fresh lemon juice helps keep the sponge moist, for gluten free cakes can be on the dry side. Natural flecks of green pepper the mix thanks to homemade ground pistachios (or store bought, if you can find it). And of course, lovely lemon brings a taste of summer freshness to the entire slice. It feels worth the wait, this cake. Now, I need a new challenge. Pistachio and Lemon Layer Cake (Gluten Free)Adapted from London Bakes Chocolate Ombre Cake

Pistachio and Lemon Layer Cake (Gluten Free)
This recipe calls for slightly more frosting than is required, so feel free to freeze or refrigerate the leftovers to ice cupcakes on another occasion.
  • You Will Need
  • 110g pistachios, finely ground in a food processor (or store bought if you can find them)
  • 230g rice flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 300g unsalted butter, softened
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs, room temperature and lightly whisked together
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 200ml plain yoghurt
  • 1 lemon, zested and 1 tbsp of juice
  • For the Frosting
  • 90g unsalted butter, softened
  • 230g full fat cream cheese, room temperature
  • 740g icing sugar
  • 1 lemon, zested and 1 tbsp of juice
  • A small handful of pistachios, finely chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 180oc/160oc fan and grease and line three 20cm sandwich tins. In a bowl, whisk together the ground pistachios, rice flour, baking powder and salt then set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl if using a hand held whisk, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Slowly add the beaten egg and beat along with the vanilla paste. The mix will look a little curdled, but the dry mix will bring it back together.
  2. Pour in half the yoghurt and dry mix, then carefully fold. Add the remaining ingredients, including the lemon zest and juice and fold together before dividing equally between the three pans. Bake for 20 minutes until golden and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes then remove and leave to cool completely on a wire rack, removing the baking paper.
  3. To make the frosting, place the butter and icing sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer then mix at a low speed to combine to a sandy texture. Add the cream cheese, lemon zest and juice then beat on high for 2-3 minutes until fluffy, keeping an eye on the mixture to ensure the frosting isn’t too soft and runny.
  4. To frost the cake, place one cake on a cake stand and slip four pieces of parchment paper underneath for a clean finish. Pile a generous helping of frosting on top of the cake and spread to the sides before topping with another cake and repeating. Add the top cake then do a crumb coating, ensuring the sides are smooth and any gaps are filled in. Chill in the fridge for 10 minutes then repeat until the cake is coated in frosting. Sprinkle the chopped pistachios around the outside of the cake and serve.



  1. MPease says

    Really first class photos VHP. I remember the trials and tribulations with this one..but all worth it in the end an impressive post.x

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rate this recipe:  

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.