Feasting: Tahini-Orange Pistachio Cake

Everybody has one. You have one, even if you’re not admitting it. Hiding in your cupboard, lurking in the fridge. It’s the “shame jar”. The ingredient you purchase thinking “yes, I absolutely will make this obscure/easily bought pre-prepared/used in teeny-tiny quantities recipe enough times to justify this purchase.” In my case, it’s usually a result of an over-keen phase of mine. Every keen cook has gone through the Korean phase, the BBQ phase, the Mexican fad. In this case, as result of some over-zealous online ordering while going through my Persepolis-inspired middle-eastern phase, I ended up with two separate jars of tahini fast-approaching their sell-by date. There simply isn’t enough home-made humous in the world which would justify that.

I love tahini as a dressing for veg, but just wasn’t feeling up to eating about 3 pints of the stuff. Looking desperately through the Internet for some recipe to use it up, I stumbled across a range of vegan bakes using tahini as a basis. This sounded right up my alley, but – confession time – I just can’t with vegan cakes. The texture never works for me and I end with either a crumbly disaster or a soggy mess. Fundamentally, if I’ve got no reason to avoid eggs and butter, why should I? I love a bit of coconut oil but it’s just not my deal to use a plant-based alternative when I don’t have an issue or requirement to avoid the real thing. But tahini as a basis seemed like an amazing idea. Unlike nut butters, tahini has a lovely bitter edge which would work beautifully in a sweet bake.

So, having decided against a vegan recipe (although this one from Souvlaki for the Soul looks nice), I turned instead to a recipe which popped up again and again – Molly Yeh’s Chocolate Tahini cake. But reading through, I felt sad that there was so little emphasis on the classic and delicious flavours of the Middle East which sit so well alongside sesame. It also sounded INCREDIBLY heavy and rich. So nope.

Like frickin goldilocks, I took a look at a White-Chocolate and Tahini cake recipe from Honey & Co which seemed nearer the mark – but adapted the heck out of it to match a little of what I fancied. If you have orange blossom and pistachio nuts to hand, why not use it?  I hate to be a brag, but it was awesome. The cake mix is dense and moist, but definitely holds together, with a lovely rich taste from the tahini. The halva melts into toffee-like pockets, set off nicely by the crunchy pistachios. Held together by the nutty, orange-scented mix, it’s a clarion call to summer.

Tahini-Orange Pistachio Cake 

This recipe makes either a very large cake, easily serving 18-20, or two smaller bakes which would serve 10. It’s rather rich, so small slices will suffice. 

Key flavourings and ingredients. Delicious!

320g golden caster sugar

250g plain flour

100g ground almonds (I used a mix of almond and pistachios as I had only 50g ground almonds)

1.5 tsp baking powder

1.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp salt

Zest of 2 oranges

2 eggs

120 ml vegetable oil

230g tahini

1 tsp orange-flower water

240g plain yoghurt

180ml boiling water

50g pistachio halva and 50g pistachio nuts, chopped



  1. Preheat the oven to 170C and line 2 x 9in cake tins.
  2. Sift together the dry ingredients – the caster sugar, flour, bicarb, baking powder, salt and orange zest. Give it a good stir to make sure the zest is evenly distributed.
  3. Mix together the oil, tahini, flower-water and yoghurt. Add the eggs and stir thoroughly, then mix into the dry ingredients. Loosen with the boiling water to ensure you have a smooth batter. Told you it was easy!
  4. Fold in the halva and nuts, then divide between the pans.
  5. Bake for 30-35 min on the middle shelf, testing to make sure that they’re cooked through. Leave to go nice and cold, then remove gently from the tins.
  6. If you’re planning on eating as a large cake, layer with a ganache or a simple orange buttercream.
  7. On the other hand, you can eat this as a nice bake without too much extra sugar. Simply top the cake with something sharp and fruity and eat. Or have with a cuppa. Your call.


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