Elderflower & Pistachio Cake

I thought I’d start with a cake, as you can’t go wrong with a cake.

I’ve written books and articles but starting this blog feels different, I’ve been staring at a blank screen for some time now. I feels like I have to share a bit more of myself than I’m used to here and for someone like me who wants everyone to like what she says and be her friend, this comes with a pit of the stomach emptiness and a couple of deep breaths. Here I go.

This elderflower cake found its way into my kitchen on a rare sunny Mayday in London. My sister Laura was in town from LA and we decided to spend the day walking. London walking. We walked Hackney, along the canal past the canal boats that people make homes, past some party hippies making fires and smashing back 11am ciders and some tidy living canal folk who live in miniature on the neatly painted super tidy boats tending to their perfect mini gardens.

We walked all the way down the canal, all the time the cotton trees shedding their white floaty blooms into the air and being lit up like fireflies by the May sun. We walked up through the marshes to Walthamstow past wild garlic, cow parsley and the very first elderflowers. The smell in the air was sweet and heady of flowers and spring and promise of sun. It’s the time I get most excited when spring is trying to tell you it’s all ok and that warm days are ahead and the deep London grey of winter has left for now. Though spring can be a liar if you live where we live.

London walking for me and Laura is always peppered with a few pitstops. This time at a cafe on the canal where we sat and drank a coffee and then we stopped by at a groaning elderflower bush to pick the blooms.

Elderflowers are divas, they will only taste good if you follow their rules. They need to be picked when the sun is shining, and you should only pick the heads that are facing the sun.

Where I live in Hackney Elderflowers fill the bushes between late may and early June. The blooms themselves are astoundingly beautiful a galaxy of tiny pale star like flowers. The arrival of the elderflowers heralds the end of the cold and the start of the long days and the knowledge that sandals and spritzes aren’t far away.

Mostly I make cordial with the flowers which keeps the sharp hazy floweryness of spring going all year, They make a killer kind of champagne too. I also the tiny stary flowers into jars and cover them with spirits to and they infuse, gin works really well. I toss them into salads and onto grilled vegetable too.

Elderflowers are one of our most amazing botanical secrets and have been used as medicine the world over because of their antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Elderflowers were traditionally used to fight coughs and colds as well as to help dextoxify the body.  Elderflowers can help with digestion and is even said to alleviate some allergies. Elderflower is also said to reduce blood sugar levels (cordial has a lot of added sugar though so raw flowers in salads or supplements work best).

But most of all they are a flavour all of their own, heady, grassy and lemony and for a couple of month of the year they surround us. This cake though can me made year round with shop brought elderflower cordial.

Instead of flour I use pistachios and polenta, which gives the cake a dense baklava feeling. You really need a food processor to grind the pistachios up, so if you don’t have one, use ground almonds instead.

One friend said she was going to name her firstborn after this cake. I am not sure there could be higher praise.



125g butter, at room temperature
125g Greek yoghurt
250g unrefined light brown sugar or coconut sugar (see page 275)
250g pistachio nuts
200g polenta
1 teaspoon baking powder
grated zest and juice of 1 unwaxed lemon
3 organic or free-range eggs
150ml elderflower cordial


100g thick Greek yoghurt or cream cheese
4 tablespoons golden icing sugar or set honey
1 tablespoon elderflower cordial
a handful of pistachio nuts, crushed

Preheat your oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6. Grease and line the base of a 20cm springform cake tin.

Put the butter, yoghurt and sugar into a bowl and cream together until light and fluffy.

Now blitz the pistachios to dust in a food processor – don’t blitz them too much, though, or they will turn to butter. Add the blitzed pistachios, polenta, baking powder and lemon zest and juice to the butter mixture and mix well. Then crack in the eggs, one by one, and mix in.

Pour into the cake tin and bake for 45–50 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin. Make a few holes in the warm cake with a skewer, then gently pour the elderflower cordial slowly over the cake, allowing it time to seep in. Leave the cake in the tin until cool enough to transfer to a cooling rack.

For the icing, mix the yoghurt, icing sugar or honey and elderflower cordial until smooth. Spread over the cooled cake and top with the pistachios.

Images: Sam Stowell for Jamie Magazine/ Brian W Ferry

Posted: 21.06.14 35 Comments


Posted by Mgls at 12:29 on the 16.03.15

Elderflower champagne can be made by 6 year olds and I have done it! Its rllaey only Elderflower Fozz but lovely!2 handfuls of elderflowwers no stalks or 4 if you are 6!Bucket of cold water1 chopped up lemon500gm of white sugar.Put in bucket & stir.Put on lid or tintray or cloth.Stir every time you pass.Next day strain through pillow case or very fine nylon sieve into rinsed plastic cola or lemonade bottles and screw on lids.Leave for 1 week.Pour and enjoy.My little ones like to put blackcurrant juice in glass before adding fizz.#Honest I make this every year with my kids and it goes evry time.

Posted by Marsha Gibbons at 1:45 on the 21.04.15

We do not have golden icing sugar in the US, at least not that I am aware of. Would confectioners sugar work? Thanks!!

Posted by Anna at 1:55 on the 21.04.15

Absolutely Marsha, confectioner’s sugar will work fine.

Posted by anya clark at 8:02 on the 07.06.15

In your cookbook a modern way to eat what can i replace the banana in the chocolate cloud cake with please?

Posted by Anna at 9:31 on the 13.07.15

Hi Anya. Banana is a very difficult one to replace with other fruits. I’d suggest using a couple of eggs here. Hope you enjoy. AJ x

Posted by Suzy Solley at 4:45 on the 18.07.15

Hello, this looks amazing! I have the ingredients and excited to make this. However is it polenta or polenta flour?! The flour is obviously a lot finer?!

Posted by Anna at 3:27 on the 27.07.15

Thanks for your message Suzy. Polenta (sometimes referred to as cornmeal) is the best thing for this recipe. Hope you enjoy it. AJ x

Posted by Lizzie at 4:11 on the 05.08.15

hi Anna, I’m hoping to make this for my sisters wedding as one of the puddings but wondered how far in advance I can make it without it spoiling. Thanks in advance, Lizzie

Posted by Anna at 8:32 on the 05.08.15

Hi Lizzie,
What I’d probably do is make it ahead and freeze it. Otherwise I’d say 2 days before is the max really, you want to keep it as fresh as possible.
Hope that helps.
AJ x

Posted by Carys at 9:04 on the 10.09.15

I love the flavour of this cake. How fine should you be going with the pistachios, I was scared of over grinding them but the texture was perhaps a bit grainy. Should I have ground them more?

Posted by Anna at 9:08 on the 14.10.15

Hello Carys
Thanks for your kind comments. The texture is up to you really – I think a bit of texture is adds to the nuttiness, but go finer for a smoother cake. Best wishes, AJ x

Posted by Jill at 1:18 on the 01.12.15

Such a beautiful recipe, I absolutely love this flavour combination. Can’t wait to try it at home!

Posted by Anna at 3:48 on the 02.12.15

So pleased and hope you enjoy, Jill x

Posted by Hannah at 5:35 on the 02.04.16

Love this recipe! I’ve found that 45-50 minutes at gas mark 6 burns the cake a bit around the edge in my oven when it’s still soggy in the middle. Even on quite a low shelf. .. Would gas mark 5 for the same time remedy this? love love love the honey / yoghurt ‘icing’ too. X

Posted by Rebecca at 1:37 on the 11.06.16

Can I use elderflowers, and how much? or do I need to make it into a cordial first? (if so do you have a recipe?) thank you!

Posted by Flo at 1:21 on the 21.06.16


Will the icing melt? Have to travel with the cake and don’t want it to melt.

Posted by Anna at 3:23 on the 16.08.16

Hello Flo it is best to ice the cake when you get to your destination. Thank you, AJ x

Posted by Raniah at 8:32 on the 09.07.16

I second Hannah’s comment. By 45 mins the edges were burning. I turned the oven down to 180 and left it in for 15 more mins but had to take it out before it really burned. The centre is still a little soggy. Any suggestions?

Posted by Catriona at 2:52 on the 28.07.16

Hi! Going to make this for my Mum’s birthday but I’ve just come across another version of this on the Jamie Oliver site here http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/uncategorised-recipes/pistachio-yoghurt-elderflower-cake/#gRLh9dw7i2pOkAFc.97, listing more butter and sugar and a slightly different recipe. Just wondering what the difference between the end result is? Is it just a bigger cake? 🙂


Posted by Anna at 2:55 on the 16.08.16

Hi Catriona
Thanks for your comment. I developed the recipe on Jamie’s site and adapted it to be a little less indulgent for my own book. Hope that helps, thank you. AJ

Posted by Donna at 3:16 on the 12.11.16

I’ve just bought your two books and I know it says you can sub eggs for chia eggs in all baking but I also notice that some recipes mention it but most others don’t.. does that mean I should really use eggs for this recipe..?
Thank you.

Posted by Anna at 12:13 on the 24.11.16

Hello Donna. I’ve never tried it with chia seeds but you could have a go by all means. To be on the safe side, I would use eggs though. AJ x

Posted by Holly Hooper at 2:40 on the 10.12.16

Hi Anna,

This maybe really stupid, are you supposed to cook the polenta first? I’ve just made the cake and it’s quite grainy…I’ve never used polenta with anything or ever eaten/cooked it before so I have no idea!

Posted by Patricia Westley at 5:41 on the 20.06.17

Elderflowers are from the Gods. So happy to have stumbled upon your recipe. I’m making the cake this weekend for a party!

I am wondering…I have a roll of pre-cooked polenta. Could I use this or should I get uncooked?

Posted by Marie at 12:24 on the 24.02.18

I am guessing the cordial should be diluted …I have bottle green cordial, 500ml makes 5.5 l. I am going to make the cake today and will go with that!!

Posted by Anna at 1:55 on the 26.02.18

Hello Marie, thanks for getting in touch. I use the cordial undiluted – hope that helps. AJ x

Posted by Naomi at 10:09 on the 22.03.18

Absolutely love this recipe. It’s SO good I could have it everyday! Such a great cake, so much nicer than a classic chocolate cake. ‘Never going back’ to a normal chocolate cake!! PS love you cookbook, I’m currently going though each page, step by step!
Its all so YUM!
N x

Posted by Pennyb at 3:53 on the 10.07.19

Hi Anna – I’ve not made this cake before and it seems this recipe calls for a LOT of sugar, particularly given that you slug in all that sugary elderflower cordial! Any idea if it’ll destroy the flavour if sugar is dramatically reduced to, say, 100g??!! I’m going to try it and hope for the best – perhaps it’ll come out drier – we’ll see!!!! Thanks for your brilliant recipes and inspiration! Penny

Posted by Cara Vogel at 7:15 on the 01.08.19

Hi Anna! No matter what I do I can’t seem to get the coconut sugar, butter, and yogurt to cream – do you have any tips?

Posted by Cara Vogel at 7:53 on the 01.08.19

Hi Anna! No matter what I do I cant seem to get the coconut sugar, yogurt, and butter to cream! Any tips?

Posted by Becci Bunny at 12:47 on the 19.06.20

What book is this in please??

Posted by Rebecca at 4:03 on the 20.06.20

Hi Anna. I know I’m 6 years late but you have combined my favourite things in the world – although my brain already just stopped at the amazing picture of pistachios on top. thank you!

Posted by Catherine Holmes at 1:59 on the 26.06.20

Dear Anna – gorgeous cake – can I make it the day beforehand as really short of time tomorrow? Many thanks Catherine

Posted by Hannah at 10:11 on the 14.04.21

Dear Anna, should i use Polenta or the finer corn- floor? Thank you!

Posted by Lily at 8:14 on the 19.06.21

Hi Anna! I was wondering how would you veganise this cake it looks SO delicious and I have been wanting to make it for ages:) x

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