It was my father’s birthday last month, and I have yet to meet someone who has as overzealous about the choice of his cake, celebrations and meals. And this makes us at home far more nervous and on-our-toes for his big day. The struggle is usually between what he wants and really what he ought to have, and it always comes down to an argument over ice cream cake which the majority always dissuades. Last year I tried recreating the Kwality Walls Viennetta Ice Cream Cake (anyone heard of that one?), which has layers of vanilla and coffee ice cream, between thin layer of melted dark chocolate and garnish of whipped cream. But this time, I wanted to go a bit gourmet and also befitting a 62 year old man, and not just fiddle with ready-made ice cream.

This is a decadent and indulgent cake made with premium ingredients – ground green pistachio, hints of cardamom and nutmeg and delicate saffron infused into butter. You can purchase ready pistachio flour, or you can make your own at home by pulsing down whole pistachios. I use a cream cheese frosting with saffron and real vanilla bean speckled through – as I wanted this to be a real royal cake. I knew the flavor palate will work well with the elders and received great reviews from everyone.

However, while the rest of the family and friends ate slices and slices of this cake, my father, the birthday boy, preferred an ice cream cake – a cassata that had layers of fluorescent synthetic pink bubblegum ice-cream, a synthetic pistachio green flavor and another flavor that is yet to be figured out. Honestly, you can’t take the kid out of a man ever.

The Recipe


  • 1 ½ cups ground pistachio
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom
  • ½ cup castor sugar
  • ½ cup butter, room temperature
  • 5 strands of saffron
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Frosting:
  • ¼ cup cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp butter, room temperature
  • vanilla bean pod
  • 2-3 saffron strands
  • 2 tsp milk
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • chopped pistachios for garnish


  • Preheat the oven to 200C
  • Grease and flour a 9 inch cake tin
  • Melt the butter with the saffron and set aside to cool slightly
  • Sift all the dry ingredients together and set aside in a bowl
  • In a larger mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy
  • Add the eggs and vanilla extract and whisk well for a few minutes
  • Then add the dry ingredients and gently mix, careful not to overcombine
  • Pour the batter into the cake tin, smoothing the top
  • Gently pat the tin onto the surface, to remove any air bubbles
  • Bake for 25 minutes
  • Remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool completely before removing
  • Frosting:
  • Heat the milk and add the saffron strands and set aside for 5-10 minutes
  • Whisk all the ingredients together until you achieve a smooth consistency
  • Spread the frosting over the cake and garnish with chopped pistachios

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The recipes are tried and tested, some are adapted from various places, and a few are passed down; but every one of them comes straight from the heart.