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Carrot, orange and pistachio cake

Updated: Wed, 26 April, 2023

Carrot, orange and pistachio cake with cream cheese frosting: the frosting is ordinary, the cake nothing but, with tahini and pomegranate molasses in the batter.

carrot orange pistachio cake

Ain’t broke, don’t fix it

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it is very much my principle. An off-piste (but on point) anecdote to prove it: there is a hotel in the French Alps that I go to for my annual skiing jaunt.

Until recently it was the best French Alps had to offer food-wise. The restaurant served classic French menu with an Alpine slant, perfectly balanced three courses followed by cheeses and a dessert buffet to die for, cooked by a fantastically good chef albeit yet Michelin starless. Recipe for success, right?

Clearly not everyone agreed. The owner, a British hospitality group, decided that what a French ski resort needed was quasi-Italian cookery.

And so this year I was dubiously welcomed by badly made aubergine parmigiana, zuppa di pesce inexplicably hiding half a loaf of soggy bread at the bottom, chicken Milanese slapped on a plate with no accompaniments and pasta adorned with a few matchsticks of bored courgettes. Oh, and everything buried in piles of rocket which seemed to be the only vegetable in abundance.

Why did they have to go and change what needed to stay as it was? Inexplicable. Money, probably, in some form or another was behind it all.

carrot orange and pistachio cake

Who needs a new carrot cake recipe?

To transpose my principle to the carrot cake area, I could ask why on earth should I want to add oranges, treacle or indeed tahini to a reliable simple recipe. Carrot cake is an easy to make and beloved by many classic pudding so leave it alone!

But actually, it’s an exception that proves the rule. You can trust Dan Lepard and his ‘Short and Sweet’ recipe collection where the recipe below is sourced from.

It has a zing, it is incredibly moist with the extra tahini fat, but it’s still very much an excellent carrot cake in the first place. Only posh. A little bit fancy carrot cake.

So it very much isn’t broke and you can use the regular recipe 364 days a year but make this one once for a special occasion.

carrot and pistachio cake

How to make the carrot tahini batter

This is the classic example of a ‘no way this will work’ recipe. Orange zest is an ordinary addition to any cake, carrot or otherwise, but tahini sounds distinctly out of place. And yet, I promise, it works marvellously well.

You can use a mixer or you can whisk the batter by hand, although beating egg whites with a hand whisk always seems daunting to my (mildly arthritic) wrists.

Start with the brown sugar and beat the tahini, oil, pomegranate molasses and orange zest into it. Then beat in the egg and the yolks and fold in grated carrots, chopped pistachios and orange juice.

The dry ingredients, the flour with baking powder and spices, need to be stirred together before being mixed in, followed by the two egg whites, beaten to stiff peaks. As it is quite a heavy mix, with tahini, molasses and all, the airy meringue gives it lift.

cake batter

Cream cheese frosting

That’s my absolutely favourite frosting which I could eat with a spoon without any cake underneath.

The secret of smoothness and fluffiness to it is to first beat the butter with sugar and flavourings into fluffy buttercream – which is where it turns out how handy a mixer is after all.

Then half the cream cheese should be beaten in and the rest of it whisked in very gently by hand. It might split or turn lumpy if it’s overbeaten.


I like to both fill and frost this cake even though a British tearoom classic only has the frosting piled on top. But this is quite a substantial cake so a middle layer of creamy filling will lighten it nicely. Bet you never knew you could lighten desserts with buttercream?

So the completely cooled cake should be sliced in half horizontally with a bread knife or a cake wire cutter, then half the frosting goes over the bottom layer sandwiched with the top, and remaining frosting spread over it.

Decoration is simple, some extra pistachio slivers and strands of lemon zest. Simple and gorgeous.

frosting carrot cake

More carrot cake recipes

Everybody’s favourite tearoom classic, easy and simple carrot cake. I keep coming back to this recipe 364 days a year.

Venetian carrot cake, Nigella Lawson’s recipe for gluten free carrot cake with pine nuts. A simple carrot cake, with no frosting but a handful of boozy raisins thrown into the batter.

Carrot and ginger cake, two of the best cake flavours together, with cream cheese frosting on top. Easy to make like all carrot cakes but the end result is stunning.

carrot and pistachio cake with cream cheese frosting

More impressive dessert recipes

Black forest gâteau, rich and dark chocolate base layered with pillows of cream swathing fresh, lightly roasted cherries. A luxurious idea for the next birthday or celebration bake.

Coconut angel food cake, with a zesty touch of lime flavour. Angel food cake base, whipped coconut cream filling and toasted coconut flakes to decorate – for the coconut lover in your life’s next birthday.

Devil’s food cake with hazelnut praline and mascarpone cream is unbelievably good. Just the recipe for the next birthday occasion.

carrot cake with unusual ingredients

Carrot, orange and pistachio cake

Servings: 12-14Time: 3 hours


  • 75g (13 cup) tahini
  • 125ml (12 cup) sunflower or groundnut oil
  • 3 tbsp pomegranate molasses (or black treacle)
  • zest grated from 3 oranges
  • 225g (1 cup plus 1 tbsp) light soft brown sugar
  • 3 eggs, 2 of them separated
  • 200g (114 cups) finely grated carrot
  • 100g (34 cup) unsalted pistachios, chopped roughly
  • 100ml (23 cup) orange juice (about 1 and a half orange)
  • 175g (112 cups) plain flour
  • 212 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 12 tsp ground cloves
  • 12 tsp grated nutmeg
  • For the cream cheese frosting:
  • 200g (1 stick plus 5 tbsp) butter, softened
  • zest grated of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 200g (123 cups) icing sugar
  • 400g (134 cups) full fat cream cheese


1. Butter a 23cm/9 inch round cake tin and line the bottom with parchment. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4.

2. In a large bowl or in the bowl of the standing mixer beat together the tahini, oil, pomegranate syrup, orange zest and the brown sugar. Beat in the whole egg and the egg yolks, one at a time. Stir in the grated carrots, pistachios and the orange juice.

3. Sift in the flour combined with the baking powder and the spices and mix in until well combined.

4. Beat the two egg whites until stiff peaks and fold them gently into the mixture.

5. Pour the mix into the tin and bake for 55-60min until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely in the tin, run a sharp knife around the edges to unmold the cake and place on a wire rack.

6. To make the frosting, place the butter, the zest, lemon juice and the icing sugar in a large bowl, or the bowl of the standing mixer with the paddle attachment.

7. Beat until smooth, then add the half the cream cheese and beat until combined. Whisk the remaining cream cheese by hand until fluffy, or very carefully with an electric mixer, don’t overbeat.

8. Slice the cake horizontally in halves using a cake wire cutter or a very sharp knife. Slather half the frosting over the bottom half, cover with the top and spoon the remaining frosting on top. Smooth it with a palette knife.

9. Sprinkle some reserved pistachios and some lemon zest shavings on top and chill for at least an hour before serving.

Originally published: Tue, 26 April, 2016

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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