Monday, October 19, 2015

Pistachio, buckwheat and lemon cake with honeyed plums (gluten free)

I was going to tell you about the sunny days we were having. About the clear blue skies and the seducing starry nights. About our walks in the woods and the time we discovered a little wild mushroom village. Or the time when we unexpectedly stumbled upon my dream house; a big one made of Dutch red brick in the middle of the forest, surrounded by tall trees, with a huge thatched roof and small white windows peaking out of it, and a wooden yellow front door. I didn’t take a photo. I didn’t feel the need to. Some images have the ability to sneak into your mind, stay there forever without you even realizing it, until, suddenly, they return, unannounced, and awaken hidden desires. That house will pop into my mind again in the future, I’m sure, and I may stumble upon it on another walk in the woods.

But I have other things to tell you; about sweet flavors and honeyed plums, about a dreamy cake and the irresistible aroma that emanated from the oven while it was baking, about its sweet and earthy taste, the plums sitting on top and the crimson juices that stained our plates. About the vibrancy of the lemon, the unsurpassed flavor of buckwheat and all that it can bring to baked goods, about the ground pistachios and almonds, crunchy inside the fluffy and moist cake, giving it texture and body.

Yes, that’s what I want to tell you today; because there’s no better place to be when the cold autumn days come than in the kitchen, baking pastries and cakes and all kinds of sweet and savory things that warm you up, body and soul, that take you out of your routine and arouse your senses with their flavor. Just like this cake did.

This cake that’s anything but ordinary, both in texture and flavor; made with buckwheat flour, ground pistachios and almonds, dark brown sugar and honey, lemon and red plums; extremely light, airy, fluffy and moist with a crunchy texture from the nuts and soft, juicy plums on top; with the unadulterated, pure taste of honey, the gentle acidity of the lemon balancing the sweetness, and the mellow bitterness of the buckwheat that brings almost a savoriness to the cake that is unique. It’s not very sweet but it rather leaves you with a whiff of honey sweetness and a nuttiness that lingers as an aroma through your palate and nose, while the taste of the red plums enriches the flavors and makes the cake truly special. It makes you want to eat it all, in one go.

Bake this, enjoy it, take a piece with you on a walk through the woods on a cold autumn day and listen to this track. Put on your headphones, listen to it as loud as you can and lose yourself in your thoughts, your feelings, your desires.

Pistachio, buckwheat and lemon cake with honeyed plums (gluten free)
Adapted from Dutch Delicious magazine

I love using alternative flours like buckwheat because they give a beautiful, nutty flavor to baked goods unlike white flour. These types of flours, though, tend to make cakes dry and dense; not in this case. The fluffy texture of the cake is achieved by the addition of a meringue that’s folded in the rest of the cake’s ingredients whereas the honey, soft dark brown sugar and egg yolks are the ingredients that give the cake its moistness.

The plums you use mustn’t be too ripe and soft otherwise they will disintegrate when you cook them in the honey and won’t retain their shape. You want them to have a little bite still to them to complement the fluffiness and softness of the cake.
The flesh of red plums becomes redder as they ripen with the centers remaining orange-yellow. The ones I used were a bit firmer and not too ripe hence their orange-colored flesh. The juices they release, though, have the most charming reddish hue.

If you can’t find plums, since we’re nearing the end of their season, you can substitute with figs, apples, pears or quinces. In the case of apples, pears and quinces, you’ll need to cook them longer in the honey, but only until they’re tender cause you definitely don’t want them to be mushy (about 15 minutes, adding a little water if you see them drying out, and make sure to peel them before cooking).

You will notice that this cake doesn’t contain any fat (butter or oil). The only sort of fat that’s needed is for the greasing of the pan so the cake won’t stick to it. You can use butter, like I did, or sunflower oil (or margarine) but don’t use olive oil because it tends to burn and your cake will have a bitter taste.

Yield: 1 cake / 8 pieces

100 g shelled, unsalted pistachios
55 g blanched ground almonds (preferably freshly ground)
55 g buckwheat flour
¾ tsp baking powder
3 medium-sized eggs, separated into yolks and whites
100 g soft dark brown sugar
Zest of 1 large lemon
Juice of 1 large lemon (about 60 ml)
100 ml runny honey, plus extra for drizzling the cake
3-4 fresh, plump yet firm plums (I used red plums), cut into wedges
Butter, for greasing the pan

Special equipment: 22 cm springform pan, baking paper, small food processor or mortar and pestle, large food processor, stand mixer or electric hand-held mixer

Butter the bottom and sides of the springform pan. Line the bottom with baking paper. See here how to make a round piece of baking paper.

Preheat your oven to 170°C.

In a small food processor (or using a mortar and pestle), add the pistachios and grind them finely, being careful not to grind them too much or they’ll start releasing their natural oils and become pasty. You don’t want that.

In a large food processor, add the ground almonds, buckwheat flour and baking powder and pulse a few times to mix. Add the egg yolks, the brown sugar, the lemon zest and juice and 60 ml of the honey and mix well. Add the ground pistachios and pulse to incorporate. Empty the mixture in a large bowl.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a clean, large bowl), add the egg whites and beat, using the whisk attachment (or a hand-held mixer), on high speed until stiff peaks form when you lift the whisk. Using a spatula, fold in ⅓ of the meringue into the flour-egg yolk mixture, then add the rest of the meringue and fold it in carefully as to not deflate it, until just combined but no white streaks are visible.

Empty the batter gently into the prepared baking pan and smooth the top with a spatula or the back of a spoon.
Place the baking pan on the middle rack of the preheated oven and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cover the pan with aluminum foil halfway through the baking time, if the top gets too dark.
When ready, remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack. Leave the cake to cool for 10 minutes in the pan. Then remove it from the pan and allow to cool completely on the wire rack.

To make the honeyed plums, heat the rest 40 ml of honey in a small sauté pan over medium heat for 1-2 minutes or until hot. Add the plum wedges and cook, stirring frequently for 2 minutes or until they are covered with a layer of honey. Take the pan off the heat and leave plums to cool for 2 minutes in the pan. Then, add some or all of them on top of the cake. You may want to leave some off the cake for extra servings. Drizzle the cake and plums with some of the juices from the pan and also with some runny honey (1 tsp is enough).

You can keep the cake (without the plums on top) at room temperature, covered, for a couple of days. You can keep the plums in a bowl, covered, in the fridge, for a couple of days.

P.S. Have you heard??? I’m nominated for three awards at the first ever Greek Food Blog Awards organized by Vima Gourmet magazine. You can vote for me here for Best Cooking Blog, here for Best Sweet Treats and here for Best Food Photography & Styling by clicking the “like” button below the Greek text and next to where it says “Like for Vote” in each category. Thank you very much for your support!!


  1. Looks amazing, Magda! I especially like the honeyed plums!

    Listening to the Agnes Obel... and it does have the melancholy of an autumn day. xo

  2. What a great use of plums. They're definitely stacking up here so I'm going to have to try it!