Recipe of the Month for December, with Ann Murray: Lemon and Pistachio Loaf Cake

November 28 2019
Recipe of the Month for December, with Ann Murray: Lemon and Pistachio Loaf Cake

Something different for the festive season

I’M often asked: “What can I do for Christmas for people who don’t like traditional Christmas cake or who have dietary issues?”

Now, I’m pleased to tell you, I have the perfect option. This cake is packed with nuts and has a beautiful zesty lemon flavour and a lemon glaze topped with pistachios. To cap it all, it’s gluten-free and suitable for vegetarians. And it tastes simply delicious for anyone.

My husband and friends are my best critics, so I always try a new recipe out on them. This one definitely got the thumbs-up from them.

When everyone is getting so busy in the run-up to Christmas, this is the perfect, easy recipe to have up your sleeve. The great lemon flavour comes from cooking the lemons for about an hour to make a wonderfully zesty lemon paste. This is the only time-consuming part of the recipe, but don’t be tempted to skip it and just substitute it for zest and juice. The flavour just won’t be the same.

Another good thing is that it freezes really well and will keep in the freezer for a month, without losing any flavour. I like to cut the loaf into slices, then wrap it in cling film and a ziplock bag before freezing. That way I always have something to offer when someone says they are popping round. (You will need to cut off separate slices and let them defrost at room temperature. Microwave defrosting would not work well with the icing.)

This is a real crowd-pleaser and if you don’t tell them, they’ll never know it’s healthy, too.

I wish all my readers a healthy, happy and joyous Christmas and New Year. I look forward to creating some exciting new recipes next year.



Lemon and Pistachio Loaf Cake


Makes 1x 1lb loaf or 6 small Bundt cakes – see picture

  • 3 lemons

  • Ground Pistachios- 120g (4.5 oz)– about 1 ¼ cup of whole pistachios

  • Ground almonds – 165g (5.5oz)

  • Eggs – 3

  • Honey or agave nectar – 150 ml

  • Baking powder – ½ teaspoon

  • Vanilla extract – 1 teaspoon


Lemon Glaze

  • Icing sugar – 125g (4.5 oz)

  • Lemon juice – 2 tablespoons

  • Rosewater – 2 teaspoons – optional. See Cook’s Tips




Pistachios – 4 heaped tablespoons, roughly chopped



Here’s what you do:


  1. Rinse the lemons and leaving them whole, put them in a microwavable bowl. Cover them with water and cook on MEDIUM in your microwave for 45 – 60 mins until they are really soft when pierced with a skewer.

  2. Place the pistachios in a food processor and grind to a fine powder with no lumpy bits.

  3. When cool enough to handle, cut the lemons in half.

  4. Remove the seeds and using a teaspoon, scoop out the soft pulp. Leave to one side.

  5. Grease your tins either 1x 1lb tin or 6 small Bundt tins. Or you can use paper liners for the loaf tin. This helps keep them moist.

  6. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/gas mark 4

  7. Mix all the cake ingredients together in a large bowl. Mix the dried ingredients first, then add the wet ingredients. Mix gently with a metal spoon ‘til well combined.

  8. Put the mixture into your chosen tins.

  9. If you’re making one large cake, bake in the oven for an hour. If the top begins to brown too quickly, cover loosely with foil. Check the Bundt cakes after 25- 30mins.

  10. The cakes are done when a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake.

  11. Remove from the oven. Leave in the tins for 5 mins, then turn out onto a cooling rack.

  12. Whilst cooling, mix the lemon glaze ingredients together.

  13. When the cake/cakes are still slightly warm, drizzle the icing on them. Sprinkle the chopped pistachios on top.


Cook’s Tip


If you like Turkish Delight as I do, add the rosewater for an unusual flavour. Otherwise just use 2 teaspoons of warm water instead.

For an extra Christmassy flavour, instead of lemons use 4-5 (depending on size) tangerines or clementines to make the pulp. They will take less time to cook – check after 30 mins. Use 165g almonds, as in this recipe, and swap the 120g pistachios for walnuts, which you have ground in a blender.