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Gluten Free Rose & Pistachio Cake

Made with polenta, ground almonds and pistachios, this makes a very dense, moist cake that’s prettily decorated with dried rose petals. I wouldn’t normally advocate a recipe that contains the amounts of sugar but for a birthday or other occasion it makes an attractive centrepiece and it does serve up to 10 people……. Without the icing and leaving the pistachios uncrystallised it makes a very nice cake anyway.


    For the cake
  • 100g pistachios
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 100g fine polenta
  • 1 tsp gluten free baking powder
  • 225g butter, softened
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • For the crystallised pistachios
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 50g pistachios
  • For the rose icing
  • 75g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp rose water
  • dried rose petals from the baking decoration isle in a supermarket


  • Preheat the oven to 170C/ gas mark 3. Grease and line the base and sides of a loose-bottomed 20cm tin with baking parchment.
  • To make the cake, put the pistachios into a food processor and pulse for about 30 seconds until the nuts are the same texture as the ground almonds. Tip into a small bowl and add the ground almonds, polenta and baking powder.
  • Cream together the butter and sugar using an electric hand whisk or beat by hand with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Stir in the dry ingredients and beat the mix together until smooth. Scrape the batter into the prepared tin and level the surface. Bake for 45-50 minutes until risen and firm. Test the cake using a skewer – it should come out clean when inserted into the centre. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
  • While the cake is baking, make the crystallised pistachios. Place the sugar and 50ml of cold water into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. When the sugar syrup reaches 135C on a sugar thermometer and it just starts to colour around the edges, remove from the heat and tip in the pistachios. Beat rapidly with a balloon whisk so the syrup crystallises around the pistachios, then tip onto a sheet of baking parchment to cool completely. When cool enough to handle, pull apart to separate the nuts.
  • To make the icing, combine the icing sugar and rose water in a small bowl, adding just enough water to make a thick icing. Drizzle over the cooled cake then roughly chop the crystallised pistachios and sprinkle over the top before the icing is fully set, together with a few rose petals before serving.

Almonds contain lots of healthy fats, fibre, protein, magnesium and vitamin E. They can help lower blood sugar levels, reduce blood pressure and lower cholesterol levels.

Pistachios are another great source of healthy fats, fibre, protein, antioxidants, vitamin B6 and thiamine or vitamin B1. Thiamine enables the body to use carbohydrates as energy. It is essential for glucose metabolism and plays a key role in nerve, muscle and heart function. As with all vitamins of the B complex it is water soluble and our daily diets should ensure we include B complex vitamins every day.

Polenta is a low carbohydrate food rich in vitamin A and C making it a good source of carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin – all highly beneficial to eye health and prevention of cancer and heart disease. Polenta lends itself to both sweet and savoury dishes and is quick to prepare so try to include it as a change from potatoes, pasta or rice.