Simple Provisions

Food does not need to be fancy to be celebrated

Pear, Chocolate and Pistachio Cake | Simple Provisions

I love birthdays. I love surprises and presents and being spoiled and Facebook messages and all the other good things that come with celebrating the passing of another year.

It was my birthday on Monday. I successfully turned it into an Amelia festival starting on Friday night, continuing through to work on Monday. Four cakes were involved. I regret nothing.

The first birthday cake I remember was made by my mum from a Woman’s Weekly kid’s birthday cake recipe book. I pored over the well-worn pages of that book, weighing up my options, taking the selection of my cake very seriously. There were trains and swimming pools and a lion, but I chose a cake that was a garish shade of pink and somehow incorporated hot pink tulle as part of the decoration. I thought that cake was the most beautiful in the world, and my mum the greatest mum ever for making it.

Pear, Chocolate and Pistachio Cake | Simple Provisions

This year, I continued the tradition of poring over recipe books to find the perfect birthday cake. The decoration has grown a little more sophisticated over the (many!) years since my pink cake, but the excitement hasn’t diminished.

My selection for 2013, a Pear, Chocolate and Pistachio Cake, has an understated elegance. It combines middle eastern inspired ingredients such as pistachios and orange zest with dark chocolate and pears to create a textured and interesting cake that is so flavoursome it stands without any adornment.

Pear, Chocolate and Pistachio Cake | Simple Provisions

I was delighted at the significant jaffa overtone it has, made more significant by my substitution of orange juice for Marsala. Using a really high-quality dark chocolate is key to the flavour of the cake, as you use a whole block. This isn’t a cake for allergy sufferers with nuts, dairy, flour, sugar and fruit all providing their support to make a delicious cake, but it is a crowd pleaser.

I’m not sure I can ever top my excitement over the pink tulle cake, but this one is definitely up there in taste and sophistication.

Pear, Chocolate and Pistachio Cake | Simple Provisions

Pear, Chocolate and Pistachio Cake


  • 150g (5 1/2 oz / 1 cup) pistachios
  • 200g (7 oz / 1 1/2 cups) chopped, best-quality dark chocolate
  • 150g (5 1/2 oz) butter, chopped
  • 150g (5 1/2 oz / 2/3 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 150g (5 1/2 oz / 1 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange
  • 2 tablespoons Marsala, Frangelico, Strega, port or orange juice
  • 2 pears, peeled and cored and cut into small pieces
  • Icing (confectioner’s) sugar, for dusting


Pre-heat oven to 180C/350F. Line a 24cm (9 1/2 inch) round cake tin with baking paper and lightly grease.

Put the pistachios and chocolate into a food processor and process to a coarse consistency. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. If you have a crappy food processor like I do, you can use a knife to chop the ingredients for this step.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, or a large bowl ready for an electric beater, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Gently mix in the flour and baking powder until combined.

Add the butter mixture to the chocolate and pistachio mixture, along with the orange zest, Marsala (or orange juice) and pears and fold through. The mixture will be quite dense. Spoon into the prepared cake tin and place in the oven.

The original recipe says bake for an hour. Mine only took 30 minutes. So check at 30 minutes and if a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean, it’s ready. It won’t rise to great heights, with all those lovely nuts and fruit and chocolate bits weighing it down.

Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with icing sugar and cut into slices to serve.

From Rosa’s Farm: Country Cooking by Rosa Mitchell

48 thoughts on “Pear, Chocolate and Pistachio Cake

  1. Tracie Ellis says:

    Looks gorgeous, and even achievable for a novice baker like me! I think iii try it on Sunday for my Step sons birthday.

    1. Amelia says:

      It is great for novices, Iā€™m one too! I hope you all enjoy it.

  2. I’m going to make this on my birthday which is in (counts on fingers) two weeks.

    1. Amelia says:

      Excellent idea Jane. Happy birthday for two weeks time!

  3. emuseats says:

    This looks fantastic! I’m coming to your next party! ;)

  4. Beautiful. Love the more rustic take on a birthday cake! Out of curiosity, what sort of flowers are on the cake? They’re stunning. Are they edible?

    1. Amelia says:

      I *think* they’re jonquils. They popped up in our garden along with the daffodils. They’re not edible, but smell beautiful.

  5. Saskia (1=2) says:

    Happiest of birthdays to you Amelia. Sounds like Amelia Festival 2013 was fantastic. Four cakes! Lucky lady. I have fond memories of my mum’s cakes too ā€“ the teddy bear with chocolate biscuit ears was a favourite. God, this cake looks absolutely magnificent ā€“ it contains some of my most favourite ingredients, namely pistachios, Marsala and dark chocolate. Love the beautiful moody photography.

    1. Amelia says:

      Thanks Saskia! I always enjoy an Amelia Festival, though possibly more if a teddy bear cake was involved. Maybe next year…

  6. lifeisanadventure says:

    Sounds divine

  7. Four cakes for your birthday? Sounds like it was a success!

    1. Amelia says:

      Ha! Yes Emily. I think number of cakes should be the definition of success for a birthday :)

  8. erika says:

    Haha! I love your style! My birthday was last Monday and my boyfriend’s today–between the two of us, there were three official cakes and enough sugar to make up a fourth. I would have loved to have this be one of them in all its sophistication. Happy belated birthday!

    1. Amelia says:

      Happy birthday back to you (and your boyfriend!) Erika.

  9. A Happy Birthday cake anyone would be happy to have. This sounds simplistically delicious, and I absolutely love the photos. nice job.

  10. Susan says:

    Beautiful! And happy birthday! x

  11. Happy birthday! What a wonderful cake :)

  12. This cake looks delicious! Love the use of pears and pistachio. Bookmarking this recipe–thanks for sharing!

    1. Amelia says:

      You’re welcome Ada.

  13. Roe says:

    Happy Birthday Amelia,
    I love all your recipes and this one looks very tempting.

    1. Amelia says:

      Thanks Aunty Roe!

  14. I remember my daughters spending hours poring over the Women’s Weekly birthday cake book when they were little, and the priceless look of amazement and adoration on their faces when the cake was finally revealed. This cake looks absolutely delicious – I will definitely be making this for my next special occasion!! Thanks so much for sharing :-)

    1. Amelia says:

      You’re welcome Sam. I bet your daughters thought you were the best mum in the world too!

  15. Beautiful cake…. simple baking with original flavours: my kind of recipe. I will bookmark this one , thank you for sharing!

  16. cheryllovesfood says:

    This looks and sounds absolutely divine! I will be giving this a try soon. What a lovely combination of pears, pistachios, orange and CHOCOLATE! Yummy. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

    1. Amelia says:

      I hope you enjoy it Cheryl

  17. simple but it looks very elegant!

  18. Hi Amelia, I discovered your blog via your mum, who is a friend of mine on Flickr. As soon as I saw this recipe I knew I had to make it and today I did. What a sensational recipe, so easy to make and it tastes and smells delicious. Thank you so much for sharing this fabulous recipe, which is sure to become a favourite.

  19. Mimi and Sue says:

    Happy birthday (Mimi’s is the 4th — 2 virgos!) We hope your cake was as delicious as it was beautiful and you had a wonderful CELEBRATION!

    1. Amelia says:

      Thank you! I hope Mimi had a wonderful birthday too.

  20. Deepa says:

    I just discovered your blog, like right this very second. And glad I did! This cake looks lovely. Happy Birthday!!

  21. I dream of that first shot on my counter everyday when I wake up. Can we rewind for my birthday?

    1. Amelia says:

      For sure! Who needs a birthday to eat cake? ;)

  22. Dena says:

    Beautiful and Happy Birthday. So glad I found this site!

    1. Amelia says:

      Thank you! Glad you found it too Dena :)

  23. This cake looks so cozy and delicious– We have birthdays coming up in our family, so your idea is just in time. Thanks for a really useful, beautiful recipe!

  24. Sandra says:

    My birthday is coming up in Nov around Thanksgiving. I’m going to ask my daughter to make this for me.
    I might not be able to so I might have to make it this month just to have cake!!!
    Happy late birthday

    1. Amelia says:

      Sandra, this cake is lovely enough to eat it once this month and once next month. It’s good to “test” it ;)

  25. milkandbun says:

    Love the combination of pears and pistachios!!! The cake definitely deserves to be cooked!:)

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