bake a bakla — pistachio baklava cake

by hungryrabbit on September 30, 2011

Pistachio Baklava Cake

I love Baklava—the Greek, Turkish, Lebanese rich, sweet pastry made of layers of phyllo dough filled with nuts and sweetened with syrup. Something about it just grabs me, which is surprising since I usually don’t like very sweet pastries. Perhaps it’s the subtle scent of rose water infused in the syrup or the gossamer layers of phyllo dough. Maybe it’s the baker’s fascination with the amount of liquid that Baklava can absorb. It could be the oozing of syrup in your mouth when you bite into the once crispy, but then chewy pastry layer with the earthy nut filling.

Every time when I go to Kaluystan’s for spices, I can’t help but be seduced by their array of Baklava from many regions. As I pay for my purchase, I always treat myself to a piece (maybe two, or three). As long as there’s a pistachio filling, or a mix of it with other nuts, I’m game for a new variation.

I’ve often thought of making baklava, but hadn’t worked out the right approach. So after my recent trip (2 weeks ago), I went to work on my own version. As much as I love it, it is hard to eat more than a couple small pieces without sugar overloading. I wanted to make a version that allowed me to eat more than just a small portion to satisfy my craving—and not go into a sugar coma.

The result is a tender pistachio cake doused with the orange/rose water syrup. Discs of baklava with pistachio filling are used as if they were frosting for the cake. If you like baklava or love pistachio as much as I do, this cake saves a trip to Kaluystan’s.

Pistachio Baklava Cake

yield: one 6-inch cake

Cake Layer


2 cup Panko or regular bread crumbs (about 4 ounces)
1 cup pistachio, whole and roasted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
4 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup (5-1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
Orange-scented syrup, recipe to follow
1-1/2 cups pistachios, toasted and ground, for decorating


1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350℉. Butter two 6-by-2-inch round cake pans; line each with a circle of parchment paper. Butter paper, and dust pans with flour; tap out excess. Set aside.

2. In a mini food processor, add panko, pistachio, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. Process until finely chopped, set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk eggs and sugar until thick and pale, about 5 minutes. The mixture should fall in a ribbon rather than a stream. Gently fold in nut mixture by hand with the whisk attachment. Add melted butter in a slow stream and fold into the batter with a rubber spatula.

4. Divide batter into the prepared pans and bake until cake tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Cool cake on wire rack for 10 minutes, remove cake from pan and set it on cooling rack. Generously brush syrup on the top and sides of cake, let cool completely. Wash cake pans, to be used in baklava layers.

Bakalva Layer


3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
16 sheets of phyllo pastry
1 cups pistachio,toasted and ground
Orange scented syrup, recipe to follow


1. Fold phyllo sheets in half along the long edge. Use cake pan as template and cut out 8-inch circles, roughly 1-inch wider than the pan on all sides. (Circles do not have to be perfect.) Cover phyllo with damp towel.

2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350℉. Brush two 6-by-2-inch round cake pans with melted butter. Place one sheet of phyllo in one pan and fold in edges to fit the pan. Brush with melted butter. Continue this layering and brushing until you have 8 layers of pastry.

3. Scatter ground pistachio over the pastry and continue the layering and buttering for 8 more layers. Repeat process with the second pan. Place pan in oven and bake until golden brown and crisp on top. about 30-35 minutes. Remove pan from oven and slowly drizzle 1/4 cup of syrup into each pan. Set aside to cool completely.

4. While baklava layers are baking, roughly tear/chop up leftover phyllo into chards and brush generously with butter. Spread pastry chards on parchment lined baking sheet. When baklava are done, place baking pan in oven and baking until golden brown, about 18-25 minutes. (Keep a close eye towards the end to avoid burning of pastry.)

Orange-scented Syrup


1 cups (5 ounces) of granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey
3/4 cup water
2 teaspoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 teaspoon rose water
1/2 teaspoon orange flower water


1. Combine sugar, honey, water and lemon juice in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until slightly thicken, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

2. Stir rose and orange flower water to cool syrup. Add more, a few drops at a time, to taste. (Flavor will mellow out after it sits for a while.)


1. Level top of the cakes with serrated knife to remove indent in the center of cake. Place one cake layer on cake stand or plate, brush top of cake generously with syrup. Place a layer of baklava on top of cake, brush top of baklava layer with syrup if it’s not sticky and top with second cake layer. Brush with more syrup and top with second baklava layer.

2. Brush baklava layer with more syrup to make it sticky. Decorate top with baklava chards, press slightly to make sure they adhere to cake.

3. Brush side of cake with syrup and apply ground pistachio evenly on the side of cake, pressing lightly to adhere. Sprinkle top of cake with more ground pistachio if desire. Serve.

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{ 73 comments… read them below or add one }

Urvashee September 30, 2011 at 6:59 am

What a unique idea! Gorgeous pics.

Meeta September 30, 2011 at 7:06 am

I adore baklava and love your take on it and presenting it as a cake. Pistachios are my favorite nuts too – this my friend is a very elegant looking dessert! Simply stunning Ken. Also your shots are gorgeous!

Nancy @SensitivePantry September 30, 2011 at 7:26 am

Wow. This is a work of art! Beautiful. Creative. And I bet it’s spectacularly delicious.

Sunchowder - Wendy Read September 30, 2011 at 7:36 am

OMG – the photos are stunning and what a fabulous take on Baklava!

Gail September 30, 2011 at 8:29 am

What a gorgeous, elegant take on baklava! Fabulous, Ken!!

domenicacooks September 30, 2011 at 8:36 am

This is a work of art, Ken. When are you going to open a bakery already?!

Baker Street September 30, 2011 at 8:38 am

Lovely idea, gorgeous cake!

Cecilia September 30, 2011 at 10:35 am

What an amazing cake! Such a lovely and creative take on baklava.

Tina@flourtrader September 30, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Classic baklava is such a great pastry dessert and the taste is heavenly. Your pistachio twist on this classic is awesome. Not only is the flavor intriguing, but the presentation is stunning. Well done!

JennieM September 30, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Are you KIDDING me??? This looks AMAZING! I can’t wait to try this…we just had regular baklava with ice cream for dessert last night (I can’t take credit for it’s deliciousness; I didn’t make it).

What a great combination and a pretty presentation. Kudos!

Georgie September 30, 2011 at 11:55 pm

Brilliant! I grew up eating and making the Greek version of baklava. Somewhere along the way I lost my taste for it and began exploring other decadent sweets. Though this bakla pistachio version has me a little weak in the knees at the moment. I love everything about this post, the writing, the photos and the recipe.

Sasha @ The Procrastobaker October 1, 2011 at 7:05 am

This looks phenomenal! What a gorgeous invention this is :)

Cherine October 1, 2011 at 12:51 pm

This is a masterpiece!! I love your creation!!!! Great job

Kimmie October 1, 2011 at 1:06 pm

I had no idea that baklava could get any better than it already was… I think you may have topped an all time favorite of mine!

Rosie @ Sweetapolita October 2, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Wow, wow, wow…that is incredible, Ken–those textures and authentic colours. Um, okay one more: Wow! That is one of the most gorgeous cakes I have ever seen, and I mean that from the bottom of my cake-loving heart. Unreal. The photos are also outstanding! xo

Russell van Kraayenburg October 2, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Another gorgeous treat! The layers and textures look divine, not to mention all the scrumptious flavors. Incredible!

arthi October 3, 2011 at 5:23 am

Gorgeous clicks Ken and a very gorgeous cake!

Jamie October 3, 2011 at 5:35 am

Ken, you are absolutely crazy! Crazy talented! Everything you make is stunning to look at and I’ll bet even better to eat. Delicious and creative. Boy, I wish we were neighbors! Gorgeous cake.

Rosie @ Sweetapolita October 3, 2011 at 10:49 am

I’m back. Yes, I’m stalking this post, Ken. I love it. I love it! I needed a beautiful cake-fix this morning, so here I am. Okay, off I go. Again. :)

Laura (Blogging Over Thyme) October 3, 2011 at 9:14 pm

I agree with everything everyone above said! This is one of the most incredible looking cakes I’ve ever seen.

You are incredibly talented. And inspiring!

Elizabeth @Mango_Queen October 4, 2011 at 9:35 am

What a divine Baklava Pistacchio cake! I am inspired to try it. Thanks for sharing the recipe. I hope mine comes out as divine looking as yours, Ken!

sweetsugarbelle October 4, 2011 at 10:41 am

OH MY GOSH!!! This dessert can only be describes as STUNNING! pistachio orange? Genius! You are so very talented!

Su-yin October 4, 2011 at 8:46 pm

OMG Ken this is AWESOME! I don’t even like baklava all that much and I want this cake! Ah if only you lived in London (or I lived in NY)…. ;)

Simone October 5, 2011 at 5:35 pm

I was visiting Meeta this weekend and she was discussing how your photos have improved since Plate to Page and she mentioned the shots of this gorgeous baklava specifically… Now I understand why.. I want some of that and the photos are stunning Ken!

Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction October 6, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Oh my goodness… This is amazing! Baklava is definitely one of my weaknesses. I just love it. Can’t wait to give this a try. And, stunning photos, too!

Lora ~ cakeduchess October 6, 2011 at 9:05 pm

Oh my word. I adore baklava and I ADORE this beauty of a cake. I know you’re in Vegas and are rockin’ the town. I just wanted to say “ciao” and check out your latest deliciousness. xo

foodwanderings October 6, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Gasp. Full stop! …but srsly you know I can’t I got to go on and praise this cake & such a nice twist on the classic mediterranean dessert!!

The Pleasure Monger October 7, 2011 at 3:17 am

Ken, this is just stunningly beautiful!!!

robynski October 9, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Ken, this cake looks wonderful. I;m sure it tastes as good too!

One question, for the cake it says 1 cup of pistachio. Is that ground? Chopped, whole or paste? I’d love to make the cake, but I’m wondering about the pistachio.

hungryrabbit October 9, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Hi Robyn, thanks for pointing that out, I’ve clarified in the recipe. it’s whole pistachios and get chopped in the processor. Enjoy.

robynski October 10, 2011 at 11:23 pm

Oh thank you Ken. I’m such a huge fan of pistachios I;m certain this cake will become a lifelong favorite. October 19, 2011 at 7:04 am

This is truly AMAZING! Way to go!!!

caleblargo November 4, 2011 at 7:51 pm

I’m in love with pistachios. Add rosewater? = my new fav recipe.

Maggie November 17, 2011 at 11:19 am

Wow, this is beautiful! And what unique recipe and no flour in the cake and 2 c of panko? I am really curious to try this! This will be a special occasion cake for sure!

Heidi @ Crock-Pot Ladies November 17, 2011 at 3:21 pm

One word – stunning! I wish I was a baker. But I adore baklava and this makes me drool. Totally pinning this on my Food Porn board at Pinterest….like porn nice to look at but I am never going to “do it” in real life.

Leni the Cook November 18, 2011 at 7:31 pm

Baklava is almost the only sweet dessert I love (almond horns made with home made almond paste) is the other. Thank you for this recipe!

nipponnin November 20, 2011 at 1:32 am

What fantastic photos! It was fun just looking at those photos but you enticed me to try this recipe. I also like pistachio.

frabala November 20, 2011 at 2:58 am

Greece speaking here!

I love the modern way presented this traditional sweet pie…

One of my favorite when christmas comes..!

vic@cakebook April 21, 2012 at 6:04 am

This looks stunning — bet it was divine!

BehnAz June 1, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Hello from Canada. I am an Iranian baklava lover and it runs in my blood.
This is an amazing piece of art you have created and my hat goes off to you.
However baklava is neither Greek nor Arabic or east European. It is an Azeri pastry from Azerbaijan. Not the country we now know, but a large region in ancient central Asia between the countries known today as Turkey, Russia, Iraq & Iran. Azeri race is an ancient one living tribal. They had their own language and adapted Persian alphabet to write. Due to so much invasion of this area through history by many different countries, their cuisine has inspired and been adapted by alot of countries such as Greece, Turkey, Russia alot of Arabic countries of the region and Iran. It is called BAghlavA in both Azeri and Persian. ;o)

Baklava ( /ˈbɑːkləvɑː/, /bɑːkləˈvɑː/,[1] or /bəˈklɑːvə/;[2] Ottoman Turkish: باقلوا) is a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey. It is characteristic of the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire and much of Central and Southwest Asia.
you can read the rest in wikipedia on your own ;o)

Thank you so much for introducing a brand new modern amazingly beautiful version of this historical sweet..

Rachel June 18, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Hi! Thanks so much for sharing this recipe, I made it yesterday(for father’s day) and it was just as amazing as the photos. First, thank you for including the weights! It’s so much easier to bake! Second, I filled both 6″ rounds 2/3 full and had enough leftover for an 8″ round. (no complaints, it’s nice to have a bit to come home to!) Did I miss something? Looking forward to trying your other recipes!

hungryrabbit June 18, 2012 at 10:09 pm

Hi Rachel, thank you so much for visiting my blog. I’m glad you enjoyed the cake on such a special occasion. I wonder why you have extra batter. I’ll go over my notes and get back to you soon. -Ken

Detektei June 28, 2012 at 9:56 am

I have never seen a baklava cake before, I just know the small bites you get at a turkish buffet…. This cake looks amazing!

Sonia July 2, 2012 at 11:54 am

This cake is gorgeous and I can’t wait to try it out! The rosewater/orange flower water combo should be great! Could I replace the breadcrumbs with all-purpose flour? I have a friend that is allergic to yeast….

hungryrabbit July 2, 2012 at 11:59 am

Though not the same texture,I suppose you can try. Keep me posted on the result.

Colette July 19, 2012 at 5:12 pm


Sukaina August 14, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Beautiful cake. I adore baklava so this has been repinned to my recipe to try board!

Crystal October 25, 2012 at 12:50 pm

I am thinking to make this. How did it go over? It looks beautiful but I am worried of how other people who are scared of baklava and pistachios will react. haha Have you made it since this first time?

hungryrabbit October 25, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Hi Crystal, it’s definitely not as sweet as a classic baklava, but if your friends and family don’t like pistachio, you might consider to bake a different cake for them. -Ken

Jodi November 24, 2012 at 10:54 pm

I’m having difficulty finding a place that carries rose water or orange flower water… are there other alternatives? I’m sure the cake wouldn’t taste the same without them. suggestions?

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