Chocolate Cake with Pistachios and Apricots

The romance that appeals to me has a dark side, such as the poetry of Paul Verlaine, novels by Mary Shelley, gowns by Elsa Schiaparelli and Alexander McQueen, and music by Modest Mussorgsky. In perfume, dark romance is expressed in fragrances like Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin, Caron Nuit de Noël, Arquiste Nanban, and Guerlain Vol de Nuit. If I extrapolate this idea even further into flavors, then it would be my dark chocolate pound cake with pistachios and apricots. It’s darkly romantic and decadent.

Bitter chocolate is complex enough to be paired with a variety of other flavors, but the combination with pistachios and apricots is one that I love for its harmony. Apricots give a tart floral note, while pistachios hold their own. Their sweetness becomes more pronounced against the dark chocolate foil.

The recipe is a classical pound cake, with equal weights of flour, sugar and butter, and it comes from a book by the Ukrainian food writer Daria Tsvek. I already shared her fabulous Rum Raisin cake that many of you made and enjoyed, and here is its chocolate counterpart. However, I adapted the recipe to make it fail-proof and changed the combination of dried fruits.

Tsvek recommends using walnuts and raisins, which is a fine idea with dark chocolate, but I like the combination of apricots and raisins for a more interesting–and less sweet–cake. Then, because there can’t be too much chocolate, I added some chocolate chips.

The cake has the fudgy, moist texture of a chocolate pound cake, but the flavors remain clear and it becomes only better as it ages. I usually bake it the night before and cut it the next day, but it’s not essential. Slightly warm, served with chocolate ice-cream, it’s the most delicious idea of dark romance.

Chocolate Cake with Pistachios and Apricots

Serve 8-10

You can use any combination of dried fruits and nuts as you wish, keeping the proportions and volume according to the recipe. Another pairing I like is pecans and dried cherries. My pistachios were tiny ones, so I left them whole, but if you’re using larger nuts, then chop them coarsely.

I used Barry Callebaut’s Black Pearl cocoa powder to make this recipe, which is the darkest cocoa powder you can find. It gives an intense, almost true black color and makes for a striking cake. However, it’s not necessary, and you can use any other Dutch-processed cocoa powder.

200g (1 cup + 2/3 cup) all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
200g (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
200g (1 cup) granulated sugar
pinch of salt
4 eggs
100g (1 cup) coarsely chopped pistachios
75g (3/4 cup) raisins
50g (1/4 cup) chopped dried apricots
50g (1/4 cup) dark chocolate chips
zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

extra pistachio slivers for garnish

Preheat oven to 175C/350F.

Wash raisins, drain well, dry with a paper towel. Mix dry fruit, chocolate chips and pistachios and sprinkle with a little bit of flour.

Sift flour with baking powder and cocoa powder.

Whip butter and sugar with a handheld mixer until pale. Add eggs one by one, mixing well after each addition and alternating each egg with a spoonful of flour. Once all eggs have been added, mix in vanilla extract and lemon zest. Fold in the rest of the flour and mix well.

Fold dried fruit, chocolate chips and nuts into the dough gently.

Butter and flour a 8 3/4″ x 4 3/4″ (22cm x 12cm) rectangular mold. Pour in the batter, smooth the top, sprinkle with  the reserved pistachio slivers and make a cut in the middle with a damp knife. Bake at 175C/350F for 40min. Then reduce to 160C/320F and bake for about 30-40min or until a wooden stick plunged into the middle of the cake comes out dry. Cool in the mold. Enjoy!

Adapted from Daria Tsvek, Sweet Baking, Lviv, 1988. Дарія Цвєк, Солодке Печіво. Видавництво “Каменяр”, Львів, 1988.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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59 Comments

  • Lovestosmellgood: Yes, please!
    ❤️ February 12, 2018 at 8:05am Reply

    • Victoria: Can’t have enough of chocolate. February 12, 2018 at 11:09am Reply

      • lovestosmellgood: I will try this recipe on Friday for a dinner party I am attending. Wish me luck! I have to find the dark cocoa powder.. February 13, 2018 at 10:42am Reply

        • Victoria: Good luck! Let me know if you have any other questions. Any Dutch-processed cocoa powder will work. February 13, 2018 at 12:24pm Reply

  • Monica: Sign me up for this kind of romance! 🙂 February 12, 2018 at 8:33am Reply

  • Kandice: I will have to try this. It sounds absolutely wonderful, and I love dark chocolate! February 12, 2018 at 9:23am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s an easy pound cake recipe, too. I hope that you can try it. February 12, 2018 at 11:14am Reply

  • rosarita: Oh, this is definitely one that I’ll bake! Thanks, V 🙂 February 12, 2018 at 9:48am Reply

    • Victoria: Please let me know how it goes. I hope that you like it. February 12, 2018 at 11:14am Reply

  • missyl: Oh this sounds good! And I concur on the SL fragrance. Dark and romantic. I don’t believe I’ve tried the others. Trying your recipe right away. Thank you. February 12, 2018 at 11:30am Reply

    • Victoria: I was also thinking of Chergui by Lutens, which would fall into another dark romantic perfume. Or Frederic Malle Une Rose, if one wants to stay with the rose theme. February 12, 2018 at 11:57am Reply

  • Heather H: You’re so lovely Victoria. I can’t wait to try this recipe. February 12, 2018 at 11:48am Reply

    • Victoria: Please do! I’d love to hear it how turns out for you. February 12, 2018 at 11:57am Reply

  • Austenfan: It looks and sounds delicious! I love chocolate cake and the combination with apricots and pistacchios makes sense. After all I use apricot jam when I make sacher torte.

    On horses: I don’t get to smell them anymore either. But I do distinctly remember their smell from when I was still horse riding. In general I think herbivores tend to smell better than omnivores or carnivores.

    And completely unrelated. Ireen Wüst has won another gold medal. I’m so pleased! February 12, 2018 at 12:02pm Reply

    • Victoria: Congrats to Ireen Wüst! So well-deserved!

      I had the most delicious chocolate Swiss roll in Vienna, but instead of plain cream, it was filled with the light apricot custard. Sacher torte, of course, is a classical chocolate-apricot combination. February 12, 2018 at 1:08pm Reply

      • Austenfan: Your Swiss Roll sounds wonderful, and they seem to understand pastry in Austria. February 12, 2018 at 5:59pm Reply

        • Victoria: I also love the whole category of desserts/main courses in Austria like different dumplings, puddings, etc. Salzburg Nockerl, for instance. February 13, 2018 at 3:02am Reply

  • OnWingsofSaffron: I‘ll gladly join this somewhat less contentious post.
    I find pound cakes most satisfying: even the telling name is great!
    The classic method you supply results in a wonderfully dense cake.
    Another way is to separate egg yolks and egg whites: then continue with the yolks as in your recipe. At the end when your dough is finished, the egg whites are beaten to a fluff and added gently to the dough in three batches. The end result after baking is airier and somewhat textually lighter – more cake than bread. Perhaps this brings Marie Antoinette and her opinions to mind – but let‘s derail this post 😄 February 12, 2018 at 12:48pm Reply

    • OnWingsofSaffron: Let‘s NOT – is what I wanted to say. Sorry! February 12, 2018 at 12:52pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for the reminder. I use this method when I make plain pound cakes, but in the one with so many dried fruits and nuts, the extra step doesn’t make much difference. Either way, the cake is decadent and moist. Of course, you can always reduce the amount of dried fruits and nuts, but I like the mosaic-like pattern and the rich flavor.

      I’m experimenting with the chiffon cakes lately. They were my discovery in Singapore–airy, light, perfect for a tea party–or a Marie-Antoinette film set. 🙂 February 12, 2018 at 1:12pm Reply

      • Nick: Was it the pandan chiffon cake from BengawanSolo? 😀 February 15, 2018 at 7:29pm Reply

        • Victoria: I don’t remember. I had so many on that trip. February 16, 2018 at 5:07am Reply

  • Severine: Dark romance – now that is what I love. And chocolate – oh heaven! Just in time for Valentine’s Day. I enjoy your ideas especially when I am down… to brighten up my mood, my day, my body and mind! February 12, 2018 at 2:22pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you!
      I like my chocolate cakes as dark and fudgy as possible, without being a brownie. 🙂 February 13, 2018 at 2:59am Reply

  • M Kirk: This sounds wonderful! Love dark chocolate, pistachios and apricots. Thank you for providing the recipe. February 12, 2018 at 2:51pm Reply

    • Victoria: You’re most welcome! February 13, 2018 at 2:59am Reply

  • Andy: I just made Tsvek’s rum raisin cake for the first time this past weekend, and am already thinking about making it again (with finely chopped crystallized ginger added, and both dark and golden raisins). However, this looks so irresistible, and given that it’s another of Daria Tsvek’s recipes, I’m not sure I can stop myself from trying this first! Perhaps, since I love the combination of chocolate and ginger, some crystallized ginger could even work well in this cake. February 12, 2018 at 3:17pm Reply

    • Victoria: It definitely can work. Pierre Hermé has a recipe in one of his books for a chocolate cake with crystallized ginger and apricots. February 13, 2018 at 3:00am Reply

      • Andy: Ooh. That sounds extraordinary. February 13, 2018 at 12:49pm Reply

  • Olivia: This looks good! Thanks for the recipe. I never would have thought to use apricots. This looks like a perfume come to life. February 12, 2018 at 4:47pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’d love a perfume with an abstract dark chocolate note and a hint of apricot. February 13, 2018 at 3:01am Reply

  • Emilie: This sounds delicious and it looks so pretty with the bright green pistachios against the almost black cake. What a striking colour combination.

    I will definitely be trying this out tomorrow for Valentine’s day (maybe with my record of Khovanschina playing in the background for drama!) The one good thing about having a teeny tiny kitchen is that it always smells divine when baking and I think with this dessert I’ll feel like I’m cooking inside a darkly gourmand perfume bottle! February 12, 2018 at 9:27pm Reply

    • Victoria: I can see what you mean. My kitchen is also small and narrow, but one benefit is a nice scent if I bake anything, especially bread.

      Pictures at an Exhibition is my other top favorite piece by Mussorgsky. February 13, 2018 at 3:05am Reply

      • Maria: I’ve always tought bakery is the best parfum d’ambiance ever!! I will try a Quebec special version of your pound cake, with walnuts, cranberries and a hint of maple instead of sugar 🙂 February 13, 2018 at 11:41am Reply

        • Victoria: Do you use maple syrup instead of sugar in your cake recipe? February 13, 2018 at 12:23pm Reply

          • Maria: No, I just replace a part of sugar with maple syrup. I always use it more as a spice February 13, 2018 at 12:30pm Reply

            • Victoria: I don’t know how this cake will behave with more liquid in the dough, since the proportion is calculated for sugar, but the idea sounds good. February 13, 2018 at 2:37pm Reply

      • Emilie: Well, it is definitely what I tell myself when I am knocking everything over looking for something in my overloaded cupboards 😉

        Yes, I like Pictures at an Exhibition a lot too but I have a copy of Ravel’s arrangement.

        Have you seen some of the Hartmann pictures that inspired Mussorgsky? The sketches for “Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks” are quite funny! Hard to dance in I imagine though… February 13, 2018 at 5:38pm Reply

        • Victoria: I have, although I understand that only a few have survived. The fascinating thing about them is that they were in turn inspired by other works of art, literature, architecture, etc. Creativity is certainly about connections where they don’t seem to appear at first glance. February 15, 2018 at 3:14am Reply

          • Emilie: Very true! February 15, 2018 at 6:54am Reply

  • KatieAnn: Oh, goodness, this looks heavenly! I must try this recipe. Love the photos too. That teacup is delightful. I have a weak spot for desserts and pretty dishes. 🙂 Thank you for sharing this. February 12, 2018 at 10:27pm Reply

    • Victoria: My mom bought a set of these cups for me on Ebay. They were made in Limoges in the 50s especially for the US market, since this design was popular for a young bride’s trousseau. But in my move only one or two cups have survived. February 13, 2018 at 3:11am Reply

      • Emilie: Oh what a shame 🙁 Yes, I second KatieAnn’s comment, it is a lovely teacup and saucer.

        I love the idea of a carefully selected bridal trousseau though I suppose in most places the idea is obsolete. Lots of people will move out and personally select their homewares well before getting married. It’s a nice, romantic idea though. February 13, 2018 at 5:41pm Reply

        • Victoria: Also, many get married when they are older and financially independent themselves, so the idea of a trousseau is obsolete. My grandmother decries that none of us needed the items she collected for us over the years, like pillow cases and blankets. Mostly because the older European sizes don’t fit the standard American beds. February 15, 2018 at 3:17am Reply

          • Emilie: Yes this is so. Ahh what a shame about the pillow cases and blankets! It must be a grandmother-ly instinct to prepare for future generations. Mine has knitted and crocheted clothing for her as yet unborn great grandchildren (me being the only grandchild!) February 15, 2018 at 6:57am Reply

            • Victoria: Oh, that’s so sweet. 🙂 February 16, 2018 at 5:08am Reply

  • maja: I love the teacup, too, my favorite color.
    I am always making something chocolatey since my boys always ask for a chocolate dessert. So this goes on my list! Thank you, it looks fantastic.
    Knowing I don’t fancy chocolate that much my husband brought me today a large chunk of Tonara torrone made with chestnut honey and almonds. So delicious! February 14, 2018 at 11:49am Reply

    • Victoria: Torrone is a treat I’d find hard to resist! February 15, 2018 at 3:18am Reply

  • Nick: Hello, Victoria. As I am writing this, I am waiting for the second baking at 160°C. I used vanilla rum infusion that I made a month ago and Sprüngli’s Grand Cru Chocolat Chaud — I am in Zürich after all 🙂

    Also, I wonder: where does the lemon zest come in? February 15, 2018 at 7:34pm Reply

    • Victoria: It goes with the vanilla. It’s optional, but it does highlight the flavor nicely. February 16, 2018 at 5:07am Reply

  • Carla: What a recipe! Just a week ago the Wall St Journal had a recipe for pistachio yogurt cake that I cut out and intend to make. And then, my daughter and I just made a “Happy Winter Fudge Cake” from the wonderful out-of-print children’s book Happy Winter. It wasn’t a real fudge cake but the book is from the 80’s and I think everything chocolate was called fudge then in the US. It was simply a chocolate yogurt cake with chocolate chips stirred in. More light than rich. Your recipe is like making a Sunny Middle Eastern classic combo of apricots and pistachios fit for winter by adding chocolate. Claudia Roden would be pleased. February 17, 2018 at 9:22pm Reply

    • Victoria: Both cakes sound very good, especially the yogurt chocolate cake. That’s such a forgiving batter, and you can flavor it with anything you like. You can also stir chopped apricots with the chocolate chips, and it would be not too far from my recipe. February 23, 2018 at 6:30am Reply

  • Aurora: It must be absolutely delicious, I even like dried apricots by themselves as a snack, and I’m really interested in this version of pound cake. And the photos are such a treat, orange and green look so pretty together. February 18, 2018 at 8:28am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you! I also love apricots in all forms, so I find ways to eat more of them. 🙂 February 23, 2018 at 6:29am Reply

  • Kaja: Dear Victoria. Thx for the recipe, looks delicious. I like to cook healthy, even when it comes to desserts. To you think it is possible to replace the sugar and/or butter in this recipe? If yes, what would you use instead? Thx, Kaja. February 21, 2018 at 5:45am Reply

  • Sherry: Thank you Victoria for sharing this lovely recipe. I finally made this yesterday – it turned out great! Although my kids claim it was not sweet enough (they are used to the NA sweetness), it was a great hit at work! My cake did not look nearly as dark, not sure why since I did follow the recipe to the teeth. It didn’t impact the taste although, it was chocolaty, buttery and just sweet enough, with a hint of tartness from apricot. Maybe I will add more cocoa powder next time, since I still have half a bag of pistachio!

    Thanks again and it was a perfect pairing with Atelier cafe Tuberose and fresh brewed coffee! February 26, 2018 at 8:49pm Reply

    • Victoria: Sherry, I’m so glad that you liked it. As I mentioned in the note to the recipe, the color will depend on your cocoa powder. If yours is lighter than the one I’ve used, the cake will also look lighter. But do not add more next time, since it will change the flavor and texture negatively. If you want a darker cake, you can try the same style of cocoa powder I’ve used (“Black Pearl”). Or add a bit of food-grade color. I generally don’t bother about the color, though, and use whatever Dutched cocoa powder I have on hand. February 27, 2018 at 3:51am Reply

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