Pumpkin Pistachio cake with Tahini frosting.

Pumpkin Pistachio cake with Tahini frosting. Credit: Marge Perry

If hugs had a smell, I am fairly certain it would be the aroma of a pumpkin cake in the oven. There is something magical about inhaling air filled with the sweet spices of cinnamon and cardamom combined with baked pumpkin. It is a smell that has pulled people together for generations — and that reminds us both of past happy times and helps us create new ones.

Our holiday gathering may be smaller this year, but it is no less sweet and warm and filled with love. Consider sharing a recipe ahead of time with those who can’t be at the table with you — when it is time to eat you can enjoy it together via Zoom. (And families with a competitive streak can share close-up shots of their creations.)

I nominate this pumpkin-pistachio cake with tahini frosting. It has all the flavors and aromas of the season — which you can share from afar. There is something wonderful knowing that as you breathe in this wonderful aroma, so is your sister, brother, daughter or uncle.

Wishing you a wonderful holiday season, filled with gratitude for all the new ways we have learned to be together.

Pumpkin Pistachio Cake with Tahini Frosting

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 large eggs (at room temperature)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup pumpkin purée (not pie filling)

2 teaspoons orange zest

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped


1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup tahini

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Coat a 9-inch cake pan with cooking spray or butter.

2. Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer; beat on medium speed until well combined. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat until the mixture is very creamy. Add the pumpkin and orange zest and beat until incorporated.

3. Combine the flour, cinnamon, cardamom, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Add to the butter mixture and beat on low until just combined. Fold in the pistachios.

4. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool in the pan 10 minutes; then invert onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

5. Meanwhile, make the frosting: beat the butter in an electric mixer with until lightly and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the tahini, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla extract and continue beating until smooth and creamy, about 2-3 minutes.

6. Spread the top of the cake with the frosting and sprinkle with additional chopped pistachios and orange peel. (May be made 2 days ahead and kept refrigerated.)

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