pistachio crumbly cake

pistachio crumbly cake from Modena

My daughter and her friend began to make this cake disappear one afternoon, tearing off pieces with their hands, letting the crumbs fall down to where the dog was waiting, eager to take on the role of floor-polisher.


Although I think my kids should be long past the stage of being wary of nuts in and around their food – they don’t have allergies or anything else to cause worry – they still hesitate before taking a sample of any cake, cookie or other sweet baked thing with clear nut visibility.

pistachio crumbly cake sbrisolona

Apparently this cake seemed appealing despite that slight defect, because half of it was gone before I could reply.

“It’s like a coffee cake…”

“Oh, yeah. I like coffee cake, but this looks kinda flat. Are you sure it’s a coffee cake?”

“It’s an Italian coffee cake, not puffy like the ones you’re used to. You like it?”


This is my take on sbrisolona, Italian crumb cake. Most traditional ones are made with almonds or pine nuts like this one from Mario Batali, but I wanted to use pistachios, so here you go.

It turns out properly crumby, not like a dry cookie but a slightly sticky crumble.

pistachio crumbly cake

pistachio crumbly cake

Yield: one 9-inch cake

This cake is prepared entirely in a food processor before baking. It keeps very well on your kitchen counter for a few days, if it lasts that long.


  • For streusel:
  • ½ cup shelled pistachios, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • For cake:
  • 1 cup shelled pistachios, toasted
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground anise seed
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • Grated zest from 1 lemon


  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees and lightly brush the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with olive oil or melted butter.
  2. To make the streusel, stir together all ingredients in a small bowl.
  3. Grind the pistachios in a food processor until fine crumbs form; add the flour, sugar, anise seed and baking powder and pulse to combine.
  4. Whisk together the eggs, olive oil, butter and lemon zest until emulsified; add to the flour mixture in the food processor and blend just until the batter is smooth, about 30 seconds.
  5. Spread batter into the pan and top evenly with the streusel. Bake 25 – 30 minutes; the cake should spring back to the touch.
  6. Cool cake on a rack 10 – 15 minutes before removing sides of the pan; allow cake to cool completely.


  1. It looks amazing. I updated my reader, so I can still follow you 🙂

  2. Oh, I love Sbrisolona, but I never thought of using pistachios. I so enjoy your take on food. You present new ideas, new ways of looking at things, and everything you make is beautiful and tempting. Thanks. What a treat. I think this would last maybe a day in my home, maybe.

    • Adri, many thanks. Your words are always encouraging to me.
      I used pistachios because I discovered a 3 pound stash of them in my freezer – ! I think they work nicely in the sbrisolona. The cake didn’t last a day after the first 24 hours. I had to hide it overnight for taking photos first and then – poof – gone.

  3. Your daughter clearly has a great taste because this cake looks and sounds absolutely delightful! I made my fair share of traditional crumb cakes but never the Italian kind. I need to try it soon! Love your photos, Karen!

  4. Wow! That is some cake! I love nut heavy cakes. I think they are lot tastier and healthier than all flour ones. This one is really inviting!

  5. Looks a-maz-ing!! Thanks for sharing!

  6. I love pistachios, what a fabulous cake! I’d be fighting for every last crumb :).

  7. Gorgeous!

  8. This looks awesome..

  9. I love this kind of cake, it’s right up my alley. Pistachios are so delicious!


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