A few teaspoonfuls of rosewater, a handful of pistachios and a scattering of rose petals elevate this simple cream filled sponge to something exotically redolent of a Persian flower garden. Some sugared rose petals are always gorgeous on any cake flavoured with rosewater: just paint the petals with egg white, toss them in a bowl of caster sugar and lay to dry on kitchen paper in a warm, dry place for 6–24 hours, until crisp.






Skill level

Average: 2.9 (91 votes)


  • 230 g salted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
  • 180 g light muscovado sugar
  • 4 tsp rosewater
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 160 g potato starch
  • 3 tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 160 g ground almonds


Filling and topping

  • 225 ml double cream
  • 1 quantity rose buttercream (see below), or extra whipped cream
  • 50 g pistachio nuts, finely chopped
  • fresh or crystallised rose petals (optional)


Rose buttercream

  • 150 g icing sugar
  • 100 g salted butter, softened
  • ½ tsp rosewater (see Notes)
  • cochineal (optional, see Notes)
  • 4–6 tsp milk (dairy or dairy-free)

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


You will need 2 x 20 cm sandwich tins for this recipe.

Cooling time 15 minutes

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/Gas 4. Line the base of the cake tins with discs of baking parchment and butter the sides.

Cream the butter, sugar, rosewater and vanilla extract together in a bowl with an electric hand whisk or balloon whisk until light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, beating well between each addition. If it looks like the mixture is starting to curdle, add a couple of tablespoonfuls of the potato starch and beat again – it should come right. 

Sift the potato starch, baking powder and ground almonds together over the mixture and fold in gently but thoroughly. 

Scrape into the prepared tins and gently level the surface. Bake for 25–30 minutes until golden, springy to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Leave in the tins for 10–15 minutes, then run a thin bladed knife around the inside of the tins. Turn out the cakes and place, right side up, on a wire rack. Leave to cool.

To make the buttercream, put the icing sugar, butter, rosewater and colouring if using into a bowl and mash together with a wooden spoon until all the icing sugar is damp and the butter is broken down a bit. Swap to an electric hand whisk if you have one and beat until the mixture is starting to lighten.

Add the milk, 1 tsp at a time, beating well between each addition. You may not need all the milk, so check after 4 tsp to see if you like the texture. Buttercream made with dairy milk needs to be eaten within 48 hours; if using dairy-free milk, it keeps a little longer.

When the cakes are completely cold, whip the cream until thick, but not grainy. Put one of the cakes onto a plate and spread the cream almost to the edge. Place the other cake gently on top and twist it back and forth a little, just until the cream is peeking out between the layers.

Pipe or spread the buttercream over the top of the cake, or top with more whipped cream. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios and scatter over a few fresh or crystallised rose petals if you have them.


• Use the merest drop of cochineal if you like – go for the palest sugar pink rather than candy floss. 

• Taste the buttercream as you go – rosewater varies in strength and you may need less if you have a particularly strong one.


Recipe and image from River Cottage Gluten Free by Naomi Devlin (Bloomsbury, hbk, $45). For more gluten-free recipes and an extract from the book, head here.