In July 2012, I posted a recipe for Gingered Tuna Salad that was inspired by this carved Japanese cat:


I’ve since learned that it’s not a cat.  Not even close.  Color me embarrassed.  It’s a Tanuki–a “magical fox-like dog with shape-shifting powers, trickster and spook, original evil, now benevolent modern-day icon of generosity, cheer, and prosperity found often outside Japanese bars and restaurants.”  I also learned that it’s made out of keyaki or zelkova wood.

The “fun-loving Tanuki” is characterized by a big tummy, straw hat, puzzled facial expression, and giant scrotum (no kidding), and he carries a sake flask and a promissory note.  This explains several of the features of my carved guy that I couldn’t identify, particularly the giant scrotum (no kidding).  It gives new meaning to the phrase “grow a pair,” and I’m afraid I can’t look at the little fella now without blushing.

The Tanuki is not just a mythical creature, it’s also a real animal, sometimes called the Japanese Raccoon Dog — “an atypical species of dog with distinctive stripes of black fur under its eyes.”  Once upon a time, they were hunted for their meat, fur, and their scrotal skin (of course), which according to Wikipedia, was “used as a malleable sack for hammering gold into gold leaf.”


Watcha hidin’ little fella?

So I was totally wrong about the Japanese cat.  Don’t you hate when you think something is one thing and it turns out to be something else?  For example, my neighbors have a prolific lemon tree in their front yard.  I may have, from time to time, “borrowed” a lemon or two from their tree:

Well, it turns out that the lemons I’ve been “borrowing” from my neighbors are actually limes.  Color me embarrassed.

Inspired by the Japanese cat Tanuki and the juicy lemons limes that are falling from my neighbor’s tree faster than I can steal borrow them, I baked a Pistachio Lime Cake.  The recipe is only slightly adapted from this recipe from the Tasting Room in Houston, originally published in the April 2012 edition of Bon Appetit.  This cake may look like a simple pound cake, but don’t be fooled — this is an extraordinary, tender, buttery cake, with a well-defined hit of citrus and subtle nuttiness from the pistachios.

Recipe type: Cake
  • 8 ounces butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated lime zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups flour, plus extra for dusting pan
  • 1 cup shelled pistachios, divided use
  1. Preheat oven to 325°. Spray a 9x5x3" loaf pan* with nonstick spray and dust with flour. Shake pan over sink to remove any excess flour.
  2. Place butter in a large bowl, and using an electric mixer, beat until light and fluffy. Add sugar, and beat until thoroughly combined. Add eggs one at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition. Add juices and zests and beat until well combined (mixture will look curdled). Fold in baking powder, salt, and flour until just blended. Fold in ¾ cup pistachios.
  3. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top with an offset spatula. Sprinkle remaining ¼ cup pistachios over batter. Bake cake, rotating halfway through, until a tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1-1/2 hours. Transfer cake to a wire rack and let cool completely in pan. Run a sharp knife around sides to loosen. and unmold cake.
  4. *Can also be made in 4 mini loaf pans, and reduce baking time to approximately 1 hour. Excellent for gift-giving.


 Pistachios add color and crunch


 Steal borrow a few lemons limes and make this delicious cake


  1. I can see how you made this mistake. He looks like a cat, the limes look like lemons and this cake looks great. My husband is a pistachio fiend and would love this. Love your posts.

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