Saturday, May 21, 2011

pistachio cake with honey-vanilla frosting

My uncle celebrated his birthday this past Tuesday, but he was on call for most of the week and so we didn't have a chance to get together as a family until this afternoon. I had asked him prior if he wanted a cake, to which he gave me an enthusiastic response of affirmation, and so I sat down to come up with [read: started scrolling through Tastespotting for] interesting cake recipes.

I was just tired of the standard vanilla and lemon, or chocolate and raspberry, or angel food cake with berries combo.

And then I happened upon this recipe: pistachio cake with honey-vanilla frosting. So unique, so exotic, so daring! I fell in love with the concept at first sight, and knew this was going to be my next project.

the mask is courtesy of mustafa's returned from a week-long caribbean cruise.

Pistachio Cake with Honey-Vanilla Frosting
Adapted from cate's world kitchen

For the cake, you'll need:
  • 1 cup shelled pistachios (plus 1/3 cup for decorating)
  • 3 cups all purpose flour, sifted twice
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups ice cold water
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar

For the honey-vanilla buttercream, you'll need:
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into small pieces
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup honey

To prepare the cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and line, grease, and flour 3 9-inch or 8-inch round cake pans.

Pulse the pistachios in a food processor until they are coarsely chopped. Transfer about 2 tablespoons of the coarse pistachios to a large bowl. Continue to process the rest of the pistachios until they are almost powdery- but not superfine. Stir the pistachio powder into the reserved coarse pistachios. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, together over the large bowl containing the pistachios. Stir to combine.

Beat the butter and shortening on medium speed with the paddle attachment until creamy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl, add the whole egg, and beat until just combined. Turn the mixture to low.

In a measuring cup, make 1 1/2 cups ice water. Add the flour mixture to the mixer in three parts, alternating with the ice water, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. For each addition, turn the mixer to low to add ingredients, then up to medium speed for a few seconds until incorporated. Scrape down the bowl, then mix on low speed for a few more seconds.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form (This is easy to do by hamd and gives your arm a workout!). Do not overbeat. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

Divide the batter among the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for about 30 minutes (9 inch layers) or 35 minutes (8 inch layers), rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the rack, remove the parchment and let cool completely.


To prepare the frosting:
Whisk the sugar and flour together in a medium heavy-bottom saucepan. Add milk and cream and cook over medium heat whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a standing mixer with paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until cool (at least 7 or 8 minutes) then add the butter a few pieces at a time and mix until thoroughly incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until frosting is light, fluffy, and smooth.

Add the vanilla and honey and continue mixing until combined. If the frosting is too soft, put the bowl in the refrigerator to chill slightly, then beat again until it is proper consistency. If the frosting is too firm, set the bow over a pot of simmering water and beat with a wooden spoon until it is the proper consistency.


To assemble the cake:
Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Trim the top to create a flat surface, and evenly spread about 1 1/4 cups frosting on top. Add the next layer, trim and frost it, then add the third layer. Spread the sides and top of the cake with the remaining frosting. Garnish the cake with chopped pistachios and refrigerate it for 15 minutes to it firm up before serving.

It is fine to keep this cake at room temperature for a few days. If you decide to keep it in the fridge, let it come to room temperature before serving.


I am in love with this cake. It's so unexpected, in it's own way, and was a big hit with my uncle! Smiling faces, contented looks, eyes closed in enjoyment of the first bite; this is what I live for.

Plus, it was lovely to be able to bake with my mom again; she was a big help with frosting the cake while I stood by in creeper-paparazzi fashion snapping photos.


And now, I'm left with images of Middle Eastern streets and Rumi poetry swimming in my mind.


In other news, seeing as how it's Saturday, I think this may be my last post before I leave [on Monday]. I will write when I can [the quality of the WiFi in Valencia will only be apparent once I'm actually there], and will have the DSLR with me to document all of my gastronomic and sight-seeing endeavors. Saying "I'm pretty friggin stoked" would be a little bit of an understatement, but for now, I'll leave you with pistachio cake crumbs.

thanks, mum.

My place is placeless, a trace of the traceless. 
Neither body or soul.
I belong to the beloved, 
have seen the two worlds as one,
and that one call to and know,
first, last, outer, inner, only that
breath breathing human being.
-Rumi

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