Pistachio Cake with Honey-Vanilla Frosting

I disappeared for a while. I know. But I have the best excuse ever. No really. I spent the month of January in Paris and Dusseldorf, working for my old company and running around Europe with a good friend.

Fortunately there was a lot of eating. We enjoyed croissants, house-made bratwurst, German style red-cabbage, fondue… the list goes on. Of course, me being me, most of it went un-pictured. I adore food, but I’m not exactly great about documenting my adventures in pictures. I generally leave that to everyone else.

What I am good at however, is baking. So when, a few weeks after my return, my friends and I decided to throw a surprise birthday party for my closest and oldest friend’s 25th birthday party, I knew I was making cake.

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And after a month in Europe, eating pistachio macaroons like it was my job (which it unfortunately was not) I made pistachio cake with a cooked honey-vanilla buttercream. It was my first time attempting this kind of frosting, but I’m pleased to say it came out perfectly. Not to sweet, soft, fluffy, and lacking that grit that tends to come from the traditional, powdered-sugar structured butter-creams. My favourite remains my beloved swiss-meringue buttercream, but this certainly takes less time and the frosting is less finicky.

The cake recipe comes from one of my favourite cookbooks, BAKED Explorations, which I have talked about before. I love their maple cupcake recipe, and I loved this recipe. I made a slight adjustment to the original, subbing an extra stick of butter in for the 1/2 cup of shortening it asked for. I have nothing against shortening per-say, but I believe natural ingredients are best, and butter is natural.

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This cake whipped up easily. I baked the layers on Friday evening, froze them overnight, and assembled the cake Saturday morning before heading up to Sacramento for the aforementioned surprise party.

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Please tell me I’m not the only one who’s idea of a perfect Saturday morning is crumb-coating at 8:00am.

And if it isn’t, then make this cake, it may just change your mind about Saturday morning activities.

Pistachio Cake with Honey Vanilla Buttercream (makes one three-layer 8-inch round cake)

Lightly adapted from BAKED: Explorations

For the Cake:

1 cup shelled pistachios

2 1/2 cups of cake flour

3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoons of salt

1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 3/4 cups of sugar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (TJ’s makes a Mexican vanilla extract that is really good and really reasonably priced)

1 large egg

3 large egg whites

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Process:

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans, flour and tap out the excess. Then line with parchment circles cut to fit the bottom of the pans.

2. In a food processor, process the pistachios until coarsely chopped. Stop the food processor and remove roughly 2 tablespoons worth of pistachios, place in a medium sized bowl. Process the rest until they are almost powder-like. Add to the coarsely chopped pistachios. Sift both flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into the same bowl as the pistachios. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment cream beat the butter until creamy. This should take 3-4 minutes. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, roughly 3 minutes.

4. Scrape down the bowl, and add the whole egg, beating until just combined, turn the mixer to low.

5. Place a few ice-cubs in a measuring cup, then add cold water until just below the 1 1/2 cup mark. Wait a few minutes for the ice to melt and then measure water to 1 1/2 cups.

6. Add the flour mixture to the mixer in three additions, alternating with the ice-water in three additions. Begin and end with the flour. When adding turn the mixer to low to add the ingredients and then kick the speed up to medium for a few seconds to thoroughly incorporate. When done scrape down the bowl, and mix on low speed for a few more seconds.

7. In a medium bowl whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Believe it or not, you can do this by hand. It takes about 3 minutes and is a GREAT workout for your biceps and forearms. Do not over-beat (when I say soft-peaks I do mean soft) and then gently fold the egg-whites into the batter.

8. Divide batter into the three prepared pans, and smooth the tops with an offset-spatula. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 20 minutes before turning the cakes out onto the rack to cool completely.

For the Frosting:

1 1/2 cups of sugar

1/3 cup of all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups of whole milk

1/3 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cubed and room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 tablespoons of honey

Process:

1. In a medium-sized heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together.

2. Add milk and cream to the saucepan and cook it over medium heat, whisking initially to combine and then every few minutes as it comes to a boil. After about 10-15 minutes it will have thickened to a glue-like consistency. Pull it off the heat and transfer into a mixing bowl fitted with a paddle attachment.

3. Beat on high speed until the outside of the bowl is cool to touch. This takes about 7-9 minutes.

4. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter gradually. Ensure it is fully mixed in and then bring the speed up to medium-high and mix until the frosting goes fluffy and light.

5. Add the vanilla and honey to the frosting and mix until uniform.

Assembly:

1. Lay the first layer onto a cake stand or serving platter and trim the top to level the cake. Place a heaping cup of frosting over the top and smooth it out. Repeat with the next layer before placing the final layer on top.

2. Coat the outside of the cake with a thin layer of frosting – the crumb coat, and then place in the fridge for 15-30 minutes to set.

3. Pull out of the fridge and then spread the sides and top of the cake with remaining frosting. Garnish with crushed pistachios.

– Note: the cake keeps great in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days. If you’re worried though it keeps well in the fridge as well.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Pistachio Cake with Honey-Vanilla Frosting

  1. So what you’re telling me is that you spent January living my dream life?

    This cake looks incredible, as usual. I think your Saturday morning sounds divine… and I love this icing. That Swiss stuff nearly gave me a heart attack (so worth it when you nail it though).

    • Mai

      Well yes… I did… Unfortunately it was a temporary month-long thing. Still, no complaints.

      Swiss-meringue gets easier with time. Once you’ve got it, you’ve got it. This stuff IS pretty good though, and it creates a lot less stress.

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