Tag Archives: pistachio

Upside Down Pear Ginger Cake

So by nature I’m a bit of a rule follower. I’m positive it’s why I love to bake. Baking is all about rules. It is about butter to flour to sugar to egg ratios. It’s about balancing fats and liquids, and beating for the right amount of time to ensure a tender crumb, delicate flavours, and fluffy texture.

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I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t often mess with recipes. I know I can execute well, so why mess with a recipe I already know will turn out?

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But sometimes, strawberries are out of season, and I don’t feel like investing 10$ in a jar of cardamom when my spice cabinet is already overflowing. Seriously, if anyone has clever spice organization tips, I’m all ears. I can’t find ANYTHING in there.

See, here’s what happened: Friday night I was invited to dinner at the home of one of my oldest family friends. Having run into them at a birthday party the week before where I had made one of my favourite cakes – Orange-Ginger Carrot Cake with White Chocolate Almond frosting (it went un-pictured, I’m sorry, but the original post on it is way better than what I could come up with, and being a rule follower I made no changes to the recipe), they knew I could bake. When their daughter confirmed she was in for dinner, I knew I was making dessert.

My original plan for an elaborate layer cake fell through when my Friday suddenly filled up with errands and obligations, so I turned to one of my favourite, no fail and very speedy recipes: Joy the Baker’s famous upside-down strawberry cake with cardamom. It’s one of those fabulous recipes that takes 25 minutes to get into the oven and turns out perfectly Every. Single. Time.

Except I couldn’t find strawberries at the nearby grocery store, and I had a good parking spot. Good parking spots are worth more than gold in my neighbourhood, so there was no way I was moving my car to go buy some strawberries. Especially when I didn’t feel like spending money on cardamom.

But they did have pears, and I do have several containers of dried ginger (the reason being that I always think I’m out. Messy spice cabinet = I have no idea what I own). So I tweaked a little.

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And because the recipe always comes out perfectly, it worked.

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The cake was fluffy, tender, and impossibly moist. The butter and brown sugar caramelized with the pears to create that delicious oozing caramel you see pictured above. I even impressed myself with my ability to properly guess that a 3/4 teaspoon of ginger and a teaspoon of cinnamon would give the cake that perfect spiced flavour. I could’ve really turned it into a spice cake by adding some molasses, but then I would have been messing with the baking holy-grail: the wet:dry ratio, and I feel like I’m just not ready for that yet.

Upside Down Pear Ginger Cake (adapted from Joy the Baker)

Ingredients:

For the toping:

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 pears, sliced thinly

For the cake:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened and cut into chunks

2/3 cups brown sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2/3 cups sour cream

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a 9-inch cake pan place butter, and then put the pan into the oven. When putter is melted remove pan, swirl butter up the sides of the pan to coat it, then set aside.

3. In a medium sized bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, and cinnamon. Set aside.

4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes on medium speed. Scrape down the bowl and add the egg and vanilla, beat until combined, about one minute.

5. Scrape down the bowl and add the dry ingredients, mixing on low while adding the sour cream until just combined. Give it one or two final turns, gently with a rubber spatula. Over-mixing will ruin this cake, so just go until the batter is uniform. It will be quite thick, that’s ok.

6. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the melted butter in the cake pan, and then lay out the pear slices.

7. Pour the batter over the fruit, spreading to the edges with a spatula. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes away clean or with just a few crumbs. Another good test is to lightly push the middle of the cake down, if it springs back, you’re good to go.

8. Let the cake cool for about ten minutes before running a knife along the edges to loosen it up, and then turn it out onto a cake platter. It should loosen quite easily, but if it doesn’t tap the bottom of the cake pan a few times until it comes free.

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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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