Pistachio Cake

This is the simplest, best cake that you can make. It’s based on David Lebovitz’s Almond Cake. I’ve been making it for years, with a simple swap of the almond paste for pistachio paste. I’ve recently taken it to the next level by elevating the quality of pistachio paste, which is the star of the show. Suddenly, it’s a whole new creation.

One thing? Unless you’re going to dump a whole bottle of actual champagne into a cake, this is likely the most expensive cake you’ll ever make. But will you be the most beloved of cottage guests? I assure you, you will.

I used to buy American Almond brand pistachio paste, but at 30% canola oil, I was dumbing down the flavour of my cake unnecessarily. A homemade pistachio paste can be lovely, but the best quality pistachios are so expensive that I just cave and buy the best store-bought I can find, which here in Toronto is Soma’s Manjoun-Pistachio Butter. Stella Parks suggests you make your own, using cheaper California pistachios, and pump up the flavour with pistachio oil and orange water, but there is nothing like the real thing. For this cake, it truly is go big or go home.

This pistachio paste contains a lot more fat and a lot less sugar than the Odense almond paste that I use when I make the almond version of this cake. And yet it rises much higher and has a finer crumb, and is unbelievably moist. It will still sink a little in the middle, as per the original, but not be greasy or heavy. It’ll keep for days and is ideal for afternoon tea. It’s so full of eggs that I think you can call it breakfast in good conscience.

For those who want it as dessert, I reserve a little of the paste to add to whipping cream for a not-too-sweet topping. Perfect with sliced strawberries. I have a jar of candied cumquats that I used for cocktail making that work well spooned onto the cake. That same syrup is also a perfect addition to the whipped cream. Top this cake with plums, apricots, berries, poached pears, peaches, or a white chocolate ganache. Heaven.

Pistachio Cake

The simplest of cakes, based on the famous Almond Cake by David Lebovitz. The pistachio version is expensive as all heck but truly sublime.
Course Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine American, Canadian, French

Ingredients
  

  • 1 ⅓ cup sugar (265 g)
  • 8 oz best quality pistachio paste (225 g) For SOMA pistacio paste, this is two jars minus one tbsp
  • 1 cup flour, divided (140g total)
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ rounded tsp fine ground sea salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed (225g)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp pistachio extract or liquor (or ¼ tsp almond extract)
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 325ºF (160ºC). Grease a 9- or 10-inch (23-25 cm) cake or spring form pan with butter, dust it with flour and tap out any excess. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper.
  • Using a food processor, grind the sugar, pistachio paste, and 1/4 cup (35g) of flour until the almond paste is finely ground and the mixture resembles wet sand. The pistachoi paste is much more liquid than almond paste, so if you're used to a drier mixture at this point, fear not.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 3/4 cup (105g) of flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Add the cubes of butter and the vanilla and almond extracts to the sugar mixture, processing until the batter is smooth. It will be still fairly runny and vivid green. It gets better, I promise.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, processing a bit before the next addition. Scrape the sides down if necessary.
  • Add half the flour mixture and pulse the machine a few times. Add the rest, pulsing the machine until the dry ingredients are just incorporated. Do not overmix. (You can also transfer the batter to a bowl and mix the dry ingredients in, which ensures that you don’t overbeat it.)
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake the cake for about 60 minutes, or until the top is deep brown and feels set when you press in the center.
  • Remove the cake from the oven and run a sharp or serrated knife around the perimeter, loosing the cake from the sides of the pan. Let the cake cool completely in the pan. It will sink in the middle a little. This is nothing to worry about.
  • Once it's cool, remove it from the pan. It stays fresh for four days wrapped tight or in a cake dome with parchment paper pressed to the cut side.
  • This cake is wonderful wiht summer fruit. It woudl also be incredible with a white chocolate pistachio ganache, or a rose and strawberry flavoured whipped cream, or an orange sauce.
Keyword #afternoontea, #pistachio, #pistachiocake, #pistachiocream, #pistachiopaste, #teacake, #teatime

Banana chai cheesecake

As many of you know, what we in North America call a chai tea latte is known as masala chai in India. Masala is the spice blend, and chai means tea. How such a redundant and confusing moniker was ever adopted here, who even knows. As such, the title of my cheesecake ought to be Banana Masala Cheesecake or even just Spiced Cheesecake, but I think I’m going to run with the bastardized version for the sake of recognition. Also, I like how it sounds. 

I devised this recipe while studying in the Tea Sommelier program with the Tea and Herbal Association of Canada (THAC). This is my spice blend added to The Cake Bible‘s banana cheesecake, which is then cooked sous vide in little mason jars. It’s a light and fluffy custard, more tangy than sweet.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 pkgs of cream cheese
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp masala spice mix*
  • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 1 cup mashed very ripe bananas
  • fresh bananas and whipped cream for serving

Preheat the water bath to 80°C (176° F) .

Mash two very ripe bananas until you have approximately a cup. Add in the lemon juice, vanilla, grated ginger and salt. Smush it all together and set aside.

Put the spice blend and the sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment and stir together. Add in the cream cheese and beat until smooth.

Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition. Beat in sour cream until incorporated, then the mashed banana.

Cast the batter into mason jars—I use a ladle or a serving spoon to make sure I don’t spill on the edges of the jar. If you do, just wipe with a clean cloth—you want a good seal. Fill until just below the screw top. Put the lids on and turn them until fingertip tight.**

Using tongs, lower the jars into the water, stacking them up if need be. Cook for 90 minutes, then remove and let cool to room temperature before putting them in the fridge. Chill for 6 hours or preferably overnight. They’ll last for two weeks in this state.

To serve, open the jars, top with slices of banana, dollops of whipped cream and a pinch of masala spice to top it off. If you like crunch, add toasted ground pistachio or cashews, or crushed cookies. Pair with masala chai made with the same spice mix, or contrast the sweetness with a fortifying Assam or Ceylon black tea.

NOTE

  • If you don’t have a pre-made spice blend, and you don’t want to make the once I’ve suggested in this post, then I recommend ½ tsp ground cardamon, ¼ tsp cinnamon, and ¼ tsp white or black pepper, and a pinch of ground cloves. If you don’t use the fresh ground ginger, use ½ tsp ground.
  • “Finger-tip” tight means that you screw the lid firmly, but it’s possible to open it just using your finger tips.
  • The size of the jars is not a big concern. You can use 4, 6, or 8 oz.
  • If you don’t have a sous vide machine, you can absolutely make this in a cheesecake or springform pan in a water bath. Bake the cake in 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Turn off the oven without opening the door and let the cake cool for 1 hour. Remove it to a rack and cool to room temperature (about 1 hour). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.