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

Pistachio Meringue Roll with Roasted Strawberries

Welcome Spring, and failing that, welcome Easter. Sadly, we won’t be welcoming family or friends again the year. But don’t give up. Drop off desserts, make each other care packages, decorate whatever outdoor spaces you have, and remember—this will not last forever. It’s not much longer now.

Every Easter we are drowned in chocolates: eggs and their nests, bunnies, chickadees, or more modern creations like some of the beautiful chocolate creations I ordered for my family at the Grand Order of Divine Sweets. I went for the Star Wars theme, but there are many other gorgeous creations, including Wonder Woman and Doctor Who-themed merch, and multicoloured, hand-painted eggs. Chocolate not only makes beautiful gifts, it counts as self care, too.

Every spring I make a lemon cake accompanied by coloured white chocolate eggs, either more lemon or coconut, just for variety’s sake. But this year I went back to my favourite combination for inspiration: pistachio and strawberry. If strawberries don’t represent spring, then what does?

Some of the strawberries we see at this time of year are maybe not as ripe or intensely flavoured as one might hope. Easily fixed by roasting them. I used BraveTart’s recipe, following her recommendation to use toasted sugar, which takes the sweetness down a peg or two. I was keen to use rosewater or orange blossom water as well as spent vanilla pods on my berries, but this might have been pushing the palates of my loved ones, so I’ll save that for a dinner party.

Roasting the strawberries not only concentrates the flavours, it removes the fresh sharpness that is normally such a great balance to the sweetness of a ripe berry. Pistachio is such a gentle flavour, it didn’t want any tartness to overwhelm it.

For the pistachio paste: BraveTart has a beautiful recipe for that as well, and I urge you all to make it and play with it. Only good things will come from such endeavours. However, Soma has a beautiful pistachio paste that you can just pick up when you are buying your Easter bunnies. I always keep a couple of jars on hand, because you never know when you need to make something fabulous at a moment’s notice. I was also lucky enough to come across some Watkins pistachio extract, which is not easily found. You could use almond, but use half the amount. Or use pistachio liqueur, if you can find it. I used vanilla as well. I find it supports the flavour perfectly.

I did this as a roll, but you could easily do it as a stack, or in mini-mason jars as little individual desserts. There are a few steps, and it’s best made the same day, but you can make the pistachio cream, the roasted strawberries, and the candied nuts a day ahead. The candied pistachios could also benefit from rosewater or orange blossom water, but again, it’s not for everyone. The meringue you do want to make same day, and leave time for the eggs to hit from temp, then for it to cool. But it’s not hard to throw together, and it will crack, so you can just not worry about that at all. Cover it with more cream and strawberries and absolutely no one will care.

Pistachio Meringue Roll with Roasted Strawberries

A beautiful pistachio cream coats a chewy, dense, nut-laden meringue filled with roasted strawberries.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American, British, Canadian, French
Servings 8 servings

Ingredients
  

Pistachio Cream

  • ½ cup pistachio paste (see link)
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 1 cup mascarpone
  • ½ tsp pistachio or ( ¼ tsp. almond extract)
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

Pistachio Meringue

  • 1 cup ground pistachios (available at Nuts.com, or make your own)
  • 1 cup white sugar, plus 2 tbsp.
  • tsp cornstarch
  • ¾ cup egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • ½ tsp pistachio extract

Candied Pistachios

  • 1 cup pistachios
  • 2 tbsp sugar

Roasted Strawberries

  • 7 cups fresh strawberries
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 hull vanilla bean
  • juice from ½ lemon
  • 1 pinch salt

Instructions
 

  • Set the oven rack to the middle position and set the oven to 425°F (220°C).
  • Line a 12 x 17 inch (30 x 43 cm) sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  • In a small bowl, combine the ground pistachios with 2 tbsp of sugar and the cornstarch.
  • Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Begin mixing on medium speed until egg whites are foamy. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until soft peaks.
  • Add remaining 1 cup of sugar in a slow stream, then stop the machine and scrape down the edges.
  • Continue beating until the egg whites form stiff, shiny peaks.
  • Add in the vinegar, pistachio or almond extract.
  • Remove the bowl from the mixer and gently fold in the ground pistachio mixture, one third at a time.
  • Spread the meringue evenly in the pan, levelling the top gently.
  • Place in the oven. Immediately reduce the heat to 275°F (140°C).
  • Bake until meringue is lightly set and light golden brown, about 40 minutes. Leave on a wire rack until completely cool.
  • Turn oven back to 375°F (190°C).
  • Wash strawberries and slice off the tops. Slice biggest ones in half. Toss with lemon juice, sugar and vanilla pod.
  • Roasted, stirring one or twice, until just softened and swimming in juice, about 30 minutes. Let cool.
  • Rinse out the bowl of the stand mixer. Add 1/2 cup of cream to the pistachio paste, and blend together with the paddle attachment. Blend until smooth.
  • Scrape off the paddle attachment and replace it with the whisk attachment. Add in mascarpone, the extracts and the rest of the cream. Beat together until stiff.
  • Spread the cream evenly over the meringue, leaving a little border for spillover.
  • Strain strawberries and rough chop (or squish with freshly washed hands) and spread over cream.
  • If you have a helper to assist with the roll, do so. It will crack. You don't care, because you are not Martha Stewart and you are covering it with cream anyway. Do your worst.
  • Slather more pistachio cream over the outside, and pop it in the fridge or freezer while you candy the whole pistachios.
  • Warm pistachios over low heat with 2 tbsp sugar stirring all the time. Let cool.
    Decorate roll with more strawberries and pistachios.
  • Serve within a couple of hours. Prepare yourself for adoration and pledges of undying loyalty. Happy Easter!
Keyword #pistachio, #pistachiocream, #roastedstrawberries, #strawberry, #strawberrydesserts

Strawberry Pistachio Icebox Cake

The Ultimate in Strawberries and Cream

Is there any more heavenly combination than strawberries and cream? Actually—yes. Strawberries and pistachio. More accurately, strawberries and pistachio and cream. Okay, okay: strawberries, pistachio, cream and cookies. That’s it! I swear!

This is all you need to begin the most divine of all icebox cakes. What is an icebox cake, you ask? It’s like a trifle, minus the custard, booze optional. This is a family-friendly, liqueur and liquor-free concoction, and it is a crowd pleaser. There is nothing to it, but slapping some fabulousness together and letting it sit overnight until it becomes Über-fabulous. Heaven in a bowl, and easy as you please.

I’ve made this before with vanilla whipped cream and it was so good we all scarfed it down until our tummies hurt and then got up again the next morning to gobble it down for breakfast. But strawberry and pistachio has to be one of my all-time favourite combinations (you’ll see many incarnations of this delicious pairing to come on this blog) and it fits so perfectly here.

I have used a store-bought pistachio butter, but from the finest of food merchants: SOMA Chocolatemaker in Toronto. You can make your own, of course, but why would you, when products like this exist. Next time you are in the Distillery District or on Queen West, stop in a grab a couple of jars (the hazelnut too), along with a myriad of other treats.*

SOMA Chocolatemaker makes beautiful pistachio paste.

If you’d like to try this with Homemade Pistachio Paste, the incomparable Stella Parks aka BRAVETART gives you the key here. But I had the SOMA version in my cupboard, and the only raw pistachios I could find were from California. They are bland and lacking in the subtle, magical, ethereal pistachio flavour that comes from Sicilian, Iranian or Moroccan pistachios. So while I’m waiting on a special order of the very best pistachios, I’ll happily buy this smooth and flawless nut butter by people who know their stuff when it comes to good food.

When you layer this cake, the cookies and strawberries will not lay flat or smooth, so you’ll press and spread the cream a bit to fill in any air holes. What doesn’t get filled will likely disappear as the dry cookies expand, absorbing liquid from both strawberries and cream, transforming overnight into the most heavenly, cakey, delightfully cream-covered strawberry slop you will ever have. It’s messy and sludgy and gorgeous in its deliberate disarray.

If you think something so simple and so easy can’t be this divine, you will be amazed and delighted beyond all measure. Try it. What have you got to lose, but your deference to structure, form and—once you taste it—proportion?

*For goods from SOMA: You don’t need to hit the brick & mortar actual store. Everything is online, with FREE shipping within Canada (min $50) & Porch Drops (min $50) + Next Day Curbside pick-ups at the factory. online@somachocolate.com. And NO! They did not pay me to say this. Sadly. Doesn’t matter. Just get your hands on some of this business because it’s the real deal.

Strawberry Pistachio Icebox Cake

Strawberries and pistachio cream soften vanilla cookies into a cake-like texture for a bowl of glorious decadence.
Prep Time 20 mins
Resting Time 1 d
Course Dessert
Cuisine American, British, Canadian
Servings 8 people

Ingredients
  

  • 4 pints strawberries, rinsed and sliced
  • 4 cups whipped cream (1 L)
  • 1 box Nilla wafers
  • ½ cup pistachio paste (storebought or homemade)
  • ½ cup granulated or superfine sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Instructions
 

  • Rinse and slice three pints of strawberries. For the last pint, remove the green tops and set those berries aside for later.
  • Add ½ cup of cream to the bowl of a standmixer along with the pistachio paste. Using the paddle attachment, blend on low until the pistachio is fully incorporated into the cream, scraping down the sides as necessary.
  • Add sugar, vanilla and the rest of the cream. Using the whisk attachment, beat together on low until mostly blended, about one minute, then beat on high until stiff peaks form.
  • Smear a ½ cup of pistachio cream on the bottom of your bowl (preferably glass) to anchor your cookies.
  • Your layers should proceeds like this: cookies, strawberries, cream. Smooth your cream over each layer gently. You want to fill in any huge gaps without completely squahing and deflating the cream. A few holes are not a problem, they will fill up as the cookies expand.
  • Keep going until you are out of sliced berries. Top with one last layer of cream, and chill overnight. You can add your whole berries to decorate before you chill it or after, whicheve rmakes it easier to wrap it up. Let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving.
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