Sunday, September 12, 2010

Pistachio Cake

This week the Heavenly Cake Bakers are enjoying Free Cake Week, which gives us a chance to catch up with Marie, who baked 21 cakes before the group bake through began. Every time Marie mentions that we are more than halfway through the book, I nervously compare the number of cakes I've baked versus the number of cakes the group has baked, versus the number of cakes Marie has baked. I need to stop obsessing, I know.*

I baked the Sicilian Pistachio Cake, which the Bakers made back in March. I have never been a fan of pistachio desserts so while everyone else baked this cake I slyly decided to bake the cake from the week before, which I had missed as I was visiting my sister and The Bacon.

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and here's The Bacon!

In all fairness I did intend to bake this cake. I found some shelled pistachios, blanched and peeled them, and was so thoroughly grossed out by this experience that my baking attempt ended there.

As you probably know from reading my Montana post, Joelf came back to Portland with Cookie and I for a visit. I told him to pick the free cake and I would bake it up for him. Of course, he chose the Pistachio Cake. Sigh.

Pistachio Cake

August 28, 2010
Name of Cake: The Rubbery Nut Cake
Occasion: HCB Free Week and Joelf is in town
Constituents: one 9 in layer sour cream pistachio cake with golden neoclassic buttercream encrusted with pistachios

It is hard, I am learning, to go wrong with a sour cream butter cake.  No matter if it is baked in a bundt, or in a single round with rubbery nuts, it is always going to be delicious because it is made with sour cream and butter.  The cake was perfectly textured--dense yet tender with a richness from all the fat and little chunks of nut.  It had enough pistachio flavor to let you know you were eating a pistachio cake, but it wasn't overpowering, nor was it the awful shade of green of most pistachio desserts.  I actually do like pistachios, but I like them roasted and salted, not as a dessert.  With the exception of this cake.

The first step, and the step that changed my mind about baking the cake in March, is to blanch the shelled (raw) nuts and remove the skins.  Smart people would skip this step and cough up the extra cash to order shelled, blanched and slivered nuts from Kalustyan's or wherever you can get them, as doing it yourself is time-consuming and kinda yucky.  Perhaps the problem, and why I ended up with rubbery nuts, is that the only shelled, raw pistachios I could find were already chopped.  Maybe if they were whole nuts they would have been more impervious to absorbing water and going all rubbery (less surface area)?  Anyhoots, the nuts are blanched and the papery skins removed, which takes some time but with a good movie and a determined attitude it gets done.

Pistachio Cake

The nuts are spread out in a pan and left to dry, which should take 3 hours but for many HCB and myself, longer time was needed.  I actually let them dry out in the oven at a very low temperature like some other HCB did, and I'm glad.  Otherwise I might still be waiting for them to dry.  Drying the nuts in the oven requires keeping a good eye on them; you don't want to toast them and lose their distinctive color.  The prettier nuts (in my case that meant the greenest ones, as most of them were yellow) are set aside to top the cake.

The rest of the nuts are processed with the sugar until finely ground.  These are added to the rest of the dry ingredients in the mixer and whirred around for 30 seconds to aerate and mix.  The butter and most of the sour cream are added and beat for 90 seconds, and the liquid ingredients (eggs, vanilla, and almond extract) are added in two parts.  This thick, rich batter is scraped into a 9 in round and baked for at least 35 minutes.

Pistachio Cake

I don't know about you guys, but this cake rose high.  It rose above the top of the pan, but thankfully didn't spill over.  I don't know what I did right or wrong to cause that much of a rise; it was probably as high a butter cake as I've ever made.

After the cake cools, it is time to make the Golden Neoclassic Buttercream. The Neoclassic Buttercream in The Cake Bible was my go-to buttercream for years. It is simple to make, and deliciously silky and buttery. And best of all, not too sweet. The Cake Bible's version uses corn syrup for part of the sugar, which makes it neoclassic as opposed to classic, which requires the extra step of cooking a sugar syrup. What I loved about the neoclassic is that once the sugar and corn syrup come to a boil, it is the right temperature and ready to use. No thermometer necessary. The golden neoclassic buttercream changes things up a little more and uses Lyle's Golden Syrup instead of corn syrup. This imparts a golden hue, as well as the deeper and rounder flavors of molasses and mineral. Delicious. Pistachio essence is optional but I couldn't find it.

Pistachio Cake

The cake is left in one single layer and simply frosted and nutted. Easy peasy! I decided to copy the cake in the book, and left the frosting plain and simple to give the nuts the center stage. As I have mentioned, the nuts were rubbery from the blanching, so although they looked pretty, they didn't have the satisfying crunch a nice toasted nut would have. As you can tell, I have an issue with that, but the cake was so delicious anyway.

Joelf and I shared the cake with our friend Patrick who loved it, and at our insistence kept a large chunk of it to enjoy through the week. I shared small slices with the Jellos, but knew Cookie wouldn't like it much as she dislikes european buttercreams and rubbery nuts. Joelf loved it, of course, and I did too, surprisingly. Although this cake was low on my list of cakes to bake, and without the HCB (or Joelf) I probably would have never made the cake at all, I am really glad I did.

Pistachio Cake

Here is a link to the HCB Pistachio Cake roundup, for those of you who haven't read them yet.

*And, just for my obsessive bean counting brain:
Total number of cakes Marie has baked to date: 67 out of 95
Total number of cakes the HCB have baked to date: 46 out of 95
Total number of cakes I have baked to date: 36 out of 95! Yikes! I need to start doubling up on free cake weeks!
(which i did, come back tomorrow for cake #2)

17 comments:

  1. Beautiful pictures!

    Your cake is really high! I'm glad you liked the cake.
    And thanks for counting. I was wondering how many HCB have baked.

    I made cake 41 today. Though I'm surprised, I thought that I've missed more than 5 of the HCB.

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  2. I forgot about this cake until seeing your pictures and I do remember those water logged pistachios. They took a long time to dry. I loved that cake though.

    Thanks for the math. I flipped through the list this morning and am on cake number 45. But that Tortes Leche thing is on Marie's list and we made it already with a guest hostess.
    Freebie!

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  3. Very pretty, and you got great height on the cake indeed.

    Doubling up has been working for me, too--if there's an easy week, or just a weekend when I want to bake something in addition to cake-of-the-week, I've been doing another RHC. I think I've now done 61. Still not caught up to Marie!

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  4. Such a pretty cake! Too bad about the rubbery nuts, which is why I'm sure I'll never make it. It's gorgeous, though...

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  5. Jenn, thanks! The cake was surprisingly high, and the baking power wasn't new or anything. I wish I knew what I did.

    Vicki, it was good--sour cream changes everything. TWO freebies--the leche cake and the banana refrigerator etc etc! Nice!

    Nancy, thanks! WOW, 61 cakes! You are almost caught up to Marie, and that's quite a feat.

    Amanda, I know. I wonder if the nuts you can order are in better textural shape. It is a good cake and the rubberiness is easy to ignore.

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  6. heh. i meant baking powder, but baking power is pretty cool.

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  7. God that's gorgeous! Glad Joelfre made you bake it. :-)

    Love pistachios any which way. I have a yummy recipe for baklava made from pistachios and almonds. It's in that _Please to the Table_ Russian cookbook.

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  8. ECL--Glad I had you make this cake too! I loved it! And, the nuts weren't very rubbery!!

    lyl,
    joelf

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  9. Love your cake.. like you totally disgusted by the first step of blanching the pistachios.. next time I'm totally spending the dough to have it done by someone else!

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  10. raiuchka, thanks lady! i am also glad joelf made me bake it. but don't tell him.

    i have been craving russian food lately! is the please to the table book any good?

    joelf, i'm glad you loved it! come back to visit once more before you leave plllleeeeeaaaasssseeee?

    love you later

    Monica, yes, I remember you didn't like blanching the nuts! In the end however the cake is delicious and the nuts do look stunning.

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  11. Some of the recipes are really fantastic. There's a recipe for chebureki in there! Some aren't so hot and some need tweaking, but there are enough really good recipes that I think it's worth buying. My copy is so beat up -- I bought it at Powell's when we were at WU, and I still use it all the time. I like that it has recipes from all the former Soviet republics. It's a great read. Kubite isn't in there, but I've figured out how to make that.

    I still want to come to Portland at some point -- wouldn't it be fun to make a Russian dinner?!

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  12. raiuchka, it would be so excellent if you came down and we made a russian dinner!! in the next month?

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  13. Hehe, awesome!!! Conjures up memories of Chicken Simferopol. I'll send you an email. :-)

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  14. It turned out real purdy! Damn rubbery pistachios!

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  15. raiuchka, yeah, let's bake a chicken in a camping skillet and mash potatoes with the bottom of a wine bottle!

    melinda, thanks! i'm sure glad you think it's purdy.

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  16. I like pistachio cakes with some moist texture of the cake. I like the combination of the crunch and the moist.

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  17. oak dining table, this is a wonderful cake, moist and soft and the pistacios add a bit of toothiness but not really a crunch. i do like a contrast in textures as well.

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