Pistachio Cake with Honey Vanilla Frosting

How to have an amazing 27th birthday weekend:

1. Start with a jazz concert on Friday night

(CeU is a jazz singer from Brazil and she is incredibly talented…so is her band. I’ve never really listened that much to music like this before, but when someone at Mike’s work offered him tickets, he took them up on it and I’m happy he did!)

2. Get some pizza after said concert (cheese and pineapple, naturally)

(We found a pretty decent pizza place not too far from where we live… never would have known it was there if it weren’t for Yelp!)

3. Run a leisurely 4 miles on Saturday morning
(I like to think of my runs as leisurely or relaxing instead of just plain slow these days)

4. Have dinner at Cha-Ya Vegetarian Japanese Restaurant (762 Valencia, San Francisco)

(vegan gyoza, miso soup, inventive and vegetable-packed rolls…heaven!)

5. Have dessert at Bi-Rite Creamery (3692 18th St, San Francisco)

(Even though it’s 10:30 PM, cold and windy, and the line is half a block long, the malted vanilla with peanut brittle and milk chocolate is totally worth the wait)

6. Realize that you’re too tired to frost your cake, so it will have to wait until Sunday.

7. Get up on Sunday, go spend the day hanging out in the city, and finally get around to finishing your birthday cake on Sunday evening.

I don’t eat pistachios very often, but they are delicious in this cake! The flavor of the finished product is a little reminiscent of baklava, and the frosting is light (well, as light as it can be with 3 sticks of butter), fluffy, honey-vanilla goodness. I made the cake pretty much as written, but because I was out of pastry flour, I used 3 cups of all purpose, which I sifted twice. I didn’t have 3 8″ pans, so I used 9″ pans instead, which shortened the baking time a little. The cooked-flour frosting is something I’d never tried before, and it looked a little curdled while it was coming together, but just keep your mixer running – it will eventually smooth out!

(adapted from Baked Explorations via Pink Parsley Catering)

1 cup shelled pistachios (plus 1/3 cup for decorating)
3 cups all purpose flour, sifted twice
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon. vanilla extract
1 large egg
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups ice cold water
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup honey

Preheat the oven to 325° F. Butter three 8 or 9-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper and butter the parchment. Dust parchment with flour and shake out excess flour.

Pulse the pistachios in a food processor until they are coarsely chopped. Transfer about 2 tablespoons of the coarse pistachios to a large bowl. Continue to process the rest of the pistachios until they are almost powdery- but not superfine. Stir the pistachio powder into the reserved coarse pistachios. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, together over the large bowl containing the pistachios. Stir to combine.

Beat the butter and shortening on medium speed with the paddle attachment until creamy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl, add the whole egg, and beat until just combined. Turn the mixture to low.

In a measuring cup, make 1 1/2 cups ice water. Add the flour mixture to the mixer in three parts, alternating with the ice water, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. For each addition, turn the mixer to low to add ingredients, then up to medium speed for a few seconds until incorporated. Scrape down the bowl, then mix on low speed for a few more seconds.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form (This is easy to do by hamd and gives your arm a workout!). Do not overbeat. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

Divide the batter among the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for about 30 minutes (9 inch layers) or 35 minutes (8 inch layers), rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the rack, remove the parchment and let cool completely.

To make the frosting, whisk the sugar and flour together in a medium heavy-bottom saucepan. Add milk and cream and cook over medium heat whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a standing mixer with paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until cool (at least 7 or 8 minutes) then add the butter a few pieces at a time and mix until thoroughly incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until frosting is light, fluffy, and smooth.

Add the vanilla and honey and continue mixing until combined. If the frosting is too soft, put the bowl in the refrigerator to chill slightly, then beat again until it is proper consistency. If the frosting is too firm, set the bow over a pot of simmering water and beat with a wooden spoon until it is the proper consistency.

Assemble the cake: Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Trim the top to create a flat surface, and evenly spread about 1 1/4 cups frosting on top. Add the next layer, trim and frost it, then add the third layer. Spread the sides and top of the cake with the remaining frosting. Garnish the cake with chopped pistachios and refrigerate it for 15 minutes to it firm up before serving.

It is fine to keep this cake at room temperature for a few days. If you decide to keep it in the fridge, let it come to room temperature before serving.


9 Responses to “Pistachio Cake with Honey Vanilla Frosting”

  1. 1 Krystal of Mrs. Regueiro's Plate May 9, 2011 at 8:37 am

    What an awesome birthday weekend, and a beautiful cake. Happy Belated Birthday Cate!

  2. 2 Mike May 9, 2011 at 9:24 am

    Great Weekend!!! However, you forgot to expand on the fact that we went to Bi-Rite twice this weekend…not just once…oops, was that supposed to be a secret? I’d go everyday if I could!

  3. 3 Kate May 9, 2011 at 9:26 am

    Can I tell you that I was too distracted by that delicious looking pizza to even notice the cake?

  4. 4 Josie May 9, 2011 at 9:55 am

    I knew you would like that cake! Glad you had a happy birthday!!

  5. 5 Joanne May 10, 2011 at 5:04 am

    I have this cookbook and have been waiting IMPATIENTLY for an occasion to make this cake! Yours looks PERFECT. Definitely the ideal birthday cake.

    Speaking of which – happy birthday! Sounds like you an awesome birthday weekend! Bi-rite is always worth the wait. In my honest opinion.

  6. 6 ErinsFoodFiles May 10, 2011 at 9:10 am

    This sounds & looks divine!

  7. 7 Bridget May 10, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    I’m trying not to complain about living in a small town so much, but I’m so jealous that you have a vegetarian Chinese restaurant; we don’t even have a decent Chinese restaurant here. Sigh. Oh well. It sounds like you had a wonderful birthday weekend!

  8. 8 CC11 May 10, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    What an awesome birthday you had – and to top it all off an amazing cake to finish up – nice 🙂

  9. 9 Allison [Haute Box] May 13, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    I love pistachio! This cake looks amazing.

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