Neon-green cakes made with packages of instant pistachio pudding may have nostalgic appeal, but they don’t hold a candle to this layered beauty. Freshly ground pistachios are folded into a cardamom- and orange-zest-scented batter that’s baked and topped with a crown of vanilla bean buttercream.
No artificial food colouring, manufactured flavours or edible oil products allowed. Sorry, nostalgia.
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Stephanie Eddy, who writes about her baking exploits at clockworklemon.com, lives in Calgary.
Pistachio and Cardamom Layer Cake
3/4 cup (110 g) shelled pistachios (plus extra for decoration)
2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground cardamom
Zest of one orange
3/4 cup (171 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (325 g) sugar
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Vanilla Bean Buttercream
1 1/2 cups (340 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 cups (550 g) icing sugar
1 vanilla bean
2 tbsp whipping cream
Preheat oven to 350 F and grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans.
Pulse 3/4 cup pistachios in a food processor until they are finely ground with no large pieces remaining. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cardamom and orange zest. Set aside.
In the bowl of a mixer, cream together butter and sugar until the butter becomes light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time making sure to scrape the bowl down after each addition.
Turn the mixer off and add half of the flour mixture to the bowl. Turn the mixer on low and pour in half of the milk and the vanilla. As soon as the flour, milk and butter mixtures start to come together, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Repeat with the remaining flour and milk. Stir on low just until the ingredients come together. Avoid overmixing the batter to keep your cake light and fluffy.
Next, scrape down the bowl and gently fold the ground pistachios into the batter until just combined. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and the centre of the cake bounces back when gently pressed with your finger.
Allow the cakes to cool in their pans on a wire rack for 20 to 25 minutes before turning them out. This will prevent them from sticking to the pans.
Make the icing while the cake cools. In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until fluffy. Add the icing sugar 1/2 cup at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. After half of the icing sugar has been incorporated, turn the mixer on high and beat for two minutes. Continue adding icing sugar to taste, then turn the mixer back on high and beat for another minute.
Use a small knife to cut a slit along the length of the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds to the icing and beat until incorporated. Beat in the whipping cream until smooth.
To assemble the cake, fill a disposable piping bag or large zip-lock freezer bag with icing, snip off the corner and pipe a thick layer of icing around the edge of the bottom cake layer. Place the cake in the fridge for 10 to 15 minutes or until the icing firms up. Next, use a spatula to spread an even layer of icing inside the piped outline. Place the second cake layer on top and repeat the piping and filling steps. Use a butter knife or icing spatula to smooth the icing between the layers and fill in any gaps. Decorate the cake by sprinkling chopped or ground pistachios on top, and serve.