Hello, welcome to my favorite cake. If you follow me on instagram , you know that I’m a pistachio freak (really, really fought the urge to say “nut” there, so, you’re welcome for me showing some restraint) because I ate a minimum of one pistachio gelato every day of my honeymoon. I ate about 20 pistachio gelatos in two weeks in Italy. I’m committed to the pistachio cause.
Here’s the thing: not all pistachio is equal. In fact, most pistachio is awful. Extracts and pastes are cut with almond extracts and fillers, much like how truffle products can be mostly portobello mushrooms if you’re not looking closely. A good indicator of wack pistachio is if it is BRIGHT green. Pistachios are a faded, almost olive green, and have a delicate almost floral flavor with a salty kick. If you ever want to test a Gelateria, taste their pistachio. If it’s not 100% dialed in, chances are their gelato will be sub par.
But back to this cake. It’s made up of three elements: the pistachio frosting, the sponge cake, and the profiteroles. I’ll be honest with you, if you don’t have the patience to make the profiteroles, you can go without, and just stick to the cake and frosting. You could go even one step further and do a box sponge cake (though I think homemade is best). The lynchpin here is the pistachio frosting. It’s an Italian Buttercream, which means it has a meringue base, giving it a light airiness that is unexpected with the rich pistachio flavor. This whole cake is surprisingly light, and the salted caramel perfectly sets off the savory notes in the pistachio.
NOTE: I used Fiddyment Farms Pistachio Paste and loved it. It had a really good flavor.
INGREDIENTS (PISTACHIO PASTRY CREAM)
3 tablespoons sugar
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup pistachio paste
1 vanilla pod, split
2 cups milk, warmed
1 tablespoon butter
1 pinch salt
1 1/4 cup heavy cream, chilled
Combine sugar, yolks, and vanilla in a saucepan and mix. Pour over warm milk, beating constantly. Cook on low flame, stirring with wooden spoon until mixture reaches boiling point. Cook a further 4 minutes on lowest setting. If you find it getting lumpy, whisk out the lumps. Take off heat, add the butter, salt, and the pistachio paste then pour into a bowl to cool completely. It should be very dense, like a thick pudding. Once cool, leave in fridge until chilled. Whip chilled cream to peaks and fold into the cooled custard.
2 ounces unsalted butter
3/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in middle. Butter a large baking sheet.
Bring butter, milk, sugar and salt to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring until butter is melted. Reduce heat to medium, then add flour all at once and cook, beating with a wooden spoon, until mixture pulls away from side of pan and forms a ball, about 30 seconds. Transfer mixture to a bowl and cool slightly, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well with an electric mixer after each addition.
Transfer warm mixture to pastry bag and pipe 18 mounds (about 1 1/4 inches wide and 1 inch high) 1 inch apart on baking sheet.
Bake until puffed and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes total. Prick each profiterole once with a skewer, then return to oven to dry, propping oven door slightly ajar, 3 minutes. Cool on sheet on a rack.
1 1/4 cups sugar
5 large egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled (doesn’t need to be rock hard)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup pistachio cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring sugar and 2/3 cup water to a boil. Continue boiling until syrup reaches 238 degrees on a candy thermometer (soft-ball stage).
Meanwhile, place egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat on low speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and beat on medium-high speed until stiff but not dry; do not overbeat.
With mixer running, add syrup to whites in a stream, beating on high speed until no longer steaming, about 3 minutes. Add butter bit by bit, beating until spreadable, 3 to 5 minutes; beat in vanilla, pistachio cream, and salt. If frosting curdles, keep beating until smooth.
INGREDIENTS (SALTED CARAMEL SAUCE)
Makes 1 cup
1/2 cup white sugar
2 ounces unsalted butter
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the caramel sauce, heat the sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, until the sugar turns golden. Stir until all of the sugar is dissolved and just starting to turn a lovely amber color.
Turn heat to low, add the butter, and stir to combine. Careful, it’ll foam up. Then add the heavy cream, vanilla extract, and salt stirring to combine. You’ll cook the sauce for about 5-10 minutes, until it comes together. It’ll take quite a bit of stirring!
Pour the caramel into a glass jar, let it come to room temperature, and store in the fridge for up to two weeks. Pour over everything and anything!
INGREDIENTS (SPONGE CAKE)
For two 9 inch round cake pans
1 1/3 cups cake flour, sifted then measured
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, packed
1/4 cup water
Preheat oven to 350 F. Adjust rack in the lower third of oven.
Grease or spray 2 nonstick 9 inch pans and line the bottom with wax paper. Grease the paper as well. Sift flour, half of the sugar (1 cup and 2 tablespoons), and salt into a bowl; set aside.
Whisk egg whites in bowl of a heavy-duty mixer just until frothy. Add cream of tartar; whisk until soft peaks form. Add 3/4 cups sugar in a steady stream, whisking until thicker, stiffer, glossy peaks form – about 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk in vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Scoop whites into a VERY large bowl (trust me, you’ll need it) and set aside.
In the same bowl you used for the whites, beat the egg yolks with remaining sugar until thick and pale yellow, about 2-3 minutes. Add water and beat until thickened, about 4 minutes. It should be very thick and pale. Pour yolk mixture over whites and gently fold together with a rubber spatula.
Sprinkle a third of the flour mixture over the egg mixture; fold to combine. Repeat two more times just until ingredients are incorporated. Gently pour batter into the pans and level tops with a spatula.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until top springs back slightly when lightly touched and a toothpick comes out clean. Invert pan onto a cooling rack, and cool for about 45 minutes.
To remove cake from pan, slip a butter knife down one side of pan and slowly trace perimeter to release the cake. When sides are free, cover cake with a rack and invert. Remove cake pan and the wax paper. Let the cakes cool completely.