While living in the Philippines as a child, I never understood all that fever-pitched excitement my family – my parents, aunts, and uncles – showered this nut with! Most of the adults I knew regarded pistachios as a prized commodity in the pantry. Every time we went to Manila’s specialty food purveyors that imported pistachios from Iran, Turkey, or California, I see the adults almost jumping out of their skin in a rush of joyfulness. That happens right before they start hoarding bags after bags of these nuts. For me, though, they were just…meh! They’re alright, I guess.
But as I got older and my palate developed, these amorous green kernels started drawing me in as if I were a spellbound woman. It wasn’t until recently, though, that I embarked on a full-fledge devotion to these nuts!
Aside from enjoying them whole, I like pistachios in everything else: ice creams, spreads, flavoured oils, pesto, cookies, cakes…you get my drift.
So, after a copy of Christina Tosi’s Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook mysteriously landed on my lap (no, I didn’t buy yet another cookbook, wink wink), it was, like, fate. Christina is an amazingly talented pastry chef! Her recipe for pistachio layer cake jumped out at me – like a punch in the face – that I knew instantly I just had to make it!
The original recipe had several components to it that I’m, one day, going to tackle (hopefully). In fact, the recipe in the book is called “Pistachio Layer Cake,” as it has a lemon curd filling and pistachio buttercream frosting that I decided to ignore. Instead, I opted for just the pistachio cake itself. This is the result…
You can eat the cake plain – without any fancy garnishing or frosting – because it is pleasing as it is. Or you can sprinkle some ground pistachios on top, or have it with a side of whipped cream like below. Choose your own adventure.
My two Tartine girls loved this to bits – they couldn’t get enough of it! And as if you couldn’t tell right now, I am swooning just thinking about this pistachio cake! It was so delicious that I felt like I couldn’t do justice to it with the gazillion photos I took to show you!
Just trust me on this one. For pistachio lovers, this is one helluva cake!
- 190 grams (2/3 cup) pistachio paste*
- 35 grams (2 tbsp) honey
- 6 egg whites
- 280 grams (1 3/4 cups) confectioners’ sugar
- 110 grams (1 1/4 cups) blanched almond flour
- 75 grams (1/2 cup) pistachio oil
- 55 grams (1/4 cup) heavy cream
- 160 grams (1 cup) all-purpose flour
- 6 grams (1 1/2 tsp) baking powder
- 6 grams (1 1/2 tsp) kosher salt
- Pam or other nonstick cooking spray
- 95 grams (1/3 cup) raw shelled pistachios, ground
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Combine the pistachio paste and honey in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-low for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture turns into a sticky green paste. Scrape down the side of the bowl with a spatula.
- On low speed, add the egg whites one at a time, being careful not to add the next egg white until the previous one is completely incorporated. Stop the mixer and scrape down the side of the bowl after every 2 to 3 egg whites. Once all the egg whites have been incorporated, you will have a green “soup” in your mixing bowl.
- Add the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour and, on low speed, paddle them in for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture thickens. Stop the mixer and scrape down the side of the bowl.
- Stream in the pistachio oil, followed by the heavy cream while paddling on low speed. Mix for 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides again.
- Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and paddle on low for 2 to 3 minutes, until the batter is super-smooth and viscous.
- Spray an 8-inch round pan with nonstick cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper cut out to fit the bottom of the pan.
- Using a spatula, spread the pour and spread the cake batter in an even layer in the pan. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes, checking for doneness at the 25- to 30-minute mark.
- To check for doneness, gently poke the edge of the cake with your finger: the cake should bounce back (like a sponge cake), and it should be golden brown on the sides and pulling away from the sides of the pan ever so slightly. Leave the cake in the oven for an extra 1 minute or 2 minutes if it doesn’t pass these tests.
- Take the cake out of the oven and cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Invert cake to a wire rack and remove the parchment paper at the bottom. Turn right side up on the rack and continue cooling.
- Put the pistachio in a food processor or spice grinder and whirl until the nuts are coarsely ground. Garnish the cooled cake with the pistachio meal.
- The cake can be stored in the refrigerator or at room temperature, wrapped in plastic, for up to 5 days.
*pistachio paste can be found at specialty stores or online sellers. You can also make your own pistachio paste with successful results. My pal, Jean, from Lemons and Anchovies blog has a wonderful recipe.