It’s been too long since we shared a terrific baking recipe with you. For that I apologize. But after our Christmas baking binge, our house baker has been taking a long rest. In truth, all our baking is done out at the Beach. And for most of the winter, the Beach is off-limits to Andrew whose real estate business takes up most of his weekends. Today, in anticipation of Easter and for all of you who crave the comfort on a great party cake, there’s this phenomenal confection from Brooklyn’s best bakers, the team at Baked, Renato Poliafito and Matt Lewis. And of course there’s a story attached to it.
|Hard to find and unbelievably
expensive when we did…
Building on the great success of his take on Kat McCleland’s Almond Cake, Andrew next wanted to take on pistachio nuts. You can buy big bags of the things at Costco where they’re shelled for you and, like all things Costco, give you more pistachio nuts than one could ever imagine consuming. He was intrigued by a pistachio cake recipe from a pastry Chef who has taken New York by storm. He’d work with this chef’s recipes before to great success. Now this particular recipe called for one very specific ingredient: Pistachio Oil. This was searched for high and low in our hyper-foodie neighborhood. It was nowhere to be found locally. Finally it was located on line and sent for. At enormous cost, the oil arrived. The baking proceeded. The results were not at all worth all the time, money and effort. Sometimes chefs complicate things mightily. This particular chef, who shall remain nameless, had done just that. But I couldn’t help thinking “would the cake have been declared a mistake had the pistachio oil been not so hard to find?” I wonder. But Andrew is not one to be derailed when he wants to bake something. Especially not when he was confronted with all those leftover pistachios.
Fortunately, if you want recipes that are almost guaranteed to please, look no further than the two Bakers, Poliafito and Lewis, of Baked, the Brooklyn bakery that has a branch in Charleston SC. These two generous souls have shared their baking expertise in their two cookbooks: “Baked: New Frontiers in Baking” (Stewart Tabori Chang 2008) and Baked Explorations (Stewart Tabori Chang 2010). There’s not a bad recipe in the bunch and this one is off the charts. Called the “Aunt Sassy”, its said to be a huge customer favorite and you will know why the minute you taste it. The luscious honey-flavored buttercream icing tops a richly moist three layer extravaganza of nuts and cake. It was a huge hit and made us all but forget the first cake Andrew baked. And there was not so much as a drop of Pistachio Oil anywhere in the recipe. Here it is with our best wishes for a Happy Easter.
Note: This recipe is for a classic, one-tiered layer cake.
To make cake: Preheat oven to 325°. Spread pistachios on rimmed baking sheet. Bake 8 minutes, until lightly toasted. Let cool.
Grease 3 (8″ x 2″) round cake pans with butter or cooking spray. Line bottoms with parchment paper. Grease paper and dust pans with flour, tapping out excess.
2. In a food processor, pulse 1/3 cup pistachios until chopped. Remove and set aside for garnish. Pulse remaining 1 cup pistachios until chopped; remove 2 tablespoons and set aside in a medium bowl. Process remaining pistachios just until finely ground to a powder. Sift cake flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda into the bowl with the 2 tablespoons chopped pistachios. Stir in pistachio powder.
3. In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat butter and shortening on medium speed until creamy, scraping bowl, about 1 minute. Add 1 1/2 cups sugar and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. With mixer on low speed, beat in eggs one at a time until well blended. Beat in flour mixture, in 3 additions, alternating with the cold water, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat until blended, scraping bowl; then beat batter 15 more seconds. Scrape into a large bowl.
In a stand mixer with whisk attachment (and a clean bowl), beat egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until foamy. With mixer on medium-high speed, add remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat just until soft peaks form; do not over beat. With a large rubber spatula, gently fold whites into batter just until no white streaks remain.
5. Divide batter between prepared pans and gently spread evenly. Stagger pans on oven racks so pans are not directly above one another.
6. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean. Transfer pans to wire racks and let cool 20 minutes. Run a knife around sides and turn cakes out onto racks. Remove parchment paper. Flip cakes again and let cool completely.
|Making the Buttercream|
To make buttercream: In a heavy, medium saucepan, whisk sugar and flour until well blended. Add milk and cream and whisk until smooth. Set pan over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly with a heatproof rubber spatula, until mixture thickens and comes to a boil, about 12 minutes. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Pour into a bowl and let cool completely, about 1 hour.
In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat butter on medium speed until fluffy. Gradually beat in cream-flour mixture, about 1/3 cup at a time, beating until blended with butter. Beat on medium-high speed until fluffy and smooth, about 1 minute. Beat in honey and vanilla. Refrigerate until buttercream holds its shape and is thick enough to spread, about 20 minutes.
To assemble cake: Place 1 cake layer on a cake stand or serving plate. Spread top with 1 cup buttercream. Repeat with another cake layer and 1 cup buttercream. Add last cake layer, top-side up. Spread sides and top of cake with about 3/4 cup buttercream to crumb coat. Refrigerate 15 minutes. Frost with remaining buttercream. Garnish cake with reserved chopped pistachios. Refrigerate at least 15 minutes before serving; cake can be refrigerated up to 3 days. If cake is refrigerated for more than 15 minutes, let stand at room temperature for about 1 hour before serving.