Don’t you just love pistachios? They’re so damn chic as well as delicious, all jade green with a hint of pink, definitely the prettiest of nuts and my favourite to bake with. This gorgeous cake partners the pistachios with the delicate tang of orange blossom water, a winning combo that contrasts well with the creamy mascarpone topping. Swayed by the sophisticated flavours, I decided to make some crystallised lavender flowers to sit on top, these are super simple but are best done the day before so that they can be left to dry overnight.
This recipe is taken from Bake and Decorate by Fiona Cairns, such a great book for those looking for chic cake decorating ideas and inspiration.
for the cake…
- 175g unsalted butter, softened
- 100g shelled, unsalted pistachios
- 70g self-raising flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 200g golden caster sugar
- zest of 1 orange
- 4 eggs, lightly beaten
- 70g ground almonds
- 2 tsp orange blossom water
for the syrup…
- juice of 1 orange
- 45g golden caster sugar
- 1 tbsp orange blossom water
for the topping…
- 250g mascarpone
- zest of 1 orange
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp orange blossom water
- 30g golden caster sugar
for the crystallised lavender…(optional)
- 1 egg white, lightly whisked
- white caster sugar
- fresh lavender flowers
you will need – 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin and a small paint brush
- If you are making the crystallised lavender, take each stem of lavender and paint them with the egg white before gently sprinkling over the caster sugar. Leave the stems to dry overnight on a lined baking try, the airing cupboard is perfect for this.
- Back to the cake. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4 / 180°C then grease the tin with butter and line the bottom with baking parchment. First up, toast the pistachios on a baking try in the oven for 5 mins, then grind them finely in a food processor. Don’t be too precious about making sure that the nuts are finely ground, I like leaving some chunky pieces in there too for texture.
- Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt together and then in a separate bowl (or food mixer if you have one) cream together the butter, sugar and orange zest. Next, add the beaten egg gradually to the butter and sugar, each time adding a tablespoon of the flour as well, this helps to prevent the mix curdling. When all the egg and flour have been incorporated, fold in the pistachios, almonds and finally the orange blossom water. Scrape the batter into the tin and bake for 40 mins.
- With about 20 mins to go, start making your syrup as you have to pour this over the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven. In a small saucepan mix together the orange juice, sugar and orange blossom water, then bring this to a rolling boil. Leave this to bubble away, stirring occasionally, until it has reduced almost by half, the syrup should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon when it is ready.
- When the cake is done, pierce the surface all over with a cocktail stick or skewer, then drizzle over the syrup. Leave the cake to cool for an hour or so in the tin before turning it out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
- Last step, decorate! Beat together the mascarpone, orange zest, sugar, vanilla extract and orange blossom water then carefully spread this over the top of the cake smoothly. Arrange your crystallised lavender in the centre and you’re done.
Quick tip – Other great edible flowers and leaves that crystallise well include rose petals, violas, pansies, violets, primroses, mint leaves and nasturtiums.