For those of you that have followed this blog for a while, you’ll know me and pistachios, we’re involved. There’s something delicate yet striking about them, all jade green and flecked with pink, so it was to my favourite nut I turned, when creating a birthday cake for my mum last week. The result was a light, moist, pistachio sponge laced with rose water, filled and covered with a pistachio French buttercream. I’ve never attempted a tiered cake before either but I was chuffed with how it turned out; chic, a little extravagant and completely delicious.
This recipe is enough to make and cover an 8 and a 6 inch cake hence the quite specific measurements. I used Delia’s ingenious method for scaling up cake recipes to guarantee the right amounts and you can find the method here if you’re interested.
for the cakes…
- 280g softened, unsalted butter
- 160g shelled, unsalted pistachios
- 112g self-raising flour
- 1½ tsp baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 320g golden caster sugar
- 6 medium eggs
- 112g ground almonds
- 3 tsp rose water
- to decorate you’ll need around 50g each of chopped pistachio and freeze dried raspberries.
for the buttercream…
- 288g caster sugar
- 120ml water
- 80g egg yolk
- 80g beaten egg
- 80g pistachio paste
- 400g softened, unsalted butter
you will need – an 8 and a 6 inch cake tin, a stand mixer and a sugar cooking thermometer.
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC / Gas Mark 4 and prepare your cake tins. I grease the tins all over with butter and line the bases with discs of parchment paper cut to size. Before you get cracking on the cakes, a great tip is to toast your pistachios first. I know it seems like an unnecessary step but the difference in flavour is amazing. This will only take five minutes in a hot frying pan, then blitz them up pretty finely in a food processor. I like to leave some coarser pieces in there too for texture but that’s entirely up to you.
- Start by creaming together the butter and golden caster sugar until light and fluffy, this takes about 5mins on a mixer with a paddle attachment. In a bowl, sieve together the flour, salt and baking powder and beat the eggs together in a measuring jug. Turn the speed on the mixer down and slowly add the eggs in stages, with a tablespoon of flour each time, to prevent curdling. Remove from the mixer and fold through the remaining flour, almonds and pistachios then finally add the rose water. Mix well.
- Divide the mixture between the two tins and bake in the oven for 40mins. The smaller cake may take slightly less time so start checking after 30mins. Allow the tins to cool completely on a wire rack.
- Now, to the buttercream. This is not a frosting made with icing sugar, it is a silky, smooth French buttercream that takes a bit of effort but is utterly worth it for its luxurious finish; you’ll never cover a cake with anything else again I promise! Start by heating the sugar and water in a pan. You will need to heat the sugar to 118ºC hence the trusty sugar thermometer. While the sugar heats, start beating together the eggs and egg yolks on your mixer, you want them to be pale by the time you come to adding the sugar.
- When the sugar hits 118ºC, remove it from the heat and slowly pour the hot sugar onto the eggs while the mixer turns. You’ll need to turn the speed down to about 5. After the sugar has been added, turn the speed back up to 8 and keep mixing until the bowl is back at room temperature – expect this to take a good 10mins. Once the mix has cooled to room temperature, reduce the speed a little and begin adding the softened butter in small pieces, making sure it is fully incorporated each time. Finally, add the pistachio paste, whisk until evenly blended and voila, you’re ready to cover the cakes.
- Cut each cake in half and fill with a layer of buttercream. Next, mask each cake evenly with a first layer of buttercream, covering the tops and sides, then place them in the fridge for 10-15mins. You then apply a second layer of buttercream to each cake. I find doing this, and using a palette knife, helps to get a really smooth finish.
- To layer up the cake, place the larger cake on a cake board and push 3-4 cake dowels into the centre of the cake, these will support the wait of the top tier. Place the top tier on top and smooth the join between the two cakes. I then cover the edges with a sprinkling of chopped pistachios and freeze dried raspberries before arranging some roses on top of the cake.