Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sicilian Pistachi-uh oh Cake with Neo Classic Buttercream

An unusual event happened. I finished this week's HCB cake two days early. I am posting ahead of schedule to encourage anyone who might be sitting on the fence because of difficulty finding ingredients not to hesitate making it with substitutions. It's worth it.

Happy Mothering Sunday Nicola!

Sicilian Pistachio Cake is this week's choice for the Heavenly Cake Bakers. It's a lightly flavored pistachio cake with an amazing molasses-y pistachio-y buttecream frosting which could easily stand on its own in a box of Godiva candy. A big fan of pistachio anything I was excited about making this cake.

The biggest surprise for me was trying to locate blanched pistachios. Twenty minutes of driving would have landed me in the midst of literally thousands of acres of pistachio orchards. It would seem pistachios in all manor of variety would be readily available locally. Not so. For some peculiar reason any sort of blanched nut seems to be out of favor and not carried in the hundreds of grocery stores in my town. Luckily Whole Foods had raw pistachios on sale with 20% off the steep price of $14.99 a pound. These days roasted salted pistachios are everywhere at $3.99 a pound. Go figure.

So I blanched my own. Rubbing off the skins took longer than to make, bake and frost the entire cake. For all I know it might have been possible to briefly blanch salted pistachios, removing enough salt for an acceptable substitution. I actually think salted pistachios would be a delicious topping, the salty/sweet "sel" combination being in vogue at the moment. But then this cake would have to be rechristened en Francais.

The other ingredient which took me on a scavenger hunt was the Pistachio Essence, which no one in this town of 1,394,154 (July 2008) heard of, let alone carried. The cake decorating store had a lone bottle of Lou Anne's Oils Pistachio flavor at $8.99 per ounce, which contained not one speck of pistachio anything but smelled divine. Trying to justify buying it I grilled the poor guy behind the counter what else it could be used for and how long would it last? Ice cream and indefinitely was his answer. Sold!

Putting the cake together should have been a snap, however, with each "Uh oh..." uttered, my trusty granddaughter would call out in alarm, "What happened? What's wrong?" Eggs flipping down the sink, switching the sour cream additions, thereby adding them out of sequence taking the eggs along for the ride, which caused anxiety as Rose says mixing the egg and flour "strengthen the structure". Images of Jack Lalanne flexing his muscles came to mind and I worried my little flour gluten proteins would be weak. They probably were as the cake fell slightly around the edges. That could also have been caused by me forgetting to blanch the pistachios before pulverizing them with the sugar.

In spite of the blunders the cake turned out nicely. I went full throttle, adding extra pistachio flavor to the batter and buttercream. Next time I'll add even more. Next time I might try pecans. Pecans with this buttercream sounds delicious to me or macadamias. Or black walnut. Or cashews, or peanuts. Or maybe no nuts at all and orange zest in the batter with a bit of whole wheat flour for nuttiness and orange extract in the buttercream or ...........
This cake had me thinking about all sorts of possible variations which is a new experience as a novice baker.


  1. This looks wonderful, Vicki! I'm baking mine tonight, but like you I'm planning other versions, as I read the recipe, I was wondering how it would be with almonds.

  2. ב''ה

    Looks great!

    I was also shocked at how long the whole blanching thing took.

    I wish I had been able to find some pistachio essence it would have been a nice enhancement.

  3. Wow!! Awesome cake Vicki! Must i really blanch the pistachios and it's really that long?! If that is the case, i can't do it tonight as i planned to do! :(

  4. Thanks Vicki! You are really sweet.

    I didn't blanch my pistachios. I just assumed that shell off was good enough. I think I subconsciously didn't want any faff, so didn't think about it too hard!

    Although I must say, the vivid green certainly pays dividends. Gorgeous. And very jealous about your pistachio essence. I think I will have to seek it out. The pistachio flavour was quite faint without it and I'm not sure about the hint of almond...

    Must write my post.

  5. The picture of the slice looks wonderful. Nice crumb!! Great job!

  6. Vicki... I feel your pain (with the blanching part)... I should wait until the last minute, then read everyone's post and THEN do the cake. I will probably shave off hours of the process.

    You are so lucky you scored the essence, I looked high and low for that thing... there was a moment there when I thought I was making the whole thing up! But, I will continue to search for it and will remake using it.

    And all of those combinations in your head, sound all very yummy and one better than the other.

  7. Vicki!!! You are going to see Harold McGee??? I will not have to wear green on St. Patty's Day because I am GREEN with envy. If you see him drop something...pick it up and send it to me!! hee hee hee. Can't wait to hear.

  8. Pretty cake Vicki. Yea blanching pistachio was no picnic! I was glad I started early afternoon so still can wait the 3 hours until they dry. You know, the Whole Foods that I go to only have raw pistachio without skin. The one with skin is roasted and salted. And it's not on sale like at yours. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen pistachio on sale there. No fair how it's different in different state!