Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sicilian Pistachio Cake

I have been enamoured of this cake since I have first seen it; Matthew's, and then the ones created by our Heavenly Bakers.

Eternally, I find myself playing catch-up with our cakes, having been renovating our living quarters, and retiring from my job. Hopefully, I will be more able to participate now. I really miss you when I am not here. This is my first cake for a month.

That being said: To prepare for this cake, I went on a two-week search for the pistachios. As others have found, they where were out of stock at Kalustyan, and La Cuisine, etc. Finally I found them through Amazon at an Amazon-like price. Wow! And they were not slivered, and they were darker than those I had seen. However, they tasted really delicious. I slivered them the best I could to get the insides to show. I had hoped for the violet color, but they were more lime. They photographed darker than they are.

The cake was to be a surprise party gift, and I wanted it to be double-layered. I have usually been setting mis en place the evening before baking. So I did this. I doubled, weighed and combined the dry ingredients as specified. Ground the nuts and sugar. Flour. Separated the sour cream. Weighed the butter and took it out early the next morning [In retrospect: Altho holding shape but squishy - I didn't take its temp. Mistake]. The eggs were left out at room temp, but I did not set them in warm water before using; I did not weigh them [Later I think, I know better]. Did I not beat the batter long enough? Was the rack down one too low? I did not have a thermometer in the oven [I do still need to get one]. Something could have gone amiss because I don't usually double a recipe; maybe I did something wrong in that area? Did I not grind the pistachio/sugar fine enough? I had cheated and did not use super-fine sugar. I thought why do that when it is going to be ground anyway? Well - Back to reality -

I have not had this problem before, albeit many other problems! Now, I have visited the baking forum and have read the seniors' ideas on this. Mostly oven temperature. And under-beating re structure.

It would be interesting if I had done all things I know to do, and the cake still cratered. At least then I could rule out things, and less obvious reasons could come to light.

I fled to the forum. I noted that people who wrote that although their cake fell in, also wrote that it was delicious in flavor. Mine was absolutely delicious in flavor, as well, and with the few drops of pistachio essence it seemed ethereal. I thought it a little dense. Perhaps it is meant to be. But under the circumstances, I would conjecture it was most likely the result of some maltreatment of mine that had perpetuated the caving in.

At first, as I watched the cake in the oven, not rising in the center at 35", I was in a panic. I read that in this type situation, others thought theirs not done and let the cake stay in the oven longer. I did this also, and tested it. I would have thought it underdone as well except that the sides were very far away from the cake pan sides by then, and the color was approaching copper. I decided to give up and try to rescue it.
I followed normal procedure and cooled it. Wrapped it and refrigerated it. What was I going to do with it. It looked like one of the tortes meant to be filled with fruit. Finally, I gave up and took it out of the refrigerator. I began to attack it with my 14" knife to level it.
This actually did a very good job. And I had my first taste of it. Fabulous!! However, it still had a very slight basin in the centers of the layers that, perhaps, a few tricks of the eye could remedy.

The bc having been made, I now put filling into the lower-layer basin, leveled it; then some into the upper layer and leveled it. I frosted the lower layer and placed the bottom layer upside-down onto the top. This left the bottom flat and the top layer flat. I chilled it a bit more, and because of the cake's consistency, I crumb-coated it.

Then chilled it for a few minutes and frosted it, using a bench scraper to try for smoothness.
I decided not to attempt to adhere pistachios all round the cake, a la Matthew - whose was awesome. At this point, for me, it was more prudent to stay simple. I couldn't bear another problem to solve, and adhering pistachios by tossing them up from below onto barely sticky mousseline was not something I could strive to attain that evening, or maybe any other evening without him to share his expertise.

In my opinion, this cake is remarkable, a real winner. The flavor is sensuous and alluring. Perhaps mine was a little dense from being overbaked/underbaked, but most assuredly - I think it is absolutely beautiful and can't wait to make it again.
Echo says yum.


  1. Thank you, Mendy. Is that spun sugar on top of a trifle I see there? Wow! Talk about looking great! j

  2. This is such a good cake recipe. Your's turned out very nicely. Beautiful plate.

  3. Making it into a layer cake might have solved my problem with it--being just a touch too dry. Nice looking cake!

  4. Thank you for your kind words about my work. I am marketing my peanut brittle but right now it is just word of mouth. I am working on getting a web site but its expensive so I haven't commited to it yet. I can send you peanut brittle. It is $16. a pound plus shipping. E-mail me with your address and how much you would like. My e-mail address is pastrypam@hotmail.com
    Thanks, Pam

  5. Thanks, Pam. I will be in touch via your email!