As promised, friends: CAKE!
I made this “Aunt Sassy Cake” for a birthday party at work!
And ooh, it’s a good one. The cake is moist and fluffy and delicate, the frosting is crazy: a bit of depth and sweetness from the honey, but not teeth-achingly-sweet by any means.
(Forgive the messy cut–it was 100 degrees out that day and it’s honestly a wonder the thing made it from my apartment to work!)
And I must admit, dear readers, I spent nearly twenty minutes typing up and adapting the below recipe. Phew. Almost as exhausting as baking the cake itself.
So I hope you’ll allow me to keep this post short and sweet and leave you with simply a bunch of pretty pictures of the cupcakes this recipe also made. Sound good? I thought so.
This cake, and bonus cupcakes, are worth the effort. Give it a try!
Aunt Sassy Cake: Pistachio Cake with Honey Vanilla Buttercream
Adapted from Baked Explorations
Makes 1 three-layer 6″ cake and 9 full-size cupcakes (or: 1 three-layer 8″ cake)
1 cup shelled pistachios
2 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
8 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups ice water (don’t prepare until the recipe calls for it–should be very cold)
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter three 6″ cake pans (if you only have two, it’s OK, you’ll just need to bake the last layer separately). Line the bottoms with a circle of parchment paper (don’t skip this step like I did), dust the pans with a little handful of flour and knock out the excess.
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the pistachios until they are coarsely chopped. Transfer about 2 tablespoons of the coarsely chopped pistachios to a large bowl, which you’ll use to make your flour mixture. Pulse the rest of the pistachios until they are nearly a powder–not as fine as flour, but nearly there. Stir the pistachio powder into the coarse pistachios. Sift the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt over the large bowl containing the pistachio mix, stir to combine, and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer (using your paddle attachment), beat butter and shortening on medium until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and vanilla; beat until fluffy, 3 minutes. Scrape down, add the whole egg, and beat until just combined.
Prepare 1 1/2 cups ice water now. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the ice water, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. For each addition up the mixture temporarily from low to medium speed for a couple of seconds, until incorporated.
In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. (Baked says you can do this by hand… happily, I have an extra bowl for my stand mixer). Do not overbeat! Fold the egg whites into the batter.
Fill each cake pan about half-full with batter. Bake cake layers for 40 to 45 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let layers cool for 20 minutes on wire racks, then turn the cakes out to cool completely. Remove the parchment paper.
The layers keep perfectly overnight in the fridge covered with plastic wrap.
The rest of the batter can be used for full-size cupcakes. Store the rest in the fridge until ready to use. Cupcakes took me about 20-25 minutes. When it smells like cake in your kitchen, that’s generally a sign that it’s ready to be tested and removed from the oven.
Honey Vanilla Buttercream
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
3 sticks unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into small pieces
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons local honey
In a medium saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together. Add milk and cream and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture boils and has thickened. This took me about 10 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat (paddle attachment) on high speed for 7-9 minutes until mixture has completely cooled. Reduce to low, add the butter pieces, then mix thoroughly until well incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, an additional 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the vanilla and honey, mixing until just combined. If it seems too soft, the frosting can be refrigerated. If too firm, heat over a double boiler and beat with a wooden spoon until it softens.
Optional: 1/3 cup crushed shelled pistachios
Trip the top of each cake layer so they are flat (this is easy if you’ve refrigerated the layers). Use roughly 3/4 cup of frosting between each layer. After placing the last layer, crumb coat the whole thing and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Finish off frosting the whole thing. You can very carefully sprinkle the crushed pistachios over the edges and top rim of the cake if you like.
Cake keeps at room temperature in a cake saver for 3 days and can also be refrigerated. Allow to come to room temperature before serving.