Pistachio Cake with Honey Orange Buttercream
Okay, I would consider myself a lady of many talents. I paint, raise two children with at least an average level of success, cook well, clean (a lot), am crafty, literate (haha) and am a rock star at binge watching stuff on Netflix/Hulu after the kids are asleep. Anyway, remembering to shut my mouth and baking are not two categories that I typically consider in my arsenal of “skills”. After this cake though, I feel like a master baker. I am sure there are some technical errors when it comes to technique and sequence. But boy oh boy was it delicious. I mean this cake was seriously good! Probably one of my favorite things that I bake! The others are a cookies recipe heavily borrowed (less cinnamon than called for) from another food blog. (We call them crack cookies.) And I also make these Resse’s Cheesecake Brownies. Oooh, which reminds me my Resse’s Cheesecake is super insane too! Okay, maybe I’m better at this baking thing than I thought.
We also have my daughter to thank for this. I won’t go as far as to say she was super instrumental, but it wouldn’t have been the same without her. Who else’s tiny toddler hands could crack the eggs and turn the knob on the Kitchenaid? Certainly not my gorilla hands!!! J Plus, making the cake was entirely her idea. You see, she LOVES pistachios. So I went onto YouTube and found a short documentary on them. Of course when the video concluded there was a second (suggested) video of someone making a pistachio cake. Naturally she had to watch it! And no shocked mama here, after watching it, we had to MAKE it. I thought why not. So we proceeded to the store to make the cake the following day.
Honestly, the most difficult part of this cake wasn’t compiling the recipes and adapting them. Or even finding a credible honey frosting as a starting block; because quite honestly there weren’t any. (Even BHG’s didn’t make any sense.) No my friends, the most difficult part was remembering that I have a wonderful 3 ½ year old who just wants to learn next to mommy and have authentic interactions. And remembering that my controlling OCD nature had to take a back seat to messes and a general lack of concern for time or structure. Haha. We all came out alive, happy and seriously enjoyed this cake!
Makes 1 Cake (Serves 80 gnomes, 1 bear or 8-10 humans)
For the Cake
1 ¼ cup shelled pistachios
1 2/3 sticks of butter (14 tbsp)
1 2/3 cup white flour
1 2/3 cup white sugar
¾ cup milk
½ tsp salt (just shy of ½ tsp)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp baking powder
zest of 2 oranges, juice of 1 orange
2-3 9” round cake pans (if you only have 2, as most do, you can bake the cake in 2 rounds)
You will also need: parchment paper, extra flour for dusting and cooking spray
Grease the baking pans.
Trace 3 circles, the size of the base of the 9” cake pans. Cut them out and place them into the greased pan.
Dust the pans with flour, knocking and tipping it until it is coasted; carefully dump out the excess flour that didn’t clean to the pan/parchment paper. (If you only have 2 9” round cake pans, you will have to go back and bake the 3rd separately. Or you could easily choose to make a 2-layer cake instead of a 3-layer cake. It is up to you!)
In a food processor, pulse 1 ¼ cup pistachios until they are mostly fine. I enjoy a few “bigger pieces” for variation of texture. (Set them aside)
In a Kitchenaid Stand Mixer (or a large bowl if you have to do this by hand) beat together butter and sugar until it begins to lightly fluff. Add the eggs and the vanilla, beating for another minute at a low speed.
Go ahead and add your pistachios and give another quick blend.
Add the milk and blend again.
If you’re a baking purist, you can mix your salt, flour and baking powder in a separate bowl and stir with a fork before adding it to the other mixer. If you’re anything like me though, you will just add them to the bowl together. So whatever your approach may be, add the flour, baking powder and salt at this time.
Add your orange zest and squeeze the juice of one of the oranges into the batter as well. Mix one last time.
Evenly pour your batter into 2 or 3 9” cake pans, depending on the direction you’ve decided to go. Do you want a 2 layer cake, or a 3 layer cake? Do you only have 2 pans and don’t want to do another layer? Or are you a visual perfectionist and decided a 3 layer cake would be more aesthetically pleasing? I can’t make this decision for you.
Bake your cake 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees. Keep in mind the amount of batter in each pan with alter your baking time. If you have all 3 pans in at once, you’re probably safe in this range. If you’re cooking 2 pans with only 2/3 of the batter, there is less batter and it will cook a shorter amount of time. If you have decided to opt for a 2 layer cake then there is more batter per pan and it might take longer. I would check your pans at 25 minutes with a knife or a tooth pick just to be sure. If the knife or tooth pick comes up clean, your cake is done.
Allow the cake to cool for 10-15 minutes. Use a knife to scrape the cake from the sides of the pan and flip it over gently. Allow the cake to become room temperature before attempting to frost it.
For the Honey Orange Buttercream:
3 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter
8 oz cream cheese
½ cup honey
2 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 2 oranges
In a stand mixer combine all of the above listed ingredients. Make sure your butter and your cream cheese are room temperature. Begin the mixing out low or you will have powdered sugar everywhere!
Putting it all together:
Extra crushed pistachios for decoration/color
Extra orange zest for decoration/color
If you have stuff like an icing knife, or a cake turn table (I don’t even know their real names, haha) feel free to use them. But I just put my cake on a giant piece parchment paper and turned it on my counter when frosting/decorating.
Once the cakes have cooled, take all of the layers and use a bread knife to level the cakes out. When they bake the centers rise. You’re basically slicing about 1/4 inch off on the top center.
Flip the cake layer over so that the cut side is against the wax paper and the untouched side is on top. This will prevent the frosting from pulling up the fluffy center of the cake.
Frost generously and add the next layer; repeating the process of putting the cut side down.
Frost the middle again and add the 3rd layer if you’ve made one.
Frost a thin and even layer over the whole cake and place it in the fridge for 30 minutes, allowing everything to cool and firm up.
Return the cake to the counter top and continue to frost. (You will have extra frosting when you’re done. But since I basically tinkered with the recipe for 20 minutes, I couldn’t make an exactly perfect amount, sorry! But you can freeze it and use it later!)
If you would like to sprinkle some pistachios and orange zest on the top I would do so! It adds color, flavor and texture to the cake. I also line the bottom. Placing a decent amount around the rim, then pressing the wax paper up so that the pistachios and orange zest actually stuck to the frosting.
You’re done. Yes, it was kind of a process. But I promise it is totally worth it!!!