This year my birthday really stressed me out. It had nothing to do with age, I'm way past that, but rather because of the cake. Let me try to explain: in order for things to be "right" in my world I need to have the "perfect" birthday cake; and I need to make it myself. So even though my best friend, who is a great cook, offered to bake the cake of my choice I couldn't relinquish this task to her.
I'm usually pretty predictable with my cake; it has to be some sort of chocolate creation. I "pin" ideas to "my someday" board on Pinterest all year long in anticipation of the big day and the majority are chocolate. But as it got closer to my birthday I realized this year I didn't want chocolate. Hence the stress.
Everyone kept telling me not to worry, that I would find a cake before the big day and it would be perfect. Perusing some of my favorite blogs I came across a Pistachio Layer Cake on Eats Well With Others. It sure looked good but was it "perfect"? I immediately tweeted Joanne and asked her if she thought it would make the "perfect" birthday cake. When she responded back it was to be her wedding cake that pretty much sealed the deal for me.
The cake is simple to make...the icing is a bit intense but one bite and you'll agree that it's the best cake ever. If you have a special occasion coming up...yes, your birthday counts or just want to indulge make this cake! I can't stress enough how good it is.
Pistachio Layer Cake
(adapted from Eats Well With Others)
For the cake
1 cup shelled pistachios
2 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
For the buttercream
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, soft, cut into small pieces
1 tsp Tahitian vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 325. Grease and line two 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the pistachio meat until it is coarsely chopped. Remove 2 tbsp to a small bowl. Pulse the remaining pistachios until they have almost a powder-like consistency. Transfer to a large bowl and whisk together with the all purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter in the stand mixer for 3 minutes. Add in the sugar and vanilla and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add in the egg and mix until just combined.
Turn the mixer to low. Pour 1 1/2 cups ice water into a measuring cup. Add the flour/pistachio mix to the batter in three additions, alternating with the ice water, mixing each time until just combined. Scrape down the bowl and mix on low speed for a few more seconds.
In a medium, clean bowl whisk together the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks form, about 3-5 minutes. Fold the egg whites into the batter.
Divide the batter evenly among the cake pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 40-45 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Flip the cakes out of the pans, onto the rack and let cool completely before frosting. Remove parchment paper from the bottoms.
For the buttercream, in a medium heavy saucepan, whisk together the flour and sugar. Add in the milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture comes to a boil and then thickens, 10-15 minutes.
Transfer the hot milk mixture to a stand mixer bowl and mix with the paddle attachment on high speed until cool, about 9 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter, a few pieces at a time, until it is full incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, a few minutes.
Add in the vanilla and continue mixing until combined. If the frosting is too soft, chill it and mix again.
To assemble the cake, place one cake layer top side up on a serving platter. Use a long serrated knife to cut the top so that it is flat and even. Spread a little over a cup of frosting on top. Add the remaining cake layer and trim the top again. Spread cake with a very thin layer of frosting for the crumb coating. Put in the freezer for 5-10 minutes. Spread the sides and top of the cake with the remaining frosting and decorate as desired.