02 January 2011

Pistachio-Orange: The Cake

I'm beginning to feel like the American Pistachio Council owes me a kickback.

Yes, the inspiration for the 2011 new year's cake was the infamous cookie. I liked the flavor combination, and since one of the party's hosts put me up to the cookie contest in the first place, it seemed reasonable to pay homage. I can safely say I don't need to see another pistachio anytime soon. You'll agree, I'm quite sure.

People ask me what makes a cake delicious, and I reply, "Love." But I don't really believe that. Ironically, the key to a good cake can be found in my least favorite word: moist. We achieve the proper texture of a cake by a) baking it not one second longer than it should be baked (I am so not kidding about this; I have been known to set the oven timer to 30 seconds when checking doneness); and b) hedging our bets with tasty camouflage. But you don't want to know about My Cake Philosophy; you simply want to see if this one turned out, and you're sort of hoping for an epic fail. Sorry, didn't happen.

The basics: 12-inch white cake rounds, brushed with Grand Marnier syrup, layered with pistachio-orange filling and frosted with orange buttercream.

In case that seemed not rich enough, each slice would be served with a spoonful of orange curd.

I conjured these key words for decorating the cake: tree branches, hoarfrost, mosaics. I have no idea why, as the invitation to the party arrived in the form of a hot pink coaster, printed with a mustache on the 0 of 2011.

To create our* edible mosaic, I candied orange zest, made pistachio brittle, and ground raw pistachios. Using a graduated sieve, we had ten different textures of material to work with.
*Yes, our. I conscripted M to help with the decorating, because a) he's quite the artist, b) he has kitchen skills to spare, and c) I whine well.

M painstakingly created the tree adorning the top of the cake, using a template cut from one of his several sketches. My love for him was confirmed when he looks at me, kitchen tweezers in hand and says, "For this lower branch I need a pistachio sliver with a slightly more golden hue."

It wasn't until working on the border that we realized we were essentially creating state fair crop art. This pleased us both quite a bit.

Several hours later, with legions of pistachios sacrificed for the cause, I delivered the cake to the party, only a bit behind schedule. Carrying the cake in is always a bit nerve-wracking, but the exclamations of delight seemed genuine.

And then it was gone. And it was delicious.


  1. Thanks for the play-by-play. It WAS lovely and delicious ... tasting hauntingly like its cookie forebear. When and if I grow up, I want to be able to cook like you.

  2. Stunning.
    It makes me wish I wasn't allergic to pistachios.
    Happy New Year, Scott!

  3. Your Cakes always look amazing! Would you be willing to share some of your recipes on your site?


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