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Kay’s Famous Pistachio Cake 05.07.2009

Posted by Dan Sheehan in BnB.
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2 comments

Mmmm, pistachio buttercream lattice and caramel brittle!We here at BnB firmly believe in the power taste has over memory, especially sweets.  Surely you have a specific food that makes you remember a certain moment in time or feeling.

For Bread and Buttress, Grandma’s pistachio cake makes us remember childhood picnics on her backyard deck under a fringed yellow umbrella.  Swing music would be playing on ancient speakers fastened to the brick exterior of the house by Grandpa.  Every time this cake is made, we take a little trip down memory lane.

When we learned that Passages NW was holding its annual Courage benefit, duty called.  We wanted the Pistachio Cake to take part in their frantic dessert auction.  Passages is a Seattle organization that empowers young girls and build community through carefully tailored outdoor programs.  It’s an organization our Grandmother would have appreciated.

Now, Grandma was no slouch but, growing up through the depression, she was thrifty.  Her original recipe for the pistachio cake displayed as much.  For example, boxed vanilla cake mix saved her some time.  Walnuts, similar in texture to pistachios were substituted in the batter. Jello pudding mix lent pistachio flavor to the cake.

Well, as you’ll see, some changes were made.  We’re making a scratch cake here folks, with a few additional embellishments.  However, we could never think of substituting the Jello.  (Ok, if you’re not into the animal gelatin, try pistachio paste).  Grandma always used a plain and super sugary American style buttercream frosting.  We decided to try a pistachio buttercream frosting in the Swiss tradition.  But fear not, the sweetness of the sugar can still be found in the pistachio brittle that tops the cake.  Find the cake recipe here, and buttercream here.  Finally, Grandma’s original recipe.

The finished cake at the Passages NW auction

The finished cake at the Passages NW auction

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Pistachio Buttercream 05.07.2009

Posted by Dan Sheehan in Recipes.
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3 comments

Remember to wash before sticking a finger in!This is a Swiss meringue buttercream frosting.  It accompanied our variation on our Grandmother’s pistachio cake.  We like it for four reasons.  First, the egg whites add lightness.  Second, it stays soft at room temp, Third, it refrigerates easily, for a week plus.  Forth, it is forgiving and cannot be overmixed.  It’s not too tough to make either.  If you think heating egg whites is expert stuff, don’t worry.

  • 5 sticks butter

Let the butter sit out overnight.

  • 1 cup egg whites (about 8 large eggs)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 0.5 t vanilla

wmaking-buttercreamSeparate egg whites.  Throw ‘em into the metal mixing bowl with sugar and salt.  Place the mixing bowl onto a pot with a small amount of boiling water.  Whisk till sugar is melted and it hurts you to stick your finger in (masochist, I know.  Ok, till it is 160 degrees F).  Remove from heat and place into mixer.  Mix for a good 10 minutes on medium high speed (6 on a kitchenaid).  Add vanilla.

  • 4 oz pistachio paste

While still mixing, add the soft butter, a quarter stick at a time, allowing it to incorporate.  Volume will reduce, that’s alright.  After the butter is in, Bam!  Buttercream.  To make it pistachio, simply add the pistachio paste.  Double Bam!  Eat a little bit.

Frosting is an art form.  If you aim too high, you might make it look like crap.  Our feeling is, stay in your skill level.  Don’t go for roses if you’ve never frosted.  Just aim to get a nice looking top.  We were going for smooth sides and a little piping work.  No plant life in this skill set, yet.  At Bread and Buttress, we love caramel so we also threw some pistachio brittle (equal volume pistachios added to sugar that has been caramelized) on top.  Note the order of assembly.  Throwing the brittle on first allows for piping to mask defects.  Smart!

Careful, now.