Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Pistachio and orange blossom cake

When I was growing up, there were two birthday cakes in heavy rotation in the family repertoire. Devil's Food was one and orange the other. As a child, I was pre-programmed to love anything chocolate, but orange had the edge in one important way: its colour just made you happy - just the sort of thing to brighten your lunchbox the day after your birthday when the candles had been blown out and all the presents unwrapped. Now I'm an adult, but orange cake for birthdays never gets old. And so I made one for a friend on the weekend.

This a celebration cake that's both simple and luxurious. Two different types of nuts (almonds and pistachios) enrich a sweet, buttery base whose texture contrasts beautifully with a smooth mascapone frosting streaked with zest and fragrant with orange blossom. Because birthdays should be bright. Orange, always.

Pistachio and orange blossom cake
Adapted from a recipe in Bake and Decorate by Fiona Cairns, via the lovely Shirley

Orange flower, or orange blossom water is available in delis, middle-eastern grocery stores or in the international section of a good supermarket. If you can't find golden caster sugar, I'm sure regular caster (superfine) sugar would be just fine.

175g unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the tin
100g shelled, unsalted pistachios
70g self-raising flour (or 70g plain with 1 1/3 teaspoon baking powder)
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
200g golden caster sugar
zest of 1 orange, finely grated
4 eggs, lightly beaten
70g ground almonds
2 teaspoons orange flower water

For the syrup
juice of one orange
45g golden caster sugar
1 tablespoon orange flower water

For the topping
250g mascapone
zest of two oranges, finely grated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons orange flower water
30g golden caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 180 deg C. Lightly butter a 20cm diameter round springform tin and line with baking paper.

Scatter pistachios on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 5 minutes, shaking once and watching all the time to make sure they don't burn. Allow to cool, then grind finely in a food processor.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Then, in an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar and zest until very light and fluffy - expect it to take about 5 minutes - and slowly add the eggs, adding 1 tablespoon of the flour mixture as you do so to prevent curdling. Fold in the almonds and pistachios, the remaining flour and, lastly, the orange flower water.

Scrape batter into the tin and bake for about 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Meanwhile, make the syrup: tip the orange juice, sugar and orange flower water into a small pan and bring to a rolling boil. Cook til reduced to about 60ml.

Immediately after the cake comes out of the oven, prick it all over with a fine skewer and evenly drizzle over the syrup. Leave to cool completely in tin.

Turn the cake upside down on to a plate, so the flat base now forms the top. Beat together mascapone and sugar and then fold in the other ingredients and spread it on top of the cake. Garnish with some extra chopped and roasted pistachios, if desired.

1 comment:

  1. Looks glorious Alice and Happy Birthday to you too! I know it is sometime around this date!