I was very excited by this month’s cake choice – a pistachio cake sandwiched together with marzipan, apricot jam and a dark chocolate ganache. The entire cake is then swathed in more of the indulgent chocolate ganache! I adore marzipan, pistachios and ganache but have never combined them together in a cake before so I couldn’t wait to get baking.
One of the things I love about pistachios is their dusky green colour and buttery taste and I was pleased to find that these attributes carry over into the cake layers too. They also kept the cake very moist and scattered with tiny speckles of nuts which added a great taste and light texture without being coarse. The jam, ganache and almond marzipan softened and melded into the cake layers, producing a lovely sweet yet bitter and indulgent gooey filling layers. The whole cake was divine!
As the cake is called a petit four cake, I halved the recipe and baked my cakes in my most recent bakeware purchase, a king sized muffin pan that I bought during my recent visit to Chicago. I couldn’t resist it - I had never seen a muffin pan so big! It produced perfect little layers cakes and I liked how it made the cakes slightly domed in shape. They were a big success with my family, all the flavours complemented each other so well. However, I was slightly disappointed that the cake, although nicely nutty, didn’t have much distinctive pistachio flavour, but they are quite a delicately flavoured nut so this is not really surprising. Click here to see the other Cake Slice cake bakers cakes.
Pistachio Petit Four Cake
(Recipe from Shy High Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman & Peter Wynne)
For the Pistachio Cake Layers
80g skinned pistachio nuts (180g with shells on)
360g caster sugar
240g American cake flour OR (200g plain flour with 40g cornflour)
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
5 eggs, lightly beaten
260g apricot jam
Dark chocolate glaze (below)
Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter three 8 inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.
Spread out the pistachios in a baking tray and toast in the oven for 7 to 10 minutes, until lightly coloured. Transfer to a dish and let cool completely. Finely chop the pistachios and set 25g aside for decoration.
Put the remaining 55g pistachios in a food processor. Add the sugar and pulse just enough to grind them finely. Pour into a large mixing bowl and add the flour, baking powder and salt. Blend with the mixer on low for 30 seconds.
Add the butter, milk and vanilla and wit the mixer on low, beat until completely incorporated. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the beaten eggs in 2 or 3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl well and mixing only long enough to blend after each addition. Divide the batter among the 3 prepared pans.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Allow the layers to cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners and let cool completely.
For the Marzipan - (You can use 500g shop bought marzipan instead)
225g almond paste (not marzipan)
370g icing sugar
180g light corn syrup
Crumble the almond paste into a large mixing bowl. Use an electric mixer on low speed to soften the almond paste. Add the icing sugar and corn syrup and beat until smooth. Wrap well in plastic so it doesn’t dry out and allow to rest at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours before rolling.
Dark Chocolate Ganache Glaze
450g dark chocolate
225ml double cream
Chop the chocolate coarsely and place in a heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to a bare simmer. Pour immediately over the chocolate and let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth, allow to cool slightly to begin to thicken, but use the glaze quite soon after making before it starts to set.
Roll out a third of the marzipan on a work surface dusted with a little icing sugar to about 1/8th inch/3mm thick. Set one of the cake pans upside down on the marzipan and trim around it with a small knife to make an 8 inch round. Repeat twice more with the remaining marzipan. Save your scraps to make roses for decoration if desired.
Place one cake layer on a cake board, flat side up. Spread a third of the apricot jam evenly over the top, leaving a ¼ inch margin all round to allow for spreading. Place one marzipan round on top of the jam and spread 2 tablespoons ganache glaze over the top of the marzipan so that it is completely covered. Repeat with the second cake layer, adding more jam, marzipan and glaze.
Add the final cake layer and top with preserves and marzipan as before. Place the whole cake on a wire rack set over a baking pan. Pour the remaining dark ganache glaze over the cake, spreading it as evenly as possible over the top and sides of the cake. Allow the ganache to set before transferring to a plate. It should be smooth and glossy.
Garnish the top with the reserves chopped pistachios.
Optional: Make some marzipan roses with any leftover marzipan scraps if desired.
Makes one 8inch/20cm cake