Josh’s Pistachio Cake (by way of the River Cafe)

A few weeks ago, Josh at The Food Section posted this recipe for Pistachio Cake on his site and somehow that image of the greenish yellowish loaf coated with nuts seared its way into my brain and flashed into my consciousness on a semi-hourly basis. I received electroshock therapy and I now sleep with a wooden stick in my mouth, but I’m recovered and I have a pistachio cake to show for it.

The cake comes from The River Cafe cookbook. I had the chance to buy this book at The Strand a few months ago, but I didn’t. Now they’re all sold out. Amazon has it (I ordered it) but it’ll take 14 days to deliver. To quote Veruca Salt: I want it now now now! (Sidenote: my favorite professor from college, Rick Rambuss, told me once that he and his partner Chuck cooked exclusively from The River Cafe cookbooks and that I should look into them. How right he was!)

Lisa came over last night and we tackled this cake. I was going to bring it to the Peter Brook brunch, but we ate so many slices that no longer seemed feasible. The recipe is simple. The most exciting step is the grinding of the almonds and the pistachios in the food processor:

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The most questionable step, in my opinion, is the addition of seeds from a vanilla bean to the butter sugar mixture. This is the second or third time I’ve added an expensive vanilla bean to a baked good and I can’t really say it makes a world of difference in the result. I’m not doubting the power and beauty of vanilla beans: I love them in rice pudding and fresh homemade ice cream. But somehow in baked goods, their beany essence dissipates and I wonder: “Why didn’t I just use vanilla extract?” Perhaps my tongue isn’t sophisticated enough to taste them in the finished product.

But alas, look at this finished product:

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Gorgeous, no? I love the reds and the greens of the pistachios layered on top. The lemon glaze gave it a nice kick, though I wonder what a pure pistachio cake (no lemons) would taste like? I may need to look into Clotilde’s archives because I do seem to remember something about pistachio paste and that may be the means to just such an end. (After all, almond cake requires almond paste.)

In any case, thanks Josh for this recipe! I pistachiOWE you one!

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