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:


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:


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!

9 thoughts on “Josh’s Pistachio Cake (by way of the River Cafe)”

  1. 101Cookbooks has a pretty nice looking Chocolate-Pistachio Cake if you’re interested.

    I decided long ago not to mess with vanilla beans. They cost a fortune, and Cook’s Illustrated’s testers (including, if I remember correctly, Rose Levy Beranbaum, the goddess of cake-bakers) couldn’t tell the difference between beans and extracts anyway.

  2. I’d comment on the loveliness of the pistachio cake (okay, I just did) but what compelled me to comment was…

    “pistachiOWE you”…pistachiowe…good god. Guh. I have mixed feelings about that. I think I’m smiling but another part of me doesn’t know what to think. I mean, now I want to say that in daily conversation even when not talking about pistachios. And that’s wrong.

  3. Ahhh – I was just going to direct your to 101 Cookbooks too. She used Clothilde’s recipe, but modified it slightly, I think. It looks really good, and I’ve been trying to find something to use the whopping great package of pistachios I’m hiding in the freezer…I think somebody whacked me over the head when I was at the market before Christmas. What on earth did I think I would do with 300g of pistachios????

  4. Looks good! I’ve been getting requests to make its again.

    For what it’s worth, I’m sure there’s NUTtin’ wrong with using vanilla extract in this case.

  5. Niki, 300g of pitachios is a ridiculous amount for my standards, my dog and I would do away with them in no time at all

  6. I happen to be a vanilla fan. But I agree that using an expensive vanilla bean for baked goods is often a waste of money. For the past few years I have been a pusher of Vanilla Paste. You can find this at Williams Sonoma, Sur La Table, and for the exact same product, much, MUCH cheaper, at Trader Joe’s. It is wonderful product. Get some, really.

  7. Auntie Bubbie

    Kate, the Accidental Hedonist also had a run on pistachio related posts… and her blog now has a lovely new format. Her pistachio pudding recipe looks inspirational. Though so does the photo of AG’s loaf (beautiful!)

    I make a “chai spice” banana bread w/ pistachios. Found the recipe in Cooking Light a while back, and it’s quite yummy. I can sell it for $8 at bake sales :-)


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