I have a lot of cookery books. And when I say a lot, I mean a lot. They are currently all balanced in precarious piles over our guest room floor. I'm in the planning stages of a little office space (and am unbelievably excited about it) but that's a small while away so for the moment we're sticking with the tottering book piles! But not long ago I was dismantling one of these piles to get to a book (always at the bottom, right?) and started reading an old Fiona Cairn's book, Bake & Decorate.
I love her preface where she talks about empowering all sorts of different people to try their hand at baking and creating lots of memories and aromas of cake making throughout our homes. It's so true (at least for me). My boys are finally taking an interest in cooking and baking and I'd love for them to start building a love for this in their childhoods.
So when thumbing through this wonderful baking book, I found a recipe for Pistachio and Orange Blossom Cake. I absolutely LOVE pistachio and the idea of pairing this with lovely fresh springtime orange blossom was too tempting.
This is a simple looking cake. It doesn't have layers so is presented as an un-split cake with a layer of mascarpone cream on the top. It doesn't pretend to be something it's not and would look perfectly in place on a tea table or with a cup of coffee one morning. However what it does do is pack a punch with its flavours. In the cake we have pistachio, almond, orange zest and orange blossom; whilst in the topping we have mascarpone, orange zest, vanilla and orange blossom. And if that's not enough, there is a delicious syrup made from orange juice, sugar and orange blossom that soaks the cake. So you can see - it's definitely not lacking in taste!
The first part of making this cake is roasting the pistachios - and then blitzing them to a powder. The butter, sugar and orange zest are creamed in a standing mixer whilst the dry ingredients are sieved into a separate bowl. When the butter and sugar are fully creamed, the eggs are added one at a time - if it starts to curdle, then a tablespoon of the flour mixture should be added. Then the pistachios and almonds are folded in with the dry ingredients and finally the orange blossom water. Simple.
Whilst the cake is baking in the oven, the syrup is made. This is a simple combination of freshly squeezed orange juice, sugar and orange blossom water in a saucepan, brought to a rolling boil. It needs to simmer until you have around 60ml of liquid (this is 4 tablespoons to give you an idea of how much you need). It takes around 10-15 minutes but you need to keep an eye on it as there's a tipping point when it becomes a sticky marmalade!
Once the cake's out of the oven, then the cake should be pricked all over and soaked with the orange syrup - and allowed to cool in its tin. When it's ready to come out and completely cooled down, then it can be frosted. The topping is made from the mascarpone, orange zest, vanilla, orange flower water and sugar and can be hand-whipped in a bowl. Then spread on top of the cake with a palette knife.
So I love the texture of the cake. The nuts are delicious and the mix of pistachios and almonds are really stunning in this cake whilst at the same time being very moist. With the topping being made of mascarpone, it feels a lot lighter than traditional buttercream - more like the texture of whipped cream which is so yummy. There is a light green hue to the inside of the cake itself (from the pistachio) which I love contrasted with the flecks of orange in the frosting. I thought the flavours might be a little grown-up for my boys, but after three helpings, I think I can be assured it's a popular choice :)
This is a lovely light cake and would be perfect for afternoon tea or a coffee morning. It definitely heralds in the start of springtime and sunnier days 🌞
Pistachio and Orange Blossom Cake
from Fiona Cairn's Bake & Decorate
- 175G UNSALTED BUTTER, SOFTENED
- 100G SHELLED UNSALTED PISTACHIOS
- 70G SELF-RAISING FLOUR
- 1 TSP BICARBONATE OF SODA
- PINCH OF SALT
- 200G GOLDEN CASTER SUGAR
- ZEST OF 1 ORANGE
- 4 EGGS, LIGHTLY BEATEN
- 70G GROUND ALMONDS
- 2 TSP ORANGE BLOSSOM WATER
- JUICE OF 1 ORANGE
- 45G GOLDEN CASTER SUGAR
- 1 TBSP ORANGE BLOSSOM WATER
- 250G MASCARPONE
- ZEST OF 1 ORANGE
- 1/2 TSP VANILLA EXTRACT
- 1 TBSP ORANGE BLOSSOM WATER
- 30G GOLDEN CASTER SUGAR
- Preheat the oven to 170 degrees (fan)
- To make the Cake, grease and line a 7 inch cake tin (if you don't have this size, you can use a different sized tin by adjusting the cooking time)
- Spread the pistachios in an even layer on a baking tray and place in the oven for around 5 minutes - they can burn quite easily so give the tray a little shake half-way through cooking and keep watching them
- Let them cool down and then blitz in a food processor until finely ground
- Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl
- Place the butter, sugar and orange zest in the bowl of a standing mixer and beat for 5 minutes until smooth and creamy
- Add the eggs little by little, beating after each addition - if the mixture starts to curdle, add a tablespoon of the flour mixture
- Then fold in the pistachios and almonds, flour mixture and finally the orange blossom water
- Place in the baking tin and smooth over the surface
- Bake for around 40 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the middle comes out clean
- Whilst the cake is baking, make the Orange Syrup
- Place the orange juice, sugar and orange blossom water in a saucepan and bring to a rolling boil
- Simmer for around 10-15 minutes until there is 60ml liquid remaining in the pan
- When the cake is out of the oven, immediately prick it all over with a toothpick and then pour the syrup evenly across the surface
- Allow the cake to cool completely in its tin
- When it's cool, turn it out onto a plate and make the Frosting
- Place the mascarpone, orange zest, vanilla, orange blossom water and sugar in a bowl and beat until smooth
- Spread this on the top of the cake with a palette knife
- Adorn with flowers or serve just as it is :)