Let me just say that I am not a baker by any stretch of the imagination. I love to look at baking books with drooling lips and eyes wide open in wonder! The cakes call to me, to be eaten! I never dare to make them since they all look like they need so much expertise and so much talent. When I got David Lebovitz’s new book, a review copy, I thought I would have a same reaction – great book, not something I can do. But then, I started reading slowly and then with much interest. His recipes are really easy to follow, even for someone like me who does not bake at all. His flavor combinations are delightful. i was so impressed that I took the book into the kitchen the same day and made this gorgeous cake. It lasted all of ten minutes after it was ready – it was really good and I will definitely be making it again along with other dishes from the book!
Pistachio Cardamom Cake:
Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes (April 2010, Ten Speed) by David Lebovitz
Makes one 9-inch (23-cm) cake; 10 to 12 servings
At one time, everything I knew about Indian cooking could fit on one bindi dot. It wasn’t until Niloufer Ichaporia King came to work with us at Chez Panisse, where each year she guided us through the preparation of a traditional Parsi New Year’s feast, that I tasted authentic and wonderfully aromatic Indian food. My favorite dish was a cake enrobed in a sheet of gold leaf, a stunning touch that lent the dessert the splendor worthy of a Bollywood musical.
This is my version of that cake, but I left out the gold, since it’s not something you’re likely to have on hand. I did, however, brighten up the batter with vibrant green pistachios, which should be more easily found in grocery stores than sheets of gold leaf.
2 tablespoons (1 ounce/30 g) unsalted or salted butter
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup (60 g) sliced almonds, preferably unblanched
3/4 cup (95 g) shelled unsalted pistachios
1/4 cup (35 g) plus 3/4 cup (110 g) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cardamom seeds
1/2 cup (4 ounces/115 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (200 g) sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
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Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
To make the topping, melt the 2 tablespoons (1 ounce/30 g) butter in a 9-inch (23-cm) round cake pan set directly on the stovetop over low heat. Once melted, remove from the heat and let cool briefly. Sprinkle the 1 teaspoon sugar evenly over the melted butter, then add the almonds, tilting and shaking the pan to distribute them evenly. Set the pan aside.
To make the cake, in a blender or a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulverize the pistachios with the 1/4 cup (35 g) flour until as finely ground as possible. Transfer to a small bowl.
Crush the cardamom seeds in a mortar and pestle or seal them inside a sturdy plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin. Add the crushed seeds to the pistachio mixture and stir to combine. Set aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a bowl by hand), beat together the 1/2 cup (4 ounces/115 g) butter and 1 cup (200 g) sugar on medium speed until very light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until completely incorporated.
In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 3/4 cup (110 g) flour, baking powder, and salt, and stir it into the butter-egg mixture. Stir in the pistachio mixture just until combined.
Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan by dropping 4 or 5 mounds on top of the almonds. Carefully spread the batter into an even layer, trying not to disturb the almonds. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes.
Run a knife around the sides of the cake to help loosen it from the pan. Invert the cake onto a serving plate. Let cool completely.