baked's aunt sassy cake [pistachio cake with vanilla honey buttercream]

remember last year when i made the mistake of buying a cupcake for my birthday and ended up recreating them myself? this year i decided to skip the middle man and make my own birthday cake.

i got about a half dozen cookbooks for christmas and had already bookmarked a bunch of "fancy cakes" waiting for an occasion to make one. me + layer cake on a regular, normal, any day, would not be good news for my pants. while last year's birthday was all about the peanuts, this year was a celebration of pistachios!

and let me tell you what, this cake is freakin delicious. light fluffy layers of pistachio cake layered with vanilla honey buttercream. i've got to find another use for that buttercream, it is so good. and surprisingly easy.

sure, it's a project. a labor of love, really. just like any other layer cake. but a project well worth my saturday afternoon.

first i spent an hour shelling pistachios and cleaning out aarti and kelsey from my dvr. i mixed up the cakes and tossed them in the oven with ann. the original recipe said to line the cake pans with parchment, butter, and dust with flour. i skipped the fussing and sprayed my pans with non-stick spray and they baked up just fine. i'm sure the stick of butter and shortening in the cake had nothing to do with it.

while the cakes cooled, i got started on the buttercream. honestly, the buttercream made me a bit nervous when i read the recipe. i've tried a cooked frosting only once - a swiss meringue buttercream - with egg whites and needless to say it did not go well. lucky for me, this one involves simply cooking sugar, flour, milk, and cream together long enough until the sugar dissolves and the mixture thickens. that's it. and as long as you whisk frequently, there's no risk of burning.

what i ended up with is a perfectly flavored pistachio cake. with buttercream to die for. that easily lasted four days. but beware: the cake was too tall to fit under my cake keeper lid! although definitely not as pretty, plastic wrap worked just as well.

... and i know the perfect oklahoma resident who will die for this next time i see her.

baked's aunt sassy cake [pistachio cake with vanilla honey buttercream]
adapted from baked explorations
30 min cake prep, 45min bake, 30 min buttercream prep, 15 min ice; easily serves 16

a few notes for this one:
while the recipe calls for three layers - and that's how i made it - they were three fairly skinny layers. although i haven't tried it myself, i bet this cake would work fine as two layers.
don't have a food processor or a mini chopper? put the pistachios in a zip top bag, get as much of the air out as possible, and close it. roll a rolling pin over the nuts to crush them. 
if you're cheap like me and buy pistachios in the shell, you'll need about 1 pound of them for both the cake and decoration. be sure to store leftovers in your freezer. nuts go bad a lot sooner than you'd think.

1. make the cake:

1 cup shelled pistachios
2 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups ice cold water
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
3 large egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  1. preheat your oven to 325F. grease three 8-inch round cake pans and set aside.
  2. in the bowl of a food processor, pulse the pistachios until they are coarsely chopped. remove about two tablespoons worth of the pistachios to a large bowl and set aside. process the rest of the pistachios until they are very fine. stir the finely chopped pistachios into the rough chopped pistachios.
  3. in a measuring cup, make 1 1/2 cups ice water. set aside.
  4. sift the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together over the pistachios. whisk to combine. set aside.
  5. in a separate bowl, cream the butter and shortening together. add the sugar and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy, about three minutes. add the whole egg and mix until blended.
  6. with the mixer on low, alternate adding the flour and ice water to the butter and sugar mixture, about a half cup at a time. scrape down the sides as needed.
  7. in a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. use a rubber spatula to fold the egg whites into the batter.
  8. divide the batter among the pans and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  9. transfer the cakes (still in the pans) to a wire rack and cool for 20 minutes. turn the cakes out on the rack and cool completely before icing.
2. make the vanilla honey buttercream

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons honey
  1. in a medium heavy bottom saucepan, whisk the flour and sugar together. add the milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking regularly. cook until the mixture comes to a boil and is thickened, about 12 minutes.
  2. transfer the sugar cream mixture to a bowl and beat on high speed until cool, about 10 minutes.
  3. turn the mixer down to low and add the butter a little bit at a time. because the butter is cool, it may look like it won't blend in and you'll be stuck with chunks of butter. just keep mixing and it will smooth out. when it's all mixed in, increase the speed to medium high and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  4. mix in the honey and vanilla.

3. assemble the cake

1/2 cup crushed pistachios
  1. spread about 1 cup of icing on one cake layer. add the second layer and repeat with the icing. add the third layer and spread remaining icing evenly over the cake.
  2. sprinkle the top and bottom edge with the crushed pistachios.


  1. hi, i found you via dessertstalking - beautiful job with this cake! it looks SO good...both the frosting and cake look so fluffy, i really want a slice right now!

  2. That is a beautiful cake! I would love to try it. I'm bookmarking this for my next party.

  3. It looks perfect, so beautiful! And sounds heavenly!

  4. Looks like a unique and delicious cake!

  5. wow, what a stunning cake! beautiful job and photos. I have made a few things from this book and will certainly add this one to the list! nicely done!

  6. I've been looking for a great pistachio cake. Can't wait to try this one!

  7. YUM! Never had pistachios in a cake before.

    I featured it on my blog!


  8. Just made the cake!!! Used 2 9" cake pans and whipped the egg whites until they formed stiff peaks. It is PERFECT! My mom, a huge baker, who I made this for is so impressed.

  9. Gorgeous cake! Love pistachio can't wait to make this!

  10. I live in Brooklyn and go to Baked bakery, their Brownies are great but their cakes and cupcakes are always to dry, the frostings are very good. Magnolia in New York and The Little Cupcake Bakeshop in Brooklyn are far superior

  11. I used to think I was "cheap" too, buying the pistachios still in their shells. That's until I got frustrated and annoyed when I needed a cup of them; I decided to make sure I was actually being cheap. I weighed the nuts and the shells... Turns out to be almost the exact same cost to buy them already unshelled... :)

  12. Looks so good. Will try this. During my childhood, cooked icing was very popular in Pennsylvania Dutch country.

  13. I'm way late on this post... but I've made this cake and it was delicious! Do you happen to know if it would work in cupcake form? What baking time would you suggest?

    1. hi anna, i haven't tried making the cake as cupcakes, but i don't see why it wouldn't work. since the cake bakes in 40 minutes, i would check the cupcakes after 20 and use your judgement from there. they may be really runny and need a lot more time, or be close to done. and if i remember correctly, one 8" cake is equivalent to 12 cupcakes, so you should get around three dozen cupcakes if you make the whole recipe. good luck and let me know how they turn out!

  14. Lovely cake! This is one of my favorite ways to enjoy that delicious green nut.

  15. Hi Kate! Would substituting the shortening with more butter be a big DON'T for this cake? I never have shortening on hand and honestly, never worked with it before!

    1. hi stephanie, while i've never subbed butter for shortening in this recipe specifically, i do it pretty frequently in other cake & cookie recipes, since i usually don't have shortening on hand either. it's always worked out for me, so if i were you, i'd go ahead and use butter.

  16. How much butter cream did you have leftover after icing the cake? From other recipes, I always have too much icing leftover to know what to do with it.

    1. I usually have that problem too. Surprisingly, I used all of the icing for this one and it was the perfect amount. Take a look at the picture of the slice and you can see how thick/thin the icing is.

  17. Was that four days in the fridge or on the counter?

  18. Could I sub ap flour for cake flour or will the cake be too dense?

  19. Absolutely delicious!!! I just ate a tiny piece of the cake and it is so good without the icing!! I just finished the icing and put it in the fridge - seemed a little to thin, so hoping that it will thicken before I ice the cake!! Thank you so much! Can't wait to share this with my friends at our dinner party this evening!

  20. hi I would like to know which size of cup do you use for measure the flour and pistachios, a mug or a normal coffee cup

  21. Do you grind the pistachio with shell? and is it one cup of grinded pistachio or 1 cup of the nuts? I would like to make this cake tomorrow.

  22. As far as the ice water. How much actual water is used, without the ice. Ice cubes can alter how much water is used.


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