When this type of cake hit the Cyprus market, we all went nuts. It was the most welcomed gift at any dinner party. Whenever we offered to bring dessert at a gathering, we rushed to the newly established cake shop “La Parfait” and bought a “Pistachio” as a gift to our hosts. The motive being of course, we got to eat it too!
It’s very similar to a cake we like to call “nougatina” (recipe here). In “nougatina” we use almonds. In this case we use pistachios, hence the name. Apart from being delicious, this cake can also be gluten free. I use only 2 tablespoons of flour to grind the nuts but feel free to use any gluten-free flour alternative. The flour is used to prevent the nuts from becoming oily when ground.
It’s not complicated to make. First you have to make the pistachio layer which is basically a soft meringue loaded with pistachios. Then you need to prepare the pastry cream. After everything is cooled you layer it and cover with whipped cream. Ta-da! Heavenly cake.
For the pistachio layer:
- 350 gr pistachios
- 20 gr all-purpose flour (or gluten-free alternative)
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 2-3 mastic tears (optional)
- 425 gr egg whites at room temperature
- 230 grams granulated sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
For the pastry cream:
- 550 gr whole milk
- 120 gr granulated sugar
- 50 gr corn flour
- 5 egg yolks
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 250 gr whipping cream
- 50 gr icing sugar
For the frosting
- 300 gr whipping cream
- 80 gr icing sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1-2 Tbs coarsely ground pistachios
Preheat oven to 160 C, fan. Cover the base and sides of a shallow 33 x 39 cm baking tray (approximately) with greaseproof paper.
In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, put the pistachios, flour, baking powder and mastic tears (if using). Pulse until finely ground.
In a clean bowl of a stand mixer put the egg whites and beat until frothy. Add the sugar gradually (in about 4 batches) and beat until you have a stiff meringue. Beat in the vanilla extract.
Lower the speed to low and beat in the pistachios in two batches. Don’t over beat, you don’t want the mixture to deflate too much. You can also do this with a spatula.
Transfer pistachio mixture on the baking tray. Spread it with a spatula. Bake for 18-20 minutes until just set. Test it with a toothpick. If it comes out dry in the centre, its done. Don’t let it dry out. 20 minutes max should be enough.
Let the pistachio layer cool completely in the pan. You can prepare this the day before. Once cool, keep covered until ready to assemble.
Prepare the pastry cream:
Heat milk in a saucepan with about half the sugar. In another bowl whisk egg yolks with remaining sugar, corn flour and vanilla extract.
Add half of the hot milk in the yolk mixture and whisk to combine. Add remaining hot milk in the yolks and stir again to mix.
Strain mixture back to the pot and place over medium heat stirring constantly. Keep stirring until cream comes to a boil and thickens.
Whisk vigorously for another minute, then take off the heat and transfer cream to a heatproof bowl.
Immediately cover with plastic wrap, making sure the wrap touches the surface of the cream. This will prevent a skin from forming. Let cream cool to room temperature then transfer in the fridge for at least 3 hours to become cold and thick. You can prepare the cream to this stage, up to 3 days in advance.
To finish the cream, whisk the whipping cream with the icing sugar until soft peaks form. Whisk the cold pastry cream to loosen it.
Fold the whipping cream into the pastry cream until combined and smooth. Refrigerate until needed.
Make the frosting by beating cream, icing sugar and vanilla together until you have soft peaks. Refrigerate until needed.
Assemble the dessert:
Using the paper for ease, remove the pistachio base out of the baking tray and onto a chopping area.
Using a sharp knife divide the pistachio base into 3 equal sized rectangles (33cm x 13cm approximately). Place one rectangle on a serving platter. Spread with half the pastry cream. Cover with another rectangle and spread with the remaining pastry cream. Top with the last rectangle. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for an hour. This will help stabilize the creamy filling and it will be easier for you to spread the frosting.
After one hour, cover the cake with the frosting and sprinkle with the coarsely chopped pistachios. Refrigerate the cake for 2-24 hours before serving. Slice and serve.
Note: You can flavor the pastry cream with orange blossom water or rose-water.