Rose is a quirky flavor. Too much and it tastes like a bar of soap, but the right amount tastes light, floral, and summery. A coffee place in downtown Portland serves rose Italian sodas, and every time I’m remotely close I detour, buy one and greedily slurp it down. Rinse and repeat.
Today, I mixed this rosy flavor with the earthy green of pistachios, which dresses down a floral flavor with a nice nutty cake. It’s a simple cake, with no frills. The best buttercream to make is an Italian meringue buttercream – where you make an Italian meringue with sugar syrup and whipped egg whites, and slowly beat in softened butter until you get a fluffy buttercream that is both stable to sit out and also delicious. Bonus – it’s going to impress everybody, but it’s not all that hard to do. I’m into these kind of combinations – pistachio and rose, easy and impressive. All good, all good.
Plus – you get to decorate with real flowers – which is not only easy, but looks wildly professional. It’s like a garden on a cake! Perfect for garden parties and also for sitting with friends under shady trees eating with plastic forks. It’s a summer cake in all the ways a cake could be summery.
pistachio cake with rose italian buttercream
recipe adapted from food52
½ cup toasted pistachios
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
1½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
¾ cup whole milk
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 13×9 inch baking sheet with parchment paper and grease with nonstick spray.
In a food processor, grind the nuts to a fine powder (but don’t make nut butter).
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until very light and fluffy. 4-5 minutes. Add the eggs and the egg yolk, only one at a time. Beat each until combined and scrape down the bowl after each addition (trust me on this one). Beat in vanilla and almond extracts.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the mixer, mix on low to combine. Scrape down the bowl, and add 1/3 of the milk and mix to combine. Repeat until all the flour and milk are used up, and fold in the pistachios.
Pour the batter into the pan, smooth the top with an offset spatula. Bake until cake springs back lightly when touched, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool for a bit in the pan and then turn out onto a cooling rack until completely cool. Using a small plate as a guide, cut out rounds. I used an around 4 inch plate and got three layers, but you can do whatever you’d like here.
rose italian buttercream
2 large or 3 small egg whites
1 cup sugar
Seeds from ½ a vanilla bean
Pinch of cream of tartar
2 tablespoons water
2½ sticks unsalted butter, softened and cubed
½ teaspoon rosewater
Place the egg whites, a sprinkle of sugar from the 1 cup, vanilla seeds and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer. and whisk well to combine.
Place the remaining sugar and water in a small saucepan. Stir around with your finger until the sugar is all saturated and sandy. Wipe down any crystals off the side with a wet paper towel. Place the pan over medium heat and when the sugar is melted and bubbling, brush down the sides again with a wet paper towel.
Once the sugar syrup is at a boil, turn the stand mixer onto medium speed. Cook the sugar until it reaches 250F.
Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and stream the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl. Increase speed to high and whip the meringue for 6-8 minutes until cool to the touch – so the butter won’t melt when you add it.
Add the butter a tablespoon at a time, gradually. When all the butter has been added, and the buttercream is all combined, it should be smooth and fluffy. Don’t freak out if it looks curdled at some point in the process – just keep the mixer on high, walk away, and come back a couple minutes later and it should have come together!
Add the rosewater, whip until combined. Frost the cake and decorate with crushed pistachios and fresh flowers. Eat and impress.