Spring has finally arrived and we can look forward to the lengthening and warmer days that stretch out in front of us. The garden is coming alive – shoots unfurl, spring flowers and blossoms at last. Although with so much to do – seeds to plant, weeds to keep at bay, there isn’t much time to simply sit and ponder. I will always find time to bake however! One of my absolute favourites for this time of year is my pistachio and orange blossom cake.
The cake delivers everything its name promises – it has a delicious nutty texture made with lightly roasted pistachios, a floral note of orange blossom and is topped with a light frosting of orange flavoured mascarpone.
Perfect to serve any time of day to celebrate spring’s arrival – with a morning cup of coffee, afternoon tea or as a dessert at dinner.
– I always make a habit of roasting nuts when cooking and baking. This will release their oils and greatly enhance the flavour. Take care to only light roast.
– When using orange blossom water (or orange water), rosewater or any floral flavour for that matter take great care! My advice is to add very cautiously – even less than the recipe requires and taste as you go, adding little by little. Brands can vary greatly in strength.
This month we celebrate Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s II’s 90th birthday – See my May blog for how we, at Fiona Cairns Ltd, are involved.
Pistachio & Orange Blossom Cake – serves 8
175g unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the tin
100g shelled unsalted pistachios
70g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
200g golden caster sugar
zest of 1 orange, finely grated
4 eggs, lightly beaten
70g ground almonds
2 tsp orange flower water
For the syrup
juice of 1 orange
45g golden caster sugar
1 tbsp orange flower water
For the topping
zest of 1 orange, finely grated
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp orange flower water
30g golden caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 170C/350F/gas mark 4. Lightly butter a 20cm diameter, 7.5cm deep, round loose-bottomed tin, and line with baking parchment.
Scatter the pistachios on to a baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 5 minutes, shaking once and watching all the time to make sure they don’t burn. Allow to cool, then grind finely in a food processor.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Then, in an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar and zest until very light and fluffy – expect it to take about 5 minutes – and slowly add the eggs, adding 1 tbsp of the flour mixture as you do so to prevent curdling. Fold in the almonds and pistachios, the remaining flour and, lastly, the orange flower water.
Scrape the batter into the tin and bake for about 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Meanwhile, make the syrup: tip the orange juice, sugar and orange flower water into a small pan and bring to a rolling boil. Cook until reduced to about 60ml.
Immediately the cake comes from the oven, prick it all over with a fine skewer or cocktail stick and evenly drizzle over the syrup. Leave to cool completely in the tin.
Turn the cake upside down on to a cake stand or plate, so the flat base now forms the top. Beat together all the ingredients for the mascarpone topping, and spread it on with a palette knife.
Copyright (c) Fiona Cairns, 2013. Photography by Laura Hynd. Extracted from Bake & Decorate by Fiona Cairns published by Quadrille.