57. Iranian Pistachio Cake

Iranian Pistachio Cake - powered by pistachios

Iranian Pistachio Cake – powered by pistachios

How delicious are pistachios? Ever since I’ve ventured to Greece and gorged myself on Baklava and Pistachio Gelato in Italy I’ve longed to flavour more with the glorious green god of nuts. I could eat them every day and love the Middle Eastern desserts which feature the beauteous nuts. Thank god I remembered to buy shelled pistachios this time round as this contains a HUGE amount of pistachios! No more lonely hours spent cracking nuts in the kitchen or broken nails for me.

How many pistachios can you cram into one cake?

How many pistachios can you cram into one cake?

I was looking for an especially decadent cake for my friend’s birthday and the Iranian Pistachio Cake offers everything I was looking for. A delicious, moist, sweet sponge with a hint of exotic spice. I know Pistachios aren’t cheap, so you could try substituting them for your favourite nuts (or whatever you have in your cupboard) instead. Maybe almonds, cashews or even hazelnuts? They would also be gorgeous versions of this cake.

Start with beating the butter and sugar together...

Start with beating the butter and sugar together…

As with most cakes the Iranian Pistachio Cake begins with beating the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Adding as much air as possible to get that wonderfully tender sponge.

Grind up your nuts, salt and spices

Grind up your nuts, salt and spices

Then for the fun part, smashing up the nuts! Blitz the pistachios with an electric blender/food processor until they’re finely ground. Careful not to grind them too much though as the nuts will release their oils and end up as a pistachio paste which will deflate your cake (or if you keep going you could make your own raw nut butter). I  ground my cardamom along with the salt for extra friction in a pestle and mortar and then added it to the nuts and blitzed them all together to ensure the spice was evenly distributed and fine.

The eggs should then be beaten into the butter one at a time. Beat the mixture until very fluffy and increases in volume.

Whisk in the eggs one at a time

Whisk in the eggs one at a time

Combine the ground pistachios, spice and salt with the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl. Measure the milk into a jug and add the vanilla paste. Fold one third of the flour into the butter mixture followed by a third of the milk. Fold in a third of the flour followed by another third of the milk alternately until all of the ingredients are fully incorporated into the batter.

Pistachio Cake ready and waiting

Pistachio Cake ready and waiting

Carefully pour the cake batter into a greased cake tin so you don’t knock any of the precious air out of the sponge. I wanted to test out my new fluted brioche tin to make the cake look a little more fancy. (Hope you like my holiday souvenir! I managed to squash 3 cake tins in my suitcase from Portugal! Is it just me who brings baking equipment home from holiday?) I love the moulded shape. Using a smaller tin means the cake requires a longer baking time in the oven but I think the dramatic shape is well worth the effort.

Fully baked Iranian Pistachio Cake chilling

Fully baked Iranian Pistachio Cake chilling

After almost an hour in the oven the cake was thoroughly cooked.  I patiently waited 30 minutes before tentatively opening the oven to check if it was done and continued to check every 10 minutes with a skewer that the cake was cooked. The edges did start to brown, so I resorted to a cap of tin foil to protect the top of the cake from burning. You could bake the cake in a bundt tin or a 9 inch round tin. and should take a little less time to cook. You will need to bake it for probably around 30-40 minutes if you’re using a larger tin as the cake will be thinner and require less cooking time. The final cake is a deep brown in colour and springs back when touched.

Rosewater sugar icing

Rosewater sugar icing – the perfect consistency!

Cardamom is a regular character in Eastern cakes and desserts. It compliments the delicious pistachios with it’s subtle spice. Traditionally this cake doesn’t ask for any icing, but I thought something sweet would be a welcome addition. I added my own rosewater glace icing to sweeten the sponge. I always struggle with glace or water icing, with it often ending up runny, resulting in soggy cakes and never endingly wet icing. If I was hoping to make a syrup I would be able to do this with my eyes closed. Desperate to get it right, I actually measured my liquids before adding them to the icing sugar! Using my kitchen aid I beat the icing sugar adding the rosewater one teaspoon at a time to ensure I didn’t over egg the pudding, as I’ve learnt from experience you can’t take extra liquid out if you get a bit too enthusiastic with the bottle…

Genuinely thick rosewater icing

Genuinely thick rosewater icing

Triumph! I succeeded in making a thick pipeable rosewater icing for the first time ever!! Hurrah! If anything it could have been a tiny bit more runny so that it could run down the sides of the cake giving a natural trail in it’s wake. Next time I may add a smidge more rosewater to make it slightly more runny. But hey I’m not complaining! I was aiming for an rosey flavoured iced bun effect and that’s exactly what I got.

Crushed pistachio topping

Crown of crushed pistachios

Smashing up a handful of pistachio in the pestle and mortar I got a bit artistic, adding a crown of crushed pistachios whilst the icing was still sticky so it holds the nuts in place once set. I didn’t want it to look too pristine, so I threw some nuts at the edges of the cake too allowing the crumbs to stick to the icing tracks too.

Happy Birthday Mel!

Happy Birthday Mel!

I loved this cake, so much so I helped myself to 2 slices. (Me? Greedy?) It makes a wonderful alternative to the traditional chocolate birthday cake. A grown up cake full of flavour. Sweet, light and spicy with a tiny crunch to it powered by pistachios. It feels wonderfully exotic with every waft of cardamom balanced against the gentle rose icing. I will most definitely be baking this cake again.

The perfect pistachio slice

The perfect pistachio slice

Each slice glows with the subtle green flecks from the pistachios, contrasting beautifully against the white icing. The cake cuts smoothly and is really robust, so it travels well. (Just in case like me you end up regularly carrying cake around to surprise people with.)

Iranian Pistachio Cake recipe

Iranian Pistachio Cake

Things I used to make my Iranian Pistachio Cake

  • 170g butter
  • 200g sugar

Beat until light and fluffy

  • 3 eggs

Beat in the eggs one at a time until pale and fluffy

  • 180g (3/4 cup) of pistachios
  • 1 tsp of ground green cardamom (this was 9 or 10 cardamom pods)
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Blitz the pistachios, spice and salt together until finely ground

  • 140g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder

Stir the pistachios into the flour and baking powder

Fold one third of the flour mix to the butter and eggs

  • 110ml (1/2 cup) milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Add the vanilla to the milk

Fold one third of the milk to the butter and flour mix

Alternate adding flour and milk to the mix and continue until all ingredients are incorporated

Pour into a greased (and lined if your tin will allow for this) tin and bake at 180 degrees C for 50-60 minutes until a skewer comes out clean from the centre of the cake.  Put a tin foil hat on the cake if it starts to darken too much.

Icing

  • 170g icing sugar
  • 10 tsp rosewater
  • handfull of crushed pistachios
  1. Beat the rosewater into the icing sugar one teaspoon at a time to ensure you get the right consistency. Thick yet runny icing.
  2. Smash the pistachios up to rough pieces and decorate the cake as you wish
  3. Devour with a glass of champagne (if it’s an especially decadent occasion) or proper cup of strong coffee would work wonderfully too. Enjoy!
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42. Swedish Tea Ring – the cake for busy bakers

Planning to bake something in advance of an event or special occasion can be difficult. Sponge cake will dry out if baked too far in advance and if you freeze it you can’t ice it beforehand. I seem to be in a real baking frenzy at the moment. Partly because I’m in the process of baking my 5 tier wedding cake…

The teetering tower of fruit cake… shame 2 tiers need to be re-baked.

I’ve chosen fruit cake for my 5 tier wedding cake is because I love fruit cake and it will be Christmas(!) but also because I can plan it in and bake it in advance. Then take my time with icing it, hopefully resulting in a well organised and non stressful experience. Also fruit cake improves with age! The longer I soak the fruit and feed it BOOZE the better it will taste.

Swedish Tea Ring

So what else keeps well? A rich yeast dough, that’s what! Bring on another new discovery and favourite of mine, The Swedish Tea Ring!!

Marguerite Patten has been tempting me with this recipe for years and I finally found a reason to bake it! To give as a present to my friends Josh and Mark for looking after me in Manchester at the Blog North Awards last week.

It’s like a robust Chelsea Bun/Cinnamon Roll/Belgian Bun hybrid. Perfect for cinnamon junkies like me and for preparing in stages for the busy baker. I can also confirm it’s portability! It survived a 3 hour drive through lightening and torrential rain! That’s one sturdy bake.

Whisking the dry ingredients together…

One thing I dislike about making yeast doughs is the kneading time required. I no longer own a hand whisk with dough hooks attached and my food processor can only handle dough for 2-3 minutes before it starts rocking around the counter top precariously. So, in my mad baking frenzy, I improvised as best as I could do. I used my electric hand whisk and beat the dough together… Who knows if this is an acceptable baking practice?

Whisking in the egg

But despite my poor little electric whisk’s protests (it’s been through a lot this year) It managed to combine the wet dough together with minimal effort required from me. I call that a result (although the blown out birthday candle smell emanating from the little whisk’s motor might suggest otherwise…)

Whisking in the milk – making a wonderfully sticky dough

Now as Marguerite arranged each bit of this recipe in a different section of the book, I managed to confuse my recipe somewhat. I used the full rich yeast dough recipe and didn’t adjust it for the Swedish Tea Ring, which means you either make one massive tea ring or one modest sized ring (according to the recipe) and a smaller mini one for later with the off cuts. (I made 2!)

Poor little burnt out whisk – thoroughly kneading/whisking the dough

Whisk all of the dry ingredients together. Then whisk into the mix the butter, followed by the egg and then the milk until you get an elastic, wet sticky dough.

One thoroughly kneaded lump of richer yeast dough

Leave it in an oiled bowl and cover with greased cling film to prove. I popped mine in the fridge over night to prove slowly (although it should only take an hour or two in a warm spot).

Or if you’re in a hurry you could pop your bowl over a pot of soup on the hob to prove…

Remove the proven dough from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature (if you have proven it in the fridge).

Fully proven dough straight from the fridge

Kneaded the full proven dough thoroughly to re distribute the heat throughout the dough.

Kneaded and shaped into a rectangle ready for rolling out

Roll the dough out to a rectangle 10 inches by 8 inches about 0.5mm thick. I was feeling very precise so I even measured and trimmed the rectangle so it had straight edges, to avoid the misshapen ends I found when making Chelsea buns

Rolled and trimmed to perfection. (Note the ball off extra dough leftover…)

My favourite bit was smearing the entire rectangle of dough with melted butter. I don’t think you need to be precise here. I found a pastry brush too delicate for this job and slapped the lot on with my hand instead straight from the microwave. (It only needs about 30 seconds to melt the butter through). The more generous with the butter the more gooey your filling.

Smeared with butter

For those who adore cinnamon, don’t feel restricted by the recipe. Feel free to pour as much cinnamon into your sugar as you can handle. Give it a quick stir to combine and then throw it onto your butter dough until you have an even blanket of cinnamony wonderment. I like to use enough cinnamon to give the sugar a dark brown colour. I ran out of brown sugar so improvised with normal caster sugar. Perhaps brown sugar would produce more of a caramelised effect?

Generously coat the butter in cinnamon and sugar (I was clearly in a hurry when I took this photo – apologies for it’s blurriness!)

After watching the Great British Bake Off, I realised my rolling skills may bye somewhat lacking. I have a tendency to misunderstand which side is the long side of the dough so I took photos to make sure I can bake this again in the future. Roll the dough towards you from the longest edge to the longest edge creating a ‘swiss roll’ of cinnamon dough.

Cinnamon swiss roll

Don’t worry if some of your sugar falls out of the roll. There’s plenty in there to make it taste wonderful. Keep the roll as tight as possible and if you have some melted butter leftover, it’s a good idea to spread a bit along the longest exposed edge to help ‘glue’ the dough to itself. I would also add a bit to one end to help later on…

Keeping the roll tight with one hand and glueing with butter the dough together

Press your fingers along the join in the dough to encourage the dough to combine and stick together. Turn the roll over so the join is firmly disguised under the roll of dough. Gravity should help to force the roll to stick together and stop the sugary goodness running out whilst it bakes.

Firmly joined together – then hide this join underneath the roll of dough

This also means you have the smooth (and prettier) side of the dough roll to play with. The most difficult bit of this bake is definitely joining the two short edges of dough together as they are very sugary and don’t want to stick.

This is my Chelsea Bun attempt but it’s very similar! The swirl of cinnamon at each end makes it difficult to join but making sure you have straight edges when you roll out the dough (unlike here – look at the overlap!) makes it much easier to join

I coaxed them together with butter and nipped the edges together with my fingers until they begrudgingly worked with me.

The troublesome join

I breathed a huge sigh of relief when it finally stayed in place! It could almost be one MASSIVE cinnamon doughnut at this point. But it had to have another little rest to prove again (about 20 minutes) before the next step…

a MASSIVE cinnamon doughnut

Now here my recipe reading skills escape me again. What I failed to understand was Marguerite meant for me to cut completely through the ring to create a fan of cinnamon buns in the shape of a ring, like this…

Marguerite’s Swedish Tea Ring – How it should look in real life – fully exposed cinnamon

Unfortunately the photo was on a completely different page and I interpreted the instructions like this…

Partially exposed cinnamon – my interpretation

Brandishing my sharpest kitchen scissors I snipped delicately and diagonally into the ring to partially expose the cinnamon swirls. I must admit I was nervous that this slicing would compromise the integrity of my dough join so was possibly overly hesitant at this stage.

Snippity snip

All it needed was to be placed into a moderately hot oven for 30 minutes or so, until it turned golden brown.

Swedish Tea Ring ready for the oven

As the Swedish Tea Ring is essentially a bread dough I also made sure it was baked through by knocking the bottom of the ring to listen for the resounding hollow tap.

Fully baked (and a bit more irregular in shape than Marguerite’s)

The baked Swedish Tea ring is a tempting sight with glitterring cinnamon peeking out from the dough (although not the most organised of rings it still looks inviting to me!)

Lemon Glace Icing

Once the ring cooled fully I whipped up a batch of lemon glace icing. It hides an enormous amount of irregularities and flaws, especially if you layer up your icing! Again I can;t say I followed Marguerite’s recipe exactly. I like a tart lemon flavour so I sloshed in a bit of lemon extract to give an extra punch to the icing. I also free poured the icing sugar and mixed it with enough lemon juice to create a runny yet thick icing. (This does take quite a bit of icing sugar!).

free pouring icing – balanced over a big mug

When the icing is just about right in consistency it should taste good (obviously!) not be gritty, the sugar should totally melt into the liquid and it should part when stirred in the bowl. (see the picture above) This means it’s starting to hold it’s shape a bit whilst still being runny to cascade over your tea ring and coat the cake in thick white goo.

iced and decorated Swedish Tea Ring

It’s best to pop your Swedish Tea Ring on some greaseproof paper (or a plate) before you pour the icing over it to catch the icing waterfall. It needs some time to dry and set. I iced mine just before bed so it had time to set over night before being deposited into it’s travel box. Please note you may need more than 2 hands and a palette knife to prise your cake from the paper after it’s iced!

The final Swedish Tea Ring

Mary Berry recommends decorating cakes in groups of threes. I didn’t have the traditional galce cherries in my cupboard but I always have a store of sultanas, hence the trio of sultanas dotted on each section of ring. It’s also best to add these decorations while your icing is still wet.

The Swedish Tea Ring in it’s rustic glory

I loved this bake. It was a pleasure to make, especially as I could spend an hour at a time doing each step making it a more manageable bake to do after work over 2 evenings. The contrast of the sharp and sweet icing against the warming cinnamon is so comforting, just what you need after a long drive in the winter night. Each slice reveals a beautiful cinnamon swirl…

A cinnamon swirl in every slice

I can recommend it with a celebratory gin or a cup of tea. Whatever your preference, I think you’ll enjoy this one. I enjoyed seconds, and could have even squeezed in thirds if I wasn’t being polite!

A chunk of Swedish Tea Ring

It was a good job I had baked my mini Swedish Tea Ring and froze it for later on that week for my friend’s house warming, as it then made a special appearance in a photo shoot for the Sunderland Echo who published an article on my Blog North Award. You can see the mini Swedish Tea Ring being balanced on a cake stand by me here

Double Swedish Tea Ring – Little and Large


Things I used to make my Swedish Tea Ring

1 quantity of Richer Yeast Dough

  • 7g of dried instant yeast
  • 3 oz sugar
  • 1 lb plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 0z butter/margarine (you choose)
  • 1 egg
  • just under 1/2 pint milk (room temperature)

Swedish Tea Ring

Use 8 oz of richer yeast dough to make one tea ring or the full quantity of richer yeast dough to make a larger ring (and a mini ring like me)

Filling

  • 1 oz melted butter
  • 2 oz brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of cinnamon (although I added enough to ensure the sugar was a dark brown colour…)
  • Sultanas to decorate (although it should really be glace cherries)
  • 30-35 minutes 350F, Gas mark 3-4 or 170 degrees C

Lemon Water (Glace) Icing

  • about 200g-300g icing sugar (you may need more to get the right consistency)
  • about 3-4 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • a good slosh of lemon extract (not essence)