Friday, May 17, 2013

Raspberry-Lemon Pistachio Cake with Whipped Cream

I made this cake for my dad's birthday celebration last month. My dad adores chocolate and peanut butter (who doesn't, really?) so for the past few years I've gone with that classic combination for his birthday cakes and almost any dessert I've baked for him. This year I wanted to try something different, so I combined some of his other favourite foods - raspberries and pistachios - and came up with this three-layered, fluffy vanilla cake. For good measure, I sandwiched a homemade lemon curd between the layers along with some crushed, fresh raspberries, because citrus and berries are almost as classic as chocolate and peanut butter. I opted to cover the whole cake in lightly sweetened whipping cream rather than a heavy and sugary buttercream so that the bright flavours of the raspberries and lemon would come through. It was a light and fresh change of pace from the rich chocolate-peanut butter cakes of years past and would be the perfect cake for any spring or summer party. My dad's only critique was to add more raspberries and pistachios, so feel free to go crazy with the garnishes! 

Vanilla Cake Ingredients:

2 and 1/2 cups cake flour, plus extra for dusting the pans
1 and 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. table salt
1 and 3/4 cups white sugar
10 Tbsp. butter (1 and 1/4 sticks), melted and cooled slightly
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
3 Tbsp. canola or vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks, room temperature
3 large egg whites, room temperature


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and move the rack to the centre of the oven. Line the bottom of 3 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper, then grease the paper and the sides of the pans with butter and then dust with flour, tapping out the excess.

In a large bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1 and 1/2 cup of white sugar.

In a separate, medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter, buttermilk, canola oil, vanilla, and egg yolks.

In a separate medium bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites at medium speed until foamy. With the mixer running, slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup of white sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form, about 1-2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Add the flour mixture to the mixer bowl and with the mixer on low speed, gradually add in the butter mixture and mix until almost incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then continue to mix on medium-low speed until the batter is smooth.

Using a rubber spatula, stir 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter to lighten, then add the remaining egg whites into the batter and very gently fold them in until no white streaks remain. 

Divide the batter evenly among the three prepared cake pans. Lightly tap the cake pans against the counter 2-3 times to remove any big air pockets in the batter. Bake until the cake layers begin to pull away from the sides of the pan, and a toothpick inserted in to the centre comes out clean, about 18-22 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then lightly grease the wire rack, run a butter knife around the edges of the cakes and invert them onto the wire rack. Peel off the parchment paper from the bottoms of the layers and allow them to cool completely before assembling the cake.

*Cake recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated

Lemon Curd:
This is a delicious, basic lemon curd recipe. It will make more than you need for between the cake layers, but it is handy to have on hand for pairing with fresh fruits or light pastries for a quick dessert!

1 and 1/4 cups white sugar
6 Tbsp. corn starch
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups water
4 egg yolks, beaten
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 Tbsp. butter

In a small bowl, lightly whisk the egg yolks. In a heavy saucepan, mix the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Stir in the water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat, and whisk 1/4 of the mixture into the egg yolks, then whisk them back into the saucepan. Cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat, stir in the lemon zest, juice, and butter. Cover and set aside to cool before using. Store leftover curd in an airtight container in the refrigerator and stir before using. The curd will thicken as it cools.

Whipping Cream:

1 cup whipping cream, cold
2 Tbsp. white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Place the whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla in a chilled mixing bowl and whip with chilled beaters or a whisk until stiff peaks form. Store covered in the refrigerator until ready to frost the cake, or use immediately. Store leftovers in an airtight container the refrigerator.

To assemble the cake:

2-3 cups fresh raspberries
1/2-1 cup pistachios, roughly chopped

In a small bowl, smash 1 cup of fresh raspberries. You can add a little bit of sugar to sweeten them if desired. Another option here would be to use raspberry jam or preserves if fresh raspberries are not available.

Level the three cake layers using a serrated knife. Place the bottom layer, cut side up onto the serving plate. Evenly spread half of the smashed raspberry mixture on top of the cake. Cover with a thick layer of lemon curd, leaving a 1/2-1" gap around the outside of the cake with no filling. The filling will be squeezed outward once you place the next layer on top so this prevents it from oozing out the sides. Place the second cake layer cut side down onto the first layer. Repeat the raspberry and lemon curd filling, then place the final cake layer cut side down onto the second layer. 

Wipe away any lemon curd or raspberries that have oozed out the sides of the cake layers. Cover the cake with the whipped cream and use a thin metal spatula or butter knife to create a swirl pattern. Garnish with chopped pistachios and additional fresh, whole raspberries. You could garnish just on the top of the cake, as pictured, or cover the entire cake if you want more pistachios and fresh raspberries in each slice.

Store the cake in a cake dome or covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator. This cake is best eaten the same day it is made but will keep well for up to 2 days.

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