Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Pistachio Sponge with Rose Buttercream and Strawberries

Some may have you believe that baking is an arduous, vexatious and even monotonous activity. Balderdash, piffle and poppycock I say, for baking is a wondrous and fantastical diversion from the everyday and the humdrum. You can of course invest time in creating the intricate and the complex and many incredibly talented bakers, patissiers and pastry chefs do just that. But it is important to note that by no means is this an imperative. Take this beautiful, almost exotic cake for instance. With just a modicum of mixing, folding and chopping you can come up with something that is not only entirely delicious, but feels like a proper sophisticated treat, so much so that your lucky guests will presume the process was nothing short of tortuous. Don't tell them otherwise though, we'll keep that our little secret...

Prep time: 25 Mins
Baking time: 40-45 Mins
100g Pistachios
115g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
120g Caster Sugar
2 Large Eggs
1tsp Baking Powder
2tbsp Plain Flour

For the Buttercream
75g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
150g Icing Sugar (Sifted)
0.5-1tsp Rose Water
1-2tsp Cold Water
300g Fresh Strawberries (sliced)

There's no time like the present, so let's get cracking. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5, grease a 20cm square tin and line completely with baking paper. You now need to finely grind the pistachios. I use an electric grinder for this, but you can use a mini chopper if you have one. The trick is to stop just as the nuts start to release their oils and begin to go a little claggy. Once they are ground well, set to one side whilst you prepare the rest of the mixture.

In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Sift in the baking powder, along with the flour, then add the ground nuts and fold through to an evenly mixed batter. Pour into your prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 40-45 mins, until a metal skewer can be cleanly removed when inserted into the middle of the cake. When you are happy the cake is baked remove from the oven and leave to cool completely in the tin.

When the cake has cooled carefully remove from the tin, peeling off the paper. Now for the buttercream. In a bowl cream together the butter and icing sugar. Do this slowly at first or you will end up dusting your kitchen with icing sugar! Add the rose water and water, then mix until smooth and glossy. You may have noticed that there is a little room for manoeuvre when it comes to the rose water and water. If you prefer just the merest suggestion of floral rose then go for half a teaspoon, but if you want a real heady hit then go all out with a teaspoon. The same sort of thing applies with the cold water. Start with a teaspoon of water, but if you think the buttercream is too thick then go for another. It's completely up to you!

Spread the buttercream relatively thinly over the cooled cake and top with sliced strawberries. If your strawberries are a little under-ripe, or even if you just fancy a change then you can lightly roast the strawberries in the oven, before leaving to cool and topping the cake with them. To do this just chop in half, lay on a tray lined with baking paper, sprinkle with a little caster sugar and roast in the oven, 190C/375F/Gas 5 for about 30 minutes. But I digress, the important thing is the cake in finished. Huzzah!