Pistachio Pound Cake
This is a pistachio post. It is a post dedicated to the perfect snack. It is a post filled to the brim with ridiculous amounts of this salty morsel. I have recently—and by recently I mean like right this moment as I sit here eating my fifth piece of cake—come to the realization that pistachios are the best nut ever. Hands down. One hundred percent. The greatest. I used to think the title was held by cashews but alas, all this time I have been mistaken. Blinded, I was misinformed and deceived. The amount of flavor that pistachios have is so often overlooked and misunderstood. Time and again we think of pistachios solely as a fancy snack one might find at a party or gathering of some sort. While yes this happens to be true, we somehow seem to forget that pistachios are incredible in sweet dinners and savory desserts. Wait, I got that wrong. Pistachios are delicious in savory dinners and sweet desserts. Either way, we cast it off to the side when it comes to cooking and baking, because other nuts are much more traditional when it comes to such tasks. Almonds, walnuts and peanuts have taken over the spotlight and forced us to dismiss the pistachio as a main actor in the kitchen. This cake has changed my life, for the better. Although this is the first time I bake with pistachios, we do go way back, pistachios and I. We have a connection that I should have remembered before.
I always associate pistachios with my childhood. Ever since I can remember my favorite ice cream flavor is and has been pistachio. I will never say no to a giant, heaping, enormous helping of gelato pistachio and if you ever find me denying myself this pleasure I give you permission to slap me across the face. I can recall several weekends in my youth where my sisters and I would each be treated to a dollar. To a child in the 90′s, this was a goldmine. The three of us would walk down to the neighborhood Rite-Aid/Thrifty’s to see what we could spend our fortune on. I would get a giant scoop of pistachio ice cream while my sisters would spend their money on more sophisticated items. I walked out of the store—a skinny, tall, and awkward kid wearing kaki shorts and Chuck Taylor high-tops—holding a cone much too big for a child of any size. All the way home I would enjoy my treat as my sisters chit-chatted about “grown-up” things or whatever it was that older sisters talked about. I was that one weird kid who did not get excited about chocolate, neither did I jump up for joy at the sight of strawberry. No, I was the odd child who begged for pistachio, in all its green glory. The one who would scour the flavors with my nose pressed up against the glass scanning the tubs of ice cream until I found the green one without the minty chocolate bits in it.
The sun would set off in the distance casting an orange, purple, and red hue around our neighborhood, just as we got back home. The three of us would sit down on the front porch steps as I finished my ice cream cone—my sisters amazed on how I could finish such a big treat and still ask what was for dinner—and in that moment life could not have been better. You would think that now as an adult my tastes for cold sweet treats would change and evolve, but thankfully it has not. I still find joy, comfort, and pleasure in pistachio ice cream, often craving it whenever the three of us are together driving by a Rite-Aid. Although now the cone is the perfect size for me. I guess you can say deep down at heart I am still that tall odd kid doing what I do best; eating pistachio ice cream preferably while wearing shorts with Chuck Taylor high-tops. I guess some things never change.
The very first step we need to concentrate on, which is probably the most vital step when making any sort of cake batter, is the creaming process. We have to cream the fats (shortening or butter and cream cheese in this case) with the sugar (powdered, brown or granulated).
Wouldn’t it be a fantastic world if we could just stare at images of butter and cream cheese all day long? Of course that would be dangerous because I’m sure more than several of us, myself included, would eventually lick the screen in hopes of getting a taste.
Wait…you wouldn’t lick the screen? Oh, neither would I. That’s silly. I digress, let’s turn our attention back to the recipe.
We’re going to need room temperature (softened) butter and cream cheese.
Drop both delicious ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment.
Remember how in the last post I was so adamant about mixing by hand? I was so proud of myself for not using the stand mixer. After which I declared I would never use the mixer again. I’d be like my ancestors before me and cook and bake everything by hand. I’d be a better cook/baker for it too.
Yeah, well that moment has passed. I’m back to using the mixer. It’s just more convenient. And faster. And easier. I just move a little lever and it does all the work for me. Those ancestors were missing out. Besides this mixer was a christmas gift from my mother. And what kind of son would I be if I didn’t utilize the gift she gave me? I think I’d be doing her an injustice if I started mixing by hand. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
Let’s just keep staring at butter and cream cheese. I’m not complaining.
Turn the mixer on low, then to medium, then to medium-high, and cream together both the butter and the cream cheese until it is light and fluffy.
In the meantime, let’s prepare the pistachios for the cake.
We need to grind them very finely SO in order to do that we need a food processor.
**Tip: If you don’t have one, you can throw the pistachios into a food storage bag and take out all your frustrations by pounding them into a pulp. It’ll take a bit, but it is certainly doable.**
**Side note: The grocery store carries already shelled pistachios. For a price, of course. Now if I were a sucker I’d buy that bag of already shelled pistachios and call it a day. However, I’m no sucker. I wasn’t born yesterday, as the market clearly thinks I was, so I refuse to pay double for something I could easily do myself. It’s highway robbery what they are charging for a convenience. I’m not made of money. I’m not Oprah. I’m sure Oprah can afford such luxuries as shelled pistachios on a daily basis. Sure it saves you time but for half of the price you can buy whole pistachios and shell them yourself. Your fingers will hate you at the end of the process (mine are still recovering) but I came out a winner in the end. If you thought you could fool me grocery store, HAH! The joke’s on you because I saved hundreds of dollars by switching to shell-on pistachios. Okay so it wasn’t hundreds of dollars. More like 2 whole dollars. It’s the principle of the thing! I stand my ground. You should too! Let’s revolt! End rant.**
You want them to be very finely chopped, almost like a paste.
Add it to the butter and cream cheese, and whip for a minute.
You’ll want to stop the mixer occasionally and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure everything is getting mixed well together.
Now we add the sugar.
Slowly stream it in while the mixer is running on low.
Make sure it’s on low, if not, you’ll end up with sugar flying everywhere. While yes that does sound like fun—flying sugar can be quite fun you should try it some time but not today—the clean up would be a nightmare. Not to mention your cake would be short in sugar, and we wouldn’t want that now would we?
Once all the sugar has been carefully added, turn up the mixer to medium-high and allow it to cream together for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is pale, light and fluffy.
You’ll know it’s ready to go when the fluffiness looks like this:
It’s time to add the eggs.
Add them one at a time, making sure to mix well after each addition.
Can you feel the anticipation building? The batter is coming together, one ingredient at a time. So yes, I know that’s how most recipes come together, but this one is different. How is it different? Well, it just is.
Let’s move on to the next ingredient.
Hey guess what! It’s time for the dry ingredients. Did you guess that? Huh? Huh? Huh? Did you? Did you?
I like to change things up a bit whenever I can so I’m using a combination of both all-purpose flour and cake flour, half and half. 50/50. Right down the middle. You get the picture. I like the balance of both and the texture they each give the cake.
Add, to the flour, the salt and baking powder.
Whisk it all together, or you can just sift the dry ingredients if you’d like.
Add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter pistachio mixture.
You want to add it in three batches, mixing on low and just until incorporated, after each addition. This is will prevent flour from flying everywhere. Again, flying flour, a fun thought but in retrospect, not such a good idea.
Once all the flour has been added, turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, you can just fold it with the spatula to incorporate one final time.
The best part of this cake is the color. Okay, taste first and then color. 75/25. The color is prey-ty awesome. Who doesn’t get a kick out of eating light-green food? I know I do folks. I know I do.
I’m BIG on texture when it comes to food. I like feeling a bit of crunch, so I think it would be a great idea to add chopped pistachios to the batter. Don’t you?
That was a hypothetical. Add the pistachios!
Give these pistachios a rough chop, they should be somewhat fine but not quite. Still chunky.
Add them to the cake batter.
Gently fold the pistachios into the batter, making sure to turn the bowl occasionally and trying not to overmix. You don’t want dry dense cake and you’ll for sure end up with dry dense cake if you overmix.
And now the time has come to bake the cake.
I know what you must be thinking, “Jonathan that seems like so much batter. This must yield two pound cakes.” Well you are right, this recipe does yield two pound cakes. Queue clouds parting, light shining down, angels singing. You can thank me later when you’re eating the second loaf.
Prepare two loaf pans by lining them with a piece of parchment paper, then spraying it all with cooking spray and then dusting it with flour. Simple steps really.
Then pour the batter evenly between both pans.
Bake the loaves in a preheated 325° F oven for about 1 hour and 35 minutes, rotating half way to make sure it bakes evenly. Check it after an hour, it will be done when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pans for 20 minutes on a cooling rack.
Afte twenty minutes, remove the loaves from the pans and allow them to cool completely on a cooling rack before drizzling them with the glaze.
What glaze am I referring to? Well the one we’re about to make of course.
This is seriously the easiest thing to make. Ever.
Most glazes are that easy though, so I can’t claim that my glaze is the easiest. Although I suppose I could say that. Let’s just say that my glaze is the easiest to make, that way everyone tries out my glaze recipe. Next stop, global glaze domination.
In a small bowl filled with powdered sugar, that’s also known as confectioner’s sugar by the way, pour in some heavy cream. Why? Because powdered sugar just isn’t sinful enough without the help of our good friend, heavy cream.
Whisk the sugar and cream until the glaze is completely smooth.
Now at this moment, the glaze and bread all have a sweet element to them. We need a little zip. A tang. A kaboom. And in order to achieve that boost of flavor, we need a little help from citrus. Just a tad bit of lemon will give the glaze, and overall the bread, a zing. It will bring together all the flavors and heighten the taste. Believe me, it will work.
Give it another whisk to incorporate the lemon juice.
That’s it, the glaze is done. What did I tell you? Super easy right?
Spoon the glaze over each loaf, starting in the center and spreading it until the glaze begins to drip down the sides.
One final step is the crunchy topping. And because this pound cake just doesn’t have enough pistachios in it, we’re going to add a boatload of chopped pistachios right on top of the glaze. Drizzle them right away so that they stick to the glaze while it is still wet.
Allow the glaze to harden slightly for a few minutes. Now this is the hardest part of the entire recipe. Walking away and not touching it will be difficult. I need you to resist the urge to hack away at it with a knife. You need to wait for the glaze to set.
When you’ve waited, and waited, and waited some more and you feel like you can’t wait any longer, you are ready to devour the pound cakes.
You can slice it and share it. Pass it along to friends, family and loved ones. Or you can be selfish and eat it all by yourself. I choose option B thank you very much. I choose the option where I make it, hide it in the kitchen pantry, because my family hardly steps foot in there anyhow, and cut myself a piece every now and then and then place it back in it’s hiding place. No one is the wiser. Except for me. Of course now they know where I hide the food. Memo to myself: Find a new hiding spot.
Before we cut it let’s stare at the glory of the cake once more.
Okay, now we can cut it.
Really the best part of this cake is the color. Like I said earlier green food rocks.
If you’ve ever had pistachio ice cream, you’ll be surprised how much this pound cake tastes like pistachio ice cream. Now granted there are pistachios so I guess that makes sense. But it’s the combination of the cake, the nuts, and the glaze that all come together to give you that ice cream flavor.
I know what I’m talking about, as you can recall, I’m a pistachio ice cream connoisseur.
This cake will keep for a few days, wrapped up tightly with plastic wrap or in an airtight container at room temperature.
Although I can guarantee you that it won’t last more than a few days. I myself ate an entire loaf. I shared the other loaf, I decided not to be entirely greedy. But I did have some from the second loaf as well, so I came out winning in this entire equation. Have I mentioned how much I love pistachios? I don’t think I’ve said it enough. I LOVE PISTACHIOS. There, I think it’s out of my system.
If I had it my way I’d have pistachio pound cake every single day for the rest of my life. But sadly I’m sure there is no nutritional value to that whatsoever. Could people survive solely on pistachio pound cake?
I’ll have to try it out and report to you my findings. Stand by for updates. In the meantime, why don’t you make this pound cake and let me know what you think. We’ll test out the theory together.
Pistachio Pound Cake
yield: 2 loaves, about 10 to 12 servings
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1½ cups cake flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1¼ cups (2½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ¾ cup (6 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 cup shelled pistachios, finely ground
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- 6 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¾ cup roughly chopped pistachios
- 1¼ cups powdered sugar
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice, fresh squeezed
- ½ cup chopped pistachios, for garnish (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 325º F. Prepare two loaf pans by lining each with parchment paper, spraying with cooking spray and dusting them with flour. Set aside. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, cream cheese, and finely ground pistachios. Allow the ingredients to cream together for about 5 minutes, on medium high. Reduce speed to low. Slowly stream in the granulated sugar and continue to beat on medium-high until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure even mixing. Once the mixture is completely smooth, add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and mix once more.
3. Reduce speed to low and carefully add the reserved flour mixture; beat until just combined. Do not overmix the batter at this point. Fold in the chopped pistachios. Divide the batter among the prepared pans, and smooth out the tops with a rubber spatula. Bake for about 1 hour and 35 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. The loaves should be golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean. Let the cakes cool on a rack for about 20 minutes. Unmold and discard the parchment paper. Allow the cakes to cool completely before frosting.
4. To make the glaze: Combine the powdered sugar, heavy cream and lemon juice in a bowl. Whisk until completely smooth. Drizzle cakes with icing and sprinkle with chopped pistachios, if desired. Serve right away. Any leftovers can be wrapped well with plastic or stored in an airtight container, at room temperature for a couple days. Enjoy!