I have long been dreaming of a cake combining apricots and pistachios, and finally had the opportunity to try out my ideas. I tested two different types of cake, and this is the winner!
Notes: Grinding pistachios takes some time, and will work best in a large food processor. I only had a small electric spice-grinder, so the process was tedious. If you don't have enough pistachios, you can add about ½ cup or so of almond meal to the powdered pistachios.
Make the apricot butter first (recipe below), or you can use a good-quality apricot jam instead; just puree the jam in a processor.
Apricot-Pistachio Torte with Apricot Buttercream
4 eggs, separated, then brought to room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
½ cup sugar, divided
1-½ cups ground pistachios, or 1 cup pistachios and ½ cup almond meal
1 pinch of salt
1) In a small bowl, beat the yolks, vanilla, and ¼ cup of the sugar until smooth and pale. You can use either a wire whisk or a hand-held mixer. If using the mixer, wash and dry the beaters to use for the whites.
2) Mix the pistachios into the yolk mixture and set aside. The mixture will be quite thick.
3) In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and salt with mixer on medium speed. When the whites are foamy, increase speed to high, and gradually add the remaining ¼ cup of the sugar. Continue beating until whites form soft peaks when you lift the beaters (turn the mixer off first!).
4) Using a rubber spatula, fold the whites gently into the egg-nut mixture. Even if that looks impossible, it will work, and the mixture will smooth out and become more batter-like as you work.
5) Butter the bottom and 1” up the sides of a 9” springform cake pan, then sprinkle with sugar. Tap the pan to spread the sugar around, and dump out any excess. Pour the batter into the pan, and smooth it with the rubber scraper. You can gently tap the bottom of the pan on the counter to make sure the batter settles evenly.
6) Bake at 375º for 20-35 minutes. When done, the cake will pull away from the sides of the pan and be nicely golden on top.
7) Remove the cake from the oven and cool on a wire rack, first removing the sides of the pan. After 10 minutes, place a second wire rack on top of the cake and invert it. Slide a table knife between the cake and the bottom of the pan to loosen it, then remove the pan bottom and set aside. Re-invert the cake onto the first rack, and let cool completely. The cake will not be very tall.
While cake is cooling, make the buttercream and apricot butter, if using.
3 egg yolks, room temperature
½ cup sugar
¼ cup water
1-½ sticks (3/4 cup) butter, softened at room temperature
apricot jam or butter (recipe below)
Note: Have clean beaters in your electric mixer, ready to use quickly. Or you can use a stand mixer.
1) In a medium bowl, or the bowl of the stand mixer, whisk the yolks until they are completely smooth. Set aside.
2) Lightly oil the inside of a glass measuring cup, set aside. Cut the butter into small chunks, about 1-2 Tbsp. each. Set aside.
3) In a medium pot over low heat, dissolve the sugar in the water, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Increase the heat to medium and bring to a rapid boil. Stir constantly until syrup reaches the soft ball stage, about 238º. Remove from heat immediately.
4) At once, pour the hot syrup into the glass measure. Using the hand-held mixer, begin mixing the yolks on medium speed. At the same time, gradually pour the hot sugar syrup into the yolks in a thin, steady stream. Continue beating until all the syrup is incorporated and the mixture is cool.
5) When the egg mixture is cool to the touch, beat in the butter, one chunk at a time, until it is all incorporated and the mixture is smooth.
6) Add about ½ cup of the apricot jam or butter, or to taste. I like a very strong apricot flavor. Set the buttercream aside.
Assembling the cake:
1) When the cake is completely cool, split it in half crosswise, using a long, thin-bladed, serrated knife.
Work slowly, turning the rack the cake is on as you go, and keeping the blade level. Gently lift the top layer off to the second wire rack.
2) Arrange some strips of waxed paper around the edges of your cake plate, then lift the bottom layer of cake gently onto the plate. The waxed paper will catch any frosting spills, and should be just under the edges of the cake.
3) Spread the top of the cake with a thick layer of apricot jam, then top with the top layer of the cake. Using a frosting spatula (with a long, thin metal blade), spread the buttercream over the top and sides of the cake. Remove the waxed paper before serving.
You can decorate the top of the cake with chopped pistachios, if desired, or garnish with a few dried apricots or a sprig of mint.
Apricot Butter Recipe:
1-1/3 cups dried apricots
1 cup water
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. lemon zest
½ tsp. apricot brandy (optional)
1) Place the apricots and water in a small saucepan with a lid. Let soak for about 2 hours to soften the fruits.
3) Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the apricots are very tender.
4) Puree the apricots and water in a food processor or spice grinder along with the sugar, lemon zest, and brandy, if using.
5) Place apricot butter in a bowl and allow it to cool completely before using. It will keep well in a jar with a lid, refrigerated, if you have leftovers.