These are from one of the local food co-ops, and were expensive enough--$13.99 a pound--but they weren't amazing. At least they were organic.
The batter turned out thick and rich-looking--definitely not one that would smooth out by giving the cake pan a few shakes. This needed serious evening-out with the spatula.
If it weren't for the buttercream frosting, this cake would be on the quick-and-easy list, and the buttercream isn't difficult unless you screw it up, as I did.
You have to make an initial decision about whether to use Lyle's Golden Syrup or white corn syrup. This decision will have a big impact on the color of the frosting and its flavor. Lyle's has a very distinctive, sort of caramel-y taste, and it becomes the most noticeable flavor element in the buttercream. I used Lyle's syrup, and loved it, but you shouldn't use it if you want a more traditional vanilla buttercream. You can see that the "golden" syrup is actually a deep amber.
I still could easily have rescued the buttercream by just softening some more butter. (I could have clarified the melted butter and put it in the freezer for some later cake. But I didn't. First, I didn't think of it until it was too late and second, I really wanted to see what was going to happen. I'm pretty sure that butter undergoes some molecular change when it melts. Even after I put it in the refrigerator, it hardened, but it never turned back into anything resembling softened butter. Call it scientific curiosity, call it stubbornness--I was driven to find out what would happen.
What happens is that the buttercream never gets to a frosting-like consistency. It's more like sludge. Delicious sludge, to be sure, but still sludge. You don't really frost a cake with this stuff; you just pour it on and hope that some sticks.
So it didn't turn out quite the way I was hoping--if only I'd been able to stop myself from announcing that I'd made a Pistachio Sludge Cake, no one would ever have known it wasn't supposed to turn out the way it did. The cake is excellent, but it's the frosting that really shines here--even if the frosting is more like ooze.
If I'd happened to have some pistachio essence on hand, I might have added a little bit to the cake, but not the frosting--I think it would have fought with the rich taste of the golden syrup. But my pistachios were pretty mild, and the cake itself could have used a little more pistachio pizzazz.
And just to make those of you who knew I'd never stick to the eat-one-piece rule--I had three pieces of this cake.
Laurel: "Rich, but subtle--like a French dessert."
Sarah: "Delicious--love the texture that the nuts give it."
Jim: "I like the chewy nuts." (Please note that Jim had four pieces of cake this week).
Karen: "I like the greenness--did you choose it for spring? The frosting is very good. That syrup adds a lot of flavor. The cake has a sophisticated texture."