Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Cake of the Week: Pistachio Apricot Cake with Mascarpone Filling and Whipped Cream Frosting

Want to hear some crazy news? Yesterday was Eat Run Read’s birthday!!! 

3 years.
690 posts.
311,620 pageviews.

I started this little project the summer after I graduated college and who knows how long it will continue? (If my blog were a person it would be a toddler by now!) At first my family wondered if I’d run out of things to blog about. I wondered if eventually I would lose interest. But I’m happy to report that has yet to happen – 1,095 days later and Eat Run Read is still going strong! 

Major lesson learned? Well I already knew that I liked baking and running and reading, but turns out I like to write. A lot. Before starting this blog, my writing experience was 100% academic. But here I am, three years after my first post I still look forward to writing every day. 

So THANK YOU for reading. Seriously, anyone who knows me knows that I get excited when people read and like what I write. And thank you for commenting – thank you for your oohs and awws over my prettiest baking creations, thank you for your love and support through my running shenanigans, and thank you for sharing your own tips and feedback and fun links on my posts!

I asked you this Eat Run Read's first birthday, and I'll ask it again -- what do you like about this blog? What is your favorite part? What should there be more of? What should I shut up about? I'm curious what people like, so let me know!

It is fitting that I celebrate this great occasion with a cake of the epic variety. I made this Pistachio Apricot Cake with Mascarpone Filling and Whipped Cream Frosting for our housewarming party this weekend and not to toot my own horn, but toot! it was pretty freaking delicious.

The cake has 5 eggs, giving it just the right balance of lightness but also satisfyingly cakey, and was very pistachio tasting.  The mascarpone filling is swoonable – think of it as a cross between the flavor of whipped cream and the texture of cream cheese. And the final (tricky but totally worth it) component is the stabilized whipped cream frosting around the outside. The gelatin and cream of tartar stabilizes the cream, so it behaves like a super-light frosting and won’t melt. And it tastes awesome. It’s kind of like I died and went to heaven…in cake form.

Pistachio Apricot Cake with Mascarpone Filling and Whipped Cream Frosting

For the Pistachio Cake (from Smitten Kitchen):
  • 3/4 cup skinned pistachio nuts
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 eggs, lightly beaten

For the Mascarpone Filling:
  • 16 oz. mascarpone cheese
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 5 Tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 ripe apricots, sliced

For the Stabilized Whipped Cream Frosting:
Yield: about 3-4 cups frosting. Enough to generously frost one cake and have leftovers.
  • 1 teaspoon gelatin powder
  • 4 tablespoons cold water
  • 2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 speck of salt
  • 8 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar (I don’t know how absolutely necessary this is, but it can’t hurt and I’m paranoid about my whipped cream melting.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Make the cake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter three 8-inch or 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.
  2. Spread out the pistachios in a baking pan and toast in the oven for 7 to 10 minutes, or until lightly colored. Transfer to a dish and let cool completely. Finely chop the pistachios and set 1/4 cup aside for decoration.
  3. Put the remaining 1/2 cup pistachios in a food processor. Add the sugar and pulse just enough to grind them finely.
  4. Pour into a large mixing bowl and add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Blend with the mixer on low for 30 seconds. Add the butter, milk, and vanilla and, with the mixer on low, beat until completely incorporated.
  5. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the beaten eggs in 2 or 3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl well and mixing only long enough to blend after each addition. Divide the batter among the 3 prepared pans.
  6. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the layers to cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely.
Make the Mascarpone Filling:
  1. Beat cheese, cream, sugar, and vanilla with a mixer until smooth.
Make the Whipped Cream Frosting:
  1. Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in small bowl to soften (about 5 minutes). 
  2. Scald 4 tablespoon cream; pour over gelatin, stirring till dissolved. 
  3. Refrigerate until consistency of unbeaten egg white (about 30 minutes, but check it so it doesn’t become too firm.) 
  4. Using a hand-mixer, beat until smooth.  (If you accidently let it get too firm in the fridge, just beat it for longer, it should loosen up). 
  5. Whip remaining cream. Add salt, sugar, vanilla, and cream of tartar; beat in gelatin mixture. 
  1. Once the cake is completely cool, make the Mascarpone Filling. Spread a little less than 1/3 of the mascarpone filling on your first layer. Arrange apricot slices. 
  2. Spread a very thin layer of mascarpone filling on the underside of the next layer and place it on top of the apricots (so it goes mascarpone-apricots-mascarpone, and keeps the cake from getting soggy from the fruit). Repeat for the next two layers, and if you have any leftover mascarpone, spread it around the outsides of the cake as a “crumb layer.” 
  3. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours. (At this point, don’t worry about how it looks because it will all be covered in whipped cream soon!)
  4. Make the whipped cream frosting and cover the whole cake. Decorate with a few slices of apricot and pistachio pieces. 
  5. Invite friends over and serve at room temperature.

Printable recipe.