Since starting this blog, in addition to being the designated family baker, I have assembled a set of tried and true recipes for cake emergencies, birthday parties and everyday or snacking cakes. There is another list though that I refer to as my dream cake list. This cake recipe, along with making towering wedding cakes decorated in organic flowers are part of my dream cake category. Dream cakes are those that take more time to make and decorate. They must have an elevated taste that perhaps only myself and fellow baking fanatics would appreciate. They stand out in a crowd of cakes, but the main idea is that I make them because they are fun and challenging. All in all, dream cakes are not something that I make on a whim but a baking project that requires planning and experimentation.
My husband, who doesn’t share my baking obsession happens to be a die-hard Momofuku Milk Bar fan. While a small component of his obsession is due to nostalgia of life in New York City, the main reason is that these recipes are substantially different than other cakes that one can purchase at a typical bakery. I’m delighted when he requests a Milk Bar cake for his birthday because it means I will be given the time to spend in the kitchen while he runs the household. However, I was a little stressed when he requested a Milk Bar cake for his birthday party in which we had invited over 20 people. For those who don’t know, these towering cakes are tiny and only feed 8 people (but I have sliced it 10 ways as well). Since I couldn’t say no and I also wasn’t ready to stray far from the original recipe by adapting it to larger cake pans, I decided to make multiple desserts. For the party day, I made Apple Pie Layer Cake, Gluten Free Pistachio Layer Cake along with Magnolia Bakery’s famed Banana Pudding. Needless to say, I went overboard but it was worth it.
You’ll be so pleased with yourself once you complete this cake project. It takes significantly more time than your average cake, but the results are show stopping! A heads up that the cake has to freeze for a minimum of 12 hours in order to set it. Therefore, in the very least, start making the components 2 days before. Also, take a look at the special equipment and hard to find ingredients below. You may have to drive around your city or order online to find them.
Gluten Free Pistachio Layer Cake
Makes: 1 6-inch (very tall) layer cake, serves 8
Time: 2-3 days! Yes, you’ve read that correctly, this recipe requires significant planning. If you’re making this recipe for a party and you work full-time during the week then make it the weekend before for a stress-free party weekend.
1 recipe Gluten Free Pistachio Cake
65 g (1/3 cup) pistachio oil
1 recipe Lemon Curd
½ recipe Milk Crumb
1 recipe Pistachio Frosting
6 inch cake ring* (it must be a ring so that you can cut with it and assemble the cake)
2 strips of acetate, each 3 inches wide and 20 inches long*
¼ sheet baking pan *
Kitchen scale (if you don’t have one yet, invest the $30 in one now)
Stand Mixer (it will make your life much easier)
Microplane (I call this my lemon grater)
Fine mesh sieve
Hard to find ingredients*
Gluten Free Pistachio Layer Cake
190 g (2/3 cup) pistachio paste
75 g (3 tbsp) glucose (substitute 35 g (2 tbsp) corn syrup)
6 egg whites
280 g (1 ¾) icing sugar (confectioners’ sugar)
110 g (1 ¼ cups) blanched almond flour
75 g (1/2 cup) pistachio oil
55 g (1/4 cup) whipping cream (heavy cream)
150 g (1 ½ cups) blanched almond flour
6 g (1 ½ tsp) baking powder
6 g (1 ½ tsp) kosher salt
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C).
2. Beat the pistachio paste and glucose in a stand mixer on medium- low using the paddle attachment for 2-3 minutes. Scrap down the sides using a spatula. The mixture should be a sticky green paste.
3. With the mixer on low, add the egg whites one at a time. Add the next egg white once the first is incorporated into the mixture. Scrap the sides and bottom of the bowl using a spatula and then add another egg white. This mixture will look like green okra.
4. Add the icing sugar and almond flour on mix low speed. Mix for 2-3 minutes and scrap down the bowl. The batter will be sticky.
5. With the mixer on low, stream in the pistachio oil and whipping cream. Mix for 1 minute and scrap down the bowl.
6. Add the remaining almond flour, baking powder and salt on low speed. Paddle for 2-3 minutes until the batter is smooth.
7. Generously butter (the original recipe calls for Pam spray) and line a quarter sheet pan with parchment. Spread the batter in an even layer. Bake for 20-25 minutes on the middle rack. The cake will not run over if everything has been mixed properly but it will come close! It should be golden brown on the top and be pulling away from the edges of the pan. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to fully cool before assembling the cake.
Makes: about 460 g (2 cups)
3 lemons (skins plus juice needed)
100 g (1/2) granulated sugar
1 gelatin sheet
115 g (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, very cold
2 g (1/2 tsp) kosher salt
1. Grate the lemon using a Microplane. Set aside. Now, cut the lemons in half and squeeze the juice out. Measure 80 g (1/3 cup) juice (strain first if there are seeds in it).
2. Add the sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice to a highspeed blender and blend until the sugar granules have dissolved. Add the eggs and blend on low until it is a bright-yellow mixture. Transfer the mixture to a medium saucepan and wash the blender.
3. Bloom the gelatin sheet by preparing an ice water bath (250 g water or 1 cup) and soaking the sheet in it for 5-10 minutes. Once the sheet is softened, lift it from the water and squeeze.
4. On low, heat the lemon mixture and whisk regularly (this prevents the eggs from cooking into chunks). It will start to thicken and once it boils remove from the heat. Pour into the cleaned blender along with the bloomed gelatin, butter and salt. Blend the mixture until it is smooth, thick and shiny.
5. Place a fine-mesh sieve over a heatproof container. Pour the mixture through the sieve, pushing it around with the back of a spoon. Place in the refrigerator until the curd has completely cooled (at least 30 minutes). The curd can be refrigerated for up to 1 week but do not freeze it.
Makes: 250 g (2 ¼ cups)
40 g (1/2 cup) milk powder
40 g (1/4 cup) gluten free flour
12 g (2 tbsp) cornstarch
25 g (2 tbsp) granulated sugar
2 g (1/2 tsp) kosher salt
55 g (4 tbsp) butter, melted
20 g (1/4 cup) milk powder
90 g (3 ounces) white chocolate, melted
1. Preheat the oven to 250°F (121°C). Line a baking pan with parchment paper or Silpat.
2. Mix the 40 g (1/2 cup) milk powder, flour, cornstarch, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Pour in the melted butter and toss with a spatula until it starts to form small clusters.
3. Spread the clusters onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. The crumbs should be sandy looking. Lift off the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.
4. Put the crumbs into a medium bowl and crumble any that are larger than ½ inch diameter. Add the remaining 20 g (1/4 cup) milk powder and toss.
5. Pour the white chocolate over the clusters and gently toss so that it coats the clusters. Toss them every 5 minutes until the white chocolate hardens and the clusters are no longer sticky. The crumbs will last for up to 1 month if stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer. Try not to eat too many of these!
Makes: about 350 g (1 ¾ cups)
115 g (8 tbsp) butter, room temperature
40 g (1/4 cup) icing sugar (confectioners’ sugar)
230 g (3/4 cup) pistachio paste
2 g (1/2 tsp) kosher salt
1. Cream the butter and icing sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Set it to medium-high for 2-3 minutes until it is fluffy. Add the pistachio paste and salt and mix until combined then, whip the frosting by turning it up to high. Scrap down the sides of the bowl and whip again until you have a pale green colour.
2. Use the frosting immediately or store in the fridge for up to a week.
Cake Assembly (the best part!!)
1. Place all the cake components (cake, oil, lemon curd, milk crumb and pistachio frosting) on a clean workspace as well as the cake ring, sheet pan or 7-inch cake board, spoons, a pastry brush, and acetate strips. If the frosting has been in the refrigerator, ensure that it has come to room temperature so that it is easily spreadable.
2. Place parchment paper or a Silpat on your workspace. Invert the cake onto the paper or Silpat and peel off the parchment paper. Use the cake ring to cut 2 circles from the cake. These 2 cutouts will serve as the bottom and top of your cake. The remaining cake will be used for the middle piece (which, no one will see). Cut out 2 half moons with the cake ring. Clean the cake ring.
Layer 1, bottom
3. Place the cake ring in the centre of a small sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Gently pick up one of the full cake cutouts and tuck it inside the ring. Line the cake ring with 1 acetate strip.
4. Brush pistachio oil on this layer using a pastry brush. If you don’t have one, try to dribble the oil on ever so lightly with a spoon. This makes the cake moist. If your cake already seems heavy, skip this step.
5. Spread 1/2 of the lemon curd onto this layer with the back of a spoon.
6. Sprinkle 1/3 of the milk crumbs evenly over the lemon curd and lightly push them into the curd.
7. Spread 1/3 of the pistachio frosting over the curds. This step takes patience. Turn the cake as you go.
Layer 2, middle
8. Line the ring with another strip of acetate so that it overlaps with the first piece about a 6 cm (¼ inch). This acetate strip will support the rest of your cake. Gather the two half-moon cake scraps and nestle them along the edges. Use the remaining cake scraps to fill in the middle taking care to make neat edges. Gently push down (but don’t squish) the cake. Repeat the layering process (steps 4 through 7).
Layer 3, top
9. Place the last cake layer on top. Spread the remaining frosting on top. An offset spatula will help you achieve a smoother, flat top. Decorate with the remaining cake crumbs (I often let my daughters do this part).
10. Cover and transfer the cake and sheet pan/cake board to the freezer for 12 hours to set the cake. It will keep up to 2 weeks.
11. On the party day, unthaw the cake for at least 3 hours. To do this, remove the cake from the freezer, pop the cake out of the ring and peel off the acetate. Place the cake onto a platter and cover so that it doesn’t pick up any refrigerator smells.
12. This cake lasts up to 5 days in the refrigerator.
6-inch cake ring: Golda’s Kitchen
Acetate Strips: Golda’s Kitchen
Kitchen Scale: there are lots of great ones out there but I have been using this Salter Kitchen Scale for 7 years (also, if you are going to buy a Chemex you will need a scale)
Pistachio Oil: Well.ca
Pistachio paste: I made my own using the following recipe . It took awhile to get the right consistency and even now, I think I could have blended it more.
Glucose: Purchased in store at Bulk Barn
Gelatin Sheet: Online from Golda’s Kitchen