My parents seemed a little perplexed when I said I’d cook my own birthday dinner, cake and all. But really, I just wanted an excuse to bake from Yossy Arefi’s new book, Sweeter Off the Vine. I was sure I was going to make myself her celebration cake—three tiers of fudgy chocolate cake, which, for the book, she encases in a pink-cloud-like raspberry frosting. I knew how good that cake would be: Last year, I was actually with Yossy on my birthday because she was photographing my book. And because she truly is a generous soul, she baked it for me.
In the end, it was hard to justify making three layers of cake for six people (and, to be honest, I’m not quite sure how to cut the recipe into thirds), so I’m saving that one for my daughter’s birthday. Lucky girl.
After day-dreaming about the roasted rhubarb pavlova, the tangerine cream pie, and so many of the other inspired sweets in this book, I settled on a pistachio pound cake. Baked in a loaf pan, the cake looks humble but has a fantastic nubby texture and deep flavor, thanks to the ground pistachios standing in for almost half of the flour. Pleasantly dense and not too sweet, a thick slice is the perfect bed for fragrant, juicy strawberries. It’s the type of grown-up dessert I love.
Yossy macerates the strawberries for the cake with lavender buds, a lovely addition but one I skipped because of my anti-lavender crowd. I also skipped whipping cream, instead topping the slices with dollops of mascarpone. One great thing about this cake is that it’s just as delicious, if not even tastier, the next day, making it just as good for breakfast as it is for dessert.
- Pistachio Pound Cake
- 1 cup (130g) shelled pistachios
- 1½ cups (195g) all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup (175g) unsalted butter, softened
- 11/4 cup (250g) granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract
- ½ cup (120ml) whole milk, at room temperature
- 11/2 pounds (675g) strawberries
- ¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon organic lavender buds
- ½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped from the pod
- To Serve
- Lightly sweetened whipped cream or mascarpone
- Position the rack in the center of the oven, preheat to 325°F (165°C). Grease and flour a 9 by 5 by 3-inch loaf pan.
- To make the cake: Grind the pistachios in a food processor just until they resemble flour. Be careful to not grind them into pistachio butter, though that would be delicious. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt to the bowl of the food processor. Pulse until combined.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium high speed until smooth, then, with the mixer still running, slowly stream in the sugar. Cream the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 30 seconds after each addition. Occasionally stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing. Add the vanilla and almond extracts.
- With the mixer on low speed, alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk to the batter in three additions, mixing until just combined. Finish mixing the batter by hand with a rubber spatula. Make sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then remove the cake to a rack to cool completely.
- To make the strawberries: Combine the sugar, lavender, and vanilla seeds in a mortar and grind with a pestle until the lavender is broken up into fine bits and the sugar is fragrant. Alternately, this can be done in a food processor. Hull and slice the strawberries in half if the are small, in quarters if they are larger; combine the sliced strawberries and sugar in a bowl and stir gently. Let the berries macerate for at least 15 minutes before serving.
- To serve: Slice the cooled cake into thick pieces and top each slice with a generous spoonful of berries and their juices. Top with whipped cream. Extra cake keeps in an airtight container at room temperature for three days