This weekend was my birthday and for those of you who read this site often enough, my annual tradition is to bake my own birthday cake. Ever since this summer, I’ve been browsing through Christina Tosi’s Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook and wanting to bake from her book. One of the recipes in there was one of my favorite cakes from the Milk Bar, the pistachio lemon.
I love pistachio. It’s my favorite nut beyond walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts. (Also, in Cantonese, it means “happy nut” to boot.) The lemon curd recipe that Chef Tosi written is different than the ones I’ve made over the years with the use of gelatin and the blender. This cake is intentionally gluten-free despite the fact I am not gluten intolerant. I’m all for experimentation and the recipe worked out perfectly and better than what I remembered eating the cake a few years ago.
I used pistachio butter by Wilderness Poets since it’s more easily attainable than the coveted (in the pastry chef world) Agrimontana pistachio paste and I find the pistachio butter a bit more concentrated than pistachio paste.
As for the butter, I used President’s European-style unsalted butter* for it’s more butterier in flavor than the standard butters in the U.S. and I like its velvety texture. I realized while licking my spatula after I finished making the lemon curd, the texture is creamier and luscious (and it’s not just because of the gelatin since it didn’t when it’s still warm).
It’s not too difficult for the semi-experienced baker but it does need some time to let the lemon curd set and cooling the pistachio cake. Just be warned that it’s a small but tall cake. Each sliver of a slice is intense but irresistible to not get the knife and cut another slice for yourself.
Inclined to know how to bake this cake? Here’s the recipe.
Pistachio Lemon Cake
Source: Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook by Christina Tosi
Makes 1 quarter sheet pan cake
190 grams pistachio paste
75 grams glucose (or corn syrup)
6 egg whites
280 grams confectioners’/icing sugar
110 grams almond meal/flour
75 grams pistachio oil (can use grapeseed as a substitute)
55 grams heavy cream
150 grams almond meal/flour
6 grams baking powder
6 grams kosher salt
Heat the oven to 350°F. Combine the pistachio paste and corn syrup in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium low for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture turns into a sticky green paste. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
On low speed, add the egg whites one at a time, being careful not to add the next egg white until the previous one is completely incorporated. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula after every 2 to 3 egg whites.
Add the icing/confectioners’ sugar and almond meal and, on low speed, paddle them in for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture thickens. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Stream in the pistachio oil and heavy cream and paddle on low speed for 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add the almond flour, baking powder, and salt and paddle on low for 2 to 3 minutes, until the batter is super smooth.
Spray a quarter sheet pan and line it with parchment paper. Using a spatula, spread the cake batter in an even layer in the pan. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes. At 20 minutes, gently poke the edge of the cake with your finger; the cake should bounce back and it should be slightly golden brown on the sides and pulling away from the sides of the pan ever so slightly. Leave the cake in the oven for an extra 1 to 2 minutes if it doesn’t pass these tests.
Take the cake out of the oven and cool on a wire rack or in a pinch, in the fridge or freezer, wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 5 days.
100 grams sugar
1 gelatin sheet
115 grams butter, very cold (I used President’s European-style butter but you could use any brand)
2 grams salt
Zest the lemons. Put the sugar, lemon zest and 80 grams of lemon juice in a blender and blend until the sugar granules have dissolved. Add the eggs and blend on low until you have a bright yellow mixture. Transfer the contents to a medium pot or sauce pan. Clean the blender canister.
Bloom the gelatin by placing this sheet in a bowl with cold water for a few minutes to soften.
Heat the lemon mixture over low heat, whisking regularly. As it heats up, it will begin to thicken; keep a close eye on it. Once it boils, remove it from the stove and transfer it to the blender. Add the bloomed gelatin, butter, and salt and blend until the mixture is thick, shiny and super smooth.
Pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a heat proof container and put in the fridge until the lemon curd has cooled completely, at least 30 minutes. This can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.
115 grams butter, at room temperature
40 grams icing/confectioners’ sugar
230 grams pistachio paste
2 grams kosher salt
Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and cream together on medium high for 2 to 3 minutes, until fluffy and pale yellow.
Add the pistachio paste and salt and mix on low speed for half a minute, then kick up the speed to medium high for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Use the frosting immediately, or store it in an airtight container for up to one week.
1/2 cup milk powder
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 ounces white chocolate, melted
Preheat oven to 250°F.
Mix the milk powder, flour, cornstarch, sugar and salt in a small bowl, then pour in melted butter and stir it together until it looks like sandy pebbles.
Spread the crumbs onto a cookie sheet lined (I used a Silpat) and bake it at 250 for 20 minutes.
Take the crumbs out and let them cool, then toss them with another 1/4 cup of milk powder, and then drizzle with the melted white chocolate and continue tossing them until they are no longer sticky.
*Many thanks to President Butter & Cream for letting me use their butters for this recipe.