The cake of the week for the Heavenly Cake bake-along is Sicilian Pistachio Cake, a single layer butter cake with ground pistachios in the cake, frosted with Golden Buttercream flavored with pistachio (optionally) and blanched slivered pistachios on the sides and top. The theme is green...St. Patrick's Day approaches.
By far the most difficult part of this cake was dealing with the pistachios. I bought shelled raw nuts, but had to blanch them myself, then sliver those designated for exterior decoration. (OK, I could've just chopped them. Next time I will, or will just pay the money and order the fancy imported nuts.) Once blanched, the skins do not always slip off easily, so the task stretches out depending on how anal-retentive one is on skin removal. My A-R level declined rapidly as the evening wore on. Then the nuts must dry out from the blanching. I missed the note about just letting them sit at room temperature and toasted them in a low oven, getting some light browning, and thus my finished cake didn't have quite as clean a green color as it would've. On the other hand, I might still be waiting for the nuts to dry out had I tried the other way...
The pistachio blanching and slivering having stretched into the wee hours, I tackled the actual cake the next day. Everything went smoothly with the cake and buttercream. I learned my lesson from earlier attempts at 'real' buttercream, and pulled out the hand-help mixer to avoid the splattering of sugar syrup onto the sides of the mixing bowl from whence it would get into the frosting and form little lumps. I did have golden syrup to use instead of white corn syrup, and that added to the golden color of the finished frosting. I'd also run down some pistachio flavoring--not the 'essence' Rose calls for, but a teeny bottle of LorAnn 'flavoring' intended for candy-making. I was uncertain of the strength and only added 2 drops to the frosting. After tasting the result, 3 or 4 would not have been too much.
Tasting results: This cake didn't wow anyone for taste despite its very pretty appearance, but everyone liked it. Several people thought it a little dry--I personally thought it right on the edge, but still OK. Perhaps the overnight wait before we cut the cake was a bad idea and this one should be eaten immediately. Or perhaps the ground nuts that give the light, delicate texture also give a somewhat dry mouth-feel. The other comment is that the pistachio flavor is very subtle in both cake and frosting, and we'd all have preferred a little stronger taste. A few drops of that pistachio flavoring in the cake batter wouldn't have been amiss, at least with my batch of pistachio nuts.