Aunt Sassy Cake
This weekend, Scott and I are journeying the long 40-minutes to Delaware to celebrate his Dad’s birthday. Aside from enjoying the company of his family and going out for a delicious meal, I’ve been looking forward to this occasion because it gave me the perfect reason to finally bake the Aunt Sassy Cake! This cake comes from Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito in their book Baked Explorations. Its three tiers of moist pistachio heaven, cut with layers of fluffy honey-vanilla buttercream, and just from the photo and recipe alone I was sold. Scott’s Dad happens to be a fan of the alluring pistachio so it works perfectly. While I have yet to slice into my Aunt Sassy Cake, I did get a few good tastes of it in the process, munching on the delicious scraps of cake that I sliced off the layers when making them flatter. I recommend you save some of the scraps for when you have frosting ready to taste them with! But, I certainly can’t wait to get my hands on a whole slice of this amazing confection!
If you want to make the process a bit easier on yourself (as I did), you can bake the cake layers up to a week in advance, seal them air-tight in Ziplock bags and stick them in the freezer until you’re ready to build your cake. Once ready, just let your layers defrost before assembling (plus, its easier to frost a cold cake anyway). I also recommend you make sure, if your cake has to travel, that your cake carrier can fit a three tiered cake! This one was a close call, so make sure you don’t overfill your inside layers with frosting.
Aunt Sassy Cake from Baked Explorations
Ingredients for the Cake:
- 1 cup shelled pistachios
- 2 ½ cups cake flour
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup vegetable shortening
- 1 ¾ cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
Ingredients for the Honey Vanilla Buttercream:
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cups whole milk
- ⅓ cup heavy cream
- 1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into small pieces
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons honey
Ingredients for Assembly:
- ⅓ cup crushed shelled pistachios
Make the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, and butter the parchment. Dust the parchment with flour and knock out the excess flour.
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the pistachios until they are coarsely chopped. Transfer about 2 tablespoons’ worth of the coarse pistachios to a large bowl. Continue to process the rest of the pistachios until they are almost powdery—but not a superfine dust. Stir the pistachio powder into the reserved coarse pistachios. Sift the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together over the large bowl containing the pistachio mix. Stir to combine.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening on medium speed until creamy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl, add the whole egg, and beat until just combined. Turn the mixer to low.
In a measuring cup, make 1 ½ cups ice water. Add the flour mixture to the mixer in three parts, alternating with the ice water, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. For each addition, turn the mixer to low to add ingredients, then up to medium speed for a few seconds until incorporated. Scrape down the bowl, then mix on low speed for a few more seconds.
In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form (You can do this by hand. Don’t be intimidated, it should only take 2 to 3 minutes). Do not overbeat. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.
Divide the batter among the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the rack and let cool completely. Remove the parchment paper.
Make the Honey Vanilla Buttercream:
In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together. Add the milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until cool (this takes at least 7 to 9 minutes of mixing; you can speed up the process by pressing bags of frozen berries or frozen corn against the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl). Reduce the speed to low and add the butter; mix until thoroughly incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the vanilla and honey and continue mixing until combined. If the frosting is too soft, put the bowl in the refrigerator to chill slightly, then beat again until it is the proper consistency. If the frosting is too firm, set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and beat with a wooden spoon until it is the proper consistency.
Assemble the Cake:
Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Trim the top to create a flat surface, and evenly spread about 1 ¼ cups frosting on top. Add the next layer, trim and frost it, then add the third layer. Spread a very thin layer of frosting over the sides and top of the cake and put it in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to firm up. (This is known as crumb coating and will help to keep loose cake crumbs under control when you frost the outside of the cake.) Spread the sides and top of the cake with the remaining frosting. Garnish the cake with crushed pistachios and refrigerate it for 15 minutes to it firm up before serving.
This cake will keep beautifully in a cake saver at room temperature for up to 3 days, if the weather is cool and humidity free. Otherwise, put it in a cake saver and refrigerate it for up to 3 days. Let the cake sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours before serving.