I'm a big fan of what in France they like to call "Weekend" cakes, simple sweet loaves that are perfect to wrap and take into the country for a weekend picnic. One of my favorite such loaves is a glazed lemon cake by Pierre Hermé that I made countless times while living in France. It was a huge hit with the kids, so I was always under the gun to make sure that there was at least one on the counter and one in our tiny freezer as a back-up.
I promise to make you one of Pierre's cakes the next time I have a few extra lemons about, but today we're talking about a nut loaf that I find nearly as charming. I encountered the original of this recipe recently when doing some testing, and have since made it in a number of variations. In fact, due to the ease with which we can now find almond and hazelnut meal/flour in the market (I use Bob's Red Mill brand), making one of those variants is even easier than this original pistachio version because you don't need to grind the nuts yourself. Try your hand at creating your own versions of this simple treat by using walnuts, macadamias, or some combination of nuts that floats your boat both as a nut flour and as a crunchy, decorative topping.
I suppose you could even make it simpler by serving it plain, without the sugar glaze topping, but for the life of me I can't understand why you would. Really, don't even think about it. I have included the original recipe for the pistachio cake below, to transform this into a "pick your favorite nut cake", just substitute your favorite for the pistachios and keep the rest of the recipe the same. Serve slices straight up, with a dollop of whipped cream, a handful of fresh berries, or lightly grilled and topped with a scoop of your favorite ice cream.
Cheers – Steve
for the pound cake:
- 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 3 large eggs
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup whole milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 2/3 cup ground pistachios (or other nut of your choice)
for the glaze:
- 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream
- 1/4 crushed pistachios (or other nut of your choice)
- Heat the oven to 325℉. Line a 9 X 5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on the two long sides. Butter the pan and the parchment.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and honey on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Add the flour and the milk alternatively in five parts, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat on medium high for about 20 second between each addition, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and the ground pistachios. Beat on low until combined.
- Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour and 30 to 1 hour and 40 minutes, or until cracked on top and a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. After 1 hour of baking, cover the cake with aluminum foil to keep the top from becoming too brown.
- Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack set over wax paper to cool completely.
- Make the pistachio glaze by combining the confectioner's sugar, butter, honey, and cream in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to bubble. Continue to cook for 1 more minute while continuing to stir. Remove the glaze from the heat.
- Slowly spoon the glaze over the top of the cooled cake, allowing it to soak in between spoonfuls. Some will run down the sides. Sprinkle the crushed pistachios over the top of the cake and let sit 1 hour before serving.