Monday, July 15, 2013

Watergate Trifle

My baby girl just turned 2 last week, and I had spent this past spring trying to decide on what kind of cake to make her this year. Last year's was my mother's 'infamous' carrot cake, which was a big crowd pleaser as well as being really enjoyed by my daughter - at least the parts that made it into her mouth. I wanted a memorable cake with a frosting to match, and  wouldn't be too fussy to decorate. 

One of my favorite cakes of all time is Martha Stewart's Glorious Wedding Cake that she made on Baking with Julia, and I've watched this episode more times than I can count. For my golden birthday (27), I requested my mother to make a small scale version of this cake for me, since at the time I was fully opposed to ever getting married. The cake was amazing, and lasted for days even with sharing, since it is a very dense and rich dessert. Thankfully, I met my husband only a couple months later and got to enjoy this cake (full scale version) all over again when we got married. I thought it would be a great thing to make for my daughter this year.

I began my search online for some inexpensive, high quality almond paste for the cake, and stumbled upon pistachio paste. I felt like a dummy for never realizing this stuff existed. My plans were at a standstill, since I knew I had to make a cake using this new 'discovery'. Then I remembered Watergate Cake. Some of you may be familiar with the recipe that combines a box of white cake mix with 7up and a box of pistachio pudding mix.  I wanted to make something that would be a little more 'high brow' I guess you could say, but in reality just taste a whole lot better. 

And I knew it had to be a trifle - beautiful, yet virtually no decorating (as in not rolling out and food safe color powder dusting dozens of marzipan cherries). I still got to use Martha's recipe for the dense cake, I just swapped the almond paste for pistachio. And good ol' America's Test Kitchen came in handy once again with their recipe for banana pudding that I adapted for the trifle. My good friend Diane who has had lots more experience than I at making many exciting cakes, including the petit fours for my baby shower, graciously accepted my 'invitation' to help me make this dessert. I probably could have done it with out her, but not without it completely bombing in one way or another, and me losing my head. 

This trifle can be made several days before it is needed since the elements keep well in the fridge if tightly wrapped. It should be assembled the night before you plan to serve, in order for the cake to absorb some of the rich pudding and the flavors to meld.


for the cake:       

1 cup packed pistachio paste
2 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
6 large eggs
1 cup sifted cake flour

Preheat oven to 325*. Butter and flour a standard size loaf pan. 

Blend butter, paste and sugar in standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment for 1 minute till smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl once (batter will be a tad gritty from the paste). Replace the whisk for the paddle attachment. Add eggs one at a time and blend on medium speed for 3 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl twice during this time. The batter should be very glossy and satiny. 

Remove bowl from mixer and sprinkle in a little the flour at a time and fold it in with a rubber spatula. Batter should have the consistency of light marshmallow fluff. Pour into pan, smooth top and gently drop it on a counter a couple times to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 1 1/2 hours to 1 hour 45 minutes, or till cake tester (long bamboo skewer worked best for me) comes out with only a few crumbs attached. Remove cake and let rest for 20 minutes before removing from pan and cool for 2 hours. Wrap tightly in a few layers of plastic wrap and place into the refrigerator till ready to use.

for the pudding:

8 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cup sugar, divided
6 Tbsp corn starch
6 cups half and half
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp pistachio extract
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice

Whisk the yolks, 1/2 cup sugar and corn starch together till they turn a pale yellow. Bring the half and half, salt and 1 cup sugar to a simmer in a large non-anodized pot (such as an enameled cast iron dutch oven) over medium heat, stirring often. Do not let this come to a boil.

Temper the yolks by adding about a 1/2 cup of the warm dairy mixture to them and whisking well. Whisk the tempered yolks into the the half and half, and whisk constantly till the mixture has thickened and there are small bubbles around the edge of the pan. 

Pour this mixture into a large bowl and stir in the butter, pistachio extract and citrus juices. Let cool for a few minutes, then place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Place into the refrigerator until completely cooled, about 3 hours.

for assembly you'll need:

1 pint heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp powdered sugar
1 tsp good vanilla extract
3/4 lb shelled pistachios - I used 1/2 salted and 1/2 unsalted, but the choose to combine or not, as well as the ratio, is up to you.

When ready to assemble, a trifle dish is ideal (you can find them almost anywhere and they are inexpensive) yet a large clear glass bowl would work fine as well. Remove any hardened edges from the cake with a good serrated knife, then cut into about 1 1/2 inch cubes. Place the cubes of cake into a tight single layer in the bottom of your dish. Evenly spoon over about 1/3 of your pudding. Sprinkle a layer of the pistachios, ensuring they are evenly dispersed, especially at the edges. Continue this process till all the cake and pudding is in the dish. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and pop into the fridge for 8 hours, or preferably overnight.

When ready to serve, whip the cream, sugar and vanilla until it's softly whipped- a firm, overly whipped cream isn't desired here, since it will clash with the textures of the trifle. Smooth the whipped cream evenly over the top of the trifle, and sprinkle any extra pistachios on top. Serve in large bowls, with big spoons.
 Pistachio Cake recipe barely adapted from Martha Stewart's Glorious Wedding Cake from
Baking With Julia

Pistachio Pudding recipe adapted from America's Test Kitchen's Banana Pudding

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