PICNIC ANTICS

April 12, 2017

White Chocolate and Pistachio Cake

london was in full bloom this weekend. Temperatures soaring above 20C officially announced that every single British person should whip out their summer wardrobe in an instant. Minus the suncream, for the brave. My priorities were somewhat askew when the first things that came to mind were cake, prosecco and strawberries: the necessities of summer soirées. Homemade picnics are the bomb; think creamy potato salads tossed with spring onions, quiche lorraine and chunks of French cheese, grapes from the vine with much-needed chilled rosé and bubbles to wash it all down.

So I spent the morning preparing a light but delicious cake that would satisfy the hunger of the Arup football team and compliment our nibbles and drinks delightfully. A light breeze ruffled the air, but the smell of fresh grass and the pinky-white blossom cascading from the bows in Regent's Park gave London its beauty, bathed, glistening in sunshine. The childlike excitement of seeing familiar faces, eyes wide and smiles beaming, a testament to the friendships fused over the years. We munched our way through cheese and cornbread, guzzled fizz and pulled out the croquet set to see if we were well and truly British. After completing two full games, of which I lost both, a mélange of franglais and a little bit more tipple, it was time for my cake to get eaten! 

The guys finished up their football match, t-shirts mottled with perspiration, rosy cheeks, hungover bodies and lazy legs collapsing upon the grass ready to devour the feast we'd laid out before them. This cake had to be finished, for I was not carrying it home with me. Delegating this accolade of Chief Cake-Cutter to one of the guys, he certainly did not fail at the task at hand, the soft crumbs and smear of buttercream coating my plastic tupperware box a tell-tale sign it had been enjoyed by all. 

As the sun set behind the rows of trees, and the cold chill picked up in the air, it was time to kiss the day goodbye (even if we never wanted it to end!) and hope for more summer evenings to come our way, just like this one... 




White Chocolate and Pistachio Cake

For the cake
220g unsalted butter, softened
220g caster sugar
4 large eggs
250g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
100ml whole milk
50g coarsely chopped pistachios
50g white chocolate buttons, roughly chopped

For the icing
150g white chocolate 
150g unsalted butter, softened
150g icing sugar
2tsp vanilla bean paste
Handful of pistachios, to garnish

For the cake
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F then butter and line two 8-inch cake tins.
2. Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric whisk, then add the eggs one at a time, incorporating well each time. 
3. Next, add the flour, baking powder and milk then whisk for 1 minute until light and creamy.
4. Fold in the pistachios and white chocolate with a spatula.
5. Once mixed, divide the mixture between the two cake tins, smooth out the top and bake for 30mins until a skewer comes out clean.
6. Leave to cool in the tins for a few minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely before icing.

For the icing
1. Gently melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Leave it aside to cool slightly whilst you cream the butter and icing sugar.
2. Add the melted chocolate to the buttercream with the vanilla paste and mix well until it becomes light and creamy. 
3. Make sure your cake is completely cool, then sandwich the two cakes together with the icing in the middle and spread the rest of the icing over the top and sides of the cake. To finish, sprinkle a handle of pistachios over the top. 

N.B. You can also add 1tsp crushed cardamom to the cake mixture when you add the flour to give it a twist!

Recipe by Chetan Makan

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