Tag Archives: nuts

the wedding cake finally made: pistachio mousse & cherry layers

It has been two weeks since the wedding – a crazy, unusual, exciting two weeks of house hunting filled with things I’ve never had to think about before, like standard variable mortgage rates, and freehold vs leasehold, and why combi boilers are better than condensing ones. But that’s a whole other story – for another day’s rationalisation of why we’ve settled on a flat with a kitchen that has no oven and hasn’t been updated since the 1960s. 

I’ve only just about managed to get the stickiness off my revolting rented linoleum kitchen floor. In the franticness that led up to the completion of the cake all manner of meringue, cake mixture, sugar, eggs and frosting ended up splattered and trampled into the floor.

Was the wedding cake a success? I grimace at the question – I was not entirely happy with it. Or should I rephrase and say that it just didn’t look exactly how I imagined it would. Some of it was out of my control – the avalanche roses and blooming blue irises that were meant to wedge the two tiers together in a statement of floral opulence were left out of water overnight by the florist. And so when I got them, the few I could use were so wilted they couldn’t hold their shape, let alone fill the gap between the two tiers. This also meant that the tiny imperfections at the bottom of the top tier were very visible. I had hoped they would be hidden behind big curling petals, but alas.

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hazelnut praline

100g hazelnuts
50g caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 170°C (150°C for fan oven). Place the hazelnuts directly onto a baking tray and toast in the oven for 20 minutes. While the nuts are toasting, put the caster sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan and heat over a medium heat until it melts. Watch it constantly so that it does not burn.

As the sugar begins to turn golden and caramelise, add the hazelnuts and stir to coat them in the syrup. Continue stirring over a medium heat until golden brown. Pour the mixture out onto a baking tray lined with grease proof parchment and allow to cool.

Break the solid mass of nuts into chunks, place in a food processor and pulse blitz to desired chunkiness or powderyness. I blitzed mine until quite fine – ensuring I didn’t over blitz it as this will then turn from powder into paste. Alternatively you can bash them with a rolling-pin.


the wedding cake: pistachio paste

Sitting on the floor – somewhat bewildered, that Sunday after the happy couple came round for the first time – frantically thumbing through my books looking to be inspired by something impressive I came across a decadent looking layered pistachio cheesecake. A combination of creamy pistachio cheesecake, little cubes of syrup soaked sour cherries in the middle topped with a pistachio mousse and then sprinkled with ground pistachios.

This was my starting point for putting the wedding cake together. Stumbling at the first hurdle though, every component of this cake needed pistachio paste. I’d never seen in it supermarkets, but presumed it would be easy enough to find in London – I mean you can practically buy anything if you’re willing to spend a bit in fancy specialist food stores. I googled it, and although pistachio paste is a common ingredient in French and Italian baking, I couldn’t find a single source to buy it from in the United Kingdom. Ordering from online shops in France was easy enough but paying £25 with postage for a small jar of paste seemed obscene.  So, my only other option was to make it.

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crushed pistachio shortbread

I sit in the cosy, heated front room looking out at the grey light turning to dusk hours before the end of the afternoon. I can still faintly smell the sweetness of freshly baked shortbread coming from the kitchen, and in the winter bleakness cannot begin to imagine the dry heat that surrounded me the last time I had a square of melting shortbread.

It was in December whilst road tripping in South Africa. At the end of a week of lazy days in the small Karoo town of Uniondale my Mom and I – with the intrepid fox terrier in tow – set off on the three-hour journey to Port Elizabeth to fetch my sister-in-law and nine-month-old nephew. The one thing Uniondale lacks – like so many small Karoo towns – is decent coffee, freshly percolated through fine roasted and ground espresso beans. It had been weeks since I’d had my usual morning cappuccino hit from one of the many coffee shops that lie between my apartment and work.

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creamy peanut butter pie

This is a pie for Mikey. This is a pie for everyone I love. I never met Mikey, nor his beautiful wife Jennie and their two daughters, but I identify immensely with their story. Jennie is a food blogger in New York whose world changed instantly when Mikey died very unexpectedly four weeks ago today. A heart attack, like my Dad ten months ago. Both brutally decades too early.

Jennie had been meaning to make Mikey’s favourite peanut butter pie for him and now it’s too late. So she put it out to the food blogging community – a strangely close community separated by millions of miles yet tied closely together by their shared love for food – to make this pie and share it with those they love, “then hug them like there’s no tomorrow because today is the only guarantee we can count on”.

So I made this pie and shared it with those I love who are close enough to have tea and pie with – and sent virtual hugs to those not close enough. It’s sweet and delicious and comes from In Jennie’s Kitchen.

225g chocolate cookies
4 tbs butter, melted
115g finely chopped dark chocolate chips
60g chopped peanuts
240ml heavy cream
225g cream cheese
225g smooth peanut butter
225g confectioner’s sugar
420ml sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Add the cookies to the bowl of a food processor and pulse into fine crumbs.  Combine melted butter and cookie crumbs in a small bowl, and stir with a fork to mix well.  Press mixture into the bottom and 1-inch up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan. 

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave.  Pour over bottom of cookie crust and spread to the edges using an off-set spatula.  Sprinkle chopped peanuts over the melted chocolate. Place pan in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

Pour the heavy cream into a bowl and beat using a stand mixer or hand mixer until stiff peaks form.  Transfer to a small bowl and store in refrigerator until ready to use.  Place the cream cheese and peanut butter in a deep bowl.  Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Reduce speed to low and gradually beat in the confectioner’s sugar.  Add the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract and lemon juice. Increase speed to medium and beat until all the ingredients are combined and filling is smooth.

Stir in 1/3 of the whipped cream into the filling mixture (helps lighten the batter, making it easier to fold in the remaining whipped cream).  Fold in the remaining whipped cream.  Pour the filling into the prepared springform pan.  Drizzle the melted chocolate on top, if using, and refrigerate for three hours or overnight before serving.


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