You Bake, You Learn: Pistachio Pound Cake

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Ok, seriously, I don’t know how the hell you are supposed to bake successfully at altitude. I live 5,280 feet above sea level (and have my whole life), and am yet to master the secrets of making baked goods delicious on every single attempt. Sometimes I make stuff and it turns out splendidly (see Chocolate Gingerbread or Pecan Pie Muffins for proof). Sometimes I make stuff, and it’s slightly questionable. Like this Pistachio Pound Cake, the recipe for which I found in Pinterest, so I am totally pulling a “Pinterest Fail,” and blaming it on faulty boards. Or something.

It’s not that the bread isn’t delicious, it’s just that of course 1 hour and 15 minutes into baking (at which point it was supposed to be done), it was still runny on the inside. I covered it with tin foil to keep the top from burning, but an extra 25 minutes in the oven caused it to become a bit hard on the outside. This can be ameliorated with a quick 20 seconnd microwave zap before serving (ala mode, DUH!), but I am kind of a perfectionist, so staring at this hardened loaf of bread for the last few days knowing it isn’t exactly as I had dreamed has left me…crestfallen.

After chatting with some fellow baker ladies, and consulting this handy little guide on All Recipes, I have realized I need to add more liquid, reduce sugar, and increase temperature to prevent my sweets from quickly-rising, then falling, then turning into a hard dry loaf of dense sadness. Look, we still ate this bread, warmed, with white chocolate ice cream, and it was delicious. Warm and nutty, sweet and…dry. The adjusted recipe is below. God speed.

You bake. You learn.

Pistachio Pound Cake

(adapted from Leite’s Culinaria, makes one 9″x5″ loaf)

For the pound cake:

  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (minus 2 tablespoons if at altitude)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (I substituted one cup with whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 1/3 cup whole milk or unsweetened almond milk (1/2 cup milk if at altitude)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2/3 cup ground pistachios

For the glaze:

  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup crushed pistachios

1. Preheat the oven to 325* (350* if at altitude). Line a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on the 2 long sides of the pan. Butter the pan and parchment.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the 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, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

3. Add the flour and the milk to the creamed egg mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat on medium-high for about 20 seconds between additions, stopping and scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and the pistachios and beat on low just until combined.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the cake is cracked on top and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Take a peek at the cake after around 45 minutes and if it’s beginning to brown quite a lot, cover the cake with aluminum foil to prevent the top from becoming too brown.

5. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then either grab the parchment overhang and carefully unmold the loaf or invert the loaf onto a wire rack. Remove the parchment and slide it under the wire rack. Let the loaf cool completely

6. While the cake cools, combine the confectioners’ sugar, butter, honey, and cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. (If you prefer a simple, runny glaze, heat just until the mixture is combined. If you prefer a sticky, candylike glaze, cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to bubble. Continue to cook, still stirring, for 1 minute. Remove the glaze from the heat.)

7. Slowly spoon the warm glaze over the cake, allowing it to soak in between spoonfuls. Some of the glaze will inevitably run down the sides of the cake. Sprinkle the crushed pistachios over the cake and let it cool for 1 hour before slicing and serving. Serve warm, with freshly whipped cream or ala mode.

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4 thoughts on “You Bake, You Learn: Pistachio Pound Cake

  1. But here’s the thing- I’m hesitant to make the high altitude adjustments, because 85% of the time, I have no problem at all! I almost prefer the slight unpredictability. I think the only option is for you to move to San Diego with me and we will start a pie and cake shop and serve wine.

  2. But here’s the thing- I’m hesitant to make the high altitude adjustments, because 85% of the time, I have no problem at all! I almost prefer the slight unpredictability. I think the only option is for you to move to San Diego with me and we will start a pie and cake shop and serve wine.

    • see, normally i don’t adjust because i agree, baking is an adventure! i am just so depressed by this hardened pound cake, i had been dreaming of it for weeks. as for san diego, i am packing my things now.

      • I had a overdone coffeecake ‘adventure’ last week. I feel your pain. I just wanted to eat some cake for breakfast. Is that so much to ask???

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