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Parmesan Pistachio Cake with Basil-Infused Stewed Apricots

This rich, nutty, dreamily moist Parmesan Pistachio Cake is easy to make, can and should be made in advance, and travels well, making it perfect for brunch, potlucks, and picnics. {Jump to Recipe

Parmesan Pistachio Cake with Basil-Infused Stewed Apricots // FoodNouveau.com

I find very few cakes more satisfying to eat than hearty, nut-based cakes. You might be familiar with Torta di Mandorla, or Italian almond tart: its texture is a bit tighter than your usual sponge cake, yet fluffy, dreamily moist, and so, so flavorful. Nut-based cakes can look humble, and indeed they aren’t fussy: they’re easy to make, can be made in advance (and in fact, they should be!), travel well, and don’t need much adornment. They’re the kind of cakes that stand proud on their own. Simply dust the top with some powdered sugar and let the flavors speak for themselves.

I’ve made my share of almond cakes over the years, but after visiting Sicily a few years ago, I started substituting my favorite nut—pistachio—in the cake. Not only did it make the cake visually striking, but the soft flavor of pistachios combined with lemon zest developed a delightful, complex flavor over days. This Parmesan Pistachio Cake is a treat to keep under a cloche on the countertop for everyone to grab a slice at will. It’s great for dessert, but also for breakfast and brunch. And perfect for picnics!

Parmesan Pistachio Cake with Basil-Infused Stewed Apricots // FoodNouveau.com

You might be intrigued by the mention of “parmesan” in the recipe title. Let me explain: the pastry chef of my favorite Quebec City restaurant, Battuto, likes to play with Parmigiano-Reggiano in desserts. At Battuto, desserts sometimes come with a fresh, cloud-like grating of the sharp Italian cheese, adding an irresistible savory note to the dish. I was surprised when I saw it the first time, yet I “got it” right away. In fact, I wish I’d thought of using Parmigiano-Reggiano in desserts myself! Many pastry chefs love to walk the fine line between sweet and savory, and this is often what makes their desserts so appealing and distinct from homemade desserts, in my opinion.

But there’s no reason why a homemade dessert can’t taste as sophisticated and complex as a restaurant dessert does, and so I started playing with that Parmigiano-Reggiano-sweet flavor combination immediately after first tasting it. I love when a trick from a professional chef can be so easily emulated at home: it doesn’t make your life in the kitchen any harder, yet produces an incredibly interesting result. Not to mention using parmesan in your dessert is a sure-fire conversation starter!

In this Parmesan Pistachio Cake, Parmigiano-Reggiano replaces the usual pinch of salt and adds a subtle nutty kick that beautifully underlines the pistachio-lemon combination.

Parmesan Pistachio Cake with Basil-Infused Stewed Apricots // FoodNouveau.com

You can certainly serve this cake on its own, but the addition of quickly stewed, basil-infused apricots is a lovely addition when the fruits are in season. When boiled quickly in a sugar syrup, the apricots keep their shape but soften to the spoon-tender stage. They also release some of their juice into the syrup, which the Parmesan Pistachio Cake will soak up delightfully.

Parmesan Pistachio Cake with Basil-Infused Stewed Apricots // FoodNouveau.com

Helpful Tips for Making Parmesan Pistachio Cake with Basil-Infused Stewed Apricots

  • Be picky with your parmesan: In this Parmesan Pistachio Cake, it’s absolutely essential to use genuine Parmigiano-Reggiano. You don’t want to add cheesiness to the cake, but flavor. This hard Italian cheese has that inimitable nutty taste you want to infuse the cake with. Authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano has a stamped rind, is aged at least 12 months, and is usually labeled with its original Italian name (as opposed to just “parmesan.”) Look for finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (powder-like consistency), or buy a block and grate it very finely using a Microplane.
  • Go nuts for pistachios: This Parmesan Pistachio Cake requires the use of shelled, unsalted nuts. Shelled pistachios come in two forms: skin-on, or peeled. Peeled pistachios (sometimes called “blanched pistachios”) are more expensive and are best reserved for garnishing. If you wanted to go fancy, you could, for example, use skin-on pistachios in the cake, and use ground peeled pistachios to sprinkle over the cake for a gorgeous pop of color. You can buy shelled pistachios in bulk—in Canada, I order them from Yupik on Amazon.ca at a fraction of the price in stores or even from wholesalers.
  • …Or switch things up with almonds: You can make this cake using almonds, too. Follow these quantities to ensure the cake will turn up beautifully:
  • Use ripe, but firm apricots: The apricots will keep their shape better if you use fruits that are ever-so-slightly underripe, or barely ripe. The fruits you use should be firm to the touch, but not hard. If you use very ripe, soft apricots, the fruits will melt into the syrup and you’ll get a compote—which will be just as delicious, but give a different appearance.
  • Serve the stewed apricots with this cake, and also with everything else: These basil-infused stewed apricots are also delicious with pancakes, crepes, yogurt, granola, oatmeal, gelato, panna cotta, angel food cake—in other words, pretty much anything you can think of.
 

 

Parmesan Pistachio Cake with Basil-Infused Stewed Apricots

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 8 servings

This rich, nutty, dreamily moist Parmesan Pistachio Cake is easy to make, can and should be made in advance, and travels well, making it perfect for brunch, potlucks, and picnics.

Ingredients

For the Parmesan Pistachio Cake

For the Basil-Infused Stewed Apricots

  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) water
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
  • 1 lb (450 g) whole, ripe but firm apricots, halved and pitted (about 9 to 12 fruits)
  • 8 medium-sized fresh basil leaves

Instructions

For the Parmesan Pistachio Cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Lightly grease a 9-in (23-cm) round baking pan with a removable bottom, then line the bottom with parchment paper.

Measure 1/4 cup (60 ml) of the pistachios and set them aside in a small bowl. Place the flour, remaining pistachios, and lemon zest in a food processor. Blend until the pistachios are finely ground. Transfer to a bowl, then whisk in the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and baking powder. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large mixing bowl if using a hand mixer, add the eggs and sugar and beat until fluffy and pale, about 2 minutes. Mix in the oil, then add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Pour the Parmesan Pistachio Cake batter into the prepared pan. Coarsely chop the saved 1/4 cup (60 ml) pistachios and sprinkle over the cake. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the cake is puffed and golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and let cool to room temperature. Once cool, wrap tightly in plastic and let rest at room temperature overnight. The cake is tasty right away, but the flavors will deepen and improve as the cake rests for a few hours.

For the Basil-Infused Stewed Apricots: In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, whisk together the sugar, water, and lemon juice. Simmer until the sugar is fully melted. Lay the apricot halves side-by-side, cut-side down, into the syrup. Simmer for 3 minutes. Turn each of the apricots, push the basil into the syrup, and simmer for an additional 2 minutes, or until the apricots are tender but not breaking down. (Decrease the cooking times if the apricots you’re using are very ripe.) Remove from the heat, let the stewed apricots cool completely in the skillet, then transfer them with the syrup and basil leaves to a glass jar or airtight container.

TO SERVE: Serve the Parmesan Pistachio Cake at room temperature accompanied by room temperature or slightly reheated Basil-Infused Stewed Apricots and Vanilla Bean Gelato, if desired.

STORAGE: The Parmesan Pistachio Cake will keep, wrapped in plastic, in an airtight container, or under a cake dome, at room temperature for up to 3 days. The Basil-Infused Stewed Apricots will keep, refrigerated, for up to 3 days.

Courses Dessert

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Homemade Angel Food Cake with Lemon Curd, Maple-Roasted Strawberries, and Pistachio Crumbs {+ How To Video} // FoodNouveau.com

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A Spectacular Lemony Zucchini Cake, a recipe from the book Layered bu Tessa Huff // FoodNouveau.com

What do you think of this recipe? Got any questions? Let's chat!
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7 Responses to Parmesan Pistachio Cake with Basil-Infused Stewed Apricots

  1. Made this yesterday (the same day I saw it on Tastespotting), let it sit overnight, and tried it this morning. What a great breakfast pastry! This is one of the most unusual cakes I’ve ever made in terms of ingredients, yet it’s actually quite similar to a homey cornbread. Thanks for this recipe!

    • I’m happy you liked it! Did you make it with gruyère? I love it for breakfast too, much more elegant than my usual PB toast :)

      • I followed the recipe to the letter (including the gruyère), and it turned out great. The texture was really interesting, and I think the cheese contributed to that. The cheese flavor was very subtle, as well.

  2. Oooh, another cheese region to dream about and (one day) discover! I love sweet and savory, so this cake is going on my “to make” list.

    • I think you would love the gourmand side of Quebec, there’s lots to discover! Now that you’ll be living States side again, maybe you could come up to Montreal & Quebec City for a little vacation – I’d gladly show you around! :)

  3. J’adore le Tomme des demoiselles. J’en mets partout. Sur mon blogue, j’y consacre justement un billet et une recette. Fière de manger des Fromages d’ici! :) Et cette recette est clairement à essayer!

    • C’est la première fois que j’y goûte et je suis tombée sous le charme, exactement dans le genre de mes fromages favoris! Ce gâteau est fantastique, mais je viens aussi d’aller voir ta salade et je suis convaincue, je la fais ce weekend :)

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