Monday, September 28, 2009

Pistachio Cardamom Cake - and a Review of "Eat Cake" by Jeanne Ray

This is the type of cake that makes you want to climb into it, wrap yourself in its warm buttery layers and fall asleep in sweet cardamom-scented pillows.
Then you wake up and realise you need a new pair of pants, because the old ones ain't gonna fit no more.
Blissfully rich, sinfully decadent and perfumed with exotic cardamom, this cake has the power to invoke world peace, because the only fighting thats going to be going down is for the last slice. And crumb...
If I would change anything the next time I make this cake, it would be to reduce the butter content, because the pistachios release their oils while baking, making for a very buttery and heavy cake. The cake is best eaten warm out of the oven too.
But lets forget about weight issues, and move back to the source of this recipe - which was the book "Eat Cake" by Jeanne Ray - the September choice of the Books That Make Us Cook club - an internet band of cooking rogues, who like to cook their books.
Ruth, the protagonist, likes to distance herself from reality by invisioning herself in cake. INSIDE cake that is.
It is her innovative escape mechanism from the troubles of her world, that start to alarmingly multiply as she struggles with her rebellious daughter, recently laid-off husband who wants to ditch his worldy woes and set sail around them instead, her cantankerous absentee father and wholly dependent single mother. The weight of the world falls on Ruth's shoulders and her profound solution - bake more cakes.
Ruth is not a strong woman. She meekly sidesteps all her issues by baking, and baking, and baking (while providing recipes for us readers for some decadent cakes - Score! The book comes complete with 13 recipes) . Carrot Cake as a vegetable side dish, anyone? She doubts herself throughout and at a point in her life when she could make a change and promote positive change in all the negativity around her, she does a double-take and succumbs to her lack of self-esteem.
"Eat Cake" is a light read, and there is a silver lining to all the doom and gloom portrayed above. Everything magically comes together like whipped cream, old wounds heal, new relationships foster, and Ruth finds herself at the helm of a successful business venture. No guesses there as to what that venture might be. Pass the napkin please, I have some buttercream to wipe off....
I didn't quite resonate with Ruth's character. She's weak and suprememely unconfident. But she is a loving daughter, and concerned wife, but so much so that it seems to be at her own expense. The book relies too heavily on several Cinderella Fairy Godmother type personalities who suddenly appear, transforming situations and themselves for the sake of Ruth and paving a path for all. If only things were so sweet in real life.
But for now, at least take a slice of this cake, and dream on.
For more reviews and spin on cakes that featured in the book - visit
Simran - who did a twist on the pista cake, and chose almonds and coconut for hers.
Jaya - who wisely chose to stay away from the cakes, but was the first to do a review of the book.
Curry Leaf - who smartly took a healthy route and made a carrot cake in the microwave.

Pistachio Cardamom Cake (Gourmet Magazine 2001 and featured in "Eat Cake" - a Novel by Jeanne Ray)3/4 cup shelled pistachios
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cardamom powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Grease or spray a 13 x 9 inch cake pan with non-stick spray
3. Pulse pistachios in food processor till finely ground (do not grind to paste!). Add flour, baking powder, cardamom and salt and pulse till just mixed.
4. Combine milk and vanilla in separate dish.
5. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl till pale and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Alternately add pistachio flour and milk in batches until just combined.
6. Spread batter into prepared cake pan, bake about 20 minutes or until tester comes out clean.
7. Best served warm!
I would also like to send this lovely, decadent cake to Meeta's Monthly Mingle - this month the theme is "High Tea Treats". The event is hosted this month by Aparna @ My Diverse Kitchen.


Jaya Wagle said...

I totally agree with you on Ruth's character and the resignation with which she goes about every misfortune. Loved your review.
Ann, you are a braver soul than Ruth or me. I did not have the patience or the stomach to make those sinfully delicious but complicated cakes.
Usually Simran and some others do a little roundup with their posts. I think it is up to the individual. There are no hard and fast rules. Even the deadline is very flexible.

Simran said...

Welcome to the club.

So glad that you did make the real pistachio cake! It looks awesome (and don't even get me started about needing new pair of pants!)

Nags said...

just read the book myself and liked it. reading another work of hers now - Romeo and Julie

s said...

too bad i couldnt be part of this months read(i didnt get the book)...cake does look good...i am on a sugar HIGH diet this month..too many festivals this month to be on any other kind..

s said...

i think they have variation of the same tradition all over India..if i can be a Daring Baker now you have it thrust upon are such a fabulous blogger and baker..just look at the pics you have posted...


I love everything made with cardamom powder, dish cookies, cakes... I just love this spice. It smells so good and your cake is made just the way that I love.

NQN said...

Thanks for hte book review! And I had a chuckle at your opening and subsequent paragraphs! :P

Srivalli said...

Oh first time have good place..nice cake..:)

Aparna said...

Don't know about that book, wanted to join in but couldn't find it here. :)
But your cake looks lovely. Love pistachios and cardamom is my favourite spice.
Thanks for joining us for High Tea.

Taste of Beirut said...

I enjoyed your writing! very witty! I love cardamom and pistachios but I am now inspired to put them in my next batch of biscotti, butter-free!