Sicily is known for its flavorful pistachios. Cooks use them to make gelato, biscotti and this orange-scented cake. Accompany each slice with a scoop of gelato alla crema (see recipe at left).
- 2 cups shelled pistachio nuts
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. grated orange zest
- 6 egg whites, at room temperature
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- Confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional)
Preheat an oven to 325°F. Spread the pistachios in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and cook, shaking the pan every few minutes, until fragrant and lightly toasted, 5 to 8 minutes. Pour onto a plate to cool.
Raise the oven temperature to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper cut to fit and butter the paper.
In a food processor, coarsely chop half of the toasted nuts, then remove and set aside. Add the remaining toasted nuts and 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar to the food processor and process until the nuts are finely chopped. Add the flour and orange zest and pulse to blend.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat together the egg whites and salt until foamy. Increase the speed to high and gradually add the remaining 3/4 cup granulated sugar and the vanilla, beating until soft peaks form.
Sprinkle the flour mixture on top of the whites and fold in gently with a rubber spatula. Add the butter and reserved coarsely chopped nuts and fold in gently. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Run a thin knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the cake, then release the pan sides and lift off. Using the knife, slide the cake off the parchment and pan bottom and onto the rack. Let the cake cool completely.
To serve, place the cake on a serving plate. Using a fine-mesh sieve, dust the top of the cake with the confectioners’ sugar, if desired. Serve in wedges. Makes one 9-inch cake.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Italian by Michele Scicolone (Oxmoor House, 2007).