I always think of Greece with a slightly sad heart. I haven’t been, so this is not based on prior experience, but raather based on what was not to be. On a flight home from Berlin last year, the EasyJet in flight magazine had a list of the top 50 places to visit in Europe, and one in particular caught my eye.
Mount Athos, Greece. A beautiful coastline dotted with 20 monastaries, accessible only by boat and seemingly one of the most idyllic spots ever. However, a slight issue – no women allowed. At all, ever. So sadly I let this dream go and cheered myself up by making this delicious cake.
With regard to Greek desserts, the two things that always spring to mind for me are honey and Greek Yoghurt. Stereotypical this may be, but for good reason – these ingredients are central components of Greek cuisine and work really well together in this cake. The cake itself is made from honey and pistachio nuts, creating a lovely, slightly sticky texture and nutty flavour. This is complemented by the Greek yoghurt frosting, the slight sharpness and acidity of which cuts through the sweetness of the cake to produce a winning combination. The cake is then decorated with candied pistachio nuts.
Honey and Pistachio Cake with Yoghurt Frosting
- 3/4 cup Greek honey
- 2/3 cup caster sugar
- 1 tbsp brandy
- 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 cup LESS 1 tbsp of olive oil
- 2 eggs
- 2+3/4 cups plain flour
- 1/4 pound roughly chopped pistachios
- 1/3 pound cream cheese/ricotta
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- Pinch of sea salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
Honey Yoghurt Frosting
- 1 cup Greek yoghurt frosting
- 1/2 cup icing sugar, sifted
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Honey-Roasted Pistachio Nuts
- 1 cup shelled pistachios
- 2 tbsp Greek honey
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 1/8 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 390°F (200°C). Oil a loaf pan with a little olive oil and dust with flour.
In a saucepan, combine honey, sugar, brandy, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and cook for 5-6 minutes. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes before continuing.
Beat together the oil and eggs, before adding the flour, pistachio nuts, cheese, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove mixture, salt, and baking powder. Add the cooled honey and sugar mixture and beat until thoroughly combined.
Transfer the batter to the pan and bake at 390°F (200°C) for about 50 minutes, until and inserted skewer comes out clean.
Remove cake from the oven and immediately turn the cake out upside down onto a rack to cool. Turn back over when cooled before icing.
To make the frosting, mix all the ingredients together until fully combined, before allowing to thicken in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Top the cake with the frosting.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the honey in a medium bowl and microwave for 10 seconds to warm it slightly. Add nuts to the honey bowl and toss to coat well, then add the sugar and salt and toss again. Spread the nuts onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, separating so they do not clump together, and bake for 10 minutes. Stir the nuts after 5 minutes.
Cool the nuts completely, then separate once they are dry. Place the nuts in a plastic bag and pound using a rolling pin or meat pounder to coarsely crush. A food processor can be used, but be careful not to grind the nuts too finely; you still want larger pieces of pistachios, not a fine powder. These can be stored in an airtight bag until needed. Use to decorate the cake with before serving.
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