February 15, 2012

Just Right

Deep down, somewhere permanently entwined in my DNA, I'm a midwestern girl. Unapologetically making chocolate cake with mayonnaise, using margarine instead of butter, and making bright green confections using white cake mix and a box of pistachio pudding. Actually, only that last one is true, but it's also true that I don't bat an eyelash or think twice about slathering the top of my scalloped potatoes with a can of condensed cheddar cheese soup. Like I said: so midwestern.

Something magical happens with you take the shortcut and combine a box of white cake mix and pistachio pudding together.  A handful of chopped walnuts scattered across the top and finished with a sweet buttery syrup - I'm sure anyone in my family could tell you, the green cake is where it's at.

For that matter, my cat will happily back the idea up too.  Both times I've made this cake my cat has managed to dig her face into the pan while backs are turned and eat more than her fair share.

The recipe card this cake is written on, from my Gram, is my most favoritest.  It's just a little 3"x 5" piece of card stock with pastel flowers and yellowed edges and her elegant penmanship, but it really is the one I like most.  And when I think about pistachio cake, or read the recipe card, I can picture the exact pan she bakes it in every time.  A lightweight and light colored metal baking pan that's been used so many times you can see where each cut was made, leaving tiny scrapes and marks.  It's important, that pan, it makes all the difference when it's made just the right way.  She has just the right bowl for potato salad, too.

My baking pan isn't quite right, but it does the trick, and the cake tastes just as good.

Pistachio Cake
Adapted from my Gram

I unintentionally de-fattened this cake a bit (Whoops!  Running out of vegetable oil!), but it was no worse for the wear.  In fact, I couldn't even tell the difference, so I'll give you the recipe in it's lowered fat version.  Also, I snuck in a few drops of almond extract on a whim and have decided that it was a good choice.  Should you choose to go this route, let me caution against using anymore than a few drops (1/4 teaspoon at most): that stuff is overpowering.

12 servings

1 box white cake mix
1 box pistachio pudding
4 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
a few drops almond extract (optional)
a handful or two of walnuts, chopped
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease and flour a metal 13x9 baking pan.

In a medium to large bowl with a wire wisk mix together the contents of the cake mix, pistachio pudding, egg, water and vegetable oil until just combined. Pour into prepared baking dish and evenly sprinkle the chopped walnuts over the top.  Bake 35-40 minutes, or until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Remove cake from oven and with a fork or toothpick, prick holes all over the surface of the cake (this will allow the syrup to soak in easier).  In a small saucepan, heat powdered sugar, water and butter over medium heat until the syrup is simmering.  Simmer for 2-3 minutes until the mixture begins to thicken.  Pour or spoon syrup over the surface of the cake and allow to cool completely.

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