I scoured the internet. For days.
And I couldn’t find a pistachio cupcake recipe that wasn’t neon green.
This started about three weeks ago when I was browsing things-I-don’t need at Costco, and fell upon a bag of very well-priced, pre-shelled pistachios. I told myself I’d be a fool not to utilize this rare and important opportunity. So, you know, I put them in my cart along with the coffee scented honey, hibiscus hard cider, 4 pound bag of goji berries, and a cheese I can’t spell. Upon returning home, I began doing a bit of recipe research for some pistachio inspiration. Pinterest, Google, and Instagram were filling my feeds with these bright, lime green, alien-looking baked goods. I was thinking to myself, “Is pistachio and matcha some new major trend?”
Lo, no. Tis the pre-packaged Jello stuff.
Eevverrry pistachio recipe had one of those Jello pudding mixes in it. And the handful that didn’t? They had green. dye.
Why? I don’t know. There is absolutely nothing appetizing to me about that weird, unearthly color. It doesn’t look like it tastes like pistachios. It looks like it tastes like a bowling alley. So I decided to start from scratch and make my own recipe. It’s loosely based off my go-to angel food cake recipe (that I will link here if I get around to sharing it someday), but I think it classifies more accurately as a chiffon cake because there’s added leavening and fat. So let’s hop to it.
This recipe does require you to whip egg whites, but if that’s something that intimidates you because of too many wimpy whites, I’ve got you. The three biggest inhibitors for fluffy, stiff peaks are these:
- Some yolk in your whites. — while most recipes requiring egg yolks won’t be bothered with a bid of egg white in there, the same is NOT true the other way around. Err on the side of caution and don’t bother trying to get every bit of white off the yolk. Also, don’t separate your eggs into the main bowl. Use a tester bowl so that if you do get a bit of egg yolk in there, you can toss that one egg and it hasn’t corrupted the other seven whites you’ve already separated.
- Grease or water in your bowl.–our dishwashers are great at sanitizing, but sometimes not that great at perfectly removing oils and grease. Be sure to wipe out our mixing bowl (and any mixing utensils) with a paper towel before adding egg whites.
- Using fresh, cold egg whites.– older, room temp. egg whites whip better! Now, if your eggs are very fresh, and pulled straight from the fridge, they will still whip (if you’ve followed the above precautions), but they may not hold quite as much air. So add a pinch of cream of tarter and you should be on your way to glossy peaks in no time.
Also, when it comes to baking dishes, every size, shape, and material (yes, the material of the pan: glass, metal, coated metal, etc.) will require different baking times at different temperatures. I know this information just complicates things, but it’s a good rule of thumb to start at 350, and turn down if it’s starting to brown halfway through. Then keep some toothpicks or cake testers on hand to check for doneness every few minutes after the tops look baked. Because I baked my cakes in a rough, stoneware pan, I greased my dish. But if you’re using a nonstick pan with smooth sides, don’t grease it!
Pistachio Chiffon Cake
2 c. all purpose flour
1 1/2 c. sugar (divided)
1/2 t. salt
1 t. baking powder
1 c. milk
1/3 c. vegetable oil
2 whole eggs
1/2 t. almond extract
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. cardamom powder (opt.)
8 egg whites
a pinch of cream of tartar (opt.)
1 1/4 c. finely chopped pistachios
whipped cream and berries for topping
Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients except pistachios and cream of tartar. In another large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) add egg whites and cream of tartar. Whip on high speed until soft peaks begin to form, then continue whipping while you gradually add 1/2 c. sugar. Stop whipping when peaks are stiff and glossy.
Fold 1/3 of the egg white mixture into the dry ingredients, and add the rest of the wet ingredients into the mixture (milk, oil, whole eggs, extracts). Gently mix until you have a smooth, thick batter. Add the rest of the egg white mixture and fold until uniform. Add pistachios and gently mix until fully incorporated.
Pour or spoon batter into prepared pan of choice. If using a nonstick pan, do not grease. Bake immediately for 25-35 minutes, depending on the size and shape of pan. To avoid overbaking, insert a toothpick or cake tester into the cake or cakes every five minutes as soon as the tops of the cakes appear baked (no longer wobbly and liquidy), and remove from oven as soon as the toothpick or cake tester comes out clean.
Let cool completely and serve with berries and whipped cream.