By Chetna Makan
Christmas is a great time to get baking and indulge in some Christmassy treats, but they don’t all need to be fruitcakes.
I love simple cakes that are easy to make, with the addition of one or two flavours to make the cake exquisite. I wanted a white, snow-topped cake, but find white chocolate very sweet on its own so I combined it with pistachios to balance it out.
Christmas is also a wonderful time to get the kids helping and to teach them and yourself some new skills.
I only took up baking after having children. It started as making birthday cakes for them, but I fell in love with it and slowly became a more and more adventurous, trying new bakes and techniques.
I started to bake more often for my family and friends, and would always take a bake with me whenever I visited someone. And it’s thanks to them that I ended up on The Great British Bake Off – it was at their insistence that I applied.
I have been cooking since I was very young and learned all about it from my Mum before I moved to the UK. As I said to Jonny in my interview for jamieoliver.com, during Bake Off I wanted to use my cooking knowledge and tried to add an Indian twist to my baking, whether it was the use of spices or herbs or different flavour combinations. It was very well-received by the judges and fellow bakers, which has encouraged me to keep baking with all the amazing flavours around me – which is how I came up with a gorgeous alternative cake for the Christmas season. The pistachio topping gives a crunchy texture to this very light and delicious sponge.
Chetna’s Pistachio & white chocolate cake
- 220g unsalted butter softened
- 220g caster sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 250g self-raising flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 100ml whole milk
- 50g coarsely chopped pistachios
- 50g white chocolate buttons, roughly chopped
For the icing
- 150g white chocolate
- 150g softened unsalted butter
- 150g icing sugar
- 2 drops of vanilla extract
- Handful of pistachios, finely chopped, to garnish
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF. Butter and line two 8-inch cake tins.
Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric whisk then add the eggs one at a time, mixing well each time. Next add the flour, baking powder and milk and whisk for 1 minute, until light and creamy. Fold in the pistachios and white chocolate with a spatula.
Once mixed, divide the mixture between the two tins, smooth out the tops and bake for 30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool for a few minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the icing by gently melting the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Leave it aside to cool slightly while you cream the butter and icing sugar, then add the melted chocolate and vanilla extract. Mix it well until it becomes light and creamy.
Spread half the icing on one cake and then place the second one on top. Spread the rest of the icing on top and sprinkle handful of pistachios over the icing.