Baklava layer cake

For the first half of March, my goal was to make as many green things as possible. This cake, while not outwardly green, has a green pistachio sponge hidden underneath a layer of spiced honey French buttercream. I love baklava, and wanted to translate the flavors, textures, and ingredients of it into a full-on layer cake. We have the aforementioned olive oil-pistachio sponge, a spiced honey milk soak, brown sugar pistachio-walnut cookies, spiced honey French buttercream, homemade phyllo, finished with edible flowers. I wanted this cake to be a full-on homage to all of the flavors and textures, so I had to go with the phyllo, while the cookies, combined with the buttercream and soak, taste exactly like a baklava filling. I had a ton of fun making this cake, just because I love frosting cakes using my turntable! It is super therapeutic to do! The spices I went for in this recipe were clove and cinnamon, since those are more popular spices to use in Mediterranean desserts, while I opted to use honey in the buttercream and in the soak, just to mimic the honey syrup that you would soak actual baklava in! As the cake sits with the soak and the buttercream, with that cookie layer, it all comes together to taste like the interior of baklava, while the phyllo gives you the crunch you would be looking for as well from the original version!

There are definitely a few pressure points in this cake. The sponge, being a chiffon cake, requires the egg whites to be whipped to stiff peaks, while it must be delicately folded together, or else it will be tough. The buttercream is tricky just because you have to emulsify a lot of butter into egg yolks, and that requires patience. It might even split and separate at first, but with enough whisking, it will come together, so don’t feel discouraged. The soak is really straightforward. Just make sure to use warm milk first so that the honey can dissolve into it, but that’s literally the only potential tripping point I can think of for that component. The phyllo can be unusual to make for those unfamiliar with the technique, but just know that too much kneading and the dough will bake tough and dry. Just knead it enough to come together, and let it rest before rolling it out! The cookies are relatively straightforward, since they use olive oil instead of butter. I do mention using ground pistachio in this recipe. I simply took pistachios and used a spice grinder(you can use a Vitamix blender or food processor, or even just a ziplock bag and a heavy pan!) to blitz them into a fine powder. The pistachio is used in the cake and cookies, and as a finishing garnish on the bottom of the cake. Overall, this was a fun cake to make, and it presents really neatly, which I appreciate!

For the pistachio sponge:
4 egg whites
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup ground pistachio
2 1/2 tbsp olive oil
a pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp spirulina powder*

In a bow whip your egg whites with sugar to stiff peaks. In another bowl, mix together the other ingredients. Fold the egg whites into the other ingredients to form your batter. Spread the batter into a parchment-lined quarter sheet tray. Bake at 350 degrees F for 18 minutes. Cool down the cake completely and then cut into 2 perfect 6-inch rounds and fabricate a third out of the scraps.

For the spiced brown sugar-walnut cookies:
1/4 cup ground pistachio
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
a pinch of salt
a pinch of clove
a pinch of cinnamon
1/4 cup crushed walnuts
3 tbsp olive oil

Mix together your ingredients to form a dough. Spread the dough in thumbnail-sized pieces on a lined sheet tray. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Cool down the cookies before using.

For the spiced honey French buttercream:
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup water
a pinch of cinnamon
a pinch of cloves
a pinch of salt
2 egg yolks
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

In a pot, heat up honey, water, cinnamon, cloves, and salt until it begins to boil. Pour over the egg yolks and whisk until combined. Then whip in the butter, mixing until everything is fully emulsified.

For the honey milk soak:
1/2 cup warm milk
2 tbsp honey
a pinch of cloves
a pinch of cinnamon
a pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix together all of your ingredients. Allow the milk to cool down before using.

For the phyllo shards:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup water
a pinch of salt
olive oil
edible flowers

Mix the flour, water, and salt together to form a dough. Allow the dough to rest for at least 20 minutes. Divide into two pieces and roll each one out on a floured surface as thinly as possible. Brush olive oil onto one layer before placing on the other layer of dough. Roll the dough out again to stretch it out further. Cut the dough into rectangular strips and bake at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes on a lined sheet tray. Allow the strips to cool down before brushing with olive oil and sprinkling on edible flower petals.

For assembly:
Edible flower petals(I used candelas and marigolds)
Ground pistachios

Place the scrap layer of cake down on the desired serving surface first. Then pour on 1/3 of your soak. Spread on about 1/4 cup of the buttercream. Spread on almost 1/2 of the cookies(save some for the top!). Then repeat those steps with another round of cake, soak, buttercream, and cookies. For the last layer of cake, place on the third round and the soak. Then spread your buttercream around the cake to form a crumb coat. Transfer the cake to the freezer for at least 10 minutes. Then spread on the remaining buttercream. Dust the bottom of the cake with the pistachio then garnish the sides with flower petals and phyllo shards, and the top with pistachio cookie and more phyllo shards to finish.

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