Nuts About Ironcupcake:Leeds

Following on from last month’s post I did indeed enter April’s Ironcupcake:Leeds competition. This month’s theme was Nuts or Seeds. Usually when it comes to deciding what I am going to make, I tend to procrastinate – a lot! However, this one was different. I definitely knew I wanted to go down the nut route. I wasn’t very inspired by seeds, lemon and poppyseed cakes aren’t exactly Ironcupcake winning material, so nuts it was.

Out of all nuts, my definite favourite is the pistachio – from a flavour and colour perspective, so I knew this was what I wanted to incorporate into a cake.

Way before I started this blog, last year I actually made some lime and pistachio cupcakes I used a recipe from Eat Me! by Xanthe Milton… I remember them turning out a complete mess, sunken sad little things that I had to patch up with lurid bright green lime buttercream. According to the recipe “They may sink a little due to pistachios…” You’re not wrong Xanthe, they were like craters! Taste wise, they were nice, with a nice smack of lime zest but the overall cake texture was quite greasy. The book itself is beautiful but as I have found out since, I’m not convinced with a lot of the cake recipes… Anyway, this isn’t a book review, so I shall cease ranting!

I definitely was not going to use this recipe as a basis for my cupcakes, but I wanted to use the overall flavour of lime with pistachio. After doing some research, I stumbled across this recipe from an American cookbook called Baked Explorations, entitled Aunt Sassy’s Cake, which is a pistachio, honey and vanilla cake. I decided to give it a bash but substitute the vanilla for lime in the frosting. The main difficulty was converting the measurements into metric (I do have US cups, but I find weighing out the ingredients much easier / accurate) the linked recipe makes a huge amount of batter so have adapted it to make approx 18 cupcakes (I got 4 regular cupcakes and about 46 minis)

The cake recipe itself is all pretty straightforward, but with the addition of adding egg whites to the batter at the end to make the sponge really light and airy.

What really interested me was the recipe for the buttercream – it calls for the use of flour, more specifically a sweet roux which is then beaten with butter to create the buttercream. Sounds strange and unappetising, but I have to go all out there and say this is one of the most delicious frostings I have ever eaten. It’s really light, not too sweet and has a really nice mouth feel. Although you could add more sugar if you desire, and very, very stable for piping. Plus, it avoids the mess of clouds of icing sugar. Bonus.

This method for making buttercream is quite common in the states, and is actually the traditional topping for Red Velvet cakes. Magnolia Bakery in NYC uses this frosting on their cupcakes. If you fancy something different then please do give it a try.

All in all I was pleased with the result, a nice light cake with a good proportion of nuts, you could definitely taste the pistachios coming through. The frosting was light and fluffy, with the flavours of honey and lime coming through, but without overpowering each other. A nice, understated cake.

Decoration wise, I decided to use a simple swirl of buttercream and use chopped, bright green pistachios to sprinkle around the base of the cake. No bright green frosting here – I was after a classy look! However, I just thought that there was something missing, I just needed some further contrast, and something else that would add depth of flavour to the cake, so I set my mind on some bitter chocolate. In the end I made some pistachio “bark” which I cut out into discs to top off the cake.

Image Courtesy of
This month’s event saw 11 entries in total – quite a few less than last month, which was surprising seeing as it was a free event for bakers and eaters this time around. Perhaps people weren’t inspired by the theme, but I like challenging themes as I really think it gives bakers an opportunity to stretch themselves. I met a couple of lovely new bakers there too, Jo and Rebecca who made some lovely cakes – Cherry Bakewells, Ferrero Rocher and Hazelnut Latte. To have a peek at the other entrants then please view the Ironcupcake:Leeds website.

So how did I do? I won! Again! I was quite shocked because I don’t enter the competition to win, I enter it to challenge and push my baking skills and experiment with new ideas, but I enjoy meeting new people and seeing what other people create too. Of course if I do come first it’s a brilliant bonus and it spurs me on to create something better for next time I enter. Next month’s theme is Fizzy Drinks – best get my thinking cap on, as I think it’s going to be a popular one!

Pistachio Cupcakes with a Honey and Lime Frosting 
(Adapted from Aunt Sassy’s Cake from Baked Explorations) – Makes 18 Cupcakes


For the Cakes
60g shelled, unsalted pistachios
190g plain flour
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
60g unsalted butter , softened
60g vegetable shortening (I used Trex)
150g caster sugar, plus an extra 25g set to one side
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
1 large egg at room temperature
175ml ice cold water
2 large egg whites , at room temperature
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

For the Frosting
150g caster sugar
35g plain flour
175ml whole milk
40ml double cream
175g unsalted butter, softened
2 tbsp honey
Finely grated zest of 1 lime

To decorate
Half a handful of crushed pistachios

For the Pistachio Bark
100g plain chocolate
1/2 tsp butter or shortening
A handful of crushed pistachios

Pre-heat the oven to 170C and line a muffin tin with paper liners.

In a food processor or pestle and mortar, crush the pistachios until roughly chopped. Set aside a couple of tablespoons and then contunie to process the remaining pistachios just until finely ground.

Into a bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, salt, and bicarb into the bowl with the roughly chopped pistachios and the ground ones too.

In another bowl, beat the butter, shortening, vanilla and 150g sugar until light and fluffy. Then add the egg and mix well. Mix in a third the flour mixture, then half of the cold water, and then alternate until all flour has been mixed in.

In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy. Then add the 25g of sugar that was set aside earlier and beat until you achieve soft peaks – be careful not to overbeat. You then need to gently fold whites, a third at a time, into batter just until it is all combined. Do be careful not to knock out the air from the egg whites.

Divide between the muffin cups and bake for approx 20 minutes, but do check from around 18 mins. If you are making minis, then they will take about 10 minutes.

To make buttercream (warning, do not try and do this if you do not have an electric whisk!!)
In a medium saucepan, whisk sugar and flour until well blended. Add milk and cream and whisk until smooth. Stick the pan on a moderate heat and stir constantly with a heatproof rubber spatula, until mixture thickens and comes to a simmer, this will take about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Take off the heat and leave to cool completely. Be warned, it will look like PVA glue!

Beat the butter on medium speed until fluffy. Gradually beat in cream-flour mixture, beating until blended with butter. Continue beating until fluffy and smooth. This will take a good couple of minutes, it’ll get to the stage where it has a similar consistency of whipped cream. Mix in the honey and lime zest. Refrigerate until you need to use it – beat again if it gets too cold in the fridge.

For the chocolate pistachio “bark”
Melt down the chocolate and butter, then spread over the base of a baking sheet covered in cling film. Scatter over the chopped pistachios and leave in the fridge until just about set. (About 15 – 20 mins).

Either break up the bark into shards or use a cutter to make decorative shapes to top off the cupcake.

Try not to devour the cakes all at once!

3 thoughts on “Nuts About Ironcupcake:Leeds

  1. Pingback: Bananas about Banoffee « Sticky Pinny

  2. Pingback: Ottolenghi and Innis & Gunn take over the Manor | Dinner at the Manor

  3. Pingback: Pistachio Chocolate Macarons | Sticky Pinny

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