bake a bakla — pistachio baklava cake

by hungryrabbit on September 30, 2011

Pistachio Baklava Cake

I love Baklava—the Greek, Turkish, Lebanese rich, sweet pastry made of layers of phyllo dough filled with nuts and sweetened with syrup. Something about it just grabs me, which is surprising since I usually don’t like very sweet pastries. Perhaps it’s the subtle scent of rose water infused in the syrup or the gossamer layers of phyllo dough. Maybe it’s the baker’s fascination with the amount of liquid that Baklava can absorb. It could be the oozing of syrup in your mouth when you bite into the once crispy, but then chewy pastry layer with the earthy nut filling.

Every time when I go to Kaluystan’s for spices, I can’t help but be seduced by their array of Baklava from many regions. As I pay for my purchase, I always treat myself to a piece (maybe two, or three). As long as there’s a pistachio filling, or a mix of it with other nuts, I’m game for a new variation.

I’ve often thought of making baklava, but hadn’t worked out the right approach. So after my recent trip (2 weeks ago), I went to work on my own version. As much as I love it, it is hard to eat more than a couple small pieces without sugar overloading. I wanted to make a version that allowed me to eat more than just a small portion to satisfy my craving—and not go into a sugar coma.

The result is a tender pistachio cake doused with the orange/rose water syrup. Discs of baklava with pistachio filling are used as if they were frosting for the cake. If you like baklava or love pistachio as much as I do, this cake saves a trip to Kaluystan’s.

Pistachio Baklava Cake

yield: one 6-inch cake

Cake Layer

Ingredients

2 cup Panko or regular bread crumbs (about 4 ounces)
1 cup pistachio, whole and roasted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
4 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup (5-1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
Orange-scented syrup, recipe to follow
1-1/2 cups pistachios, toasted and ground, for decorating

Directions

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350℉. Butter two 6-by-2-inch round cake pans; line each with a circle of parchment paper. Butter paper, and dust pans with flour; tap out excess. Set aside.

2. In a mini food processor, add panko, pistachio, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. Process until finely chopped, set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk eggs and sugar until thick and pale, about 5 minutes. The mixture should fall in a ribbon rather than a stream. Gently fold in nut mixture by hand with the whisk attachment. Add melted butter in a slow stream and fold into the batter with a rubber spatula.

4. Divide batter into the prepared pans and bake until cake tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Cool cake on wire rack for 10 minutes, remove cake from pan and set it on cooling rack. Generously brush syrup on the top and sides of cake, let cool completely. Wash cake pans, to be used in baklava layers.

Bakalva Layer

Ingredients

3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
16 sheets of phyllo pastry
1 cups pistachio,toasted and ground
Orange scented syrup, recipe to follow

Directions

1. Fold phyllo sheets in half along the long edge. Use cake pan as template and cut out 8-inch circles, roughly 1-inch wider than the pan on all sides. (Circles do not have to be perfect.) Cover phyllo with damp towel.

2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350℉. Brush two 6-by-2-inch round cake pans with melted butter. Place one sheet of phyllo in one pan and fold in edges to fit the pan. Brush with melted butter. Continue this layering and brushing until you have 8 layers of pastry.

3. Scatter ground pistachio over the pastry and continue the layering and buttering for 8 more layers. Repeat process with the second pan. Place pan in oven and bake until golden brown and crisp on top. about 30-35 minutes. Remove pan from oven and slowly drizzle 1/4 cup of syrup into each pan. Set aside to cool completely.

4. While baklava layers are baking, roughly tear/chop up leftover phyllo into shards and brush generously with butter. Spread pastry shards on parchment lined baking sheet. When baklava are done, place baking pan in oven and baking until golden brown, about 18-25 minutes. (Keep a close eye towards the end to avoid burning of pastry.)

Orange-scented Syrup

Ingredients

1 cups (5 ounces) of granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey
3/4 cup water
2 teaspoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 teaspoon rose water
1/2 teaspoon orange flower water

Directions

1. Combine sugar, honey, water and lemon juice in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until slightly thicken, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

2. Stir rose and orange flower water to cool syrup. Add more, a few drops at a time, to taste. (Flavor will mellow out after it sits for a while.)

Assembly

1. Level top of the cakes with serrated knife to remove indent in the center of cake. Place one cake layer on cake stand or plate, brush top of cake generously with syrup. Place a layer of baklava on top of cake, brush top of baklava layer with syrup if it’s not sticky and top with second cake layer. Brush with more syrup and top with second baklava layer.

2. Brush baklava layer with more syrup to make it sticky. Decorate top with baklava shards, press slightly to make sure they adhere to cake.

3. Brush side of cake with syrup and apply ground pistachio evenly on the side of cake, pressing lightly to adhere. Sprinkle top of cake with more ground pistachio if desire. Serve.

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{ 80 comments… read them below or add one }

hungryrabbit November 25, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Whole Foods or ethnic stores would have them. Try order online from http://www.kalustyans.com.

aslihan December 16, 2012 at 8:36 am

it is also armenian, bosnian, persian…
that’s one another reason why I love baklava; it is kind of an multinational sweet hug =)

Twigwoman January 3, 2013 at 10:52 am

I was about 14 when a New Persian girl moved into my school district: as luck would have it she lived only one street over from where I did…. We became friends and the day her Mother invited me over for dinner my whole world changed!!
Not only did she make the most amazing dill rice with a thin crunchy layer at the bottom if the giant pot used to make this rice that would last all week long; but I was served something I had never eaten before…..
Not a a lover of sweets I was totally blown away by what she told me was Baklava!!!! Being Persian her version was made entirely with pistachios…… and as I grew up and my awareness of other ethnic foods expanded – I have never been as satisfied as I was that sweet and long ago when I first tasted that ethereal Pistachio Baklava!!!
(I still can not eat the nauseatingly sweet Greek version served in most Greek restaurants)

Laura Dembowski January 7, 2013 at 4:00 pm

What a great idea! I love turning classic desserts into something totally different but still maintaining the flavors. This is genius!

Kitoula January 8, 2013 at 12:19 pm

This looks amazing. I am going to share this recipe with my other Greek blogger buddies on Twitter. Thank you!

Kate January 15, 2013 at 10:19 am

This cake is amazing! My fiance thinks so too, and we’d like to use is for our wedding cake (it’s pretty much the only flavor we’ve found that we can agree on). Any tips on scaling the recipe up for a 9″ and 12″ cake?

hungryrabbit January 15, 2013 at 10:54 am

Hi Kate, first off, congrats. From my experience, you can double the recipe to make a 9-inch cake. I’m not sure about a 12-inch, since I’ve never made a large cake before. Let me know if you need further assistance. -Ken

dirtgirl February 14, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Hungry Rabbit, you sure know how to get a gal to break her diet. I can resist most things sweet, I don’t even eat chocolate, but Baklava and Pistachios are just my all time favs. I was introduced to this delight back in the early 70′s when I came to live in Australia. This will definitely be getting a whirl in my kitchen, no excuses as I just happen to have all ingredients to hand. Thank you for a brilliantly simple, yet stunning recipe.

Karen February 27, 2013 at 7:08 pm

This cake is so beautiful!!! Do you think the pistachios could be substituted with walnuts? I mean, the cake won’t be as pretty, but I actually like walnut the walnut taste better…

hungryrabbit February 27, 2013 at 9:47 pm

Hi Karen, no doubt walnuts will just be as delicious. Happy Baking! -Ken

Merc April 21, 2013 at 11:20 pm

Wow…this cake is awesome! will be trying it out this wkend. Can we scale the recipe too half?

hungryrabbit April 22, 2013 at 8:14 am

Hi Merc, I suppose you can, but I haven’t done that before so no sure about the scaled down baking time. Happy Baking! -Ken

june2 May 24, 2013 at 5:57 am

Looks amazing but I kept waiting for the cross-section shot so we could see the inside!!!

hungryrabbit May 24, 2013 at 6:26 am

The cross section is the same as the exterior, minus the dusting of pistachio. -Ken

Kate October 29, 2013 at 11:33 am

My mother-in-law used your recipe to bake our wedding cake. It think the most common comment was that it was the best wedding cake anyone had ever had! We tweaked the recipe a little bit, but it was an amazing addition to our celebration.
I have a picture I’d love to share with you, but I’m not sure how to get it to you…

hungryrabbit October 30, 2013 at 8:22 am

Hi Kate, I can't tell you how happy I am to know that my cake contributed to the joyous celebration of your nuptual. Please thank your mother-in-law for doing such a wonderful job to my humble recipe. I can't wait to see the photo, please send it to hungryrabbitnyc@gmail.com -Ken

Janis November 4, 2013 at 11:03 pm

Ken, im a fan of pistachio and cardamom. Any suggestion on how to incorporate or substitute that flavor into your cake? This cake is a stunning presentation in every way, thank you so much. I also really appreciate your focus on smaller cakes, another unique and wonderful thing about you….I Love hungryrabbitnyc !

hungryrabbit November 5, 2013 at 7:31 am

HI Janis, I suggest you use 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp cardamom and no nutmeg in the batter. You can also add 1/4 tsp of cardamom to Step 1 in the making of Orange-scented syrup. Happy Baking -Ken

Monika November 14, 2013 at 9:12 pm

This is the most beautifull cake I’ve ever seen. I need to try it!

Sandy November 29, 2013 at 12:17 am

Thanks for this. Made it for thanksgiving and my family was in love with it. Great recipe!

Norma | Allspice and Nutmeg January 23, 2014 at 11:31 am

Wow! I just found this lovely cake on pinterest. I’m an Arab American so baklava is always around at my parents house. But I’ve never seen anything like this. Sounds delicious!

Lindsay April 15, 2014 at 12:02 pm

Hi- beautiful cake! I’m curious about the recipe though- why bread crumbs instead of flour? I’d like to try it out, but have never made a cake layer with bread crumbs before.

hungryrabbit April 15, 2014 at 7:33 pm

Hi Lindsay, the bread crumbs soaks up the fat and moisture, thus make a tender cake. -Ken

Catherine Gagnon June 2, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Hi,
This cake is exquisite! We are havng a Turkish themes party and I absolutely want to make this beautiful baklava cake. I would need to make it 2 days ahead. I’m wondering if that’s possible or will the phyllo layers become soft with time, meaning will not retain their crispiness??? I would guess so, but, I’m asking, just in case!

Thanks!

hungryrabbit June 2, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Hi Catherine, it probably will not stay crispy as you have suspected. I suggest you do the baking ahead of time and assemble it on the day of your party. Hope this helps. Happy Baking! – Ken

Juli June 15, 2014 at 8:26 am

Just FYI the word you want is shards not chards.

Mirela July 1, 2014 at 2:38 am

Looks like a fantastic cake! Making it for hubby’s birthday. Will need to bake a day before and assemble before the day. Should I pour the syrup over the baklava layer on the day of baking or assembling? Thanks!

Mirela July 1, 2014 at 2:40 am

I meant assemble on the day!

hungryrabbit July 1, 2014 at 7:45 am

Hi Mirela, You can assemble the cake ahead of time but leave the top layer for the day of, so it will stay somewhat flakey. Happy Baking! -Ken

Mirela July 3, 2014 at 2:10 am

Made the baklava layers on the day after all and the other layers a day before. It was just to die for! Big hit at the party. Thanks for a great recipe!

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