I wish I’d taken a picture now, as my wife had requested, of this cake before it was ‘saved’ or ‘fixed’. In the final of its brief hours on this planet, lovingly surrounded by hungry dessert munchers in our kitchen, it had had a sad origin the day before in my kitchen. As ever, making the sponge was not a particular challenge, but the frosting…agh. Double agh. It is still my downfall.

This is a six-inch wide cake, which is begun with all the usual suspects of butter, eggs, flour, and ground pistachios for the specific flavoring. Each of the two sponge cakes are baked, then carefully split to create four layers. So far, so good.

Follow this with making the frosting…or icing depending on where you’re from, and then things all fall down. In this case, I was to make a Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Egg whites and sugar are cooked together over the stove in a double boiler to a particular temperature, then placed into a stand mixer where the room-temperature butter is added. Egg whites. Sugar. Butter.

In the stand mixer all are combined which leaves you with a mixture to be applied at room temperature. To cut to the chase, try applying pancake batter onto a cake to frost it–which is what I was doing. It flowed, much too quickly over the sides, and simply didn’t have enough thickness to ‘stick’.

Dismayed, I put the entire cake, covered unevenly and rawly into the refrigerator. By the next day it had firmed up, my wife managed to trim off the overflow at the bottom of the cake’s circumference, and we transferred the cake to another plate.


Huh, well–now it at least didn’t look like a 3rd grader had made it. More like a stoned high school sophomore.


The cake was simply a dessert for a dinner for two friends and our two brothers-in-law, planned around the main course of Duck Fideos, a simple green salad, and a few appetizer tapas, all of which with the exception of the vinaigrette for the salad, proved fantastic.

The joyful irony of the cake was that our guest, Astrid, would be celebrating her birthday the next day and she said without proviso “And I’m taking what’s left of this home!” to which nobody was at all inclined to argue. I think a couple of us managed to snag a couple of extra thin slices before we sent her and her husband packing with leftover gougeres, duck Fideos, and the cake (nearly half!) to enjoy.