Suzi's Blog

Holiday Honey Dessert: Aunt Sassy Cake with Honey Vanilla Buttercream

slice of cake

This week has featured honey-based recipes for the coming spring holidays. Here’s a dessert for you, a cake I blogged about before, and a cake I could blog about every day. This is my favorite non-chocolate dessert. Yes, I do eat such delicacies. And this cake is help trigger the transition. It’s a beautiful to behold and a delight in your mouth. Pair this cake with a lovely dessert wine to complete your holiday feast.

Aunt Sassy Cake

Yield: one 8-inch, 3-layer cake

Ingredients for the Cake:

  • 1 cup shelled pistachios
  • 2 ½ cups cake flour ■
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda •
  • ¾ teaspoon salt ‘
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened ‘
  • ½ cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 ¾ cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar


Ingredients for the Honey Vanilla Buttercream:

  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • ⅓ cup heavy cream
  • 1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons honey


Ingredients for Assembly:

  • cup crushed shelled pistachios




Make the Cake:

Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, and butter the parchment. Dust the parchment with flour and knock out the excess flour.

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the pistachios until they are coarsely chopped. Transfer about 2 tablespoons’ worth of the coarse pistachios to a large bowl. Continue to process the rest of the pistachios until they are almost powdery—but not a superfine dust. Stir the pistachio powder into the reserved coarse pistachios. Sift the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together over the large bowl containing the pistachio mix. Stir to combine.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening on medium speed until creamy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl, add the whole egg, and beat until just combined. Turn the mixer to low.

In a measuring cup, make 1 ½ cups ice water. Add the flour mixture to the mixer in three parts, alternating with the ice water, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. For each addition, turn the mixer to low to add ingredients, then up to medium speed for a few seconds until incorporated. Scrape down the bowl, then mix on low speed for a few more seconds.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form (You can do this by hand. Don’t be intimidated, it should only take 2 to 3 minutes). Do not overbeat. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

Divide the batter among the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the rack and let cool completely. Remove the parchment paper.

Make the Honey Vanilla Buttercream:


In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together. Add the milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until cool (this takes at least 7 to 9 minutes of mixing; you can speed up the process by pressing bags of frozen berries or frozen corn against the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl). Reduce the speed to low and add the butter; mix until thoroughly incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the vanilla and honey and continue mixing until combined. If the frost­ing is too soft, put the bowl in the refrigerator to chill slightly, then beat again until it is the proper consistency. If the frosting is too firm, set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and beat with a wooden spoon until it is the proper consistency.

Assemble the Cake:


Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Trim the top to create a flat surface, and evenly spread about 1 ¼ cups frosting on top. Add the next layer, trim and frost it, then add the third layer. Spread a very thin layer of frosting over the sides and top of the cake and put it in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to firm up. (This is known as crumb coating and will help to keep loose cake crumbs under control when you frost the outside of the cake.) Spread the sides and top of the cake with the remaining frosting. Garnish the cake with crushed pistachios and refrigerate it for 15 minutes to it firm up before serving.

This cake will keep beautifully in a cake saver at room temperature for up to 3 days, if the weather is cool and humidity free. Otherwise, put it in a cake saver and refrigerate it for up to 3 days. Let the cake sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours before serving.

Source: Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis

Buche de Noel for Holiday Entertaining

“We need to discuss this,” Suzen said.

I didn’t know why. It was a simple request.

“Sit down,” she said. I did.

“What is your last name?” she asked.

“Now wait a minute,” I objected, “I’ve taken all my meds.”

‘What is your last name,” she repeated.

“O’Rourke,” I said. No use lying about that. It’s on the marriage certificate.

“And that would be Irish?” she continued.

“Yes, Suzen,” I mumbled. My simple request was going to take forever.

“So you are not French?”

“I’m an internationalist,” I said.

“You? The man who wants the United States to leave the United Nation. I don’t think so. Tell me this year’s reason why you want a Buche De Noel.”

“I’ve never told you this,” I began. Her eyes focused on me. “But I never had a Buche De Noel as a child.”

“Surprisingly, few of us Jewish girls did either,” she commented.

“But when I was in graduate school I read this story in the Washington Post about this little village just outside of Baltimore that had a bakery that made the best Buche possible. So just before Christmas, I planned to drive home from Johns Hopkins and stop along the way and buy a Buche.”


“That very day there was flash flood. No village. No bakery. No Buche.”

“Okay, we’ll make one,” Suzen replied. “I admire your creativity.”

“What do you mean?” I was puzzled.

“Well, last year your reason was your French grandmother in Pittsburgh who had just died.”

I panicked a bit. What if she was keeping count?

“You know, Brian,” she continued. “You are my first husband who has had five grandmothers in five cities.”

Now the thing is, my story this year is true. I was living in Washington and going to school at Hopkins in Baltimore. And there was a flood and that bakery was swept away. But each year, I find some way now to make this holiday treat. Well, to have Suzen make it. Suzen is not a buttercream fan, so I generally feel a need to give her some inspiration. I will say this, she makes a beautiful cake, including that piped buttercream on the top. Those are coffee candies dotting the buttercream.

For this Buche recipe, I turned to Nick Malgieri and his Perfect Cakes. Nick’s flawless recipes for a genoise cake base and buttercream filling and frosting make this dessert surprisingly easy.

In the pictures, you see our simple Buche De Noel. You’ve probably seen these “yule log” desserts with meringue mushrooms or marzipan pine cones. Yes, you can go all out to make this “cake” look like a work of nature, but I’m happy just to have cake and buttercream.

I appreciate Suzen’s patience and energy in making this holiday treat. I’ve run out of grandmothers now. Time to come up with other ideas.

Buche de Noel:

Yield: serves 8

Plain Genoise Cake


  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup cake flour (spoon flour into I dry-measure cup and level off)
  • ¼ cup cornstarch


Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.

Whisk the eggs, yolks, salt, and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees (test with your finger). Attach the bowl to the mixer and, with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume. The egg foam will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl of whipped eggs when the whisk is lifted.

While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour and cornstarch.

Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the howl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeal with another third of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

Bake the genoise for about 25 minutes, or until well risen, deep gold, and firm to the touch.

Immediately use a small paring knife to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan. Invert the cake onto a rack, then reinvert onto another rack and let the cake cool right side up on the paper. Remove the paper when the cake is cool.

Coffee Buttercream


  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 24 tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2tablespoons instant espresso powder
  • 2 tablespoons rum or brandy


To make the buttercream, whisk the egg white and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the eggs whites are hot.

Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Dissolve the instant coffee in the liquor and beat into the butter cream.


Turn the genoise layer over and peel away the paper. Invert onto a fresh piece of paper.

Spread the layer with half the buttercream. Use the paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder. Transfer to baking sheet and refrigerate. Reserve the remaining buttercream for the outside of the Buche.

Source: Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri