The day after my return to the US, I headed to the central train station in Philadelphia to pick up two of my closest friends… a French couple I had grown close to through my masters program. Expats in France often moan that the French are so hard to befriend – and they can be. I struggled with getting them enthusiastic to connect – either for dinner, lunch in the park, a movie, or even just drinks at some of the hottest new bars. I concluded that if they weren’t interested, they weren’t going.
But the French friendships I do have grew organically, and it’s true what people say – once invited into their circle, you’re there for good.
My closest friend from France is Adélaïde, a gorgeous dark-eyed brunette who captures the essence of French women with her nonchalant elegance and effortless style. One of the common threads that brought us together in Paris was, sans surprise, food. More specifically baking. I introduced her to carrot cake with cream cheese icing. She introduced me to her homemade chocolate chip cookies and brownies (pronounced bro-nies unless, as I learned, you want to sound like a snob in pronouncing them “correctly”).
While visiting in Philadelphia (her first trip to the US), Adélaïde sweetly presented a nicely packaged bundle. Carefully tearing at the paper, I uncovered a copy of Gâteaux by Fait Maison, a french cookbook filled with traditional cakes and pastries. “I knew you’d have all these crazy french cookbooks on complicated things, so I wanted to give you a book that was my France. Some of these recipes are what I grew up with and are really home.” She was so right – I made sure I picked out some crazy cookbooks, complex pastries, éclairs and Ladurée-esque tarts, before I left Paris. But I had missed out on books that captured day-to-day French living.
Feeling like a part of me is missing since I’ve left France, I find comfort knowing parts of my French life will always linger – both in cherished memories and in delicious fragrances wafting in my kitchen. Recently, on a warm day while missing the grey of Paris, I turned to the cookbook. Before Adélaïde returned to France, we flipped through the cookbook, glasses of wine in hand, while she shared with me her favorite, marking her most comforting recipes with colorful post-its. Rereading the inside cover where she had written one of the kindest notes a friend has ever passed along to me, I decided it was time to add some new recipes to my comfort food repertoire.
Because I still had some pistachio paste from G. Detou on Rue Tiquetonne in Paris, I decided to bake the Cake Pistache-Framboise, pistachio raspberry cake. I found the steps intriguing, requiring whipping up a meringue before adding the other ingredients. And I love the colors – a rich pastel green with splashes of red.
It’s only fair that you join in on the fun – after all, the cake is mouthwateringly delicious (my family can’t get enough). I’ve translated the French recipe and provided it below. Everything is available in the US and the best I’ve found for pistachio paste is King Arthur.
What you need:
4 eggs, room temperature
200g caster sugar
1 pinch of salt
100g butter, room temperature
1 tbsp pistachio paste
5g baking powder
100g frozen raspberries (I used fresh)
What you do:
- Separate the egg whites from the yolks (you’ll need the yolks later) into a stainless steel bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites, 75g of sugar and salt until they are at hard peak (or as the book says “firm snow”). Set aside. In a second mixing bowl, mix the yolks with the rest of the sugar. Add the butter, pistachio paste, flour and baking powder. The batter should be thick.
- Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Vigorously mix half of the egg white mix in with the pistachio batter until well mixed. Next fold in the rest of the egg white mix and continuing folding until uniform in color. It should be a vibrant green and have the distinctive smell of pistachio [have to love the French for adding a line like this!]. Finally, add in the raspberries (for fresh berries, gently toss in flour to prevent their color from bleeding).
- Pour the batter into a buttered cake or loaf pan and bake for 35 minutes. The cake is finished baking when the point of a knife pierced in the center of the cake comes out humid but clean.
- Remove the cake from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before removing from the pan. Dust with powdered sugar [optional] and serve at room temperature.
Recipe translated from Fait Maison Gâteaux.