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My journey to reproduce PN's pine nut studded pound cake

My journey to reproduce PN's pine nut studded pound cake
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  • My journey to reproduce PN's pine nut studded pound cake

    Post #1 - June 6th, 2010, 11:50 am
    Post #1 - June 6th, 2010, 11:50 am Post #1 - June 6th, 2010, 11:50 am
    Anyone who has sampled Pasticceria Natalina's pine nut studded almond-lemon pound cake knows just how good it tastes. I would go as far to say that it's the best pound cake I have ever tasted. Over the course of the last several months, I have tried a couple of times to reproduce this cake at home with only moderate success.

    Then I came across this recipe which sounds remarkably similar to the cake served at PN. The result of my latest effort convinced me that I'm getting close, but still a few changes are needed (which I describe below).

    But anyway, here's how it looked right before it went in the oven (with parchment for easy removal):

    Image


    And freshly out of the oven:

    Image


    A slice to eat:

    Image


    I was very pleased with the recipe but improvements are needed (in my opinion). First, the cake was actually a little too moist for my liking so I plan on cutting out a little butter - probably 1/2 to 1 ounce less - for a drier crumb.

    It was also just a tad too sweet, so I plan to cut down the sugar by an 1/8 or 1/4 cup.

    Also, it was a little too lemony for me. I prefer the lemon flavor to be more subtle. And I didn't use all of the lemon juice/zest called for in the recipe. So next time, I'm going to use the zest of only 1 to 1.5 of the lemons and 1 to 1.5 teaspoons of the juice. I also plan on slightly increasing the amount of pine nuts - probably by about a tablespoon. I might also incorporate just a little bit of salt in the batter itself (the recipe I linked to uses salt only on top of the cake, mixed with the pine nuts)

    That being said, this is a good recipe . . . but I'm looking to reproduce Pasticceria Natalina's version at home so I plan on trying again in the next couple of weeks. Once I perfect it, I'll post my final recipe here. In the meantime, I'm curious if anyone else has tried to reproduce this cake at home with any success.
    Last edited by BR on July 1st, 2013, 5:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #2 - June 6th, 2010, 12:34 pm
    Post #2 - June 6th, 2010, 12:34 pm Post #2 - June 6th, 2010, 12:34 pm
    Doesn't PN's cake have poppy seeds in it? I love that cake -- i'd love to know how to make it as well.
  • Post #3 - June 6th, 2010, 6:29 pm
    Post #3 - June 6th, 2010, 6:29 pm Post #3 - June 6th, 2010, 6:29 pm
    Looks beautiful. I'll be following your experiments. I love anything with pine nuts.
  • Post #4 - June 6th, 2010, 7:11 pm
    Post #4 - June 6th, 2010, 7:11 pm Post #4 - June 6th, 2010, 7:11 pm
    Thank you, BR. Your efforts are a true public service. And when you are finished with this, could you get to work on Spoon's catfish custard?
    Man : I can't understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.
    T. S. Eliot: Ah, but you're not a poet.
  • Post #5 - June 6th, 2010, 8:46 pm
    Post #5 - June 6th, 2010, 8:46 pm Post #5 - June 6th, 2010, 8:46 pm
    I am very interested in your quest! I tried looking for similar recipes a couple of years ago. I found one from Babbo and one from Carole Walter. I ended up making the latter, which I thought was good, but a not quite the same as PN. My mom preferred this version better as she thought it was more moist than PN. Good luck.
  • Post #6 - June 6th, 2010, 10:53 pm
    Post #6 - June 6th, 2010, 10:53 pm Post #6 - June 6th, 2010, 10:53 pm
    [quote="BR"]




    I was very pleased with the recipe but improvements are needed (in my opinion). First, the cake was actually a little too moist for my liking so I plan on cutting out a little butter - probably 1/2 to 1 ounce less - for a drier crumb.-- I like moist.

    It was also just a tad too sweet, so I plan to cut down the sugar by an 1/8 or 1/4 cup.- I don't like too sweet

    Also, it was a little too lemony for me. I prefer the lemon flavor to be more subtle. And I didn't use all of the lemon juice/zest called for in the recipe. So next time, I'm going to use the zest of only 1 to 1.5 of the lemons and 1 to 1.5 teaspoons of the juice. -- I like lemon.

    I'm going to look at the recipe now.
    Ava-"If you get down and out, just get in the kitchen and bake a cake."- Jean Strickland

    Horto In Urbs- Falling in love with Urban Vegetable Gardening
  • Post #7 - June 7th, 2010, 9:59 am
    Post #7 - June 7th, 2010, 9:59 am Post #7 - June 7th, 2010, 9:59 am
    earthlydesire wrote:Doesn't PN's cake have poppy seeds in it? I love that cake -- i'd love to know how to make it as well.

    Nope - no poppy seeds . . . although if they use real vanilla bean like I did, I can see where there might be a little confusion.

    Josephine wrote:Thank you, BR. Your efforts are a true public service. And when you are finished with this, could you get to work on Spoon's catfish custard?

    You're welcome . . . but while I think I can master the custard portion, I'm quite sure I don't have the patience (or the touch) for those banana leaf packages. Sounds like we need a trip to Spoon Thai soon!

    Thanks for all of the compliments. I tried the cake again today to see if my thoughts changed . . . and they did, slightly. It's not as lemony as I first suspected, but still more so than Pasticceria Natalina's version. It's definitely moister, which is surprising to me since I used butter and no oil. But I'll cut down the butter a bit. I also wonder whether I need to slightly alter the flour/almond flour mixture a bit. It can definitely use some more pine nuts though. But overall it's quite good . . . plenty good enough to eat.

    I hope to get a chance to bake another one this week.
  • Post #8 - June 7th, 2010, 2:34 pm
    Post #8 - June 7th, 2010, 2:34 pm Post #8 - June 7th, 2010, 2:34 pm
    Josephine, just curious, but is your "catfish custard" what us outlanders call Ho Mok Pla?

    Love that stuff!

    Geo
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #9 - June 10th, 2010, 10:21 pm
    Post #9 - June 10th, 2010, 10:21 pm Post #9 - June 10th, 2010, 10:21 pm
    Latest attempt did not produce the exact desired results. I cut out all of the lemon juice, and it now has a very subtle lemon flavor. I might add in a 1/2-1 teaspoon of the juice next time and then I'll be perfectly satisfied with the lemon flavor.

    I decided it needed a little more almond flavor so I added in the equivalent of a pinch of pure almond extract and I think that did the trick.

    I added 2 more tablespoons of pine nuts (1 chopped, 1 whole and sprinkled on top) and decided that 1 tablespoon would have been sufficient.

    I also cut down the butter by 1/2 ounce and I thought the texture was a little better. I cut down the sugar by 2 tablespoons and decided that I shouldn't have cut down the sugar - I'll put it back in the next time.

    But the biggest problem I have is that it's still a little too moist/greasy - so I think I'm going to rely a bit more upon flour, and a little less upon ground almonds the next time (instead of 3/4 cup flour and 1 cup ground almonds, I might reverse the measurements), (and maybe then a little more almond extract). I'm also wondering whether perhaps Pasticceria Natalina uses semolina - I don't think so but I'm not 100% positive.

    In any event, it tastes good so I can't call it a failure. Here are the pics of tonight's experiment:


    Image


    Image


    Friday morning thoughts- having slept on it, I now wonder whether toasting all or some of the almonds would eliminate some of what I view as excess grease/moisture. PN's version is somewhat dry and I prefer it that way . . . almost less cake-like.
  • Post #10 - June 11th, 2010, 8:49 am
    Post #10 - June 11th, 2010, 8:49 am Post #10 - June 11th, 2010, 8:49 am
    BR wrote: I'm also wondering whether perhaps Pasticceria Natalina uses semolina - I don't think so but I'm not 100% positive.
    I also wondered the same thing b/c one of the recipes I stumbled upon included semolina. When I went to PN and asked her about the different kinds of semolina, her response led me to believe that she does not use it. Although, like you, I am not 100% sure.
  • Post #11 - June 11th, 2010, 9:30 am
    Post #11 - June 11th, 2010, 9:30 am Post #11 - June 11th, 2010, 9:30 am
    To reduce greasiness, I think swapping the almonds for flour is more on the right track than toasting the almonds. Almonds are not too effective at absorbing oil/liquids, certainly not like flour.

    Regarding semolina, I have no idea what PN's cake tastes like, but the different grinds of semolina are going to have a very different effect on the cake and coarser grinds will not do as good a job of absorbing the butter
  • Post #12 - July 27th, 2010, 12:45 pm
    Post #12 - July 27th, 2010, 12:45 pm Post #12 - July 27th, 2010, 12:45 pm
    Somehow I thought I posted already. I made this for last month's dessert exchange. It was fantastic. Here's a link to the picture taken by msoma97.

    This is a fantastic loaf for easy entertaining or picnics or if you are old school and always keep a treat available at home.
    Last edited by pairs4life on August 1st, 2010, 9:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    Ava-"If you get down and out, just get in the kitchen and bake a cake."- Jean Strickland

    Horto In Urbs- Falling in love with Urban Vegetable Gardening
  • Post #13 - August 1st, 2010, 10:09 am
    Post #13 - August 1st, 2010, 10:09 am Post #13 - August 1st, 2010, 10:09 am
    Did you use the original recipe posted by BR?

    Jyoti




    pairs4life wrote:Somehow I thought I posted already. I made this for last month's dessert exchange. It was fantastic. Here's a ink to the picture taken by msoma97.

    This is a fantastic loaf for easy entertaining or picnics or if you are old school and always keep a treat available at home.
    Jyoti
    A meal, with bread and wine, shared with friends and family is among the most essential and important of all human rituals.
    Ruhlman
  • Post #14 - August 1st, 2010, 5:13 pm
    Post #14 - August 1st, 2010, 5:13 pm Post #14 - August 1st, 2010, 5:13 pm
    jygach wrote:Did you use the original recipe posted by BR?

    Jyoti




    pairs4life wrote:Somehow I thought I posted already. I made this for last month's dessert exchange. It was fantastic. Here's a ink to the picture taken by msoma97.

    This is a fantastic loaf for easy entertaining or picnics or if you are old school and always keep a treat available at home.


    Yes. It was really, really good. It is a bit rich, I think it's the ground almonds. I have a vitamix so it was almond meal/flour. While it works like any other flour, obviously it would have a much higher fat/oil content than most grain based flours. It was delicious.
    Ava-"If you get down and out, just get in the kitchen and bake a cake."- Jean Strickland

    Horto In Urbs- Falling in love with Urban Vegetable Gardening
  • Post #15 - August 4th, 2010, 12:40 pm
    Post #15 - August 4th, 2010, 12:40 pm Post #15 - August 4th, 2010, 12:40 pm
    Yes. It was really, really good. It is a bit rich, I think it's the ground almonds. I have a vitamix so it was almond meal/flour. While it works like any other flour, obviously it would have a much higher fat/oil content than most grain based flours. It was delicious.


    I think using store bought almond meal (like Bob's Red Mill) will make the cake less oily than using your own ground almonds. Commercial almond meal has some if not most of the oil extracted.
  • Post #16 - August 4th, 2010, 12:55 pm
    Post #16 - August 4th, 2010, 12:55 pm Post #16 - August 4th, 2010, 12:55 pm
    rickster wrote:
    Yes. It was really, really good. It is a bit rich, I think it's the ground almonds. I have a vitamix so it was almond meal/flour. While it works like any other flour, obviously it would have a much higher fat/oil content than most grain based flours. It was delicious.


    I think using store bought almond meal (like Bob's Red Mill) will make the cake less oily than using your own ground almonds. Commercial almond meal has some if not most of the oil extracted.

    I agree . . . I've tried both methods and there was definitely some difference. But I also plan on lightly toasting some of the almonds next time and combining that with purchased almond flour/meal. I've taken a bit of a break from this project to focus on fruit pies with all of the great summer fruit available, but I will return to the challenge eventually.
  • Post #17 - June 29th, 2011, 7:55 am
    Post #17 - June 29th, 2011, 7:55 am Post #17 - June 29th, 2011, 7:55 am
    I just thought I'd update this thread and let you know that while I haven't had a ton of success in producing a dry cake, I have achieved the taste results I desire. And after having served it to a number of friends that appreciate the moistness and flavor of the cake, I'm ready to give up on future efforts at improvement.

    I'm going to make one more try with my adjusted recipe, but the most significant adjustments to the original recipe have to do with adding in a little almond flavor and lessening the lemon flavor. I just think that the originally linked to recipe throws the almond-lemon-pine nut balance out of whack (too much lemon; very little almond flavor).

    So while my soon-to-be revealed final recipe might not perfectly replicate what you learned to love at Pasticceria Natalina, I think you'll find that it's damn good nonetheless. I'll then move on to a version that replaces the butter with olive oil - PN did the same thing at one point.
  • Post #18 - June 29th, 2011, 3:28 pm
    Post #18 - June 29th, 2011, 3:28 pm Post #18 - June 29th, 2011, 3:28 pm
    I don't know, this has become a standard. It's easy, different, delicious, & accessible. Served it last spring at mbh's place (she's not keen on sweets) & she loved it.

    I do to. I also really like the lemon flavor, last time I did use Meyer Lemons.

    Can't wait to see your changes with olive oil. I've not been enamored, in the past, when it was used in sweets.
    Ava-"If you get down and out, just get in the kitchen and bake a cake."- Jean Strickland

    Horto In Urbs- Falling in love with Urban Vegetable Gardening
  • Post #19 - July 1st, 2013, 6:32 pm
    Post #19 - July 1st, 2013, 6:32 pm Post #19 - July 1st, 2013, 6:32 pm
    I've made this recipe at least a dozen times since I first found it, but I've made a number of modifications to suit my personal tastes. The most critical change relates to the amount of butter called for, and this relates to the moistness issue I've complained of. The recipe calls for 2 1/4 cups of butter (9 oz.). I've found that cutting the butter down to 1 3/4 sticks (7 oz.) produces a cake that's plenty moist, but not too moist and not too greasy. I always recalled Natalie's cake being slightly dryer, which I personally love, although I've found my friends prefer a moister cake. So while I haven't gone down to 6 ounces, I probably would if I thought I'd be the only one eating it (and I might anyway just to see what happens - I suspect it would still be plenty moist). I tried olive oil once, and enjoyed it, but it was too moist and I haven't worked on adjustments with respect to an olive oil version . . . another time.

    Also, I have typically used vanilla bean, as called for by the recipe, but I have not detected any measurable difference when using vanilla extract. Now I always love seeing those specks of vanilla in a cake, but if you want to save a few $$$, then use 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract in place of the 2 vanilla beans.

    The recipe also calls for superfine sugar . . . you can achieve this by running regular sugar in your Cuisinart and pulsing several times. I also don't pulse quite so many times and this slightly cuts down on the sweetness of the cake (because superfine is more densely packed when measured).

    For the ground almonds, I use the Bob's Red Mill ground almonds - it's just too easy, and I don't think the almonds affect the moistness to any significant degree . . . pretty sure butter is the main culprit.

    I also think the zest of two lemons and juice of one of the lemons results in a cake that's very lemon dominant. I love lemon, but in this cake I want to taste pine nuts, almond and lemon. In that respect, I have found that the zest of 1-1.5 lemons, and the juice of at most 1/2 of a lemon, is sufficient. Of course, this depends upon the size of the lemon. But hey, go ahead and taste the batter and see what you think.

    I have also upped the amount of pine nuts (a must in my opinion) and I've also added some salt to the cake batter itself (a generous 1/8 teaspoon).

    Finally, I also add some almond extract - no more than 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon (again, taste to judge for yourself), and I think this gives me the perfect almond-pine nut-lemon-vanilla marriage that I seek.

    So, in summary, my revised recipe looks like this:

    1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter (7 oz., or even slightly less)
    2 vanilla beans (or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
    zest of 1-1.5 lemons, and juice from about 1/2 lemon
    8 tablespoons pine nuts
    1 1/4 cups (not quite so) superfine sugar
    4 eggs
    3/4 cups all purpose flour
    1 cup ground almonds
    1/4 teaspoon salt (plus 1/8 teaspoon in batter)

    I think it comes pretty damn close to that amazing pine nut-almond cake from Pasticceria Natalina. If she ever publishes her version, I'll be curious to see how they compare.
  • Post #20 - July 2nd, 2013, 9:55 am
    Post #20 - July 2nd, 2013, 9:55 am Post #20 - July 2nd, 2013, 9:55 am
    I hope to try this out soon. Is the Bob's product the finely ground meal / flour (ground from blanched almonds) you can get at Whole Foods? If you were grinding your own, do you imagine blanched or roasted almonds would be closer to what PN was using? Thanks for sharing the above journey on this delectable cake.

    (ooh, and edit: did you ever try any semolina in the ratio, and did that affect the results at all? regular flour sounds just fine to me, of course).
  • Post #21 - July 2nd, 2013, 10:13 am
    Post #21 - July 2nd, 2013, 10:13 am Post #21 - July 2nd, 2013, 10:13 am
    Santander wrote:I hope to try this out soon. Is the Bob's product the finely ground meal / flour (ground from blanched almonds) you can get at Whole Foods? If you were grinding your own, do you imagine blanched or roasted almonds would be closer to what PN was using? Thanks for sharing the above journey on this delectable cake.

    (ooh, and edit: did you ever try any semolina in the ratio, and did that affect the results at all? regular flour sounds just fine to me, of course).

    Yes on Bob's products - Whole Foods, Mariano's, etc...

    I tried toasting the almonds once - not enough taste difference to do it again. The result was a coarser cake which I didn't love (though I could have used a sieve ... maybe even the Vitamix that I now own). I'm not sure what Natalie used though - just that it was ground almonds.

    Also, I never tried semolina. I remember talking to Natalie and I'm pretty sure she said they did not use semolina in the cake.
  • Post #22 - July 2nd, 2013, 4:13 pm
    Post #22 - July 2nd, 2013, 4:13 pm Post #22 - July 2nd, 2013, 4:13 pm
    The 1st few times I made this I had almonds to hand & made my own ground almond flour/meal. I suspect that had a lot to do with the moistness, but everyone loves it that way. Now I just buy the Trader Joe's Almond meal and it definitely is not as moist/greasy as it was before. It makes sense. The commercial nut meals/flours are "de-fatted" in large part to prevent them from going off/rancid quickly I suspect versus grinding up your own nuts.

    Almost made this cake last Saturday for dinner with 6 people, including 1 (me) who was NOT consuming dessert, but alas, I stopped at 3 desserts. :shock:
    Ava-"If you get down and out, just get in the kitchen and bake a cake."- Jean Strickland

    Horto In Urbs- Falling in love with Urban Vegetable Gardening

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