Before the age of about fifteen, I don’t think I’d ever made buttercream icing.
I’d eaten it, of course, at friends’ houses and birthday parties, spread over simple sponge cakes and smothered between the rounds of the ubiquitous caterpillar cake (one made an appearance at a 28th birthday we recently attended, clearly caterpillar cake will never go out of fashion in some circles), but I’m pretty sure I’d never actually made my own buttercream at home.
When my brother and I were growing up, my Mum always encouraged us to make our own birthday cakes. Some people might see this as a chore – I can remember school friends asking curiously if we were sad not to receive a shop-bought cake – but I always loved it: the baking, icing and decorating, time spent in the kitchen together and great big bowls of batter and sticky spoons to lick.
Our repertoire of birthday cakes was fairly limited, mostly revolving between three favourites: chocolate biscuit cake (made in a mould shaped like a giant rabbit and served surrounded by green jelly ‘grass’), chocolate and raspberry meringue layers (my brother’s favourite for several years) and a simple chocolate sponge, filled and covered with a thin layer of chocolate yoghurt icing. Made with nothing more than melted dark chocolate and thick Greek yoghurt, this soft, slightly tart icing was the taste of childhood birthdays.
Once I was let loose in my own kitchen and in possession of an electric whisk (my Mum only had an ancient metal one, and while I know people creamed butter by hand before the invention of electricity, it does seem like an unnecessary amount of effort), my attention turned to buttercream. I experimented with cream cheese and swiss meringue bases, various amounts of butter, different sugars and different ratios of chocolate and cream in a glossy ganache. That abstemious chocolate yoghurt icing didn’t really get a look in.
Which is a shame because it’s really very delicious. I may be the child who was reared on raisins over sweets but I promise it’s a lovely way to finish a cake in a paired back, subtly sweet, puritanical sort of a way. If you’re used to fluffy American buttercream or glossy cream-based ganache you might find it a little tart, but the sharpness works well with the soft, squidgy sweetness of these lovely little squares.
Ever since I made this pistachio and lemon loaf cake, I’ve been wanting to try a chocolate version. Chocolate and pistachio is a match made in heaven and combining the two in squidgy cake form is about as good as it gets. Ground pistachios add colour and flavour, almonds a little extra moistness and chocolate makes an appearance in both the batter and this chocolate yoghurt frosting. It’s a simple, afternoon tea kind of a cake, but also lovely served with a scoop of ice cream after dinner.
Sometimes (rarely) only a sickly-sweet cupcake, buried under inch thick fluffy frosting and a mountain of sprinkles will do. Most of the time, something a little simpler is what we want from life. These little cakes offer just that – nothing more than nuts, chocolate and a few good things bound together in a simple, squidgy square.
Squidgy Chocolate & Pistachio Squares (adapted from my Pistachio & Lemon Loaf Cakes)
(makes 16 squares)
For the cake
200g unsalted butter, softened
200g golden caster sugar
3 large free range eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
75g dark chocolate
65g light brown self-raising flour
For the icing
80g dark chocolate, chopped
80g milk chocolate, chopped
1 tbsp thick Greek yoghurt
50g pistachios, toasted & chopped
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line the base of a 20cm square, loose bottomed tin.
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the egg – adding a tiny bit of flour if the mixture starts to separate – followed by the vanilla and salt.
Blitz together the pistachios and almonds in a blender until a fine powder is formed (a few chunks of nut are ok). Add the chocolate and blitz a few second more until coarsely chopped.
Fold the ground nuts, chocolate and self-raising flour into the egg mixture until just combined then scrape into the prepared tin.
Bake for 35 minutes or until the top springs back to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out pretty much clean. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool then remove from the tin.
For the icing
Melt the chocolates together in the microwave or in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Allow to cool slightly (about 4 minutes), then stir in the Greek yoghurt.
The mixture will start to thicken as soon as the chocolate and yoghurt combines so working quickly, spread over the top of your cake, smoothing with a palette knife. Sprinkle with the chopped, toasted pistachios.
Pop the cake in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up then remove and slice into 16 squares.
26 responses to “Squidgy Chocolate & Pistachio Squares”
This looks so incredible. I don’t think I’ve ever had the combination of chocolate and pistachio… I know, who am I? But I absolutely love pistachios and I’m sure they can only be improved with the addition of chocolate (though I am eyeing that lemon pistachio cake).
I love the colour and flavour of pistachios, the vivid greenness always looks so attractive and I really like the idea of Greek yoghurt and chocolate for the icing to cut down on the sweetness.
In my ‘old age’ (well, over 30 years) I too find the rather sweet heaped buttercream cakes/cupcakes a little too sickly and recently tried a yogurty based topping inspired by a recipe in the River Cottage Cakes book- it was a lovely tasty alternative and will most certainly be used again and again!
They look very sexy and delicious. The green pistachios look perfect on top of the chocolate.
Pistachio is my number 1 nut (I have a top ten). It just goes with so many things. These little squares look gorgeous. Perfect for my mid morning coffee.
Amy – OMG, you have to go out right now and buy some chocolate and some pistachios. Go! 🙂
Julia – it’s a lovely, not to sweet everyday kind of treat.
Kate – too much buttercream on a cupcake can be so sickly. And probably not great for kids, hence my Mum making this simpler version.
Food, Photography & France – thank you.
Sophie – I honestly don’t think I could choose – hazelnuts, pecans, peanuts…so many good nuts!
How positively divine. We always have pistachios laying around. And chocolate. What a nice coincidence!
This looks like *exactly* what I’m in the mood for right now. Question about the flour – we don’t have self raising flour where I live, so would light brown self raising flour be sort of like whole wheat pastry flour with baking powder added?
It is absolutely gorgeous!
I love pistachio, your cake is done for me! 😉
I absolutely l.o.v.e.d. your pistachio and lemon cake …. so much so that I made it three times in one week …. my neighbours were equally enamoured by the cake! I hadn’t really done much baking with ground nuts before …. thank you so much for opening up a new baking avenue for me to explore. I can’t wait to try the Squidgy Chocolate & Pistachio Squares … you had me hooked by the word ‘squidgy’ alone!
That looks like such an interesting combination, plus the combination of the green and chocolatey colours look yummy!
I only just started making buttercream recently actually and this Greek yogurt and chocolate frosting sounds delicious and certainly not as rich and sickly as buttercream (as much as I like it now and again). I am definitely trying this, I think it is also a great solution for the little ‘uns!
Yasmeen – sounds like these squares were meant to be in your household 😉
Muffin Myth – yep, that should be absolutely fine. You can make without the raising element, but you’ll get a slightly damper, heavier cake.
Mrs Deer – thank you.
Christina – wow, that is love! I adore that cake too but this is a very close second – anything with chocolate gets my vote 😉
Sofia – thank you!
Nuts About Food – definitely a great option for kids – dark chocolate and yoghurt is practically health food 😉
I love the idea of chocolate yoghurt icing, I’m definitely going to give it a try. I’m not really a fan of overly-sweet buttercream so it sounds far more appealing. Lovely combination of pistachio and chocolate too.
I am going to have to have a caterpillar cake for my birthday! they were epic! this cake looks amazing! I love the sound of that icing!
Reblogged this on Paradise enow and commented:
Oh, these look good!
wow your mum was tough. haha. but it’s def been a good move since you turned out to be such an awesome baker. those squares look amazing, I want them but at the same time, am afraid if I make them, I will scoff the whole lot.
I love the word ‘Squidgy’, I love pistachios and I’m completely enamored with your Squidgy Chocolate & Pistachio Squares! I don’t think there is EVER anything you make that I don’t LOVE 🙂 Also, your Mom encouraging you and your brother to make your own birthday cakes was genius! I would volunteer when I hit 13, but always got shut down because my parents loved buying birthday cakes with all the decorative fanfare lol
I love your recipes and your pictures. This is my bake for tomorrow. Hopefully it will last the week! Thank you for sharing x
That last paragraph is just how I feel about cupcakes. I have buttercream in my bucket list, because I really want to try lots of variations and dedicate myself to finding a favorite one. Pistachios are one of the best nuts, the color alone is amazing, and this cake is just my kind of sweet craving! Gorgeous Kate!
Chocolate and pistachios are one of my favorite combinations! This sounds absolutely wonderful, and it looks beautiful to boot!
What a lovely idea, I love icing like this and have used sour cream before with great results. Having siad that, I have just made the first buttercream I have actually enjoyed with just white chocolate & butter,whipped together.
Your pistachio chocolate cake would satisfy my love of nuts in cake brilliantly!
Oh, I would love love love that ganache. I’m not a super-sweet buttercream person. I’ll take simple any day. What a great pairing for that lovely cake. Chocolate and pistachio is such a great combination!
Kathryn – it’s a lovely change from inches of sickly sweet sugary icing.
Jenny – caterpillar cakes are hard to beat! 🙂
PB – thank you.
Shuhan – nothing wrong with scoffing the whole lot 🙂
Lisa – ah, what a lovely comment, thank you. And yes, my Mum was (and is) great!
Urvashi – thank you, enjoy!
Paula – I absolutely adore pistachios and am never without them in my kitchen cupboards.
Eva – thank you.
Laura – don’t get me wrong, I do still enjoy the odd cake with buttercream 😉 Swiss meringue is definitely a favourite compared to a straight butter and icing sugar one.
Sacha – isn’t it heaven? I still need to make that chocolate pistachio tart you posted months ago…
Pistachio is def my fave nut. I need to make these 🙂
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