This nutty, fluffy crowd-pleaser can be made a few hours before the party and refrigerated. Bring to the buffet table whole, then cut into slices and serve on dessert plates.
- 1 cup pine nuts, untoasted
- 12 large eggs, separated
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1½ cups sifted all purpose flour
- 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 8 ounces (1 cup) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 2 cups confectioners sugar
- 4 to 6 tablespoons heavy cream, more as needed
- 1 egg yolk
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- Grated zest of ½ lemon
- 2 ½ cups pine nuts, toasted
1. Heat the oven to 375°F. Lightly butter and flour two 10-inch circles of parchment paper cut to fit two 10-inch springform cake pans. Place them in the pans—buttered sides up—and set aside.
2. Begin making the sponge: Process the cup of untoasted pine nuts in a food processor until it resembles smooth peanut butter, pausing once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
3. Using an electric mixer, beat the 12 egg yolks and 1/3 cup of the granulated sugar at medium-high speed until thick in texture, and light in color, and the batter forms a ribbon when the beaters are raised from the batter. Beat in the vanilla, lemon zest, and the pureed pine nuts until just blended. Reserve.
4. Clean the beaters well, and in a clean bowl, beat the egg whites with the electric mixer until frothy. With the mixer running, add the salt, and slowly pour in the remaining 2/3 cup of sugar. Continue to beat the mixture until the whites stand in soft peaks, drooping just a bit when you raise the beaters.
5. Gently fold the egg whites, one-third at a time, into the reserved yolk mixture. Keep the mixture light and airy; it is not necessary to entirely incorporate the whites before the next addition. In the same fashion, fold in the 1½ cups flour in thirds, completely incorporating the mixture after the final addition. Divide the batter between the cake pans, place in the oven, and bake until a skewer inserted into the cakes comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Place the pans on racks to cool completely. When cool, run a knife around each cake to make sure it won’t stick, release the springform sides, remove the pan bottoms, and carefully peel off the parchment paper. Place the cakes back on the racks, and reserve.
6. Make the buttercream icing: With an electric mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese until fluffy, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar, followed by a few tablespoons of cream and the egg yolk. Beat in the vanilla, lemon juice, lemon zest, and additional cream as needed to produce a spreadable icing. (You may make the buttercream in advance, and store it in the refrigerator, but allow it to warm slightly before use.)
7. Assemble the cake: Combine one-third of the icing with ½ cup of the toasted pine nuts. Place one cooled cake on a cake stand or plate. Evenly spread the icing with the pine nuts on top of the first cake. Top with the second cake, bottom side down. Evenly spread the remaining icing (which has no pine nuts) over the entire cake top and sides. Then cover the entire cake, top and sides, with the remaining 2 cups of pine nuts. When applying them to the sides, gently press them into the icing in small handfuls.
This recipe serves 12.