Eating Green: How to Make Monet Cake

Eating Green: How to Make Monet Cake
Monet. When I hear his name I think of the most wonderfully vibrant, lively, and delicate paintings. The layers, precision, and beauty that he created within his art is met in the love of his favorite cake. Nowadays, we like to call this Monet cake "le Gâteau Vert Cake," which also translates to “green cake” in English. Pistachios and spinach team up in this cake to create one of the most amazing cakes I’ve ever had the pleasure of artfully making.

It’s All About the Nuts

At the heart of Monet’s cake, you will find pistachios aplenty. This was an ingredient that was easily accessible during the era Monet lived. However, they were not for everyone; the cost could be high and were reserved for those who had the money to splurge on them, or for those who grew their own.
Monet lived a comfortable lifestyle and employed a cook who created works of art from the fresh garden troves around his home. I mean, come on – this sounds heavenly! Among the works created was this cake itself, le gâteau vert, which became his absolute favorite.

Making Monet Cake

I would be lying if I said Monet’s cake didn’t intimidate me a bit when I read through the steps and the recipe. For a minute I thought, “Am I nuts?” Well, I’m not, but this cake is and worth every step for the amazing dessert you will find yourself drooling over.
Worried you may flounder and fail? A big oopsy? Well, I promise you no one gets to be a great chef or baker without epic fails, bloopers, and a few stories to tell. I like to think of myself as a pretty adept baker, yet I still managed to fail at a couple steps in this recipe. Oh well, my guests were none the wiser, and I learned something – like don’t overbeat your gênoise or you’ll beat the air out of your sponge cake and it will fall flat on its face. Oh yes, this was me! The “adept” baker!
You’d think that was all, right? Nope, yet another oops! I made the mistake of confusing myself on what was which and which was what and instead I made my marzipan into my fondant icing and used that to spread and drip over the cake. No wonder it didn’t look quite right. But hey, I still can’t complain. It’s sooo yummy! This is also why I’ve put a few tips into this segment to make you as equipped as possible as you dive into this masterpiece.

First, this is a recipe where you do want your eggs cold and your butter melted. Often in recipes it’s best to warm your eggs to room temperature and soften your butter to room temperature, but le gâteau has things flipped around a bit, all but one part. Keep a look out for the step that includes softened butter!
Second, before you dive in, make sure you have a kitchen scale and a blender/grinder. These are both essential for properly weighing out some of your ingredients and finely grinding your pistachios and spinach paste. Ah, yup, I said spinach paste!
As for the gênoise, I covered this one above. Enough said? Yes, enough said! Marzipan and fondant icing, too? Yes, that as well!
The final tip I’d like to offer is to have fun and feel free to improvise a little as you need. I didn’t have pistachio essence, so instead I used almond. No kirsch for me (not found locally), so I improvised with some cherry juice. A person could also mix a little brandy and cherry juice if desired. The last thing I improvised was using granulated white sugar to create my own caster sugar. Caster sugar is a fine sugar that isn’t as smooth as powdered sugar but less grainy than granulated. I threw it in the blender, and it worked great!
Finally, print out your recipe and cross off as you go – it’ll be far less confusing! Maybe less likely to make those “oopses”?

It’s a Birth-Tee Party

A birthday (or tea) party just wouldn’t be complete without tea, of course. I admit, I have an absolute favorite with this cake. I re-steeped my tea leaves I used in making the cake and enjoyed it with a slice when it was all done. It's the one, the only, Housewarming Blend black tea. This vanilla crème brûlée blend is the perfect accompaniment within and with this Monet cake.
Another suggestion that pairs so splendidly is Toasted Nut Brûlée oolong tea. Yes, all around a little nutty, this tea is made with a mix of nuts and some added vanilla that brings out the flavor of the dessert. There is just the right amount of sweet in this tea that draws out the very essence of Monet cake.

Le Gateau Vert Monet Cake with a Tea-riffic Twist

Pistachio Marzipan
  • 300 grams pistachio kernels
  • 225 grams powdered sugar
  • 1 large egg white, whisked
  • 1 teaspoon pistachio essence (vanilla or almond)
Gênoise Sponge
  • 50 grams pistachio kernels
  • 75 grams flour
  • 125 grams caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 25 grams unsalted butter, melted
  • Grated zest of one lemon
Crème au Beurre
  • 300 grams fresh spinach
  • 100 grams pistachio kernels
  • 1 tablespoon kirsch (or cherry juice)
  • 150 grams unsalted butter, softened
  • 80 grams caster sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons Housewarming Blend black tea
  • 250 grams fondant icing sugar
  • 3-4 tablespoons spinach water (see directions)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pistachio essence (vanilla or almond)
  • 25 grams pistachio kernels
  • Edible flowers to decorate (optional)

Make the marzipan:

Grind the pistachios in a food processor (a grinder or blender will work, too). Add the powdered sugar and grind until fine, then add into a mixing bowl. Add in the egg white and pistachio (or vanilla or almond) essence and combine. Turn out onto a worktop dusted with powdered sugar and kneed until smooth. Wrap in cling wrap and set aside.

Heat the oven to 350°F.

Make the gênoise:

Finely grind the pistachios and flour in a food processor (or blender or grinder). Place the sugar and eggs in a large bowl and whisk until thick and pale. Fold in the flour mixture, the butter, and the lemon zest. Do not overmix.

Pour the mixture into a greased 9-inch round cake tin and bake for 20-30 minutes, until risen and springy to the touch. Set aside to cool for 5-10 minutes, then flip onto a rack to cool completely.

Make the crème au beurre:

Bring 150 milliliters of water to a boil in a large pan. Add the tea. Let steep for five minutes. Strain. Add the water back to the large pan and bring to a boil again. Add the spinach and wilt for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a blender and purée.

Drain the purée through a piece of muslin or cheesecloth, squeezing out all of the spinach water. You should have 160-170 milliliters. Set aside.

Grind the pistachios in a blender. Add the kirsch (or cherry juice), 1 tablespoon of the spinach water, and 50 grams of the softened butter. Blend to a paste and set aside.

Put the sugar and 100 milliliters of the spinach water into a pan (reserve the remainder). Dissolve the sugar gently, then boil for 2-3 minutes, until the syrup is clear and forms a thread when pulled between two spoons.

Whisk the egg yolks in a stand mixer, then pour in the syrup in a thin stream, whisking all the time. Whisk until the mixture is thick and cold, then add the remaining 100 grams of softened butter, and whisk in the pistachio paste.

Assemble the cake:

Slice the sponge into three equal layers. Spread the bottom layer with one third of the crème au beurre, then the middle layer with another third, then top with the final sponge. Spread a thin buttercream layer over the top and sides. Roll out the marzipan and use to cover the whole cake.

To make the decoration, sift the fondant icing into a bowl and, a little at a time, add 3-4 tablespoons of the remaining spinach water until you have a thick, pourable fondant. Add the pistachio (vanilla or almond) essence and mix thoroughly until completely smooth.

Stand the cake on a wire rack and pour over the fondant icing. Leave to drip for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to a cake stand. Decorate with edible flowers and enjoy!

McKenna Marek

McKenna is from midwestern Wisconsin and is the creative owner of Sweet Rose Desserts. She treasures time with her three children, savoring every moment, and the peacefulness of their home in the country. She enjoys baking, photography, and of course—time with friends over a shared pot of tea.
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