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White Chocolate Easter Cake with Strawberries

3/4 cup half and half
3 ounces good-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Baker's), chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsalted pistachio nuts
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
5 large egg whites
3 1-pint baskets strawberries
1 7-ounce package marzipan
2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups chilled whipping cream

1 1/4 cups half and half
3/4 cup unsalted pistachio nuts
1/2 cup sugar
4 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter and flour two 9-inch-diameter cake
pans with 1 1/2-inch-high-sides.

Bring half and half to simmer in small saucepan. Remove from heat.
Add chocolate and vanilla and stir until smooth; cool to room

Finely grind pistachios with flour and baking powder in processor.
Using electric mixer, beat butter and 3/4 cup sugar in large bowl
until fluffy. Add yolks 1 at a time, beating well after each
addition. Beat in flour mixture alternately with white chocolate
mixture in 2 additions each. Using clean dry beaters, beat egg
whites in medium bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining
1/4 cup sugar, beating until stiff but not dry. Fold whites into
batter in 2 additions.

Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted
into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool 10 minutes.
Cut around pan sides to loosen cakes. Turn out cakes onto racks;
cool completely.

Hull and slice 2 baskets strawberries. Place 1 cake layer on platter.
Spread 1 cup buttercream over. Arrange enough berry slices over to
cover. Spread 1 cup buttercream over. Arrange another layer of
sliced berries over to cover. Spread thin layer of buttercream over
second cake layer and place cake, buttercream side down, atop
berries. Press gently to adhere. Spread remaining buttercream over
top and sides of cake. Chill cake until buttercream is firm, about
1 hour. Knead marzipan in medium bowl to soften. Shape marzipan
into disk. Dust work surface with 2 tablespoons powdered sugar.
Roll out marzipan disk on powdered sugar to 9 1/2-round. Place on
cake; press to adhere to top and gently press overhang onto sides
of cake.

Beat whipping cream and remaining 1/4 cup powdered sugar in large
bowl to firm peaks. Transfer to large pastry bag fitted with medium
star tip. Pipe cream in side-by-side columns up sides of cake. Pipe
border of rosettes around top edge of cake. Refrigerate cake until
cold, at least 2 hours.

Arrange remaining whole strawberries in center of cake.

Bring half and half and pistachios to boil in heavy small saucepan.
Remove from heat; cover and let stand 1 hour. Whisk sugar, yolks
and flour in medium bowl to blend. Bring half and half mixture to
simmer; gradually whisk into yolk mixture. Return to same saucepan;
stir over medium heat until mixture bubbles thickly, about 5 minutes.
Mix in vanilla. Transfer to processor; blend until nuts are very
finely chopped. Transfer pistachio pastry cream to bowl. Cover and
cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

Using electric mixer, beat unsalted butter in large bowl until
fluffy. Add pastry cream by 1/4 cupfuls, beating well after each

Serves 12.


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