Ambroisie - Refined

25 May 2006

I ended up making this dessert after thinking about a pistachio opera cake from this book. I was looking forward to making it, but as soon as I started reading the recipe my enthusiasm wore off – I didn’t like the unclear description of the ingredients (it assumes you know everything about pastry making) and the recipe itself wasn’t very well-written either. I’m sure I could have managed, but I started thinking that I’d rather make something lighter (I always find opera cake a bit too heavy) but still using pistachios.

I recently got a couple of big bags of Iranian pistachios here – their colour is so vivid, I was amazed when I made paste from them – it was so green and fragrant! I’ve actually made this dessert before, but I was in a bit of hurry then and skipped some bits so wanted to make it again properly. It’s called Ambroisie and one of the most popular desserts at Hidemi Sugino shop in Tokyo. I like his book – some of the techniques are quite advanced, but the explanations are good – all of the recipes have step-by-step pictures, as well as French spelling for all the ingredients.

I made two sponges first – chocolate/almond, and pistachio/almond flavours. For the pistachio sponge, he suggests using corn starch instead of plain flour in order to get a lighter texture – it was delicious on its own – he was right about the texture and I loved the rich nutty flavour.

Next is the two mousses – again, chocolate and pistachio flavours. For the pistachio mousse, make custard with vanilla and pistachio paste, then add gelatine and lightly whipped double cream at the end (he suggested using paler egg yolks to keep the green colour, but you wouldn’t know until you crack the egg…) I remember the chocolate mousse was a little rich last time I made it, so I added some almond praline (powdered in a processor), it turned out to be quite a nice touch :)

In the original recipe, the whole cake was encased in the chocolate mousse using a ring mould (you can see better here than me trying to explain in bad English), but I wanted to give it of a Sadaharu Aoki touch :) so used a square mould and sandwiched all the layers. I also spread raspberry jam (cooked with sugar and lemon juice, then seeds strained out) between the chocolate sponge and mousse. Freeze the cake and when set, pour the chocolate glaze (made with cocoa powder, not chocolate) over.

I tried to make the same amount of each component (the recipe has more chocolate mousse) and I think it helped to keep the whole cake very light in both flavour and texture. You don’t want to overpower the delicate pistachio flavour with too much chocolate. So after all, this version turned out well – I’d like to try it with other summer fruits when they are in season.

Oh and for some reason our (ultra naughty) cat was very interested in the pistachios – I thought he just wanted to play with them but he actually stole a couple from the kitchen and ate them! I just hope they aren’t bad for him…

I’ll do whatever I like…

Food - Sweet        67 comments    Permalink

  • So beautiful. I’m always so tempted to try recipes when I see pistachios in them... but haven’t gotten around to it yet!

    Love squirt of raspberry coming through in the top photo.

    Posted by L | 25 May 2006 #
  • Purr- I’d go after the pistacios as well! Beautiful riff on a cake, gorgeous grey kitty.

    Posted by s'kat | 25 May 2006 #
  • lovely dessert! and great photos!

    Posted by Kat | 25 May 2006 #
  • the pictures are beautiful--and the cat! So pretty!

    Posted by tejal | 25 May 2006 #
  • Absolutely perfect...nothing more to say ! and the photo are crazy!!!

    Posted by mercotte | 25 May 2006 #
  • Hi Keiko,

    I love your blog! Great pictures! by the way, I am interested to read Hidemi Sugino’s books, but unfortunately, I don’t understand Japanese...are his books translated into English?

    Posted by Karen | 25 May 2006 #
  • You are sort of a little mad genius in the kitchen. I love that. You are also somewhat of a mad genius behind the camera. I love that too. You inspire me to do better at this food blogging thing. Thanks.

    P.S. Can you send me a bite or two of that cake? Oh my.

    Posted by Kevin | 25 May 2006 #
  • Keiko,

    Beautiful job! You are lucky to be able to read his book - I’d love to try his recipes! And I like all the little twists you added to it.

    Posted by Anita | 25 May 2006 #
  • So beautiful (as always!). Excellent pistachios, never seen them as green as the ones on your photo. They give a lovely green colour to the Ambroisie.

    Cute cat btw!

    Posted by linda | 25 May 2006 #
  • Great recipe and beautufil pistacchioa, that green...I have two questions though: 1) How do you manage to cut in that way? 2)as a Swede, I’m curious about the name of your blog as it sure must be Scandinavian?

    Posted by Ilva | 25 May 2006 #
  • This looks so great, really, everytime I drop by I wonder how you anage to create such masterworks of preciousness!

    and your cat of course is just unbelieveble :-))

    Posted by cavoletto | 25 May 2006 #
  • Aww, your cat is beautiful - so serene looking. Those pistachios really are an amazing green! I’ve never come across any like this before.

    Posted by Cin | 25 May 2006 #
  • Even your kitty’s eyes are green like pistacios. I also just got a Hidemi Sugino book that looks so tempting, if only there weren’t so many steps I am unfamiliar with.

    Posted by Hanna | 25 May 2006 #
  • Keiko - You are unbelievable. The Ambroisie looks ultra delicious and those are the finest pistachios I have ever seen. I also admire your patience. I can never see myself waiting for two sponge cakes and two mousses to finish up. Your photos are amazing as usual.The expression on Maya’s face exactly says ’I’ll do whatever I like’ :)

    Posted by Cenk | 25 May 2006 #
  • Wow Keiko!! You are just the most meticulous and talented baker of cakes and constructor of elaborate desserts that I know! And as always, what beautiful photographs. Did I also mention that I am in love with your cat - such beautiful colouring and aristocratic features!

    Posted by Jeanne | 25 May 2006 #
  • Wow, Keiko, what a work of art! You have inspired me to give some cake making a go )when I get settled into my new apartment. I have 2 days in Tokyo in a couple of weeks so will try to stop by the pastry shops you mentioned. I already know Sadaharu Aoki from her Paris shop. I think your stuff is as lovely as hers ;-)

    Posted by Vivilicious | 25 May 2006 #
  • You are amazing! Just amazing!

    Posted by obachan | 25 May 2006 #
  • beautiful Keiko

    love the photo of ur kitty cat :)

    Posted by clare eats | 26 May 2006 #
  • Hi there, I stumbled on your site when I was looking for a green tea cake recipe. You make such beautiful food! I was trolling your site just before lunch time at the office and the sight of the photos sent me straight to the lunch room! :D You have inspired me to spend a bit more time baking. Will attempt to make a similar green tea opera cake this weekend. I hope it will turn out looking as good as yours! (Even if it doesn’t taste that way... :D )

    Posted by ilingc | 26 May 2006 #
  • mmmmmmmmmmm, it looks delicious, i really ’d like to taste this one. Look lovely.



    Posted by Shanna | 26 May 2006 #
  • This is so lovely, beautiful choice of colors and taste!

    J’adore, bravo Keiko!

    Posted by ooishigal | 26 May 2006 #
  • Miss Keiko,

    As usual your photos are breath-taking. I especially enjoyed the third shot with the shiny cake strips. So lovely.

    Thanks for sharing this recipe. We are a nut-free household so its been a long time for me since the last nut. This post helped me remember the curious and delicious flavor of pistachios. yum, and thanks!


    PS - beautiful cat :-)

    Posted by nika | 26 May 2006 #
  • the pistachios looks amazing, i bet taste amazing as well. got to put this into my travels shopping list. And I love the little touches that makes the whole presentation so artistic..Great work as usual!

    Posted by slurp! | 26 May 2006 #
  • As always I am in awe of your fantastic skills in both dessert making and photography. Naughty cat looks like as if he is the boss in your house.

    Posted by Anna | 26 May 2006 #
  • Dear Keiko,

    I haven’t post on your blog for a while now. The cake as usual looks outstanding. The flavor combination was really interesting with chocolate, pistachio and raspberry as the main flavors.I haven’t try this combination yet but Iam looking foward to try this combination soon. I also agree with you that when you make your sponge cake, corn flour will give you a much lighter texture than plain flour. The cake looks just like it was freshly baked out of Sadaharu Aoki’s kitchen. Keiko you are the best!

    Posted by Cathy | 27 May 2006 #
  • Beautiful cake Keiko. I’ve never seeen pistachios such an intense green colour. The ones I buy here are quite pale.

    Posted by Barbara | 27 May 2006 #
  • hi keiko, the only person i know who can one-up you is, of course, you ;) how it is possible, i don’t know, but this new take on the ambroisie is even more divine looking than your previous already perfect looking specimen!

    Posted by Joycelyn | 27 May 2006 #
  • Hi Keiko: So glad that you loved those pistachios and I see that you put them to very, very good use! Beautiful cake.

    I wonder if it ships well?

    : )

    Posted by David L | 27 May 2006 #
  • No word to says more than...Perfect!... Absolutely fabulous.

    Posted by Gamelle | 27 May 2006 #
  • Maya is like me I guess...I love pistachios in everything! I would ’steal’ some for sure...I’d love to try your beautiful yummy opera cake, would’ve been perfect for my bday cake ;-)

    Posted by Maya | 27 May 2006 #
  • Keiko San, you have made follow you by starting a blog as well, I hope you don’t mind, as you kinda encouraging me to start taking pictures, something that i should have done long time ago.

    anyway, thank you. And if you want to have a look at the result, this is the link

    btw, the iranian pistachio does look really green, hmmm if only i can get my hands on some.:)

    Posted by thomas lawrence | 27 May 2006 #
  • It’s fabulous!the pictures are so amazing!And this chocolate seems like a mirror!Perfect

    Posted by moony | 27 May 2006 #
  • As usual, I’m so upset that I can’t fly over right now and pay you a visit. One of these days I am going to actually try your cakes for real. Having consumed so many virtually, I have to say that eating your desserts is high on my culinary "must do" list, up there with a visit to El Bulli.

    Posted by Chubby Hubbt | 28 May 2006 #
  • The pistachios look so green and am curious, did you buy them already peeled? It took me ages to peel the last pistachio i used for my ice cream adventure. lol.

    The photos are as usual so enticing. Beautiful Keiko.

    This is one of those cakes i would love to make [as i mentioned to you before]. I really would like to know more [being a non-baker that i am] how and what did baking tray you’ve used to create a perfect thin sponges also, when you put the chocolate on top, did you use individual squareish moulds? They look so perfect as if they’ve not been sliced with a knife. Oh, so many questions... Probably better if you suggest to me which book to read, huh? lol. Sorry about this. I’m so desperate to eat one of your featured desserts!

    Posted by mae | 28 May 2006 #
  • Hi Keiko

    I just want to tell you how impressed I am by your talent ... cooking ... and your pics ... Just ART ...

    When I visit your blog, I’m soooooo hungry ... and I want nothing but one of your desserts ... do you have some rest? ...;)

    Keep on, really, you’re talented ...!

    Posted by Jam | 28 May 2006 #
  • Hello, I can’t add anything to the heaps of praise about your photography, baking and cat... the comments say it all. Wow. I look at your site for visual enjoyment, never imagining I might try to replicate any of your creations... Still, I was wondering, if I could just learn to make such a beautiful, shining black chocolate glaze, I would be happy. Do you know where I can find the recipe for the glaze?

    Thank you for your beautiful blog...

    Posted by Astrid | 28 May 2006 #
  • I was talking to an Iranian friend early this week and it was exaclty about the quality of the pistachios we find to buy over here and how amazing they are in Iran.How amazing to see the iranian pistachios in your picture. On a different note what a wonderful post - your photography is faultless as usual.

    Posted by Valentina | 28 May 2006 #
  • Hi, as always gorgeous photos. I think there’s always something sexy about pistachios. I am always drawn to any recipe that includes them!

    Posted by jenjen | 29 May 2006 #
  • Hi there, thank you so much for all your kind notes.

    Karen - there are two of his books at the moment and one of them has an English translation too - it’s called Dessert Book and has simpler recipes. The one I have is only available in Japanese.

    Ilva - as I’ve mentioned in some of the past posts, I normally freeze the cakes especially if it’s a mousse type dessert - it helps to cut them neater. As for the blog title, I love Scandinavian culture hence the name :)

    Hanna - which book did you get? Let me know when you try :)

    Cenk - well, I don’t think I’m a very patient person but I guess being greedy helps in this case :)

    Jeanne - you’re so kind and my cat will be chuffed!

    Vivlicious - have a lovely time in Tokyo, make sure to visit Sugino shop early, I heard that there aren’t many things left in the afternoon! Oh and Aoki opened his shop in Tokyo too, it seems very popular as well. Looking forward to hearing about the trip.

    Clare - Kiri is definitely posher than my cat :)

    Ilingc - hope you enjoyed making/tasting matcha opera cake, please let me know how it went.

    Nika - I’m sorry you can’t eat nuts - I’m sure you’ll enjoy the cake without using them, how about using matcha instead?

    Anna - he indeed is ’the boss’ in our household... hope you can come to see him some time ;)

    Cathy - I wish I could make nice ones like Aoki’s one day... hope you enjoy the combination, let me know when you try it.

    Barbara - I’ve used Sicilian paste once and it had an intense green colour too.

    David - you know if you lived near me I’d *force* you to try my cakes... :) Thanks again for your help, I actually went back there to get one more bag :) As you said I couldn’t make the paste as fine as I hoped but I could get enough flavour and colour after infusing it into the custard. Oh and I’ve just found out that one of my local delis sell Iranian ones, which is great!

    Maya - oh you are not naughty like him :) I’d love to make your birthday cake one day, it’d be wonderful!

    Thomas - congratulations on launching your new site, it looks great and I look forward to seeing more!

    Aun - well, I’m quite upset that I can’t try your fabulous dishes...

    Mae - yes, they have been peeled. I just use normal oven trays for baking thin sponges, and for this cake I used a square mould and cut them individually. It often helps if you warm the knife before you cut. As for books, I think I’ve told you before but it’s better for you to actually look at them yourself. I tend to buy French pastry books as I prefer them to pudding type desserts but ones *you* think are the best are the best :)

    Astrid - I normally make it by heating water, sugar, cocoa powder and double cream in a pan and add gelatine at the end.

    Valentina - they are indeed amazing :)

    Jenjen - I agree with you about them being sexy... :)

    Posted by keiko | 30 May 2006 #
  • Amazingly beautiful, as always. You never cease impressing me. The plating of the cake is particularly attractive in the first picture.

    Posted by Amanda | 30 May 2006 #
  • as a professional pastry chef, i frequent your site a lot-for an inspirational breathe of fresh air during the busy day. i have not been able to source out any books by the japanese chef you site here in the states, nor would i be able to tranlate. do you think you could provide a recipe? keep up the beautiful work.

    p.s. do you have any formal training? your work is exquisite!

    Posted by kevin | 31 May 2006 #
  • keiko, those shots are absolutely tantalizing.. and your chocolate glaze on top of all those lovely layers is SO very envious!

    Posted by eatzycath | 31 May 2006 #
  • Keiko!!!

    Great ! great! Great!

    And Maya it’s so...gorgeous!


    Posted by Sandra | 31 May 2006 #
  • I LOVE opera cake and this one looks flawless. I am so impressed! You need to do this for a living!

    Posted by Dianka | 6 June 2006 #
  • Beautiful cake, beautiful work, beautiful blog. l’m tracking food blogs for, and i agree with Dianka. I can’t believe that you don’t do this for a living...but it is nice to know that it’s a labor of love! As always, eagerly awaiting your next post!

    Posted by Yasmin Khan | 6 June 2006 #
  • Gorgeous cake, Keiko! I still remember the previous attempt (which looked flawless), but it’s nice to get to see a slice of this cake, too!

    Posted by Pille | 6 June 2006 #
  • Keiko, thanks for your comments. As you can tell, I’m still really green in macro photography. Your pics are great inspiration to me!!

    Hasta pronto, besos, k

    Posted by kel @ green OLIVEtree | 6 June 2006 #
  • Perfect picture to end a pretty post. Meow!

    Posted by Ginger M | 6 June 2006 #
  • I’m in awe as ALWAYS Keiko with your beautiful pictures/cake/writing. I’m just back from Paris & Sadaharu Aoki & others. But your cakes look even more beautiful!

    Your cat is the best too :) Thanks

    Posted by Carolg@pb | 6 June 2006 #
  • I agree with you, the well made cake dessert, that you described, is indeed very tasty.

    Thank you for sharing the recipy with me.

    The cat photo portrait is great !

    Posted by Maria loves pictures | 7 June 2006 #
  • Keiko, I love when you say "it assumes you know everything about pastry making"... when I look at your pictures I assume that you know a bunch about pastry making ! And I’m sure that’s true, look at your work, it’s worthy of famous pastry chefs, I can assure you !!

    Posted by Fred | 8 June 2006 #
  • Hi there, thanks again for all your kind notes.

    Kevin - I’m honoured by your comment :) The books I’ve mentioned on my site are available only in Japanese, and I’m afraid I don’t have time to translate them all as they are quite complicated recipes as you can imagine. I’d like to try some time though. I haven’t had any formal training, so books and online research are my main resource.

    Sandra - I hope Tatina is keeping well, send her lots of hugs from me!

    Yasmin - thank you for your kind words, I love the phrase ’a labour of love’ :)

    kel - I actually haven’t got a macro lens :)

    Carol - look forward to seeing more of your beautiful creations.

    Posted by keiko | 12 June 2006 #
  • You have the most amazing photographs. They are so beautiful I want to frame every one and hang it in my kitchen.

    But I have to know, how do you get your cut cakes to look so perfect? How do you get those crips perfect edges?

    Posted by Kitarra | 12 June 2006 #
  • Hi Kitarra - thanks so much for your kind words. Regarding cutting cakes, I often freeze them (especially mousse type desserts) - it makes it easier.

    Posted by keiko | 23 June 2006 #
  • wonderful pictures – my compliments !
    greetz Liz

    Posted by Liz | 9 February 2007 #
  • It’s amazing how beautiful are your pictures !
    congratulations for your wonderful blog ! ...

    Posted by clairel | 19 February 2007 #
  • hi there,

    i’m new to this whole baking thing. i also live in e UK, midlands, and it’s just so dull where i’m at – bit like trailing spouse too. so i bake. for my housemates. but when i move in with my new bf, i dunno what to do w the cakes – cos i have gallstones and i can’t eat a sinful cake every night nor he.

    Posted by edmund | 18 April 2007 #
  • Where can I buy pistachio paste???????? I live in London and can’t seem to find it. Someone PLEASE PLEASE let me know!!!

    Posted by Lynne | 11 May 2007 #
  • Hi Keiko,

    i can see that you are a beautiful person from the beautiful dessert you create and beautiful photos that you compose.

    Your cat is beautiful. You have taken a lot of effort to care for a rescued cat.

    your blog reminds me to take time off to appreciate things around.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

    Posted by Karyl | 22 June 2007 #
  • Hi there, sincere apologies for taking so long to get back to you, thank you so much for all your kind notes.

    Lynne – I’ve only seen at shops in Paris (G Detou has some), so I normally make them myself!

    Posted by keiko | 22 January 2008 #
  • Would you have to have the recipe for this…it looks absolutely stunning…I would love to try it.

    Posted by Eva Choy | 12 July 2008 #
  • Hi Eva – thank you for your kind note, I will try to post the recipe when I can!

    Posted by keiko | 28 October 2008 #
  • Hi Keiko,
    Can i just say, you put a lot of cake stores to shame because your creations are absolutely flawless…and delicious looking too!

    I’ve two questions i wanted to ask you and they are, where can you get pistachio paste from and is it that hard to find, or am i just not looking hard enough, and also, is there a recipe for this delightful creation?

    Thanks! and keep up the great work!

    Posted by Benita | 14 May 2009 #
  • Hi Benita – thank you for your kind note. As for pistachio paste, I have seen some people selling it but I never bought any myself. You should be able to find some online although I don’t think the good ones are cheap. As for the recipe, it’s from one of my Japanese books and I’m afraid I don’t have time to translate at the moment, I’ll try when I can.

    Posted by keiko | 9 June 2009 #
  • it look so nice and tasty
    can I please have the recepe
    thank you

    Posted by Vlada | 17 July 2009 #
  • Hi Vlada – the recipe is from one of my Japanese books and I’m afraid I don’t have time to translate at the moment, I’ll try when I can.

    Posted by keiko | 14 August 2009 #
  • Hi Keiko,

    I am a HUGE fan of your blog, I love your pictures and the desserts too…All the food look so good!! Good enough to eat!!! Only wish I am half as good as you in baking… huge sigh..
    Oh I have one question with this recipe though, when you said you made 2 sponges chocolate/almond and pistachio/almond, do you mean using almond flour and a little bit plain flour (for chocolate sponge) and almond flour and corn flour (for the pistachio sponge)?? – Am thinking using your Matcha and Adzuki Mousse sponge recipe to make the sponges and the Adzuki Mousse recipe for the mousse ehhehe.. wish me luck!!
    Thanks Keiko!! again I am a HUGE FAN :)



    Posted by Yuliana | 29 December 2009 #

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