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    Moist Pistachio Cake Recipe

    This super moist and flavorful pistachio cake recipe uses real pistachios (that’s right – no pudding or cake mixes involved!) to create a truly memorable cake that is full of nutty, rich, pistachio flavor. It’s topped with a not-too-sweet pistachio cream cheese frosting that adds a wonderful creamy element to the cake. One word – delicious!!

    Pistachio Cake

    What is pistachio cake made of?

    There are two key ingredients that distinguish a from-scratch pistachio cake from a regular vanilla cake (or pistachio pudding cake that uses something like an instant pistachio pudding mix) and that is real pistachios and almond flavoring (in either the form of an extract or essence).

    The base for this pistachio cake recipe is my very popular vanilla cake recipe. It has the most amazing velvety texture, so knew it would be perfect for this recipe! I then amended it by adding in crushed pistachios and some almond flavoring.

    For the buttercream frosting, I tried two versions – one with cream cheese and one without. The cream cheese version definitely added another level of flavor and creaminess to the final cake, so it was a no brainer to go with the cream cheese version!

    Many pistachio cake recipes pair pistachio cake with a simple vanilla buttercream, so you could totally use my silky smooth buttercream recipe or Swiss meringue buttercream too.

    What flavors pair well with pistachio cake?

    Pistachios have a unique flavor profile that blends nuttiness with a hint of sweetness and a touch of earthiness. When considering flavors that pair well with pistachios, or in particular a pistachio cake (although I do feel this cake goes just perfect on it’s own!), it’s important to complement rather than overpower their delicate taste.

    Some condiments or sides to consider could include citrus options (like my lemon curd recipe), simple flavored ice creams like vanilla, or toppings that have spices in them like cardamom or even saffron. Pistachios go well with chocolate too, so even a little drizzle of dark chocolate ganache would work! It is best to trial these out though, and see what your personal preferences are 🙂

    How to make pistachio cake

    Preheat oven to 180 °C (350°F) and grease and/or line two 8 inch cake tins (I use my homemade cake release). If using a fan function (also known as convection mode) then you will need to reduce the temperature to 160C (320F).

    pistachio cake

    Add pistachios to a food processer, and process until they become fine crumbs. You don’t want the pistachios to be too fine (like a powder), but you don’t want large chuncks either. Process them until they’re a bread crumb consistency with a few small chunks in them (see video for visual).  Once done, set aside for now.

    In a bowl, sift together flour, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Using a whisk or fork, mix until well combined. Set aside.

    pistachio cake

    In a large mixing bowl, add in butter, vegetable oil and sugar. Using an electric mixer (hand or stand mixer are both fine), cream together for 2 minutes until light and creamy.

    Add in eggs one by one, mixing well in between each addition (about 10-15 seconds between eggs).

    pistachio cake

    Add in vanilla, vinegar and half of the total quantity of buttermilk, and mix until well combined. Now set your mixer aside as the remainder of the batter will be finished by hand.

    Add half of your flour mixture to your wet ingredients, and gently fold it in with a spatula until just combined. Then add in the remaining buttermilk, and fold it in until just combined. Lastly, add in the remaining dry ingredients and gently fold it into the mixture until just combined. Do not overmix.

    pistachio cake

    pistachio cake

    Finish off by adding in the crushed pistachios, and a few scant drops of green coloring (if using gel colours then use less – you only want a pastel green color), and fold with a spatula until just combined. Add more coloring if needed, but try not to overmix the batter.

    pistachio cake

    Pour the batter evenly into the two 8 inch cake tins, and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs on it.

    Once baked, allow the cake layers to cool in the cake pans for about 15-20 minutes, and then turn them out onto a wire rack to completely cool before frosting with the pistachio cream cheese recipe below.

    pistachio cake

    Pistachio Cream Cheese Frosting

    In a large bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer if using one), add in butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract/essence, almond extract/essence and cream.

    Mix on a low speed until the ingredients are combined (about a minute), and then turn up the speed to a medium high and mix for a full 10 minutes. You want to scrape down the bowl half way through just to make sure everything is mixed well. If using a stand mixer then use the paddle attachment.

    pistachio cream cheese frosting

    Once finished, add in the cream cheese and crushed pistachios and mix until well combined. Avoid overmixing. Finish off by adding in a few scant drops of green food coloring (if using gel colours then use less – you only want a pastel green color).

    pistachio cream cheese frosting

     

    The frosting should be silky smooth and it’s now ready to use!

    If you find that your frosting is a bit firm and has a lot of air bubbles, then it means that either the butter or cream during the initial 10 minutes of mixing was too cold. To fix this, gently heat the buttercream in the microwave for 5 second bursts (don’t heat it for too long otherwise the buttercream will melt), mixing in between each burst until the frosting is softer in consistency and you can easily mix it, and then re-whip it for a few minutes. If your frosting is too soft, simply pop it into the fridge for 30 minutes, and then re-whip it.

    How to decorate pistachio cake

    There are so many wonderful ways you could decorate a pistachio cake, but here is how I decorated mine 🙂

    So to start off I levelled off the tops of my cake layers so that they were nice and flat. This helps prevent your cake layers from sliding around once you come to stacking your cake.

    I also trimmed off the caramelised edges of the cake layers. This step isn’t necessary though – I just wanted the perfect thumbnail (haha!), so you can skip it if you want 🙂

    I then went ahead and placed my first cake layer in the middle of a cake stand and smoothed out some frosting on the top with my offset spatula.

    pistachio cake

    I then placed the next cake layer on top, and again smoothed out some frosting on top and sides of the cake, so that the cake was completely covered. I didn’t bother doing a crumb coat (check out this video for more info on what a crumb coat is), but you can do one if you prefer. I then used my cake scraper to smooth out the sides.

    Now when you scrape the sides of a cake, you usually end up with a lip of frosting around the top edges. To get rid of these and get a ‘sharp edge’ on the top, slowly bring your offset spatula into the middle of the cake, catching that lip of frosting as you go.

    pistachio cake

     

    I then finished off by doing some piping around the top edges using a 1A piping tip.

    pistachio cake

     

    And that’s it! The cake is now ready to serve. Enjoy!

    How to Store Pistachio Cake

    This cake can be left at room temperature for the day, however overnight it will need to be refrigerated due to the cream cheese in the frosting. The fat and sugar in the frosting will prevent the cream cheese from going off, which is why you can keep it out at room temperature for an extended period of time.

    When storing, place it into an airtight container, and into the refrigerator. Allow it to come to room temperature before serving.

    Pistachio Cake

    Moist Pistachio Cake Recipe

    This super moist and flavorful pistachio cake recipe uses real pistachios (that's right - no pudding mixes involved!) to create a truly memorable cake that is full of nutty, rich, pistachio flavor. It's topped with a not-too-sweet pistachio cream cheese frosting that adds a wonderful creamy element to the cake. One word - delicious!!
    5 from 21 votes
    Print Pin Rate Watch Video
    Prep Time: 15 minutes
    Cook Time: 30 minutes
    Cool Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
    Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
    Servings: 12 people

    IMPORTANT: For accuracy, I would recommend using the gram measurements provided as those are the exact quantities I use. Cup measurements are given as estimates (based on US cup measurements) to make it easier for those who do not have a scale.

    Ingredients
     

    Pistachio Cake

    • cups (175 g) pistachios - raw, unsalted
    • 2⅓ cups (300 g) flour - regular all purpose (see note 1 if you want to use cake flour)
    • ¼ cup (25 g) cornstarch
    • ½ tsp baking soda
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • ½ tsp salt - omit if using salted butter
    • ½ cup (113 g) unsalted butter - room temperature
    • ½ cup (105 g) unflavoured vegetable oil - I use canola
    • 1⅔ cups (332 g) white granulated sugar
    • 3 large eggs - room temperature
    • 1 tbsp vanilla extract/essence
    • ½ tsp almond extract/essence
    • 1 tsp white vinegar
    • cups (336 g) buttermilk - room temperature, see note 5 if using a homemade buttermilk substitute
    • Few drops green food coloring (optional) - gel and liquid are both fine as you only use a small amount

    Pistachio Cream Cheese Frosting

    • cups (340 g) unsalted butter - room temperature
    • 3 cups (375 g) powdered sugar - also known as icing sugar/confectioners sugar
    • tsp vanilla extract/essence
    • ½ tsp almond extract/essence
    • ½ cup (120 g) whipping or heavy cream - room temperature
    • ½ cup (112 g) cream cheese - cold, use a firm cream cheese (not a spreadable one)
    • ½ cup (70 g) pistachios - unsalted, processed into fine crumbs
    • Few drops green food coloring (optional) - gel and liquid are both fine as you only use a small amount

    Instructions

    • IMPORTANT: For this recipe I would highly recommend using gram measurements, especially for the flour for accurate results. It has a high fat/liquid ratio so slight adjustments to the quantities can throw off the balance of the cake 🙂

    Pistachio Cake

    • Preheat oven to 180 °C (350°F) (see note 4 if using a fan function) and grease and/or line two 8 inch cake tins (I use my homemade cake release).
    • Add your pistachios to a food processer, and process until they become fine crumbs (see note 6). Once done, set aside for now.
    • In a bowl, sift together your flour, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Using a whisk or fork, mix until well combined. Set aside.
    • In another bowl, add in butter, vegetable oil and sugar. Using an electric mixer (hand or stand mixer are both fine - see note 2), cream together for 2 minutes until light and creamy.
    • Add in eggs one by one, mixing well in between each addition (about 10-15 seconds between eggs).
    • Add in your vanilla, vinegar and half of the buttermilk, and mix until well combined. Now set your mixer aside as the remainder of the batter will be finished by hand.
    • Add half of your premixed dry ingredients to your wet mixture, and gently fold it in with a spatula until just combined. Then add in the remaining buttermilk, and fold it in until just combined. Lastly, add in the remaining dry ingredients and gently fold it into the mixture until just combined. Do not overmix (see note 3).
    • Finish off by adding in the crushed pistachios, and a few scant drops of green coloring (if using gel colours then use less - you only want a pastel green color), and fold with a spatula until just combined. Add more coloring if needed, but try not to overmix the batter.
    • Distribute the batter evenly into the two 8 inch cake tins, and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs on it.
    • Once baked, allow the cake layers to cool in the cake tins for about 15-20 minutes, and then turn them out onto a wire rack to completely cool before frosting with the pistachio cream cheese recipe below.

    Pistachio Cream Cheese Frosting

    • In a large bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer if using one), add in butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract/essence, almond extract/essence and cream.
    • Mix on the lowest speed until the ingredients are combined (about a minute), and then turn up the speed to a medium high and mix for a full 10 minutes, scraping down the bowl half way through. If using a stand mixer then use the paddle attachment.
    • Once finished, add in the cream cheese and crushed pistachios and mix until well combined. Avoid overmixing. Finish off by adding in a few scant drops of green food coloring (if using gel colours then use less - you only want a pastel green color).
    • The frosting should be silky smooth and it's now ready to use! See note 7 if your frosting isn't fluffy and smooth. For decorating ideas, check out the recipe video or blog post above 🙂

    Video

    YouTube video

    Notes

    Note 1. You can use cake flour in replacement of the all purpose flour and cornstarch in this recipe (325g total required). 
    Note 2. If using a stand mixer, then use the paddle attachment for the initial mixing, but continue to do the last step by hand as stated in the recipe.
    Note 3. By gently folding in the ingredients, it prevents too much gluten from forming, thus giving us a softer cake. Only mix until the strands of flour have disappeared and the batter is uniform. 
    Note 4. In this recipe I use an oven with no fan function. The fan forced function cooks cakes/cupcakes faster, so if using a fan function (also known as convection mode) then you will need to reduce the temperature to 160C (320F). 
    Note 5. I use store bought buttermilk (and is what I recommend for this recipe) which is thicker than a homemade substitute. For this recipe, because it uses a lot of buttermilk, a homemade substitute doesn't give the same results. If you are using a homemade version you will need to reduce the amount of buttermilk to about 1 1/4 cups (275g) - though this still doesn't guarantee that you will get the same results. 
    Note 6. You don't want the pistachios to be too fine (like a powder), but you don't want large chuncks either. Process them until they're a bread crumb consistency with a few small chunks in them (see video for visual).
    Note 7. If you find that your frosting is a bit firm and has a lot of air bubbles, then it means that either the butter or cream during the initial 10 minutes of mixing was too cold. To fix this, gently heat the buttercream in the microwave for 5 second bursts (don't heat it for too long otherwise the buttercream will melt), mixing in between each burst until the frosting is softer in consistency and you can easily mix it, and then re-whip it for a few minutes. If your frosting is too soft, simply pop it into the fridge for 30 minutes, and then re-whip it. 

    Nutrition

    Calories: 907kcal | Carbohydrates: 91g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 57g | Saturated Fat: 27g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 10g | Monounsaturated Fat: 17g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 149mg | Sodium: 311mg | Potassium: 333mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 64g | Vitamin A: 1357IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 139mg | Iron: 2mg

    Nutritional information are estimates only as they are automatically calculated by a third party application. Actual values may differ based on brands and types of products used.

    Keyword: cakes with pistachios, green cake, pistachio buttercream, pistachio cake, pistachio cake frosting, pistachio cake recipe, pistachio cake recipes, pistachio cream cheese frosting, pistachio frosting
    Tried this recipe?I love hearing from you! Tag me @cakesbymk.nz on instagram so I can see your amazing creations 🙂

     

     

     

     

     

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    32 Comments

    • Nazlin

      I have a lot of left over Swiss meringue pistachio buttercream left over. Since this buttercream is pure butter, can I use this in the cake batter instead of the butter it calls for in the recipe?

      • Cakes by MK

        Hi Nazlin! 🙂 I haven’t tried that myself before so I’m really not sure how it’ll affect the cake batter sorry! I would probably stick to using regular unsalted butter as Swiss meringue buttercream has sugar and eggs, so it may make the batter more sweet and dense 🙂

    • Ann

      Hi Maryam, do you use roasted unsalted pistachio? I can’t seem to find it in the recipe blog. thanks!

      • Cakes by MK

        Hi Ann! 🙂 I use raw unsalted pistachios that aren’t roasted 🙂 hope that helps!

    • Chuck

      5 stars
      A+++ I made this cake twice once for a six inch cake and some extra cupcakes and also two 1/2 sheets to take to a St Patrick’s Day celebration!! So packed with flavor! Everyone loved it. Perfect both times! So moist!! Your recipe made me look like a rock star!! Keep those recipes coming!

      • Cakes by MK

        So so happy to hear you loved the pistachio cake Chuck! Really appreciate the feedback 😀

    • Ada

      What baking time would you recommend for One (1) 8 inch square tin? Thank you.

      • Cakes by MK

        Hi Ada! 🙂 It’s best to distribute the batter between two tins otherwise the cake may not rise as well, but if you do still want to give it a go then you will need to bake it for longer, though the exact time I’m not sure sorry. It may need an extra 15 mins or so depending on your oven 🙂

    • natalie

      5 stars
      Any advice on adjusting the baking times of this cake if you are using smaller tins? (for example I was using your recipe in 2 x 8 inch tins for 42 mins. But now will use the same amount of batter in 3 x 6 inch tins.
      If you have not done this and cant advise then no worries. Thanks again

      • Cakes by MK

        Hi Natalie! 🙂 So usually the batter for one 8 inch cake tin will be enough to distribute between two 6 inch cake tins and should have a similar cooking time. So for this recipe, for a similar bake time you would want to distribute the batter between four 6 inch cake tins. If using three 6 inch cake tins, it means that your cakes will take longer to bake – maybe an extra 10 mins or so 🙂 just be careful not to open the oven door too early as this can cause the cakes to sink. Hope that helps!

    • natalie

      I made about 8 different types of cakes from different recipe sites, as trial preparation / ideas for my sisters wedding cake. Everyone said this was the best cake in terms of flavour and texture, and that this is the recipe I should use for all the tiers! I’m also the lady who mentioned earlier about the breaking structure of the cake, but actually when it was iced etc the slices came out beautifully, so it did not matter that it felt slightly less structured initially. I ended up using a swiss meringue buttercream, which allowed the subtle flavour of the pistachios to shine through. So now I’m about to make a whole lot of cake layers using this recipe. Thanks you so much 🙂
      I was wondering is it risky to use swiss meringue on wedding cakes in a warm climate?

      • Cakes by MK

        Hi Natalie 🙂 Oh my I am honoured! This comment made my day (or week I should say)! So so happy to hear you and your family loved the pistachio cake, and that the structure/sturdiness of the cake wasn’t an issue 😀 my cakes do tend to be a bit more on the delicate side (as I try to pack in as much moisture and flavor) so they do require a bit of delicate handling, but if properly handled should come out wonderfully as you have confirmed 😀 a bit of extra mixing at the end once the flour is added in will also provide more structure 🙂
        In terms of the frosting, Swiss meringue is considered a great stable frosting so should hold up well in a warm climate. Just ensure that the cake isn’t kept in direct sunlight, and that adequate supports are placed throughout the cake 🙂
        Hope you all have a wonderful time at the wedding and congrats to your sister 🙂

        • natalie

          5 stars
          Any advice on adjusting the baking times of this cake if you are using smaller tins? (for example I was using your recipe in 2 x 8 inch tins for 42 mins. But now will use the same amount of batter in 3 x 6 inch tins.
          If you have not done this and cant advise then no worries. Thanks again

    • billy

      Hello,

      I have tried making this recipe and your red velvet recipe using you cream cheese frosting and its always so grainy.- like I can taste the icing sugar particles. Im doing everything stated on the recipe (missing for 10 minutes etc). Are you using Pure Icing Sugar or Soft Icing Sugar. I’ved used Pure Icing Sugar and sifted it and it still comes out super grainy. I leave the butter to get to room temp but I leave the cream cheese cold as stated in the recipe. I was wondering why the cream cheese is also not at room temperature- I’ve noticed on some forums it says both need to be at room temperature. I don’t know what’s wrong with it! I cant get my cream cheese frosting smooooth, any tips?

      • Cakes by MK

        Hi Billy! 🙂 Sorry to hear you’re having some trouble with your frosting – that can be frustrating! 🙁 It sounds like the culprit here may be the type of icing sugar. Pure icing sugar is usually used for firm setting frostings, and is more likely to clump up which may be why your frosting isn’t becoming smooth and is very grainy. I would recommend using soft icing sugar (that has cornstarch added in), and hopefully this makes a difference 🙂
        In terms of the cold cream cheese, I recommend keeping the cream cheese cold as this will prevent your frosting from becoming too soft (which is a common problem with cream cheese frostings). Hope that helps and really hope the soft icing sugar makes all the difference 🙂

    • Natalie

      The cake tastes nice and moist, but does not have structure.
      Even once completely cooled it broke in half as I tried to lift it.
      Followed recipe exactly, except used the extra flour rather than cornstarch. Could this be the issue?

      Thanks a mil

      • Cakes by MK

        Hi Natalie 🙂 So happy to hear you loved the taste and texture of the cake, but so sorry to hear it broke! Using extra flour as opposed to cornstarch should technically not be an issue, as more flour means more gluten in the cake which means more structure. It’s likely that the cake batter was slightly undermixed, therefore not enough of the cakes structure was developed. I would also recommend using the gram measurements (if you didn’t already) to ensure the correct quantities of the dry and wet ingredients were used as this can also affect the structure of the cake. These are very soft cakes too (which helps with the wonderful texture), so do require a bit of delicate handling when moving them around. Hope these tips help for next time 🙂

    • Lynn

      Looks so delicious. Do you use full fat buttermilk or low-fat buttermilk? I definitely want to try this!

      • Cakes by MK

        Thanks Lynn! I use full-fat buttermilk 🙂 enjoy!

    • Carol

      5 stars
      Hi Maryam. I made this cake today and it is delicious. It’s really moist and very flavorful – love it! There’s a buttery pistachio flavor rounded out by the vanilla and hint of almond. The cream cheese frosting is a perfect complement to flavor of the crumb. I added one drop of green food coloring which looked perfect in batter form but the baked cake ended up with less color; probably could have added one more but the color isn’t that important – it’s the taste that matters. I discovered you only this year and all of your cakes have looked yummy. Saw this recipe yesterday after I happened to see the bag of pistachios in my freezer so I committed to making this recipe and I’m so glad I did. This recipe is definitely a keeper. Thank you for sharing it with us!

      • Cakes by MK

        Hi Carol! So happy to hear you enjoyed the recipe 😀 Ahh yess colours can tend to fade while baking, but so glad to hear the taste was still awesome! Really appreciate your willingness to try out one of my recipes having only come across my blog this year 😀

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    About me

    Welcome to my blog! My name is Maryam and I LOVE baking! :) I hope to provide you with the tools (i.e. simple, from-scratch, quality tested recipes), so that you can confidently bake up delicious treats to share with your family and friends!

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