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This light and airy Pistachio Cake is made from scratch, full of real pistachios, and topped with a delicious buttercream frosting. It’s a classy cake that will impress your guests on any occasion!

I used to think that “pistachio flavor” was not my cup of tea. I just didn’t like it! But I realized, I don’t love all of the extracts that people tend to put in pistachio desserts. This cake has a little bit of almond extract and that’s it! It’s a simple and super delicious cake that everyone is going to love. If you are in the mood for more pistachio treats, you should try this Layered Pistachio Dessert, this No-Bake Pistachio Cream Pie, and this yummy Pistachio Pudding Salad.

Pistachio cake slice being lifted up with a spatula.

Pistachio Cake Recipe

There are a lot of reasons to love this pistachio cake! It has a delicate and mild flavor that is made light and fluffy by folding whipped egg whites to the batter. It’s so fresh and fun to make, everyone is happy to see this cake on the table! My kids always ask for a chocolate cake for their birthdays, or maybe an Oreo cheesecake for my youngest. Me? I seriously want this pistachio cake, like all the time.

There are a lot of reasons to love pistachios! They have a really mild flavor, and actually, most pistachio desserts have a lot of almond extract in them which is what you are actually tasting. I like to let the pistachios do the talking in this recipe. You will grind up pistachios and add them directly to the batter! Pistachios are so soft after baking that they melt into the cake and you get this delicious buttery flavor. If you want a dessert that is sophisticated and perfect for a classy get-together, then serve this pistachio cake topped with buttercream frosting.

Ingredients

A lot of pistachio cake recipes will call for a yellow cake mix. That’s a great way to make a cake in a hurry, and this is not that recipe! This cake is all from scratch and full of fresh pistachios. You can add a few drops of green food coloring to make this cake appear green. You can also top it with whipped cream, but I prefer buttercream frosting!

Pistachio Cake Ingredients

  • Flour: Regular all-purpose flour is best for this cake.
  • Ground Pistachios: If you can’t find pre-ground pistachios, you can use a food processor to grind pistachios up yourself.
  • Granulated Sugar: This is the regular sugar you keep in your pantry.
  • Baking Powder: This is a leavening agent.
  • Baking Soda: This helps the cake stay fluffy.
  • Salt: This helps to balance out all of the sweet flavors in the cake and brings out more of the pistachio flavor.
  • Buttermilk: Buttermilk makes such a yummy and tender cake! If you don’t have any on hand, you can make your own using regular milk and lemon juice
  • Milk: I like to use whole milk because of the fat content.
  • Vanilla Extract: This helps to bring out more flavor.
  • Almond Extract: This is optional. It is traditional to use in pistachio desserts, but if you don’t like the flavor you can leave it out.
  • Vegetable Oil: You can use whatever oil you prefer baking with.
  • Green Food Coloring: Pistachios aren’t actually green once you bake them. You can add food coloring to make the cake appear green.
  • Egg White: This is for whipping up the egg whites to add to the cake batter.

Buttercream Frosting Ingredients

  • Butter: I like to use unsalted butter, and add salt back in. Make sure your butter is room temperature, don’t put it in the microwave!
  • Powdered Sugar: Confectioners sugar is what sweetens the frosting and keeps it smooth.
  • Vanilla Extract: This adds a little vanilla flavor and brings out all of the other flavors in the frosting.
  • Salt: This helps to balance out all of the sweet flavors.
  • Heavy Cream: This is what makes the frosting so smooth and delicious.
  • Chopped Pistachios: This is for decorating the outside. You can decorate this cake however you like! Candied lemon, edible flowers, or fresh berries would all look amazing!
Process photos showing how to mix the batter.

Recipe for Pistachio Cake

The texture of this pistachio cake is absolutely perfect! lf you love a fluffy and tender cake, then this is the cake for you. There are a lot of great recipes out there, but this one seriously takes the cake. See what I did there? Ok, let’s get to baking this cake!

Make the Cake

  1. Prep: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Then spray two 8-inch cake pans with pan spray and set aside.
  2. Grind Pistachios: If you don’t have ground pistachios, then pulse shelled unsalted pistachios in a blender or food processor until the nuts before a powder.
  3. Mix Dry Ingredients: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, ground pistachios, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  4. Add Wet to Dry: In a medium bowl whisk together the buttermilk, milk, both extracts and oil. Then add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just combined. If desired, add a drop or two of green food coloring for the signature green pistachio color.
  5. Whip Egg Whites: Then in a clean large bowl, whip the egg whites until medium stiff peaks form.
  6. Add Whites to Batter: Then gently fold the egg whites into the batter until no white streaks of egg whites remain. Then separate the batter evenly into the two prepared pans.
  7. Bake: Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the tops of the cakes spring back when gently pressed or a toothpick comes out with minimal crumbs on it.
  8. Cool: Let the cakes cool in the pans for 4-5 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
  9. Frost: Frost the cooled cakes with buttercream and then top with chopped pistachios.

Make the Frosting

  1. Mix: Beat the butter and powdered sugar together slowly in a stand mixer until combined. Then add the vanilla, salt and 3 tablespoons of cream. Beat until smooth. Add more cream if needed to reach a softer, smoother consistency.
A whole pistachio cake.

Tips for Making Pistachio Cake

There are a lot of ways to make this easy pistachio cake recipe. I love switching up the frosting for a different flavor every time because it is amazing every way you try it. Here are some tips for making this recipe your own.

  • Grinding Pistachios: If you don’t have ground pistachios, then use a blender or food processor to grind shelled pistachios. Use plain, unsalted pistachios for this. Make sure you don’t overprocess them. Pistachios are really soft nuts and will turn into pistachio butter if you mix them for too long.
  • Measuring Flour: Spoon and level your flour when you measure. Fluff the flour with the spoon and gently spoon it into your measuring cup. Level with the flat back of a knife to get a more consistent and accurate amount of flour. 
  • Food Coloring: Add just a drop or two of food coloring at a time. If you add too much then the cake will end up bright green, more like the artificially flavored pistachio puddings and cake mixes. If you like the bright green color, then go ahead and add more food coloring!
  • Frosting: This cake tastes amazing with lots of different kinds of frosting! Try switching things up by adding new flavors to your buttercream frosting. I’ve made this cake with browned butter frosting and it was incredible! I also love cream cheese frosting and a simple powdered sugar glaze. Add the glaze to the warm cake layers for a very simple but delicious dessert.
A slice of pistachio cake on a plate.

Storing Leftovers

I love this pistachio cake because it is so easy to store and serve, and the leftovers are delicious! Here is how to store your leftover cake.

  • On the Counter: Store leftover cake in an airtight container for up to 2 days at room temperature.
  • In the Refrigerator: You can also store your cake in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.
  • In the Freezer: Store unfrosted cake layers in the freezer after wrapping in plastic wrap and placing in a large ziplock bag. The cake can be frosted while the layers are still frozen. Freeze for up to 3 months.

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Pistachio Cake

By: Alyssa Rivers
This light and airy Pistachio Cake is made from scratch, full of real pistachios, and topped with a delicious buttercream. It's a classy cake that will impress your guests on any occasion!
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings: 10 People

Ingredients 

Buttercream

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray two 8-inch cake pans with pan spray and set aside.
  • If you don’t have ground pistachios, pulse shelled unsalted pistachios in a blender or food processor until the nuts before a powder.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, ground pistachios, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  • In a medium bowl whisk together the buttermilk, milk, both extracts and oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just combined. If desired, add a drop or two of green food coloring for the signature green pistachio color.
  • In a clean large bowl, whip the egg whites until medium stiff peaks form.
  • Gently fold the egg whites into the batter until no white streaks of egg whites remain. Separate the batter evenly into the two prepared pans.
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the tops of the cakes spring back when gently pressed or a toothpick comes out with minimal crumbs on it.
  • Let the cakes cool in the pans for 4-5 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.
  • Frost the cooled cakes with buttercream and top with chopped pistachios.

Buttercream

  • Beat the butter and powdered sugar together slowly in a stand mixer until combined. Add the vanilla, salt and 3 tablespoons of cream. Beat until smooth. Add more cream if needed to reach a softer, smoother consistency.

Nutrition

Calories: 1033kcalCarbohydrates: 153gProtein: 8gFat: 45gSaturated Fat: 26gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 106mgSodium: 233mgPotassium: 317mgFiber: 2gSugar: 127gVitamin A: 1281IUVitamin C: 0.4mgCalcium: 103mgIron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Tried this recipe?Mention @alyssa_therecipecritic or tag #therecipecritic!
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About Alyssa Rivers

Welcome to my kitchen! I am Alyssa Rivers and the food blogger behind The Recipe Critic. The blog launched in 2012 as a place to share my passion for cooking. I love trying new things and testing them out with my family. Each recipe is tried and true, family-tested and approved.

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4 Comments

  1. If the cake is still cooling can I make the buttercream and leave it out on the counter or should I refrigerate it? Thanks you