Pistachio Cake

Pistachio cake from scratch with real pistachio and almond extract flavors! Nothing fake or artificial in this beautiful 3 layer pistachio cake. This rustic chic naked cake is adorned with silky cream cheese frosting! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

My heart expanded last September and with my beautiful miracle came a deep realization. I’m now a role model for my daughter.

Whoa. That’s big.

Instead of constantly putting pressure on myself with unrealistic expectations, I’m closing the door on comparison and saying YES to more of what I love. It’s fabulously empowering to start taking control of your life.

One of my loves? Decorating cakes and cupcakes for fun. You know that I’ve never felt confident in my decorating skills. This is because I always compared my creations to the beautiful cakes and cupcakes in my Pinterest and Instagram feeds. Whenever I began decorating, I felt discouraged. And it wasn’t fun.

“Comparison is the thief of joy” – Theodore Roosevelt.

Pistachio cake from scratch with real pistachio and almond extract flavors! Nothing fake or artificial in this beautiful 3 layer pistachio cake. This rustic chic naked cake is adorned with silky cream cheese frosting! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

So I practiced. And I practiced some more. And you’ve seen my skills as a cake decorator (can I call myself that?!) improve. My point with all of this? No one begins as an expert. Don’t let comparison prevent you from doing what you love. Be confident. Cut the crap and have fun–> lol.

GET CAKE-SPIRED

If you’re in the same boat as I was– nervous and not so confident with cake decorating– join the March Baking Challenge. We’re focusing on naked and semi-naked cakes. While it doesn’t require much frosting, it forces you to get a little creative. And today’s recipe is more cake inspiration for you! (Cakespiration?)

If you already made the March Baking Challenge, go ahead and make room for 1 more cake this month. Because you don’t want to miss this pistachio number. It’s soft, light, sweet, buttery, and filled with silky cream cheese frosting.

Pistachio cake from scratch with real pistachio and almond extract flavors! Nothing fake or artificial in this beautiful 3 layer pistachio cake. This rustic chic naked cake is adorned with silky cream cheese frosting! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Remember my pistachio cupcakes? (On the subject of cake and cupcake decorating, I used Ateco #849 closed star tip for those cupcakes. Easiest piping tip, cutest little design.) I’m often asked how to turn them into a layer cake, so let’s do it.

Pistachio is an underrated dessert flavor. Is it because of the green? Or because it’s a nut? More people should give pistachio a chance. Pistachios pair wonderfully with almond and vanilla flavors, not to mention butter and sugar. (What doesn’t?) In fact, did you know that pistachio flavored ice cream gets most of its flavor from almond extract? We’re definitely using that in today’s cake.

Instead of relying on artificial pistachio flavor, let’s take pistachios and grind them into a crumb. I know what you’re thinking. Hard chunks of nuts in cake? Actually no– the pistachio crumbs become really soft and buttery. Since we’re not using any artificial flavor, the pistachio flavor isn’t strong. You’ll taste light pistachio plus delicious almond, butter, and vanilla flavors. Beautiful springtime cake.

Use your food processor to break down the nuts. Your goal is a super fine pistachio crumb. If you go too far, you’ll end up with pistachio butter. Add a little honey; it’s delicious on toast. But not what we want in our pistachio cake.

Ground up pistachios for pistachio cake on sallysbakingaddiction.com

WHAT ELSE IS IN THIS CAKE?

The rest of the cake batter resembles my favorite white layer cake, though I divided the batter into 3 cake pans instead of 2.

  1. Cake flour. 30x finer than all-purpose flour. I use slightly less cake flour in this recipe compared to my white layer cake because of the pistachio crumbs. I love cake flour. Pick up a box. You’ll use it often. See all my recipes with cake flour.
  2. Egg whites. All protein. Promises a super light texture. Ever wonder why meringue, marshmallows, and angel food cakes require egg whites? Light! Soft!
  3. Sour cream. Moist. (Don’t cringe at this word. You know you prefer a moist cake over a dry one!)

Don’t be alarmed. The cake batter will resemble spicy brown mustard, but it smells ahhhhmazing. I add a tiny drop of green food coloring so the finished cake is on the greener side. That’s completely optional.

Pistachio cake batter on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Silky smooth cream cheese frosting on sallysbakingaddiction.com

There are many options for decorating your pistachio cake. I use cream cheese frosting. My recipe for cream cheese frosting will be enough to decorate your cake like I did: minimal on the edges with more frosting inside and on top of the cake.

OTHER FROSTING OPTIONS:

Think about the look you want. Do you want more frosting than this semi-naked cake style? If so, I would 1.5x any of the frosting options listed.

Pistachio cake from scratch with real pistachio and almond extract flavors! Nothing fake or artificial in this beautiful 3 layer pistachio cake. This rustic chic naked cake is adorned with silky cream cheese frosting! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Pistachio cake from scratch with real pistachio and almond extract flavors! Nothing fake or artificial in this beautiful 3 layer pistachio cake. This rustic chic naked cake is adorned with silky cream cheese frosting! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Remember what I said above? It’s all about having fun. Topping the cake with goodies is the best part. I used some berries, florals, and crushed pistachios. If you want smooth sides, use a bench scraper. You can watch me using it in this video. If you don’t really care, just swipe the frosting on. To be honest, the best part of this pistachio cake is on the inside. 🙂

Pistachio cake from scratch with real pistachio and almond extract flavors! Nothing fake or artificial in this beautiful 3 layer pistachio cake. This rustic chic naked cake is adorned with silky cream cheese frosting! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Please continue to share your participation in the March Baking Challenge with me! Use #sallysbakingchallenge on Instagram or Twitter, or upload a photo of your recipe to my Facebook page or Facebook group. Or email it to me! (You can also message me your photo on Instagram if your account is private.)

Pistachio Cake

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (260g) unsalted shelled pistachios
  • 2 and 1/3 cups (250g) sifted cake flour (spoon & leveled)*
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks; 170g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 and 3/4 cups (350g) granulated sugar
  • 5 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120g) sour cream, at room temperature*
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup (240ml) whole milk, at room temperature*
  • cream cheese frosting
  • optional: 1 tiny drop green food coloring*
  • optional: garnishes such as berries and leftover pistachios

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease and lightly flour three 9-inch cake pans.
  2. Make the cake: Pulse the pistachios in a food processor until ground up into very fine crumbs. See photo above for a visual. You'll have about 1 and 1/2 cups of crumbs. (If you have more than that, set aside for garnish.)
  3. Pour 1 and 1/2 cups of pistachio crumbs in a large bowl. Whisk in the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  4. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Beat in the egg whites on high speed until combined, about 2 minutes. Beat in the sour cream, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients until just incorporated. With the mixer still running on low, pour in the milk (and the green food coloring, if using) and mix just until combined. You may need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be slightly thick.
  5. Pour batter evenly into cake pans. Bake for around 21-23 minutes or until the cakes are baked through. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it's done. Allow cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. The cakes must be completely cool before frosting and assembling.
  6. Make the frosting: Prepare the cream cheese frosting (see note below).
  7. Assemble and decorate: Using a large serrated knife, slice a thin layer off the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface. Discard (or crumble over ice cream!). Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand, cake turntable, or serving plate. Evenly cover the top with frosting. Top with 2nd layer and evenly cover the top with more frosting. Top with the third cake layer. Spread the frosting all over the top and sides. (I used a bench scraper to smooth out the sides.) Decorate with garnishes, if desired. Refrigerate for at least 30-45 minutes before slicing. This helps the cake keep its shape when cutting.
  8. Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for 5 days.

Make ahead tip: The cake layers can be baked, cooled, and covered tightly at room temperature overnight. Likewise, the frosting can be prepared then covered and refrigerated overnight. Let it sit at room temperature to slightly soften for 10 minutes before assembling and frosting. Frosted cake or unfrosted cake layers can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before decorating/serving.

Recipe Notes:

Sift cake flour before measuring. If you can't get your hands on cake flour, you can make a DIY version from all-purpose flour and cornstarch. Measure 1 cup (125g) of all-purpose flour. Remove 2 Tablespoons (16g). Mix in 2 Tablespoons (15g) of cornstarch. Sift it. Measure 1 cup. This sifted 1 cup equals 1 cup of cake flour. I suggest doing this 3x, then remove 2/3 cup since you need 2 and 1/3 cups in this recipe.

Whole milk and full-fat sour cream are strongly recommended for the best taste and texture. A full-fat plain yogurt would work instead, though the cake may not be as light. Same goes with a lower fat milk.

While the pistachio crumbs tint the batter light green, I added 1 *very teeny* drop of green food coloring to help brighten the green color. This is completely optional!

My recipe for cream cheese frosting will be enough to decorate your cake like I did in these photos. Minimal on the edges with more frosting inside and on top of the cake. Do you want more frosting? If so, use this amount of cream cheese frosting.

Why is everything at room temperature? All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read here for more information.

Here are my pistachio cupcakes!

Did you make a recipe?

Tag @sallysbakeblog on Instagram and hashtag it #sallysbakingaddiction.

© Sally’s Baking Addiction. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe.

SHOP THE RECIPE

Here are some items I used to make today’s recipe.

KitchenAid Stand Mixer | KitchenAid Hand Mixer | Ninja Food Processor | 9-inch Round Cake Pans | Whisk | Straight Icing Spatula | Bench Scraper | Marble Cake Stand

Some of the links above are affiliate links, which pay me a small commission for my referral at no extra cost to you! Thank you for supporting Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Pistachio cake from scratch with real pistachio and almond extract flavors! Nothing fake or artificial in this beautiful 3 layer pistachio cake. This rustic chic naked cake is adorned with silky cream cheese frosting! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

198 Comments

Comments

  1. Paulet D. on July 3, 2018 at 11:35 am

    This cake is amazingly delicious!! However, I’ve made it twice now, and both times my cakes were pretty flat and did not rise much. I followed the recipe to a “T,” so I’m not sure where I might’ve gone wrong. Each cake turned out about an inch thick, so when they were stacked it was still pretty tall, but definitely not what I was expecting. Do you have any ideas or suggestions how to make it more fluffy?

    • Sally on July 5, 2018 at 11:18 am

      Hi Paulet! I’m so glad you enjoy my pistachio cake! While I haven’t tried this, you can try adding a little more baking powder for extra lift. I would increase to 2 and 1/2 teaspoons. Still use 1/2 teaspoon baking soda.

  2. Carol on July 13, 2018 at 3:23 pm

    I made this cake this morning, and it’s just simply scrumptious! The smell of the ground pistachios was incredible, the texture of the cake is but there’s also JUST a bit of “tooth” there, oh it’s just so good!

    I broke up the batter into smaller cakes – one 6″ round and one 10″ round (plus a teeny tiny “tasting cake” for myself). The bigger one is going to my Church coffee hour, and I’m going to serve the smaller one as part of a casual bbq, along with strawberries.

  3. Janet on July 19, 2018 at 11:03 am

    I am making this for a friend who is crazy about pistachio’s! I assume the cake would freeze well (before frosting) I would love to make it ahead of time!

    • Sally on July 20, 2018 at 1:04 pm

      Yes! Please see the “make ahead tip” at the end of the recipe 🙂

      • Janet on July 21, 2018 at 7:07 am

        So sorry, this is the kind of thing that makes me crazy with others….now I’m one of them LOL!!!



      • Janet on August 1, 2018 at 1:02 pm

        Just wanted to let you know the cake was fantastic. I made the cakes ahead and froze them, also made the frosting a day ahead. It all came together beautifully and tasted great! Mine too were a little flatter than I expected but none the less it tasted great and the birthday girl gave it rave reviews:)



  4. Alys Swan-Jackson on July 30, 2018 at 9:17 am

    Can I halve this recipe please? Changes? can I bake ONE cake in my tiny oven? Changes? Thank you.

    Alys

    • Sally on July 30, 2018 at 10:45 am

      Hi Alys! You can halve the recipe, but for best results I suggest making this batter as written, then using any extra batter for cupcakes. You can freeze the cupcakes if you aren’t eating right away.

  5. Donna on August 4, 2018 at 3:20 am

    Hi Sally, can I totally delete the sour cream and just use milk or buttercream instead? I am making this for a friend for her wedding and she loves vanilla pistachio cake. Would buttercream frosting be nice as well. Would you suggest whole fresh blue berries to include in the buttercream?

    • Sally on August 6, 2018 at 10:05 am

      Hi Donna! The cakes will be a little flimsy with all that liquid. I recommend sticking to the recipe for best taste and texture. I think buttercream would be great with the pistachio cake. If you’re interested in a berry buttercream, I have this strawberry buttercream that tastes fantastic with the pistachio cake: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2017/02/05/strawberry-frosting/

      • Donna on August 6, 2018 at 10:24 am

        Thanks Sally. I will try the strawberry buttercream. ❤️



  6. B. M. on August 5, 2018 at 1:06 pm

    I followed this recipe perfectly, and my cakes bubbles over the pans in the oven. I only filled them about halfway. I’m in high altitude, but made the proper adjustments for that. I was quite disappointed as pistachios are not cheap, and I was making this for an anniversary. What went wrong?

  7. Sophie B on August 5, 2018 at 10:17 pm

    I used this recipe to test out my first attempt at a layer cake, it turned out so delicious! I was a bit off on the even-ness of the layers because I could only do 2 tins first but when it was all stacked up it didn’t show.
    Thanks Sally your recipes never disappoint!

    • Sally on August 6, 2018 at 1:08 pm

      Cheers to your first layer cake!!

  8. Penny on August 11, 2018 at 2:08 am

    Hello Sally,
    I have been thinking of making this cake a few weeks. Can you confirm the 260 gram of pistachios is with or without shell?

    Thanks!

    • Sally on August 11, 2018 at 1:52 pm

      Hi Penny! I’m excited for you to try this cake. Shelled pistachios are pistachios that do not have shells. The measurement is without shells.

  9. Vanessa on August 12, 2018 at 11:01 pm

    Hi Sally! Thank you so very much for posting this recipe, I’m so excited to try it this weekend for my dad’s 60th! I see the frosting you’re using is a cream cheese one which sounds scrumptious- wondering though if you’ve ever done the cake with a Swiss meringue buttercream? Would the flavors jive well or do you think they would ruin the light pistachio flavor? Thanks again for the post!

    • Sally on August 13, 2018 at 9:24 am

      Hey Vanessa! I haven’t tried this particular cake with swiss meringue buttercream, but I can see it being a delicious success. I would definitely pair the two together!

      • Vanessa on August 13, 2018 at 10:35 am

        Ah, fantastic! I’ll be trying it out this weekend then and will report back. Thank you again!



  10. Cheryl on August 13, 2018 at 10:35 am

    Hi.. just want to ask why only need to use egg white? Will it be okay if i used whole eggs?

    • Sally on August 13, 2018 at 11:42 am

      Hi Cheryl! Egg whites keep the cake crumb light and fluffy. I don’t recommend using the whole egg in this recipe.

Reviews

  1. Austria Azaceta on May 14, 2018 at 3:49 pm

    Hi Sally!
    I just wanted to let you know that I made this cake over the weekend for a friend’s birthday & it was VERY well received!! So So delicious & wonderful pistachio flavor!! I made a 2 layer cake & used remaining batter for cupcakes. It paired nicely with cream cheese frosting. This cake will definitely be made again!!

    • Sally on May 15, 2018 at 8:44 am

      Hey Austria! Thank you so much for leaving a review on the pistachio cake! So happy everyone loved it.

  2. Rachel on May 22, 2018 at 7:18 am

    This is my new favorite SBA cake. Such tender crumb and wonderful flavor. I don’t usually love almond extract flavor, but it enhanced the pistachio flavor. I used salted, roasted pistachios but rinsed them to get rid of the salt and that totally worked. Highly recommend.

Questions

  1. Clarice on May 4, 2018 at 7:52 am

    Hi Sally! I have a small oven so I cant fit 3 pans in at once. I’m hoping to bake this in two 9 inch cake pans. Would you be able to help on what temperature and bake time I would be looking at please? Thank you!

    • Sally on May 4, 2018 at 8:58 am

      Hi Clarice! For a 2 layer cake, bake at 350°F (177°C) for 24-25 minutes.

  2. Saima on May 18, 2018 at 6:23 am

    Hi ,
    I really want to give this cake a try soon, and I was wondering if I could use egg whites from cartons. Would that be fine ? And how much egg whites?
    Thank you!

    • Sally on May 18, 2018 at 9:18 am

      Hi Saima! The carton should give instructions for replacement quantities.

  3. Ahmorz on May 21, 2018 at 5:37 am

    hi sally i would like to check if this cake can be cover with ganache chocolate bittersweet.

    cause im leaving in a country with hot climate

    and also they this can be used for tiered cake.

    • Sally on May 21, 2018 at 10:36 am

      You can certainly cover this pistachio cake with chocolate ganache. The cake should be fine as a tiered cake, but if you find it’s not sturdy enough for your cake, I recommend using cake dowels for support.

  4. Yasmin on May 31, 2018 at 4:27 am

    Hi Sally,
    Love your recipes !! I want to try the pistachio cake, but am wondering if whole eggs will work instead of whites. While I completely understand the role of egg whites in giving a super light structure, I find I never get around to using left over egg yolks , and don’t want to waste five yolks !!
    Thank you 🙂
    Yasmin.

    • Sally on May 31, 2018 at 7:00 am

      Hi Yasmin! I find the cake tastes too dense when using the entire egg. Feel free to play around with the recipe based on how you wish to bake it. 🙂

      • Yasmin on June 3, 2018 at 10:30 am

        Thank you, Sally. I shall stick to egg whites in that case, and am looking for a cake recipe on your site to use the yolks in 🙂



  5. Maggie Gormly on June 5, 2018 at 7:13 pm

    Can you buy shelled/unsalted pistachios or do you have to shell them yourself? I can only find salted ones with no shells!

    • Sally on June 7, 2018 at 11:57 am

      Hi Maggie! Shelled pistachios are pistachios with the shell removed. They have been shelled. Does that make sense? So use pistachios with no shell.

  6. Tess on June 22, 2018 at 12:52 pm

    Hi Sally,

    Most of your cakes require cake flour. I was just wondering if it makes a big difference if I just use regular flour? I can’t find cake flour anywhere where I live.

    Thanks!

    • Sally on June 25, 2018 at 10:02 am

      Hi Tess! See my recipe note about a DIY cake flour substitute.

  7. Paulet D. on July 3, 2018 at 11:35 am

    This cake is amazingly delicious!! However, I’ve made it twice now, and both times my cakes were pretty flat and did not rise much. I followed the recipe to a “T,” so I’m not sure where I might’ve gone wrong. Each cake turned out about an inch thick, so when they were stacked it was still pretty tall, but definitely not what I was expecting. Do you have any ideas or suggestions how to make it more fluffy?

    • Sally on July 5, 2018 at 11:18 am

      Hi Paulet! I’m so glad you enjoy my pistachio cake! While I haven’t tried this, you can try adding a little more baking powder for extra lift. I would increase to 2 and 1/2 teaspoons. Still use 1/2 teaspoon baking soda.

  8. Alys Swan-Jackson on July 30, 2018 at 9:17 am

    Can I halve this recipe please? Changes? can I bake ONE cake in my tiny oven? Changes? Thank you.

    Alys

    • Sally on July 30, 2018 at 10:45 am

      Hi Alys! You can halve the recipe, but for best results I suggest making this batter as written, then using any extra batter for cupcakes. You can freeze the cupcakes if you aren’t eating right away.

  9. Penny on August 11, 2018 at 2:08 am

    Hello Sally,
    I have been thinking of making this cake a few weeks. Can you confirm the 260 gram of pistachios is with or without shell?

    Thanks!

    • Sally on August 11, 2018 at 1:52 pm

      Hi Penny! I’m excited for you to try this cake. Shelled pistachios are pistachios that do not have shells. The measurement is without shells.

  10. Vanessa on August 12, 2018 at 11:01 pm

    Hi Sally! Thank you so very much for posting this recipe, I’m so excited to try it this weekend for my dad’s 60th! I see the frosting you’re using is a cream cheese one which sounds scrumptious- wondering though if you’ve ever done the cake with a Swiss meringue buttercream? Would the flavors jive well or do you think they would ruin the light pistachio flavor? Thanks again for the post!

    • Sally on August 13, 2018 at 9:24 am

      Hey Vanessa! I haven’t tried this particular cake with swiss meringue buttercream, but I can see it being a delicious success. I would definitely pair the two together!

      • Vanessa on August 13, 2018 at 10:35 am

        Ah, fantastic! I’ll be trying it out this weekend then and will report back. Thank you again!



Leave a Comment


       



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

With kitchen-tested quality recipes and step-by-step tutorials, my goal is to give you the confidence to bake and cook from scratch.

Top 5 Recipes

grateful-creator-logo

Recipes You'll Love

Categories

Archives

sallys-cookie-palooza

Cookie Palooza

A tradition since 2013, every December we countdown to Christmas with 10 new cookie recipes in a row!

View More...

fabruary-challange

Baking Challenge

Join the community on the 1st of every month as we tackle a new challenge recipe.

View More...

pie-week

Pie Week

The first week of every November is all about Thanksgiving Pies.

View More...

My Cookbooks

@sallysbakeblog