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 cream cheese frosting recipe 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, 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

Print

Pistachio Cake

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 35 minutes
  • Cook Time: 22 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 hours
  • Yield: 12 servings
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

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!


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

Instructions

  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.


Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: 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.
  2. Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer | KitchenAid Hand Mixer | Ninja Food Processor | 9-inch Round Cake Pans | Whisk | Straight Icing Spatula | Bench Scraper | Marble Cake Stand
  3. Cake Flour: 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.
  4. Full Fat Ingredients: 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.
  5. Food Coloring: 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!
  6. 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.
  7. Room Temperature Ingredients: All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read here for more information.
  8. Here are my pistachio cupcakes!
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

310 Comments

  1. Hi Sally,
    I am so excited to make this cake tomorrow for my mom’s birthday! Quick question, I have two 8″ rounds with nice straight edges, and two 9″ rounds that are slightly angled edges – I am torn on which pans to use! Also, if you don’t have three to bake at once, do you just wait for two to cook and then do the third? Any harm in the batter sitting around for a bit before baking?
    Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Stephanie! I recommend using the 8-inch straight cake pans. Bake 3 layers. While two cakes are in the oven, keep the remaining batter covered at room temperature until a cake pan is ready again.

  2. Thank you so much for the wonderful recipe! I made this cake for my boyfriends birthday tonight. It was just as beautiful as it was tasty. They loved it with the berries on top. I will definitely be coming back to try more!

  3. Boy oh boy… made this cake for easter/my birthday and wow !! ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!!! I had been looking forward to making this cake for a couple of months and was afraid I would be disappointed (not because I doubted Sally but because my expectations were so high) but it did not! Everyone raved about it. Followed the instructions exactly, took about 27min in the oven. Cream cheese icing also delicious.

  4. Hi Sally,
    I was wondering if there’s a huge difference in texture if I use pistachio paste? Have you ever tried or any other nutty butter?

    1. I haven’t tested this in 6 inch pans but if you cut the recipe in half it should work! Let me know if you try it!

  5. Love this cake, a new family favorite. My husband who dislikes cake couldn’t get enough of it!! Making it again this weekend for Mother’s Day.

  6. Thank you for this amazing recipe! The cake was moist and soft. The cream cheese icing is a perfect compliment to the nuttiness of the pistachios.

    I flavored my icing with rose extract instead of vanilla, omitted the vanilla from the cake batter and added pistachio slivers between the cake layers. The rose added a really nice and exotic flavor.
    I decorated the top with more pistachios and edible rose petals. It was fantastic!

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