Pistachio Cake

Jump to Recipe

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. 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.

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

220 Comments

All Comments

  1. 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?

    1. 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. 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. 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!

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

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

    Alys

    1. 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. 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?

  6. 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. 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!

  8. 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!

    1. 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. 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!

    1. 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!

  10. Hi Sally!

    So happy to have stumbled upon this recipe. I’ve never actually tried pistachio cake, but I’m wondering do you think an Almond Buttercream frosting would compliment it well? Or maybe that’s an overkill on almond? Planning to make this as a wedding cake for a friend!

  11. Hi Sally,
    this recipe is absolutely delicious. I’m making it for a friends wedding cake. I’m going to pair it with either a champagne mousse or a maple cream (similar to Baileys) mousse. I’m excited to test it out!!!!
    Thank you
    Regina

  12. So, my cake is still not ready but it is on progress of making it, just assembling it left. But i wanted to share my experiance. I followed the recepy strictly but the batter seemed a bit loose than expected, especially when it was said to be thick batter. Anyway i put it in the tins and baked it and i have noticed that the batter was leaking out of the tin :(( that gave me some thin cake layers but I have to admit it was my mistake as i didn t realiced the pistachos should be 260g without the shells. No matter my bad luck it turned out well and it is delicious!!! It is not too sweet, it doesnt have too much butter and I love it! I have put orange extract instead of vanila.and it tastes great!!! I will be making more of that cake in future! Thanks for it!

  13. Hi Sally. Is there too much batter to bake in only two 9 inch pans with 2 inch sides? I only have 2 and I want to have 4 thinner layers. Thanks! I have loved all your recipes. Basia

  14. I am planning to make this cake for my husband’s birthday, can I take out almond extract as we both don’t like it’s taste?
    Thanks x

    1. Hi Sue! A lot of the cake’s flavor comes from the almond extract, so keep that in mind when leaving it out. You can add more vanilla extract in its place.

  15. Hi Sally,
    I have now made this cake for my husband’s birthday and OMG!! The most amazing cake I’ve ever baked- I’m not gonna use frosting next time just to enjoy the cake on it’s own!
    I’m planning to do this again but in smaller cake pans- 6 or 7 inch. Any advice on the baking time?
    Thanks again Sally x

    1. Sure can! To bake in a 9×13 pan: Simply pour the batter into a greased and lightly floured 9×13 pan and bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

  16. Hi there! Excited to try this recipe. A friend and I are making it for our other friend’s surprise birthday party. My co-baker would like to cover this cake with fondant to add decoration. Do you think this cake will hold up ok under fondant and fondant design/decorations?

  17. Hi there,

    Couple questions,

    Can I use 3 8inch pans instead of 9s? Does this change the cooking time or temp?

    Can I use browned & then cooled butter as oppose to just room temp butter?

    Lastly- long story short; I only have 1 & 2/3 cups of pistachios (this is measured as shelled, whole pistachios- not yet ground up) on hand. Is it absolutely necessary to add more? If not- and I can get away with just using what I have- do I need to add more of any other ingredient to make up for it? Thank you!!!!! Look forward to hearing from you soon!

    Amy

    1. Hi Amy!

      1) Yes. The bake time will be a little longer.
      2) No. The butter must be softened to cream with the sugar.
      3) No need to add more pistachios. Sounds like you have plenty!

      Enjoy!

  18. Hi Sally,

    Any suggestions on how I could make a smaller version of this cake? maybe a 6 inch layer cake instead of 9? How much will I have to decrease all measurements by?

Reviews

  1. So, my cake is still not ready but it is on progress of making it, just assembling it left. But i wanted to share my experiance. I followed the recepy strictly but the batter seemed a bit loose than expected, especially when it was said to be thick batter. Anyway i put it in the tins and baked it and i have noticed that the batter was leaking out of the tin :(( that gave me some thin cake layers but I have to admit it was my mistake as i didn t realiced the pistachos should be 260g without the shells. No matter my bad luck it turned out well and it is delicious!!! It is not too sweet, it doesnt have too much butter and I love it! I have put orange extract instead of vanila.and it tastes great!!! I will be making more of that cake in future! Thanks for it!

Questions

  1. 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?

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

    Alys

    1. 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.

  3. 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!

    1. 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.

  4. 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!

    1. 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!

  5. Hi Sally!

    So happy to have stumbled upon this recipe. I’ve never actually tried pistachio cake, but I’m wondering do you think an Almond Buttercream frosting would compliment it well? Or maybe that’s an overkill on almond? Planning to make this as a wedding cake for a friend!

  6. Hi Sally. Is there too much batter to bake in only two 9 inch pans with 2 inch sides? I only have 2 and I want to have 4 thinner layers. Thanks! I have loved all your recipes. Basia

  7. I am planning to make this cake for my husband’s birthday, can I take out almond extract as we both don’t like it’s taste?
    Thanks x

    1. Hi Sue! A lot of the cake’s flavor comes from the almond extract, so keep that in mind when leaving it out. You can add more vanilla extract in its place.

  8. Hi Sally,
    I have now made this cake for my husband’s birthday and OMG!! The most amazing cake I’ve ever baked- I’m not gonna use frosting next time just to enjoy the cake on it’s own!
    I’m planning to do this again but in smaller cake pans- 6 or 7 inch. Any advice on the baking time?
    Thanks again Sally x

  9. Hi there! Excited to try this recipe. A friend and I are making it for our other friend’s surprise birthday party. My co-baker would like to cover this cake with fondant to add decoration. Do you think this cake will hold up ok under fondant and fondant design/decorations?

  10. Hi there,

    Couple questions,

    Can I use 3 8inch pans instead of 9s? Does this change the cooking time or temp?

    Can I use browned & then cooled butter as oppose to just room temp butter?

    Lastly- long story short; I only have 1 & 2/3 cups of pistachios (this is measured as shelled, whole pistachios- not yet ground up) on hand. Is it absolutely necessary to add more? If not- and I can get away with just using what I have- do I need to add more of any other ingredient to make up for it? Thank you!!!!! Look forward to hearing from you soon!

    Amy

    1. Hi Amy!

      1) Yes. The bake time will be a little longer.
      2) No. The butter must be softened to cream with the sugar.
      3) No need to add more pistachios. Sounds like you have plenty!

      Enjoy!

  11. Hi Sally,

    Any suggestions on how I could make a smaller version of this cake? maybe a 6 inch layer cake instead of 9? How much will I have to decrease all measurements by?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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.

Archives

Categories

Sally's Baking Challenge

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

View More

Sally's Cookie Palooza

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

View More

Sally's Pie Week

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

View More

My Cookbooks

About Sally

Welcome to my Kitchen!

I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally

×