Pistachio Cake

There’s nothing fake or artificial in this beautiful pistachio cake. Made from scratch with real pistachio and almond extract flavors, this rustic and chic layered naked cake is adorned with silky cream cheese frosting. Garnish with fresh berries, pistachios, and flowers for a truly remarkable dessert.

pistachio cake on a wood and marble cake stand with a slice on a cake server

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 pistachio cake.

I’m often asked how to turn my pistachio cupcakes into a layer cake– your wish is my command! Let’s get started.

overhead image of pistachio cake on a marble cake stand

How to Get Real Pistachio Flavor Into Cake

For quality pistachio flavor, we’ll grind shelled pistachios into fine little chips and chunks and pour them directly into a vanilla almond cake batter. There will be some pistachio powder hiding in all those teeny pistachio pieces– that’s ok! Add it to the batter; it will tint it a whimsical light green! 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. A beautiful springtime cake.

The combination of real pistachios + almond extract results in a soft, light, and buttery pistachio cake made without artificial flavors.

slices of pistachio cake on green plates

Pistachio Cake Ingredients

We use my favorite white cake as a starting point for today’s pistachio cake. You’ll notice many similar ingredients, plus a few extras that turn white cake into pistachio cake.

  • Pistachios: Instead of relying on artificial pistachio flavor in today’s cake, 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. I usually use unsalted raw pistachios. However, the cake is still sweet even if you use salted pistachios. Salted actually adds extra flavor! You can use roasted or raw (not roasted), whichever you prefer.
  • Cake Flour: Cake flour provides the cake’s structure. Cake flour is almost 30x finer than all-purpose flour. Using it is a surefire way to achieve a delicate and delicious texture. I use slightly less cake flour in this recipe compared to my white cake because of the pistachio crumbs. It’s sold in the baking aisle and you can use the rest of the box in any of these recipes that use cake flour. In a pinch, use this homemade cake flour substitute.
  • Baking Powder & Baking Soda: Use both leaveners to help the cake rise.
  • Salt: Salt adds flavor.
  • Butter: Butter adds moisture and flavor, and creates a tender crumb. Use room temperature butter.
  • Sugar: We use granulated sugar to sweeten this cake.
  • Egg Whites: Use ONLY egg whites. No yolks. Only using egg whites ensures that the crumb is not weighed down by the fat in egg yolks. Think about it: lighter confections such as marshmallows and angel food cakes only require egg whites. Same story here.
  • Sour Cream & Milk: Both keep the cake ultra moist. I recommend whole milk and full-fat sour cream for best taste and texture.
  • Vanilla & Almond Extracts: Use both pure vanilla extract and almond extract for truly outstanding flavor. Almond extract enhances the pistachio flavor, so don’t leave it out!
  • Milk: Milk creates an ultra moist cake.

pistachio crumbs in a food processor

Don’t be alarmed. The cake batter will resemble spicy brown mustard, but it smells amazing. 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 in a glass bowl

Overview: How to Make Pistachio Cake

  1. Make pistachio crumbs. Use your food processor to break down the nuts. The 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.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients together. Include 1 and 1/2 cups of pistachio crumbs.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the egg whites, sour cream, and extracts.
  4. Combine the wet and dry ingredients together.
  5. Pour in the milk. Mix just until combined– the batter will be slightly thick.
  6. Bake. These cakes take about 21-23 minutes in the oven.
  7. Let the cakes cool completely.
  8. Make the cream cheese frosting.
  9. Assemble and decorate the cake.
  10. Refrigerate. Place the cake in the refrigerator for at least 30-45 minutes before slicing. This helps the cake keep its shape when cutting.
  11. Serve!

cream cheese frosting in a glass stand mixer bowl with whisk attachment

Pistachio Cake Frosting

There are many options for decorating your pistachio cake! I use smooth and tangy cream cheese frosting– it pairs wonderfully with the sweet pistachio cake. 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. If you want more frosting, make the amount of cream cheese frosting included in my carrot cake recipe.

Other delicious frosting options: vanilla buttercream, strawberry buttercream, lemon buttercream, or chocolate buttercream. Or for something totally different, use this cake as the base of my fresh berry cream cake. So good!

pistachio cake on a wood and marble cake stand

overhead image of pistachio cake with cream cheese frosting and berries and pistachio garnish

Decorating Inspiration

One of my loves? Decorating cakes and cupcakes just for fun. I never used to feel confident in my decorating skills because I was always comparing my creations to the beautiful cakes and cupcakes on my Pinterest and Instagram feeds. Whenever I began decorating, I felt discouraged. And it wasn’t fun.

So I practiced. And I practiced some more. And you’ve seen my skills as a cake decorator (can I call myself that?!) improve. No one begins as an expert. Don’t let comparison prevent you from doing what you love. Be confident and have fun!

Topping the cake with goodies is the best part. I decorated today’s pistachio cake naked cake style with fresh berries, fresh flowers, and crushed pistachios. For smooth sides, use a bench scraper— you can watch me using it in this video for vanilla naked cake. 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. 🙂

slice of pistachio cake on a green plate

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.

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

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pistachio cake on a wood and marble cake stand with a slice on a cake server

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


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!


  • 2 cups (260g) unsalted pistachios (out of shells)
  • 2 and 1/3 cups (265g) 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


  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.


  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, Cake Turntable, Straight Icing Spatula, Bench Scraper, and Marble Cake Stand
  3. Pistachios: I usually use unsalted raw pistachios. However, the cake is still sweet even if you use salted pistachios. Salted actually adds extra flavor! You can use roasted or raw (not roasted), whichever you prefer.
  4. Cake Flour: Sift cake flour before measuring. If you can’t get your hands on cake flour, use this homemade cake flour substitute. I suggest doing this 3x, then remove 2/3 cup since you need 2 and 1/3 cups in this recipe.
  5. 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.
  6. 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!
  7. 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, make the amount of cream cheese frosting included in my carrot cake recipe.
  8. Room Temperature Ingredients: All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. For more information, read my post about the importance of room temperature ingredients.
  9. Bundt Pan: This cake batter will fit in a 10-12 cup bundt pan, but I’m unsure of the exact bake time. Use a toothpick to test for doneness.
  10. Here are my pistachio cupcakes!

Keywords: pistachio cake


  1. Hi Sally,
    I only have two 8” round pans. Can I use this recipe or the pistachio cupcake one? I am planning to make this for my daughter’s birthday. Thank you.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Nancy, You can use your 8 inch pans, your cake layers will be slightly thicker so may take and extra minute or two in the oven. You can bake the first two layers and keep the remaining batter loosely covered at room temperature until your pans are ready to bake the third layer.

  2. Hello Sally!! I’m making my dads birthday cake and typically I make a poppy seed cake with custard center but I’m thinking that a pistachio poppy seed would be a fun change up! I am planning on adding 2-3 tablespoons seeds to the batter when I put in the pistachio crumbs…thoughts? Too many too little? Do you think the cake will hold the extra grit? I have made your classic vanilla cake as the base in previous birthdays! Thanks!

  3. Hi, I am planning to bake this cake tomorrow, can i use loaf pans instead of 9 inch pan and how many loaf pans i will need and what if i do it in Bundt. for how long i will need to bake it and at what temperature?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sarah, we haven’t tested this recipe in loaf pans, but this Cake Pan Sizes and Conversions blog post should be helpful! Use the same oven temperature and then use your eyes (and the toothpick test) more than the timer for bake time.

  4. Can I make it and leave it for one night at room temp for the next night or should I refrigerate?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi John, After decorating anything with buttercream or cream cheese frosting, it’s fine for 1 day at room temperature. After that, it’s best to refrigerate it. As always, use your best judgement and whatever you are comfortable with.

  5. Hi Sally! I’m planning to make this on my friend’s birthday.
    I was just wondering what is the difference of using roasted pistachio and raw pistachio?
    Does texture changes or flavor??
    I’m so excited to bake this !!!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kate, we usually use raw pistachios. However, you can use roasted or raw (not roasted), whichever you prefer. If you enjoy eating roasted pistachios the most, then you would enjoy their flavor in the cake also!

  6. Hi Sally,
    I am planning to make this cake tomorrow. But i have 9 1/2 inch cake pans and not exactly 9 inch. How can I alter your recipe to account for the size change? Please helppp

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sabby, your pans should work just fine for this recipe. The layers will be slightly thinner and the bake time should be about the same — but keep an eye on them and use a toothpick to test for doneness. Happy baking!

    2. Hi Sally-My son ate some of my pistachios and I’m trying to avoid going back to the store. Can I use another nut, like almond for half the nuts? Thank you!

      1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Liz, almonds will be a fine substitution for the pistachios. Happy baking!

  7. This cake is wonderful! I love to bake and try new recipes and this one is a keeper! One of my sons said it should be called Biscotti Cake. It is moist, flavorful and has a great texture. It seems like an old fashioned cake, one that satisfies and comforts. I added 1/2 box of pistachio instant pudding mix with the dry ingredients hoping to increase the pistachio flavor as my husband loves pistachios. I baked it in a Bundt cake pan and it was perfect. (I loosely covered it with foil to keep the top from becoming too dark.) Next time I’m going to try a cream cheese marzipan icing…

  8. Hi Sally,
    Can I use heavy cream (instead of whole milk and sour cream?) Or is there an alternative to using whole milk and sour cream?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kate, you can replace the whole milk and sour cream with buttermilk. Use 1 and 1/2 cups (360ml).

  9. Joanne Cipriano says:

    Hi Sally!
    This recipe is amazing, but my question is how do I keep the cake moist? When it’s fresh out of the oven it was moist but after a day in the fridge, it disappeared. I still love the cake but any suggestion on how to keep the moist?

  10. Hi Sally, I wonder if this recipe works with pistachio paste? Do you know what will be the difference using nuts or paste? Hope you can help clarify my doubts. Thanks

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Manda, we haven’t tested this recipe with pistachio paste so can’t say for sure. You can try adding about 1/2 cup to the batter and leaving out the ground/chopped pistachios.

  11. Saloni Sardessai says:

    Absolutely in love with this recipe. The cake was a major, major hit! I used curd instead of sour cream because it isn’t readily available and your homemade cake flour.

  12. Can I sub non dairy sour cream & cream cheese?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Carol, we haven’t tested it ourselves, but we’d love to know if you give anything a try.

  13. Hi sally , would you recommend that we mix almond and pistachio together -l?9

    1. Hi Jo! We haven’t tested that combination, but I can’t see why it wouldn’t work.

  14. Hi Sally,

    I wanted to make this cake but the recipe is quite big. Is it possible to half the recipe and bake in 6inch pans instead? If so, would halving the recipe and using 2 egg whites work..

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Amna, for 6 inch pans, we’d recommend using our pistachio cupcakes recipe instead. It fits perfectly for a 3 layer, 6 inch cake!

  15. Hi there,
    Huge fan! I’m having a hard time deciding between this cake and your lavender blackberry cake! In your opinion, would pistachio and lavender go well together? Maybe even with blackberry?
    Thank you!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Hayley, We’ve never combined those two exact recipes but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work to brush the lavender syrup on this cake if you enjoy the flavors! But even without the lavender syrup, using the frosting and blackberry jam filling from the lavender cake would be delicious on this pistachio cake! Let us know what you try.

  16. The cream cheese frosting you suggested, does it yield enough to frost a 9″ cake? Thanks!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Wanda, If you want more frosting than shown in the photos see the recipe notes for details.

  17. I baked this today. It was very tasty and moist. Very summery cake.

    I used an 8 inch cake pan and only baked two cake layers rather than the three. It took about 28 mins.

    I struggled with getting that pistachio powdery consistency when blending so my cake had some chunks to it (which I didn’t mind as it gave it a crunch)

    I may reduce the almond extract to 1/2 tsp next time. I do think it can be a little overpoweing.

    Thank you for the recipe Sally!!

  18. This is an amazing recipe – Elegant, sophisticated flavor, texture. Is a winner with family and friends – since first coming across this, I’ve baked this cake almost every month.

  19. Hi Sally,
    I’m making this cake for my husbands Birthday. Instead of doing a frosting for the cake can I drizzle warm lemon syrup over it. Would the cake be ok if I do that? Want to serve it as a warm dessert instead on a cake. Thank you

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lelanie, I don’t see why that wouldn’t work! Enjoy!

  20. Thank you for this! Such a simple recipe yet so indulgent and rich! A true treat indeed!
    The only thing I would alter is the sugar next time , was way too sweet ! Would reduce sugar by 1/3rd next time around.

  21. Can’t wait to try this recipe!! I am on a pistachio kick lately so much that I made some pistachio paste to use in different recipes. Could I add some to your cake? Thank you! Will definitely be trying this out this weekend.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Rosalva, we haven’t tested this recipe with pistachio paste so can’t say for sure. You can try adding about 1/2 cup to the batter and leaving out the ground/chopped pistachios. Let us know how it goes!

  22. Sophie Zajdela says:


    I’m looking to make an almond, orange cake and have been looking for a recipe to make the actual cake. I’d like to use this and sub in almond flour instead of the pistachios, do you think this would work? And how much almond flour should I use?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sophie! Almond flour will be very similar to the finely ground pistachios we use in this recipe, so should be a fine substitute (though we haven’t tested it so can’t say for sure). Use the same amount. The flavor will go wonderfully with the almond extract. Would love to hear how it goes!

  23. Hi Sally!
    Just made pistachio cake, it is truly delicious. Thank you for all the wonderful recipes.
    My cakes didn’t rise much though. Not too big an issue, as they turned out super tasty anyways. But I was just wondering why? Is that normal when there’s lots of nuts in it? I ground and sifted mine.
    Thank you!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Millie! Were the cakes dense? If the texture was perfect, then there isn’t an issue! If the cakes turned out dense, we recommend double checking to make sure your baking powder and soda are fresh. We find they lose strength after just 3-4 months. Here’s a helpful blog post about preventing dense cake as well. So happy you loved the cake!

      1. Hello, thanks for getting back to me. Nope, cakes weren’t dense. Just absolutely delicious with cream cheese frosting too. I also scattered fresh raspberries throughout the cake. Yum. Thanks again, and I will make sure I always use super fresh baking powder and soda. Xx

  24. I made this cake two days ago for my anniversary (basically I needed an excuse for baking a cake :D) It came out perfect! I love all your recipes Sally! I followed the recipe exactly and used salted roasted pistachios and it worked out perfectly. The only rookie mistake I made was to not put liners in the cake tin and the sponges stuck and broke. I patiently put them back together and glued them with the frosting and my husband didn’t even realize it 😀 Note to self – always line the cake tin 😀

  25. Hi Sally,
    i love your recipes.
    I was just wondering if it is possible to add 3 yolks? Would be the cake more moisture? I dont prefer fluffy cakes.
    Thank you for your answer.
    Have a nice day

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Veronica, we recommend sticking with just the egg whites in this recipe, no yolks. We are adding moisture and fat with the sour cream and whole milk so only using egg whites ensures that the crumb is not weighed down by the additional fat in egg yolks. If you’d like, here are all our recipes using egg yolks to use up those leftover yolks.

  26. Looks and sounds delicious! I’m making this for a friend’s birthday and thinking of alternating the layers with a raspberry filling. Do you think it would work to bake two thicker layers and then slice them in half (once cooled) to make four? Or is the cake too crumbly for this? Thanks! X

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Emma! You can bake thicker layers in two pans, it will take a few minutes longer to bake through. We haven’t tested slicing them in half, though, it may be a bit tricky. For best results we would stick with the recipe as written, but let us know what you try!

  27. Hi Sally,

    I need to make this without eggs. any recomendations? Thank you!


    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ashley, We haven’t tested any egg substitutes in this cake recipe. Let us know if you find one that works!

  28. Caroline Agius says:

    I loved this recipe! I made it for my sister’s birthday and the cake turned our spectacular – so moist and flavourful! Everyone loved it! This is definitely a keeper!

  29. Beth Canning says:

    Sally, do you think I could use your brown butter frosting on the pistachio cake, or would it be too much?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      That would be delicious, Beth!

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