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 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 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.

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

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.

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 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.

Ground up pistachios for pistachio cake on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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 on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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!

Silky smooth cream cheese frosting on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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, chocolate buttercream, and the frosting recipe included in my lemon cupcakes with blackberry cream cheese frosting.

If you want more frosting than today’s semi-naked cake style, 1.5x any of the above frosting options.

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

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. 🙂

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

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.

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 pistachios (out of shells)
  • 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, 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

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

528 Comments

  1. Hi Sally! I’ve been following recipes from your blog for a few months now, and very one of them were super delicious! This pistachio cakes also looks super delish. I saw something on Pinterest called “pie cookies “, and they looked absolutely adorable. It’s like a mini pie (any flavor) the size of a cookie. I was wondering if you could do a recreation! I would definitely make those. Even if you don’t get a chance to reply, thanks so much for all the delicious recipes you create!!!

  2. Hi Sally,

    Thanks for posting this recipe! If I don’t have three cake tins (and a large enough oven), will it be OK for the batter to sit around while I bake them in batches? Or perhaps bake it in a deep tin and slice the layers?

    Thank you,
    Jane

    1. Yep! Just cover it with plastic wrap and leave out at room temperature.

  3. Ljubica Kavish says:

    Dear Sally,
    This is a must have this month! I just have one question, I have concluded the sugar I have here in Serbia is almost twice as sweet as the American one which makes it impossible to use as much as the recipe calls. What do you suggest I add if I half the sugar so i achieve the same consistency of the cake?
    Love,
    Ljubica

    1. You can certainly try it, but I can’t be certain since I’ve never baked with the sugar you’re familiar with. Let me know how it turns out!

  4. Hi Sally! I am a big fan of your recipes. I have been searching for a good almond cake recipe. This cake looks so good I was wondering if I could swap the pistachios for almond meal? 

    1. Hi Stephanie! You can try, but I haven’t tested it yet. I’d be worried almond meal would dry out the cake too much. But please let me know how it turns out.

  5. Wow, what a beautiful cake! Thank you for always posting the best failproof recipes! Would it be okay to bake in two cake pans instead of three? 

    1. Hi Alaa! You can bake this pistachio cake as a 2 layer cake. The cakes will take about 25 minutes in the oven, same temperature.

  6. I love pistachio! If I wanted to make this cake in 2 small 6 inch cake pans would I need to just cut the recipe in half?

    1. Hi Kerah! I’m unsure how to exactly reduce this batter down to fit a two layer 6-inch cake. You can definitely try halving it though. Might not be quite enough, but let me know how it goes.

  7. Donna White says:

    Hi Sally, could I use egg whites in a carton as a substitute for the fresh eggs or could that add unwanted sugar to the recipe? Thank you

    1. Hi Donna! The carton egg whites should be fine to use in this pistachio cake recipe.

  8. Looks great, Sally! Question for you: might this recipe be a good candidate for Easter nest cake??

    1. Thanks Annie! Yes, you can definitely bake this pistachio cake in a bundt pan to make the coconut Easter nest cake, but I’m unsure of the bake time.

  9. Hi Sally!

    Making this for my husband’s birthday cake next month, can’t wait! Do I need to beat the egg whites before adding them, or are they fine to go in ‘flat’?

    Cheers!

    1. Hi Katie! The egg whites are fine to go in as is. No need to beat them before adding.

  10. Hi Sally! I’m going to use this cake recipe for the March Baking Challenge! And BONUS- it’s green, so it will fit perfectly on my dessert table for my St Patty’s Day party this weekend! I do have a question for you: I am a huge fan of pistachio and I know that you said the flavor is subtle in this cake. I would like to add a pistachio pudding packet to the cake batter to up the flavor. Do you think this is a bad idea or a good idea? Would I need to reduce any of the other ingredients (I’m thinking specifically about the sour cream- I don’t want the cake to be soggy) Let me know!!

    1. Hey Angela! You can certainly add some pistachio pudding to the cake for added flavor. I’ve never tried it, so I can’t say for sure… but I would maybe reduce the cake flour down to 2 cups + 2 Tbsp. Please let me know how it turns out!

  11. Wow, just saw this come across in my reader. This cake is BEAUTIFUL, Sally!

    1. Thanks so much, Ali!

  12. Oyitssharon says:

    OH MY! I think I might start eating pistachios!

  13. SALLY, how did you know!?  My husband is a huge pistachio cake fan and his birthday is April 18th. I have to make this for him…looks like a great recipe!

  14. Your frosting picture with the mixer is awesome!
    …and the cake sounds delicious  

  15. Commercial RO Plant says:

    Easy and lovely, decorated with powdered sugar design, sliced oranges and scattered pistachios. Would post a photo but seems that’s not possible. Will make again!

  16. Looks delicious!

  17. Love your recipes so much! This looks delicious but I have some family members who aren’t big fans of cream cheese frosting. Do you think the cake would pair well with a vanilla buttercream frosting instead? Thanks!

    1. Hey Megan! I have a list of a few frosting alternatives in the blog post if you want to check them out.

      1. HA! I promise I read the post…not sure how I missed that! ‍♀️

  18. We love pistachios–eat them with everything. Can’t wait to try this cake.

  19. Hi Sally! So excited to make this recipe for Easter. Quick question: where did you find the flower garnishes? 

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Margaret! A local nursery. If you use fresh florals, make sure they aren’t treated with pesticides OR you can use edible flowers 🙂

  20. Hi Sally,

    I may be missing it, but do you have a video or a post about how to transfer an iced/decorated cake from a cake turntable to the cake stand? I’m nervous I’m going to have a beautiful cake and then totally mess it up in the transfer process!

    I love your blog and really appreciate how much I learn from it! The monthly baking challenges have been awesome! 

    Thanks,
    Katrina 

    1. Hi Katrina! You can transfer decorated cakes from your turntable to a cake stand by using these cake circles. I decorated the pictured pistachio cake directly on the cake stand and therefore didn’t use a turntable or cake circle.

      1. Thanks, Sally. I ended up decorating it on the cake stand and that worked out just fine. I made the lemon blueberry cake for my March baking challenge with a semi-naked frost. It received rave reviews!! These baking challenges are making me feel like a professional!

        P.S.- we went to college together! Congratulations on your sweet baby girl and wishing you continued success! 

      2. Thank you so much Katrina!!

  21. Dear Sally, 
    I love the style of your blog and the way how you arranged your content. I also have a blog and I think this “Shop the recipe” slider is perfect to combine a view affiliate links. I am also in this amazon partner programm, but how did you manage to arrange these links in a beautiful slider? Do you use a plugin for that? 

    I would be happy to hear from you !
    Greetings from Germany

    Joana

    1. Hi Joana! Thank you so much. I’m a member of rewardStyle to obtain the affiliate links. And I use the rewardStyle widget to display them.

  22. Hi, if using raw pistachios, do I need to toast them prior to grinding? Thanks!

    1. No need to, unless you want a roasted flavor.

  23. I was excited to see green on the picture because I’m looking for a key lime cake recipe, but it turns out it’s pistachio 🙁

    Sally, would you happen to have a key lime cake recipe hiding somewhere or needing to be perfected before posting anytime soon?? 🙂

    1. Hi Katerine! You should try my lemon layer cake with lime instead of lemon. You can leave out the blueberries. 🙂

  24. Traci Walther says:

    Sally this cake looks absolutely delicious! I too love decorating cakes and cupcakes but get discouraged sometimes. It takes practice and I know when I stop overthinking it always comes out great. I love the naked cake decorations and hope to get mine made soon! It can be so hard not to play the comparison game.  One thing I’ve been working on is to not compare my page 1 to someone’s page 20 and practice does make perfect! Thanks for sharing all these fabulous recipes! 

  25. Hey Sally! I finally broke and bought the salted pistachios. I really want to make this tonight and the stores were closing! I’ve done the conversions and maths and stuff. If you use Wonderful Pistachios Shelled Roasted & Salted (160mg sodium per 1/4 C serving) then you only need to reduce the regular salt by about a quarter teaspoon. Hope this helps anybody else in my position!

    1. Let me know how your pistachio cake turns out!

  26. The only good thing about another snow day is that I have time to make this cake!  

  27. Do you do a crumb layer of icing before icing it for decorating purposes? I always have crumb issues and that’s what I’ve read is the solution. 

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Ryan! I don’t typically add a crumb coat to my cakes, but you certainly can!

  28. Was delicious! A good substitute if you can’t find unsalted ones

  29. Laura | Tutti Dolci says:

    This is such a stunning cake! I adore the cream cheese frosting and the berry topping is so lovely for spring!

  30. Vino from sugar & salt bakes says:

    Hi Sally, baked this recipe and it was delious. Another best from your blog. I baked it in two 9inch pans but it rose only as much your one layer of the three 9 inch. Do you think of baked in three 9 inch it would rise more. Could you also know how much the batter weigh before baking.

    1. Vino from sugar & salt bakes says:

      Hi Sally, could you pls reply on this as i eagerly wait for your expert comment

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