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, or chocolate buttercream. Or for something totally different, use this cake as the base of my fresh berry cream cake. So good!

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.

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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

570 Comments

Comments are closed.

  1. Also, instead of cream cheese filing can I use patisserie cream instead like the one used for profiteroles ?

    Thank you
    Joanna

    1. I can’t see why not. Yum!

    2. I only have (2) 8 inch pans. How long should I bake?

  2. Hi Sally, I only have two 9inch cake pans. Can I use just 2 and how long should I bake it? Thanks

    1. Sure can! Bake time is only 1-2 minutes longer if making 2 layers.

  3. I had a coworker bring a pistachio cake on one of our office parties and it was delicious. This recipe looks simple enough but can I make this in a cupcake version? If so, what temp and how long to bake them.

    1. Hi Elaine, You can follow the directions for making my pistachio cupcakes here: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/pistachio-cupcakes-with-creamy-strawberry-frosting/

  4. I cannot see the recipe for the Cream Cheese frosting. Can you help?

    1. You can click on the words “cream cheese frosting” in the recipe. But here it is in case you can’t see it: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/favorite-cream-cheese-frosting/

  5. This is an awesome recipe.. Baked this cake for my daughter’s birthday. Everyone liked the cake and it was super soft ..all of them praised me ..and got lot and lots of applauses… Thank u sally . For the wonderful recipe .. Frosting i made is cream cheese whipped cream frosting …thanks again .. Expecting a few more recipes ..

  6. Wonderful recipe, cake was so light and airy. The only issue i had was flour weight. It calls for 250g or 2 and third cups. I thought that looked quite small in grams and I weighed one cup it came in at 245 gms. I went with the bigger amount and cake was perfect

  7. Hello Sally
    I tried this recipe and it came out really nice. I now want to make it as the base layer of a two tier cake in a 12inch pan. I was wondering if I can substitute the 5 egg whites for 3 eggs to give a more substantial cake and less airy cake?
    thank you,
    Yasmin.

    1. Hi Yasmin! You can certainly try that, yes.

      1. Thank you, Sally. I asked because you had replied to a similar earlier question by saying you prefer the use of egg whites alone. Will let you know how this works.

      2. Hi Sally
        Just to let you know that I made this cake for my 25th wedding anniversary. I made it into a two tier cake, with a 10 inch layer at the bottom and a 6inch layer on the top. I used 3 whole eggs instead of 5 whites, and the cake was moist, yet firm enough to stack up. Each batch made a one 10 inch and one 6 inch cake, so made two batches.
        The frosting was perfect. Probably the best cream cheese frosting I have ever made.
        Thank you for this recipe that was the highlight of our anniversary dinner !!

  8. Carole Derflinger says:

    Absolutely the most delicious cake. All my friends raved and wanted the recipe.

  9. Hi Sally ! Is there a way to make this a two-tiered cake like the white cake recipe? Can I 2/3rd the ingredients and use 3 eggs to make it work?

    1. Hi Nabiya, It is not very easy to cut a recipe by 1/3 so I would suggest making the full recipe freeze the third layer for another time. Or use my pistachio cupcake recipe and bake it as a 2 layer 9-inch cake: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/pistachio-cupcakes-with-creamy-strawberry-frosting/

  10. Accidentally added the extra half a stick of butter ( so 2 sticks) do u think it will make a big difference?

  11. Hello Sally,
    What are those flowers decorating the cake please?
    Thanks, Sandra

    1. Hi Sandra, I wish I wrote down the name of the flower, but I do not remember what they are called. They are not edible.

  12. I have made this cake three times now and it always takes 40 minutes to bake! My oven is calibrated correctly.

  13. Hello,
    Can the 260g of butter be replaced with vegetable oil, for more softness.

    1. I recommend sticking with butter here for the absolute best taste and texture!

  14. Hi sally! I have made this cake a few times now and it is ALWAYS a big hit. My mom requested it for her birthday next week and I am happy to do so…however, my brother and sister-in-law have been vegan for the last few years and they hardly come to family events now as there is “never anything for them to eat” ‍♀️

    All that said…I would like to try to make this cake edible for everyone. What is your suggestion for making this recipe VEGAN? Can it be done and still maintain its original deliciousness?

    1. Hi Amber! I’m so happy this cake has been a favorite 🙂 I’m not the best one to ask about vegan baking– I have every little experience with substitutions. Sorry! I do have a category of vegan recipes- you can find them here: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/category/vegan/

  15. Hi, can i skip the almond extract? We don’t have it here in my town. We only have almond flavour, but i am not sure would it give the same result?

    1. You can skip it, but you will miss a lot of flavor. Feel free to replace with vanilla extract or even lemon extract for something different!

  16. Hi Sally! Will this cake freeze and thaw well?

    1. Hi Maddy! Yes, this cake freezes and thaws well- make sure it’s sealed tightly before freezing.

  17. Sally, this cake is delicious! I have tried a few pistachio cake recipes and am also very against pudding as an ingredient so I was eager to try this. It looks great, the texture is lovely and overall it’s wonderful. Thanks for sharing! Next on my list is your pistachio cookies which look just as delicious 🙂

    Half a batch of this cake makes 2 x 7” rounds which is a nice small size for the house although it will disappear fast!

  18. One day, my husband ordered a slice of pistachio cake at an upscale cafe in our city. I said ‘I can probably make this pistachio cake’ and found your recipe. It is highly requested by friends and family for dinner parties, birthday parties and now for a pre-Christmas dinner at friends. Will need to try ALL your cakes as I love to bake and don’t want to only make pistachio cake. Thank you so much for the simple recipes to follow and the cream cheese icing is divine So happy I discovered your website!

  19. Mary Alldritt says:

    Did you use roasted pistachios or raw? I found unsalted raw ones at the store and can roast them.

    1. Either work depending on the flavor you’d like. I love the cake with either. Raw pistachios are just fine, no need to roast them.

  20. Hi sally , can I substitute cake flour for almond flour? My friend is allergic to gluten and wondering if I could be able to make it for her

    1. Hi Sun! No, I don’t recommend it. You can try a gluten free cake flour, though I haven’t tested this recipe with any.

  21. Joanne Penaluna says:

    It doesn’t look like anyone else had this problem but my layers stuck very badly to the pan. I totally mangled the first one and managed to rescue the other two by slicing them across the center. I greased and floured as directed – not sure what happened.
    Next time I will use parchment. There will definitely be a next time because this cake is amazing!

    1. Hi Joanne, If you have problems with your pans sticking I highly recommend using parchment paper! I always lightly spray my pans with baking spray, place a parchment round in the bottom, and then spray it again. Works every time!

  22. Where did y’all buy your pistachios?

  23. Erica Haas and Brandon Strickland says:

    We love this recipe. We, my guy and I, tweaked it just a tad. We omitted the sour cream, the almond extract, and the food coloring because we didn’t have any on hand, but it still turned out wonderfully moist, totally green, and the flavor profile is off the charts fantastic. We started out with two pounds of pistachios with their shells, and shelled them ourselves, we opted not to blanche. We used two cups of crumbed, as you pictured, pistachios in the cake and we pulsed the remaining pistachios to an almost butter state and used that in lieu of the butter in your cream cheese frosting. It turned out so well, we impressed ourselves. I wish I could attach pictures because it is a beautiful vibrant green and the pistachio flavor is perfectly retained. This was our first homemade, from scratch, cake. I suspect our presentation will get better with practice and more baking pans haha. Thank you for your time and the awesome recipe
    -Erica and Brandon

    1. Hi Erica and Brandon, I’m so glad you were able to make this cake work for you and the frosting sounds delicious! You can always email me a picture or tag me on social media so that I can see it – I love seeing photos of my recipes so much!!

  24. Cindy Drover-Davidson says:

    Can I successfully make this with gluten-free cake flour? My husband is gluten intolerant but I would so love to make this cake and your cupcakes as a special treat for our 25th anniversary in the spring. Thank you!

    1. Hi Cindy! I wish I could help but I haven’t tested this recipe with GF flour alternatives and have very little experience with them. Generally gluten free flours (the cup for cup measurement ones) work nicely in cakes.

      1. Cindy Drover-Davidson says:

        Thank you! I think I’ll give it a try. Will let you know how it turns out.

  25. This is the best cake ever for many reasons. First and foremost, it is soft and luxurious and you can taste the pistachios. I followed the recipe exactly and had no issues. I followed the cream cheese frosting and used about 1/2 to 3/4 cup less sugar and it was just fine. It is just a personal taste, nothing wrong with the original. I had some leftover chopped pistachios so I covered the cake with them. Just gently patted into the frosting. It was green pistachio heaven. I wish I had taken a picture.
    The second reason I loved this recipe is that it is one of the few that turned out like the picture and as explained. I am a baker, and I can’t tell you how often my cakes do not turn out as nicely as the author says. Thank you, Sally. Must say, that my nephew was impressed as were all the guests at his birthday party. He left me free reign to bake what I wanted for his birthday and this was a hit.
    My question is, have you tried any other nut in this cake instead of pistachios? The cake is so amazing, that I was thinking of trying it with almonds or walnuts perhaps. It is so easy to and with such flavor, that I want to try other flavors as well.
    Again, thanks and I look forward to trying some of your other recipes.

  26. Hi sally , happy new year!
    Thank you for this and all of your wonderful recipes . I have a question. Can I make this as a bundt cake?

    1. Hi Saba, Yes, this cake batter will fit in a bundt pan, but I’m unsure of the bake time.

  27. Just finished making this and my layers came out flat. Any thoughts? I followed the recipe. Smells amazing, just flat.

    1. Hi Nicole, Do you mean that your cakes didn’t rise at all? How was the texture of the cake when you cut it? Be sure that you are using cake flour (not all purpose) and that your baking soda and baking powder are both fresh!

  28. Hi Sally, I just made this for my family. It was a huge hit! I’ve tried a few of your recipes and they have all turned out great. Thank you for sharing with us!

  29. Hi Sally,

    I don’t have a KitchenAid mixer, only a small handheld one. Can I use this? Will it contribute to over-mixing, or making the cake tougher, since the attachments are much smaller than the ones the KitchenAid uses. Any tips to make this better with a hand held?

    1. You can use a handheld mixer with no problem. I often do!

  30. Do you have any idea of the bake time for cupcakes?

    1. Hi Joanie, Cupcakes take 19-22 minutes. You can see the full instructions in in Pistachio Cupcakes.

      1. Thank you!!

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