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Made from scratch with real pistachio and almond flavors, this rustic-chic layered pistachio cake is full of flavor, and enhanced with silky cream cheese frosting. Garnish with fresh berries, pistachios, and flowers for a truly remarkable dessert that’s perfect for spring.

The pink flowers pictured on the finished cake are called kalanchoe.

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

As nut flavors go, pistachio is one of the most subtle. In fact, did you know that pistachio ice cream gets most of its flavor from almond extract? The almond extract works to enhance the pistachio flavor, and I’m using this concept in today’s pistachio cake. I’m often asked how to change my pistachio cupcakes into a layer cake, so this is the perfect opportunity to show off those delicately nutty flavors again.

Tell Me About This Pistachio Cake

  • Texture: The combination of real pistachios + almond extract results in a soft, buttery pistachio cake. Cake flour and egg whites keep the texture light and delicate.
  • Flavor: This pistachio cake is made without any artificial flavors. The natural flavors of pistachio, almond, butter, and vanilla really shine through in each bite. 
  • Ease: This pistachio cake with cream cheese frosting is “nearly naked,” so no expert-level cake decorating skills are required. It looks gorgeous garnished simply with fresh berries, crushed pistachios, and some flowers, if you’re feeling extra springy.

One reader, Kathy, says:Absolutely divine!!! Made this for my daughter’s bday and everyone loved it. The ground pistachios gave it a perfect light green tint. The texture was great-light cake with some bite from the pistachios. Not too sweet, either, which I prefer. This is a GREAT RECIPE.”

overhead image of pistachio cake with cream cheese frosting and berries and pistachio garnish
slices of pistachio cake on green plates

The full recipe is below, but first I’m going to share some of the main things I’ve learned while testing this pistachio cake recipe.

How to Get Real Pistachio Flavor Into Cake 

We’ll grind shelled pistachios and then mix the pistachio crumbs into the cake batter for the best quality, real pistachio flavor. I know what you’re thinking: chunks of hard nuts in a cake? Don’t worry! The pistachios are ground into a soft and creamy crumb, which adds pure pistachio flavor without a chunky texture. I recommend using a food processor for this step. Just be careful not to overdo it and make pistachio butter!

The cake batter may resemble spicy brown mustard, but it smells fantastic. The ground pistachios tint the cake a light spring green. I also add a drop of green food coloring to deepen the color, but that’s completely optional.

pistachio crumbs in a food processor
pistachio cake batter in a glass bowl

Key Ingredients You Need & Why

I used my favorite white cake recipe as a starting point for this cake.

  • Pistachios: Instead of using artificial pistachio flavor, grind shelled pistachios to add to the cake batter. I usually use unsalted raw pistachios for this cake recipe, but you can use raw or roasted pistachios, salted or unsalted, whichever you prefer. I recommend buying them already shelled, to save time.
  • Almond + vanilla extract: Use pure vanilla and almond extracts for truly outstanding flavor. Almond extract enhances the pistachio flavor, so don’t leave it out.
  • Cake flour: Cake flour is almost 30 times finer than all-purpose flour and provides the structure for this pistachio cake. We use slightly less cake flour in this recipe than in a white cake because of the pistachio crumbs, but the result is equally delicate and delicious.
  • Egg whites: Using only egg whites ensures a light crumb that isn’t weighed down by the fat in egg yolks. Lighter confections such as marshmallows and angel food cake require only egg whites. Same rule applies here.

What Frosting Goes Well With Pistachio Cake?

I like pairing this sweet and nutty cake with smooth and tangy cream cheese frosting. But there’s no shortage of delicious options that would complement this cake! You could easily replace the cream cheese frosting with:

You could also use this pistachio cake recipe as the base for my fresh berry cream cake!

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

Decorating Inspiration

To frost and decorate this pistachio cake, I use a good amount of frosting inside and on top of the cake, and minimal frosting around the sides. This frosting style is called a naked cake, which exposes the gorgeous cake layers and reveals the deliciousness to come! 

  • For smooth sides, use a bench scraper (you can follow this vanilla naked cake video for a little guidance). I also recommend a cake turntable to make cake decorating even easier. Or simply just swipe the frosting on—this pistachio cake is so delicious no one will care what it looks like! 

Today’s recipe makes enough cream cheese frosting to decorate this cake in the “naked” style. If you’d prefer more frosting on the sides of your cake, use the ingredient amounts for the cream cheese frosting from my favorite carrot cake recipe.

pistachio cake on a wood and marble cake stand

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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 1x
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Make this pistachio cake with real pistachio and almond extract flavors. This “naked cake” is finished with silky cream cheese frosting. Read the recipe notes before beginning. The pink flowers pictured on the finished cake are called kalanchoe.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 cups (260g) unsalted pistachios (out of shells)
  • 2 and 1/3 cups (275g) 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. Full Fat Ingredients: Whole milk and full-fat sour cream are strongly recommended for the best taste and texture. A full-fat plain yogurt would work instead, though the cake may not be as light. Same goes with a lower fat milk.
  5. Food Coloring: While the pistachio crumbs tint the batter light green, I added 1 *very teeny* drop of green food coloring to help brighten the green color. This is completely optional!
  6. Frosting: 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Here are my pistachio cupcakes!

Keywords: pistachio cake

Reader Questions and Reviews

    1. Alright my best baker friends, could this be made ….. Keto? (..waiting for the cries of shock & horror to die down…)
      I have my brother-in-law & nephew living with me and he is on a modified keto diet. As a baker, I’m trying to convert as many recipes as possible to keto for him while teaching him to cook. Regular recipes are simple; but baking, that’s a whole new set of rules.
      I would dearly love to have any suggestions that you could offer.

      1. I actually have an almost keto-friendly version in the oven right now… Waiting for the taste test. Some.ifntjenchanges I made were based on what I had and not necessarily to make keto, but I did taste the batter and it was fab!

        I used half regular flour and the other half a mix of almond and oat. Instead of sugar I am using a monk fruit erythritol blend that can be substituted cup for cup for sugar. I didn’t have sour cream in hand but did have a sample of some vanilla sheep yogurt from a grocery service so substituted that. I don’t have milk so mixed regular yogurt with some water. I realize it is a lot of subs but I am experimenting and again the batter tasted great! In just a few will pull from the oven and will update on the verdict!

      2. So pulled the cake out of the oven. Truthfully – smells great and tastes great but I think the sweetener has a bit of an aftertaste. Probably another sweetener would work. It is slightly denser than a normal cake but that is to be expected with almomd flour. I love the flavors and will will try again with a different sweetener!

      3. I use the Anthonys brand of erythritol “sugar”. I typically only use about 2/3rds of what the recipe calls for. When baked it doesnt have any aftertaste at all, when you use the powdered version for buttercream just go light on the sugar and heavy on the flavor and you’ll balance it well enough to make it a pleasurable experience.

  1. This is our FAVORITE cake recipe! My daughter chose this for her 4th birthday party cake. Love it!

  2. Hope this is the right place for questions. Could I sub walnuts for pistachios? I’ve been trying to find a similar cake to a walnut cake Sara Lee made decades ago ( with whipped cream frosting) but most walnut cakes are too dense. Would you alter anything to change the type of nut used? Thanks for your help. Your site is one of the few I find online where the recipes actually work! Thank you for your hard work.

    1. Hi Janet, we haven’t tested walnuts instead of pistachios in this cake recipe. We would love to hear how it goes if you give it a try!

    2. This cake is… Devine. I made a Bundt cake with lavender vanilla strawberries. I might add frosting but it really doesn’t need it. I don’t recall ever having a better cake.

  3. This looks amazing and next time I get pistachios, I’m definitely making it.

    But, here’s a question—I have a lot of pecans to use up right now. Could I substitute the pecans for the pistachios in this cake and use a butter flavor extract instead of almond, for a butter pecan cake? Any reason that wouldn’t work? Thanks!

    1. Hi Jeff, we haven’t tried it, but can’t see why not. Let us know if you give it a try!

    2. I have made this cake with ground pecans in the past, and the result was absolutely delicious. Good luck with your trial!

  4. I don’t have three 9” cake pans. Is it okay to let the batter sit until I can reuse one of the pans after baking the first two layers or would I be better off making two layers and a few cupcakes with the extra batter? Thanks!

    1. Hi Mary, this cake recipe calls for 240 ml (1 cup) of milk. 140 ml is a little over 1/2 a cup.

  5. I’m really eager to try this for St. Patty’s dinner. I was wondering about incorporating brown butter into the icing like the pistachio drop cookies because those are perfection. However, the cream cheese frosting also sounds delicious on this. What are your thoughts on the brown butter?

    1. Hi Janel, our cream cheese frosting uses a combination of cream cheese and butter – you could combine both ideas and use brown butter in the cream cheese frosting! Let us know what you try 🙂

  6. Hello sally can i make this cake in a loaf pan without the cream cheese frosting like a loaf cake?? Is it sweet enough or does it need a frosting??

    1. Hi Sahar, we find it can be difficult to get cakes to bake through well in such a deep pan, but let us know if you try it. The cake is fantastic by itself!

  7. This is a beautiful cake, wonderful flavor and crumb. I love baking birthday cakes, will add this to the list! I could not find shelled pistachios in my grocery store, so I bought them in the shell and removed shells while watching a movie. Not likely to do that again, it took two hours for two cups. At least the nuts were more green….!

  8. Can this be refrigerated overnight and served the next day, or is it best the first day? It sounds so good!

    1. Hi Holly, 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.

  9. Hello Sally. Can I bake this in a bundt tin? Want to try it out for my coming birthday. Thank you.

    1. Hi Diana! This cake batter will fit in a 10-12 cup Bundt pan, but we’re unsure of the exact bake time. Use a toothpick to test for doneness.

  10. I love this! I made the cake today for our Neighborhood St. Patrick’s day pot luck, it was a hit.

    1. Hi Nancy, You can use 8 inch pans with no changes to the recipe. The bake time may be a minute or two longer because your layers will be thicker, so keep an eye on them while baking.

  11. Do you have any product information on items used? I love the serving dishes and cake plates you use!

    1. Hi Amy, You can see links for some of the items including the cake stand in the recipe note called “special tools.”

  12. HI HI
    I cannot wait to bake this.
    Pistachio and creme cheese frosting such a match in heaven.
    Could I do it in 3 x 6 inch round tins instead?
    Do I half the recipe and bake it with the same temperature and timing?
    Please advise.
    Jacqui

  13. I checked the cake after 23 mins in the oven and it was slightly brown on top so I went to remove it, however, the cake jiggled in the center so I left it in about 5 mins longer. It was a beautiful golden brown and the knife I used to check if it was baked came out clean. The flavor was great but it came it a little dry. Any tips or suggestions to keep it moist?

    1. Hi Ami, we’re happy to help troubleshoot. If you find your cake needs more time in the oven, we recommend starting with just a minute or two extra at a time. Cakes can quickly go from just right to over baked, so the five extra minutes may have been just too much and dried out the cake. This post on how to prevent dry and dense cakes might also be helpful. Thanks so much for giving this recipe a try!

  14. Hi Sally! I’m so excited to make this for my husbands bday! His favorite ice cream flavor is pistachio so this should be right up his alley. Quick question: I’ll be making this with a Bundt pan that is pretty intricately designed on top. Should I try using cream cheese frosting or would a different frosting work better?
    Also, I found vanilla pistachio cake flavored pistachios(not roasted) at my local market 🙂

  15. I have tried like thrice and each time is a hit! love this recipe. Pistachio cake with strawberry frosting is a huge win every time I make it!Thanks a lot for this recipe <3

  16. I have a bride that ordered this for her wedding cake. I have baked this already for the tasting. I did not measure the cup yeild of the batter. Would you kniw hiw many cups this recipe nets? I need a total of 35 cups of this batter. I am need to purchase my ingredients and want to make sure I buy enough. This cake is absolutely delicious. Thank you

    1. Hi Aimee, 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.

  17. Hi there,

    For a taller cake, can I bake this recipe in three 8 inch pans? Thanks!

    1. Hi Nav, You can use 8 inch pans with no changes to the recipe. The bake time may be a minute or two longer because your layers will be thicker, so keep an eye on them while baking.

  18. My boyfriend lost his mother this year and one of his favorite memories is of his mom getting him a pistachio chocolate cake for his birthday, so I went on a hunt to find the perfect recipe to bake him a cake. When I saw this recipe, I automatically knew this was the cake I wanted to make him and it didn’t disappoint. I love baking and consider myself a novice, but I was up for the challenge and I am happy to report the results were amazing and he loved it. Thank you Sally, I’ve tried many of your recipes and you’re my go to baker when I am looking for my next baking challenge. This recent retiree has become addicted to baking and I love sharing my new hobby with the people I love. Thanks for inspiring us. ❤️

  19. This is a most flavoruful and moist cake. I am a die hard chocolate cake fan, yet this might just be my new favorite cake. Absolutely to die for.

  20. I made this for Mother’s Day and it was a huge hit! Super moist and flavorful! My family said this was the best cake I had ever made. The only changes I made were adding 50 more grams of sugar since my family prefers slightly sweeter cakes and using 8 inch pans.

    Thank you so much Sally and team! Link to the cake: https://ibb.co/3r4wQ0D

  21. This looks amazing!
    I am hoping to make it for a wedding cake but it would be the bottom tier.. do you think it would handle two cake stacked on top (with support dowels)? Also how would I adjust this recipe to do a 10 inch cake? Thank you xx

    1. Hi Debs, this cake should hold up with proper supports. Here is everything you need to know about converting recipes to different Cake Pan Sizes (this recipe yields 6-7 cups of batter). Happy baking!

  22. Fantastic cake! Made this for a party- my friend said it was the best cake she ever had…I have to admit it was pretty delicious! I added a raspberry filling- so good!

  23. Hi, I am excited to make this cake. It looks amazing! I could only find salted and roasted shelled pistachio. Is there a way to take the salt off like soaking them in water? Thank you

    1. There’s no need to lessen the salt if using salted pistachios. We love making the cake with salted pistachios– it adds extra flavor!

  24. This cake is so good but I wanted to make in sheet pan. Do I need to adjust the recipe?

    1. Hi Roze, 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. For other pans, see our cake pan sizes and conversions guide.

  25. Dear Sallys Baking Team.
    This pistachio cake looks so delicious . I am making my daughters wedding cake for 2 July this year. A couple of questions if I may. Do you think it would be strong enough bake to layer up, using all the appropriate doweling, cake boards etc? Also could I freeze it? It would be too much last minute to make cake in the run up days to the wedding. I was planning on making the cakes in the calm of now and putting together and icing in the last couple of days.
    I was planning on using either a Victoria sponge or your Vanilla cake recipe until I saw this. I am grateful for any advice you can give me! Joey from the UK X

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