Pistachio Cupcakes with Strawberry Frosting

pistachio cupcake topped with strawberry frosting and a slice of strawberry

Here’s the result of my goal to create a completely new and COLORFUL cupcake this winter. Help break us out of our winter blues and deliver some PINK to our dreary days and routine weeks.  I also wanted to highlight one of my favorite frostings on the planet: strawberry. Also a frosting that now has its own blog post and video in the frosting section!

We’ll chat about what makes the strawberry frosting so *dynamite* later on in this post.

overhead image of pistachio cupcakes topped with strawberry frosting

Pistachio! A seriously underrated flavor in the dessert world. Delicious cracked open and eaten on their own, but even better when they shine as the main flavor in ice cream. Or cake. Or cookies! Or, best of all, cupcakes. Buttery and smooth, pistachios pair perfectly with almond and vanilla flavors– both of which are present in today’s cupcakes. Btw, did you know that pistachio ice cream is usually flavored with almond extract? It complements the pistachio flavor!

For quality pistachio flavor, let’s use quality nuts. We all know Diamond of California offers the best baking nuts on the planet–> um, hello! they rule the baking aisle! We’ll grind shelled, unsalted pistachios up into fine little chips and chunks and pour directly into a vanilla almond cupcake batter. They’ll 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!

*Why unsalted nuts?* Because you can control the salt in the cupcake that way.

ground pistachios in a food processor

2 images of pistachio cupcake batter in a glass bowl and cupcake batter in a cupcake pan

I know what you’re thinking. Hard chunks of nuts in a soft cupcake? No no no! The pistachios pieces become ultra soft inside the cupcake when baked. Plus, the pistachio pieces are so small. You won’t taste the actual chunks– just their impeccable flavor.

Here’s the cupcake batter we’ll use: vanilla cupcakes.

Here’s why they’re simply perfect: They are the softest vanilla cupcake I’ve ever made. So fluffy that all the puffy clouds in the sky are jealous. So light that a marshmallow feels heavy. Cake flour is behind this cupcake perfection and if you can’t find it, use this easy cake flour substitute. 3 egg whites and sour cream also add to its deliciously fluffy texture. I promise you’ve never tasted a cupcake like this and these three power ingredients are why. If you’re curious, read here for exactly what each ingredient does and why they’re crucial! (Baking science is cool.)

This simply perfect vanilla cupcake batter + lots of teeny pistachio crumbs + almond extract = a nutty and sweet cupcake. Now let me be clear… the pistachio flavor isn’t strong. That’s because we are relying on just the actual nuts and not artificial pistachio flavor. You can certainly add artificial flavor if you’d like, but I love the light pistachio, delicious almond, and strong vanilla flavor balance in the recipe as written below.

strawberry frosting in a glass stand mixer bowl with a whisk attachment

strawberry frosting in a glass bowl and piping strawberry frosting onto pistachio cupcakes

Let’s talk strawberry frosting!! If you haven’t experienced it yet, this is the best strawberry frosting. It’s made with strawberry dust! Aka freeze-dried strawberries ground up into a powder, which is perfect for the pistachio cupcakes because you need a food processor anyway for the nuts.

The reason we’ll use freeze-dried strawberries in this strawberry frosting is because they deliver the most intense (and natural) strawberry flavor while, at the same time, do not mess up the texture of the actual frosting. Real strawberries, as you can read here, can end up curdling your pretty frosting. And let’s avoid the artificial flavor route. Where to buy freeze-dried strawberries? I always find them at my regular grocery stores in the dried fruit section. Also at Target and Trader Joe’s too– or online here and here.

I love the specks of *real* strawberries in the frosting. If you’re not into strawberry, cream cheese frosting would be great too!

I encourage you to use this piping tip from now on: Ateco #849 closed star tip. First of all, you need absolutely zero skill for using this piping tip. That’s why I love it. Virtually impossible to mess up. All I do is start in the center of the cupcake, apply pressure to squeeze the frosting out, and slowly lift straight up. No swirling around the cupcake– just start on the center and squeeze frosting out while lifting the tip off the cupcake. Takes 2 seconds per cupcake. Voila:

pistachio cupcake topped with strawberry frosting and a slice of strawberry

zoomed in image of a pistachio cupcake with a bite taken from it topped with strawberry frosting

These fresh flavors! These happy colors! 🙂

Cupcake inspiration for you: 

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pistachio cupcake topped with strawberry frosting and a slice of strawberry

Pistachio Cupcakes with Strawberry Frosting

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Yield: 15-16 cupcakes
  • Category: Cupcakes
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

These soft and fluffy pistachio cupcakes with creamy strawberry frosting have the most wonderful sweet, fresh, and nutty flavors!


Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted shelled pistachios (out of shell)
  • 1 and 3/4 cups (207g) cake flour* (spoon & leveled)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1/2 cup (120g) full-fat sour cream at room temperature*
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk at room temperature*
  • optional: 1 tiny drop green food coloring*

Strawberry Frosting

  • 1 cup (about 25g) freeze-dried strawberries
  • 1 cup (235g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4 cups (480g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons (45ml) heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • salt, to taste
  • optional for garnish: fresh strawberry slices

Instructions

  1. Pulse the pistachios in a food processor until ground up into fine crumbs. See photo above for a visual. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. Line a second pan with 4 liners – this recipe makes about 16 cupcakes. Set aside.
  3. Make the cupcakes: Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 3/4 cup of pistachio crumbs together. Reserve the rest of the pistachio crumbs for decoration.
  4. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy – about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed for 2 minutes until creamed together. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the egg whites, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Beat on medium-high speed until combined, then beat in the sour cream. 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, slowly pour in the milk until combined. Do not overmix. 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/spoon the batter into the liners – fill only 2/3 full to avoid spilling over the sides. Bake for 19-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. For around 30 mini cupcakes, bake for about 11-13 minutes, same oven temperature. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.
  6. Make the frosting: Using a blender or food processor, process the freeze-dried strawberries into a powdery crumb. You should have around 1/2 cup. In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar, strawberry powder, cream, and vanilla. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then switch to high speed and beat for 2 minutes. Taste. Add a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet.
  7. Frost cooled cupcakes and decorate with remaining pistachio crumbs and strawberry slices. I used the Ateco #849 closed star tip.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: Cupcakes can be made ahead 1 day in advance, covered, and stored at room temperature. Frosting can also be made 1 day in advance, covered, and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. Leftover cupcakes keep well covered tightly in the refrigerator for 3 days. Frosted or unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer |5-qt Tilt-Head Glass Mixing BowlKitchenAid Hand Mixer | Ninja Master Prep Professional Blender | Trader Joe’s Freeze Dried Strawberries | Mother Earth Freeze Dried StrawberriesSpatula | Cupcake PanPaper Cupcake Liners | 16-inch Frosting Bags | Closed Star Frosting Tip
  3. Cake Flour: If you can’t get your hands on cake flour, you can make this homemade cake flour substitute. I suggest doing this twice, mixing it all up in 1 bowl then removing 1/4 cup since you need 1 and 3/4 cups in this recipe.
  4. Whole Milk and Sour Cream: Strongly recommended for the best taste and texture! A full fat plain yogurt would work instead, though the cupcakes may not be as light. Same goes with a lower fat milk.
  5. Food Coloring: While the pistachio crumbs do 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. Be sure to check out my 10 tips for baking the BEST cupcakes before you begin!

Keywords: pistachio cupcakes, strawberry frosting, cupcakes

188 Comments

  1. I made these last week, but used all the pistachios in the cupcake because I didn’t want them for decoration. These were absolutely amazing. The pistachio flavor came through beautifully. I did a double batch and frosted half with rose buttercream and half with chocolate ganache, worked extremely well. If you’re looking for a pistachio cupcake recipe, use this one!

    1. Emma Porter says:

      Your toppings sound soooo good

  2. I tried this with hazelnuts instead of pistachios, and it came out great! Thank you so much for your recipes!

  3. Hi can we half the recipe for smaller batches? Eg half each of the ingrrdients including baking soda, etc?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jane, that shouldn’t be a problem. Simply halve all the ingredients (use 1.5 egg whites). Enjoy!

  4. This recipe is amazing! I made this into a 3 layer, 6″ cake with cream cheese frosting and it was perfect! The pistachio flavour and almond extract was SO good and overall the cake was really easy to make. I thought the layers were thin intitially, but when I assembled the cake with the frosting, it was the perfect size. You could probably make it into a 2 layer cake as well if you wanted less frosting in the middle.

  5. Hi Sally!
    May I replace the milk with buttermilk?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Amy, you can use 1 cup (240ml) of buttermilk to replace BOTH the 1/2 cup of milk and 1/2 cup of sour cream. Hope that makes sense!

  6. Katie Nolan-Kramer says:

    The strawberry/pistachio combination is brilliant. I’ve made these two years in a row for husband’s birthday and they are my favorite cupcakes!

  7. Hi! What can I substitute the heavy cream for??

  8. I made this as an 8″ layer cake and it was one of the best cakes I’ve ever made! I used some of the extra frosting to make swirly roses on top of the cake and their leaves were simply the green pistachios. The pink and green look beautiful together and the flavors are fantastic. I’m always making strawberry frosting this way from now-the flavor was so perfectly strawberry the color a bright pink.

  9. I made this recipe exactly as listed. I loved it and my family loved it. These are the most delicious cupcakes I ever made. One this for the icing. I wish I sifted the strawberry dust so it wasn’t so chunky. Also I couldn’t find freeze dried strawberries anywhere near me BUT if you have a Starbucks try them! I got a tall cup of just strawberry pieces for .54! Hope this helps someone in a pinch.

  10. Hi, can I substitute oil for the butter? If yes, which kind and would it be 1:1?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Mary! It’s not possible to cream oil. The creaming step is crucial to this cupcake’s texture. You’ll also lose a lot of flavor. You could try solid coconut oil instead, but we fear the texture will be greasy (and, of course, lacking butter flavor).

  11. I had a lot of difficulty with my frosting coming out of the tip, did I not mix the butter enough? It wasn’t quite room temperature. Maybe I added too much icing sugar? Not sure. Never had this issue before. Please help!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Patti! Make sure to pulse your freeze dried strawberries into a fine powder. If your frosting is too thick you can add more heavy cream 1 Tbs at a time (beating in between) until it thins out.

  12. Henna Tangri says:

    Hi – These look beautiful!! I need to bake these with gluten free flour. Do you have any experience about gluten free flour replacement in this recipe?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Henna, we haven’t tested this recipe with gluten free flour. If you try anything, let us know how it goes!

  13. Nataly Armenta says:

    Hi, is this batter enough to make an 8 inch cake? Or do i double the ingredients? This will be the first time i make this recipe

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Nataly, this cupcake batter makes the perfect amount for a 3 layer 6 inch cake. For an 8 inch cake we would follow this Pistachio Cake recipe instead (you can use 8 inch pans instead of 9 inch with a slightly longer baking time). You can certainly use strawberry buttercream with the cake recipe as well – you will need a double batch to cover the cake (or 1.5x for a light layer of frosting). Hope you love it!

  14. This recipe looks delicious; however, my sister is allergic to almonds. Is it possible to leave out the almond extract, or will that affect the flavor too much?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kayla, You can leave out the almond extract for a more mild flavor if needed.

  15. Hi sally, these cupcakes sound scrumptious! I want to try and would like to know if I can use whole eggs instead of whites only?

    1. I made it exactly as recipe stated but the frosting turned out sickly sweet! I couldnt taste the strawberry. Not sure why.

  16. This looks amazing! I can’t find freeze dried strawberries anywhere – can I substitute dried ones instead? Any other suggestions? Thanks!

    1. Not sure where you live but if you’re in the United States and have a Target near you you can pick them up there. There’s only one brand available (Good and Gather) and they sell them in a sm and large bag. If you don’t have access to a Target and you’re able to order online just do a Google search for them. Lots of links from different stores, etc will pop up. Hope you’re able to get your hands on some. Sally’s frosting using them is amazing!! If you make this frosting with her strawberry cake recipe it’s like eating a strawberry milkshake. Hope this was helpful. Good luck…

  17. Sally I’m about to make these in a few but I have a question. Are we not suppose to sift the cake flour? I’m asking because I was going to make the cake version. In that recipe it does say to sift it. I just want to be sure. Please answer as soon as possible. Thanks…

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Tammie! Sifting never hurts, feel free to sift the flour after measuring. Enjoy!

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