Pistachio Cupcakes with Strawberry Frosting

Deliciously simple from-scratch pistachio cupcakes with creamy strawberry frosting! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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.

Deliciously simple from-scratch pistachio cupcakes with creamy strawberry frosting! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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.

Pistachios for pistachio cupcakes with strawberry frosting on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Pistachio cupcakes with strawberry frosting on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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.

Creamy strawberry frosting on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Creamy strawberry frosting on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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:

Deliciously simple from-scratch pistachio cupcakes with creamy strawberry frosting! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Deliciously simple from-scratch pistachio cupcakes with creamy strawberry frosting! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

These fresh flavors! These happy colors! 🙂

Cupcake inspiration for you: 

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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
  • 1 and 3/4 cups (200g) cake flour*
  • 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 coloring3

Strawberry Frosting

  • 1 cup (10-12g) 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

Deliciously simple from-scratch pistachio cupcakes with creamy strawberry frosting! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

112 Comments

  1. SALLY!!! I KNEW you were going to post pistachio cupcakes, because in your strawberry frosting post which I saw today (how in the world did that happen???) you wrote pistachio cupcakes with no link to a recipe so I was like, HUUHHHH!!! PISTACHIO CUPCAKE?? SHES GONNA MAKE PISTACHIO CUPCAKE??? and so when the clock hit 2:00 ( you almost always post at 2:00 PM in Korea. I am a very very regular reader since looong time ago; do you know me?) I went back to the home page(?) and there it was! pistachio cupcake! So like the mac and cheese excitment (now you remember me?) I scrolled down with wide eyes. Unfortunately, I cannot find those strawberry here unless I dig in cereal, so that will have to wait. BUT! I will make the molten lava cakes and let you know 🙂

  2. These cupcakes look divine! As an avid reader of your blog since the very earliest days, I’m always amazed at how much work you put into perfecting these mouth-watering, decadent recipes and making sure that we readers have absolutely no difficulties in following them. I’ve made countless recipes with spectacular results. Thank you so much!!
    p.s. I really don’t mean to be nitpicking, but flavor A ‘complements’ flavor B, not ‘compliments’. To ‘complement’ means to perfect or complete something, whereas to ‘compliment’ is to praise. Sorry to be such a nerd 🙂

    1. But can’t flavor A give a compliment to flavor B? 😉
      Thanks for pointing that out and the incredibly kind comment this morning!

  3. Yum!  I would never think to put these two flavors together.  And NEED to try that strawberry frosting asap.  I made the chocolate lava cakes this weekend and my husband said it was his favorite dessert I’ve ever made!  I think I’ll have to double the recipe next time 😉

  4. I’d like to make this as a cake, think a blackberry buttercream would work? I have a blackberry loving kiddo that would adore this as a birthday cake.

    1. To make into a cake– this batter will fit into an 11×7 pan to make a single layer cake. I’m unsure about a double layer cake if that is what you were hoping to make. Do freeze-dried blackberries exist? I haven’t seen them at the store but would love to try them!! Any freeze dried fruit blended into a powder would work.

  5. What in the $*(#)*$#($*()#. You just made my dayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy. Pistachio is SO underrated you are right. Pretty colors, yummy flavors, I cannot WAIT to try these!!! WEEKEND GOALS.

  6. Pistachio cupcakes – YAYAYAYAY!! One of the few nuts I can eat that is truly a nut (unlike peanuts). Love them, and this is definitely on my to-bake list. I even have some in the house . . . just waiting to be enjoyed some other way than just eating them plain. And that frosting?!! OMG. If I hadn’t just made the lava cakes for tomorrow, well let’s just say there might be an emergency baking session tonight! HA!

  7. Oh my god. I’ve been craving pistachios lately and have been wanting to bake something pistachio-y! Cupcakes aren’t usually my go-to when I’m bringing a dessert/treat for an event, and I DEFINITELY don’t need a dozen cupcakes sitting around my apartment, just begging me to shove them in my face. Do you think that your “Vanilla Cupcakes for Two” recipe from 2012 could be modified to be delicious pistachio cupcakes like these?

  8. Pistachio and strawberry is an interesting combination, but I can see how it works. I love that strawberry frosting of yours, Sally. I’ve only made it once (for some chocolate cupcakes last Spring) but it was divine. I have to make it more often. I agree; this dull and depressing winter needs some COLOUR. I made the mixed berry fruit crumble in your first cookbook yesterday and served it with some ice cream for no reason at all (I also added a bit of quinoa for extra texture and crunch). Was just the pep everyone around here needed 🙂

    1. Good choice on dessert. Fruit crisps will forever be one of my favorite desserts on the planet. And now I’m craving the mixed berry version!!

  9. Hi, Sally! I have written before to let you know how much I love you and your site. I tell everyone I know. 🙂

    I was thinking about shipping pistachio muffins to my dad (without the frosting) and wonder if you think these will ship okay? Should I freeze them first?

    I have made more recipes of yours than I can count and my favorite for the past holidays was your lighter chocolate chocolate chip muffin recipe paired with your candy cane frosting; one of my favorite things ever to eat! Thanks for everything you do, Jess

    1. Hi Jess!! Thank you. 🙂 I haven’t made that candy cane frosting is SO LONG!
      Per your question– I don’t think freezing is necessary. Just pack and ship after they’re cooled.

      1. Thank you, Sally! I am excited to send these to him! And that candy cane frosting is divine; it’s the only reason I bought candy canes this past holiday season. 🙂

  10. I’m loving that light and fluffy cupcake! I’ve always been skeptical about cake flour, I just was never sure it made a big difference. I do, however, love sour cream already because it makes them so moist! Dried strawberries are also a unique touch but sound so perfect! Happy early Valentine’s Day!

  11. Hi Sally!
    I am SO excited to try this recipe, I LOVE pistachio!! The only problem is I am allergic to Strawberries. Can you recommend another frosting for these cupcakes?

  12. These look wonderful and I happen to have all the ingredients at home so I think I will make these as a Valentine treat for my family. I would prefer to use my six inch cake pan though, do you think the batter would be sufficient to make three layers or would two layers be better? Also, I have been looking for an excuse to try out a rosette frosting–do you think this amount of frosting is sufficient, or should I double it?

    1. I made this today and it was lovely. This amount of batter was perfect for a three layer, six inch cake. I doubled the frosting recipe and piped rosettes over the entire cake. I ended up with over a cup left over.

    2. Hi Rebecca– I believe this batter could fit into 2 6-inch cake pans. I’m unsure of the bake time. This frosting isn’t stiff enough for a rosette frosting though. Maybe try that out a different time!

  13. This cupcake intrigues me. I have some unshelled, salted pistachios at home. Do you suppose that I could shell them and rinse the salt so that I could try this recipe? I would like to use what I have before buying more. (Although, in the name of science/recipe testing, I could eat those and buy an unsalted batch!)

    1. Lisa, whichever works for you– washing/drying the salted pistachios would absolutely be OK… or just buying unsalted and eating the salted pistachios yourself. 😉

  14. Sally, I couldn’t help but laugh at your use of the Ateco #849 tip – it’s a HUGE game-changer, I’ll admit. It can turn the most novice of bakers into pros with one recipe.

    Thanks for sharing this! I’m particularly intrigued by powdering freeze-dried fruit. I’ve encountered some difficulty when incorporating any sort of fresh fruit into a frosting, but this sounds like an easy way to work around that *and* get a boost in flavor. Can’t wait till I try this myself!

  15. Literally dying – I havent made them yet but i have a feeling these will be your best cupcake recipe! Love the “unusual” route you took with these Sally 🙂

    Will definitely report back with a review!

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