Pistachio Cupcakes with Strawberry Frosting

These pistachio cupcakes with strawberry frosting are one of my favorite recipes to make when I need a slightly unique cupcake flavor. They’re always a hit! Readers have enjoyed turning this cupcake batter into a 6 inch cake, too. Buttery and smooth, pistachios pair perfectly with almond and vanilla flavors – both of which are present in these soft and fluffy cupcakes.

One reader, Katie, says: “The strawberry/pistachio combination is brilliant. I’ve made these two years in a row for my husband’s birthday and they are my favorite cupcakes!”

pistachio cupcake topped with strawberry frosting and a slice of strawberry

Pistachio is an underrated flavor in the dessert world. They’re certainly delicious cracked open and eaten on their own, but even better when they shine as the main flavor in ice cream. Or pistachio cake. Or cookies! Or, best of all, cupcakes. By the way, did you know that pistachio ice cream is usually flavored with almond extract? It complements the pistachio flavor.

overhead image of pistachio cupcakes topped with strawberry frosting

Tell Me About These Pistachio Cupcakes

  • Flavor: The pistachio flavor isn’t strong and that’s because we’re relying on the actual nuts and not artificial pistachio flavor. You can certainly add artificial flavor if you’d like, but we love the light pistachio, delicious almond, and strong vanilla flavor balance in the recipe as written below. Add the intensity of the strawberry flavor and your tastebuds will thank you!
  • Texture: We used our perfect vanilla cupcakes as the starting point for this recipe, so you already know they will be extra soft. We add ground pistachios to the batter, but don’t get nervous about that texture– the pistachio pieces become ultra soft inside the cupcake when baked. Plus, the pistachio pieces are small so you won’t taste the actual chunks, just their impeccable flavor.
  • Ease: This is a basic cupcake recipe – whisk dry ingredients, beat sugar, butter, egg whites, and extracts. The extra step here will be processing the pistachio nuts, which takes seconds. Same applies to the frosting, where you’ll just need to pulse the freeze-dried strawberries first. 

ground pistachios in a food processor

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

Choosing the Right Ingredients

  • The best nuts: For quality pistachio flavor, let’s use quality unsalted nuts. We all know Diamond of California offers the best baking nuts on the planet–>  they rule the baking aisle! We’ll grind shelled, unsalted pistachios up into fine little crumbs and pour directly into a vanilla almond cupcake batter. This is how we start pistachio cookies, too. They’ll be some pistachio powder hiding in all those teeny pistachio pieces and that’s ok! Add it to the batter. Why unsalted nuts? Because you can control the salt in the cupcake that way.
  • The right flour. Cake flour helps promise an extra soft and cake-like crumb. We use it in a lot of cake recipes because it keeps everything light and airy. If you can’t find it, use this easy cake flour substitute
  • 3 egg whites + sour cream. These two go along with cake flour to add to the deliciously fluffy texture. We promise you’ve never tasted a cupcake like this and the cake flour, egg whites, and sour cream – your three power ingredients – are why. If you’re curious, read our post for vanilla cupcakes for exactly what each ingredient does and why they’re crucial!

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

Strawberry Buttercream Frosting

This colorful cupcake has one of our favorite frostings on the planet: strawberry buttercream frostingIt’s made with strawberry dust aka freeze-dried strawberries ground up into a powder. It’s incredible!

I knew this strawberry frosting would be perfect for these pistachio cupcakes because you need a food processor for the nuts anyway. 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 can end up curdling your pretty frosting. Where to buy freeze-dried strawberries? We always find them at major grocery stores in the dried fruit section or you can try Target, Trader Joe’s, or online here or here.

Piping tip. The pictured cupcakes are decorated using this piping tip: Ateco #849. All you 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 and is great for beginners! Here’s our piping tips tutorial and video if you need some visuals.

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

More Fun Cupcake Flavors

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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

77 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!

  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 my husband’s birthday and they are my favorite cupcakes!

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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).

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

  14. 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!

  15. Hi Sally! Would Greek yogurt be appropriate in this recipe instead of sour cream?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Victoria, yes, you can use full-fat plain Greek or regular yogurt in place of the sour cream. Enjoy!

  16. I am making these next week, but want to make the mini cupcakes. How do I adjust the baking time for this?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Annie, for mini cupcakes, bake at the same temperature for about 11-13 minutes.

  17. I tried these and they were amazing! My family loves them. Quick question tho, would I be able to use dried strawberries instead of freeze dried ones? I got the wrong ones by accident. Thanks in advance

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Danielle! Freeze dried (not dried) strawberries are imperative in this strawberry frosting. Hope you can find them and love these cupcakes!

  18. Is there any way to use fresh strawberries vs freeze dried?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Victoria, freeze dried strawberries are imperative to the taste and texture of the buttercream – we recommend sticking with the recipe for best results!

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