Pistachio Cake

This light and fluffy pistachio cake is flecked with ground pistachios and flavored with just the right amount of almond extract. It’s absolutely divine!

One bite of this pistachio cake is all you need. It truly is love at first bite! Buttery, nutty, and topped with a sweet and slightly tangy frosting. What’s not to love?? For more luscious layer cakes try S’mores Layer Cake, Lemon Poppy Seed Layer Cake, and Dark Chocolate Layer Cake

Pistachio Cake with a slice missing

A Flavor Match Made in Heaven

I made this pistachio cake over two years ago and I’ve been meaning to re-make it and photograph it for well, two years now!

I recently made it again for my kids and husband and fell in love with it all over again!

I originally made a vanilla bean honey cream cheese frosting but it wasn’t quite right. It was also fairly involved/time consuming, so I scratched that and went for something a little more fitting: mascarpone frosting. It’s a match made in heaven!! Simple. Easy. Delicious.

A slice of pistachio cake on a white plate with a fork

Ingredient Tips AND Substitutions

Pistachios: You’ll need 1 ½ cups shelled unsalted pistachios. You’ll pulse all but ¼ cup in a food processor until finely ground. Do not over do it or you’ll end up with pistachio paste.

  • Can you use salted pistachios? If all you can’t find unsalted pistachios, then you can use salted pistachios. Just make sure to not include the kosher sea salt. That would be way too much salt!
  • Can you rinse salt off of pistachios? Some people decide to rinse off the excess salt and then roast the pistachios to dry them back out. This will give you a roasted taste in the cake, but can be an option!

Sour cream substitute: If you don’t have sour cream on hand, you can use plain greek yogurt. This is a healthier option but it provides close to the same texture.

Cake flour substitute: If you don’t have cake flour, you can easily make your own substitution. You just need to measure out the flour cup by cup and each time take out 2 tablespoons of the all-purpose flour and add in 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. This will provide the right texture and effect.

Cream of tartar substitute: Cream of tartar is very acidic and can easily be substituted by lemon juice or vinegar. Preferably you would use lemon juice because it isn’t as strong as vinegar.

A bowl of shelled pistachios for pistachio cake recipe

How to Make Pistachio Cake

PULSE. First things first. You’ll need 1 ½ cups shelled unsalted pistachios. You’ll pulse all but ¼ cup in a food processor until finely ground. (Note: Do not over do it or you’ll end up with pistachio paste. Delicious, but not what we’re going for!)

MIX. You’ll add them to the dry ingredients and carefully mix them into the wet ingredients.

FOLD. Then you’ll fold in the whipped egg whites by hand so that they don’t get deflated. Use a very gentle hand.

DIVIDE. Once the batter is ready, divide it between three 9-inch cake pans. I always use a kitchen scale to ensure they are actually even in weight, however using a half cup measuring cup or an extra large cookie scoop can help as well.

(Note: I sprayed mine with non-stick baking spray and added a parchment paper round to the bottom. I highly recommend doing this to prevent sticking. Butter and flour works too, just don’t forget the parchment!)

BAKE & COOL. Bake the cakes until the tops spring back, then let them cool in their pans for 15 minutes, then remove them and transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

To Make the Frosting:

While the cakes are cooling, you’ll want to make the frosting.

Note: It’s made just like a traditional cream cheese frosting where you add it at the very end. Just be EXTRA careful not to overmix or you’ll curdle the frosting. I find mixing it for 10 seconds with the stand mixer, then folding the rest in by hand is best.

ASSEMBLE & GARNISH. When the cakes are cooled, assemble into a three layer cake. Use the reserved pistachios as a garnish on top, then sprinkle with a few flecks of sea salt.

Ground pistachios for pistachio layer cake

Variations

Cupcake Version: Most cake recipes transition into cupcakes very well. Bake at the same temperature, but for a shorter amount of time. Since we are using a 9 inch cake pan, you just need to reduce the amount of time by 5-10%. This means that instead of baking the layers for 35-40 minutes you’ll be baking the cupcakes for about 25-30 minutes.

Other frosting flavors? We use a mascarpone frosting, but you can also use a cream cheese frosting or any simple flavored buttercream frosting, like our chocolate buttercream

Taking a slice out of the pistachio layer cake with mascarpone frosting| lifemadesimplebakes.com

Storage

Store the pistachio cake in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap. Because of the mascarpone cheese in the frosting, I wouldn’t recommend storing it at room temperature.

Freeze: When trying to freeze a frosted cake, you need to leave the cake in the freezer on a tray until the frosting has frozen. At this point, you can wrap your cake in plastic wrap, and then again in foil.

Your pistachio layer cake will last for about 3 months in the freezer. When defrosting, you want to unwrap the cake and let it sit in the fridge overnight or on the counter for 6 hours. Make sure to take off the plastic wrap or you will get a moist and soggy cake.

Closeup of the pistachio cake layers

Have you baked with pistachios before? What’s you favorite pistachio dessert? Leave a comment below and let me know!

For more pistachio recipes, try:

 

Did you try this recipe? Leave a ⭐️ rating below and share it on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest!

A slice of pistachio cake on a white plate.

Pistachio Cake Recipe

Dive into the world of nutty delights with our Pistachio Cake! Infused with ground pistachios and a hint of almond extract, it's a heavenly, fluffy treat you can't resist.
4.62 from 259 votes
Pin Rate
Course: Cakes & Cheesecakes, Dessert
Cuisine: American
Diet: Vegetarian
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 18
Calories: 1019kcal
Author: Andrea
Print Recipe

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 1 1/2 c. unsalted pistachios - divided and shelled
  • 2 1/2 c. cake flour
  • 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. coarse kosher sea salt
  • 1 c. unsalted butter - softened
  • 1 3/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp. almond extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 c. whole milk
  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 3 egg whites - + ½ tsp. cream of tartar

For the frosting:

  • 1 1/2 c. unsalted butter - softened
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. coarse kosher sea salt
  • 6 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 c. mascarpone

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees Celsius). Spray or butter and flour in three 9-inch round baking pans. Line the bottoms with parchment rounds, and set aside.
  • In a food processor, pulse 1 ¼ cups of pistachios until a finely ground powder forms.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the ground pistachios, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter on high until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for 2 minutes on high. Add the vanilla, almond, and egg; mix until combined.
  • With the mixing speed on low, alternate adding the dry ingredients and the milk and cream. Mix until a few dry streaks remain.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, using a hand mixer, beat 3 egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold into the cake batter until incorporated.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Place in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the top springs back when touched.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pans for 15 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Meanwhile, to make the frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter on high until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla, salt, and powdered sugar; mix until combined. Add the mascarpone and mix on low for 10 seconds, then fold by hand until a smooth, creamy frosting forms.
  • To assemble the cake, spread ¼ of the frosting between the first layer, another ¼ of the frosting between the second layer, and spread the remaining frosting over the top and down the sides of the cake. Chop the reserved ¼ cup of pistachios and sprinkle on the top edges. Add a pinch or two of large sea salt flakes before serving.

NOTES

- I would recommend keeping this cake refrigerated.
Source: adapted from Baked Explorations.
STORE leftovers of the pistachio cake in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, or place them in your fridge for up to 5 days. To FREEZE, wrap individual slices or the whole cake in plastic wrap, then wrap it in foil, and place it in a freezer-safe container; it will stay good for up to 2 months.
THAW at room temperature before serving. Reheating isn't typically necessary, but if desired, briefly warm a slice in the microwave for 10-15 seconds.

Nutrition

Calories: 1019kcal | Carbohydrates: 140g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 47g | Saturated Fat: 25g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 105mg | Sodium: 332mg | Potassium: 294mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 103g | Vitamin A: 1224IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 137mg | Iron: 2mg

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Frances Bautista

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Comments:

  1. Hi, I’m excited to try this. I don’t have a food processor, could I use pistachio flour instead? If so how much should I use?

    1. Hi Beatrice, do you have a blender? If so, you can use that. If not, yes pistachio flour is the same and you would use 1 cup of pistachio flour instead of creating your own from 1 1/4 cups of shelled pistachios.

  2. 5 stars
    Just finished baking. I used three 6″ wide pans (3″ tall). I put 2 and 1/2 cups of batter in each pan and had about 1/2 cup leftover that I put in a tiny little heart pan (chef’s treat). The 6″ cakes came out perfect after about 30 min in the oven. I’m planning to slice them each in half horizontally to make a 6 layer tall/skinny cake. I tasted the batter and the little heart cake and it is DIVINE! I can’t wait to assemble it all tomorrow! Thanks for this awesome recipe!!

  3. I have one other question. I would like to have four layers of cake that are about 2 inches in height each. Would four 7x 2 inch round pans work for getting that? Thank you.

    1. 3 stars
      I had to make this gf and convert to UK ingredients plus didn’t have tapioca starch so improvisef, not sure how 9 inch tins would work as doesn’t seemed ough mix for 3 layers of 9 inches or have I misread this. I’ve gone wrong somewhere as my texture not great but not tasted yet so time will tell

  4. I am so happy to have found this recipe. Could you tell me how tall the cake layers bake in a 9-inch pan.? From the picture they look to be about 1 inch in height. Is that correct?