This delicious and beautiful nut cake is made with 100% REAL pistachios! No pistachio pudding or artificial flavors. A soft and tender white cake base is what allows the color and flavor of the pistachios to really shine!
I don't know if this is just a me thing or if this is actually a thing for everyone else, but pistachios = Easter in my book. My family makes pistachio cookies every time this year, so I figured a pistachio cake would make the perfect addition to our Easter dessert menu!
But this recipe is by no means season specific! It makes a great year round treat, and the pale green color would also look stunning on a Christmas table.
After playing around with different cake bases for this recipe, white cake was the clear winner to pair with pistachios! a) because white cake is about as plain a colored cake you can make, so you get a beautifully light green tint to the cake without the need for any dyes or colorings. And b) white cake has a milder and lighter flavor, so the pistachio taste doesn't get hidden under anything!
Pistachio cake ingredients:
• unsalted pistachios
• baking powder
• baking soda
• egg whites
• sour cream
• frosting: I like to go with a simple vanilla frosting to pair with this cake to make sure the pistachio flavor is front and center. Buttercream, ermine, and cream cheese frosting all pair BEAUTIFULLY with the pistachio flavor without drowning it out!
How to make pistachio cake:
1. Grind pistachios. Pour shelled pistachios into your food processor, and pulse on and off until fully ground up. Take care not to let the food processor run for too long or you'll end up with pistachio butter! Delicious, but not exactly what we're going for here...
2. Combine dry ingredients. That includes your ground up pistachios. Mix together, and set aside.
3. Cream together butter, oil, and sugar.
4. Whisk in egg whites.
5. Whisk vanilla and sour cream into the egg white mix.
6. Alternate whisking in dry ingredients and milk. Mix in about half of the dry mixture, followed by all of the buttermilk. Finish off by mixing in the remaining dry ingredients until just combined.
If you want a more visible green tint to your cake, you can add a few small drops of food coloring in with the buttermilk. I added one tiny drop of green gel food coloring - if you use liquid food coloring, you'll need to add more to reach your desired color. That's totally optional though.
7. Pour into cake pans & bake! I find it's best to bake the cakes in 2 batches - because unless you have a GIANT oven, the cake pans won't all fit in the center at once! You can make this recipe in 2 layers with thicker cakes if you prefer - the bake time will be slightly longer.
The batter can sit out comfortably for about 30 minutes while you make the cakes if you are cooking them in batches.
8. Cool the cakes for about 10 to 15 minutes in the pans, then turn them onto a wire rack to finish cooling completely to room temperature before frosting.
9. Make your favorite frosting.
10. Layer & decorate! I used vanilla buttercream frosting with my cake and topped it with some chopped pistachios and blackberries for added freshness!
If you make any of the frostings I listed above, it'll be enough to frost this as a semi-naked cake - which I think it just gorgeous with this type of cake! You can double any of the recipes if you'd like a full cover of frosting on the outside.
How to grind your pistachios:
There's a bit of a method behind grinding the pistachios that I like to use to get a beautiful mix of flavor, color, and texture! This is the same thing I do when making snowball cookies.
I like to grind the pistachios roughly, then take out a few larger sized bits and set them aside. Then I continue pulsing on and off until the rest of the pistachios are very finely ground. Doing this will give you 2 different sizes of pistachios - the larger chunks will add a really nice crunch to the cake while the finely ground nuts will help color and flavor the cake.
This is totally optional, but I absolutely love the result! You can of course just grind all the nuts in one go and make it all consistently ultra fine. You'll still have some chunks, but not nearly as crunchy.
One final note you should keep in mind while grinding the pistachios is that there is such thing as too finely ground! If the nuts are pulsed for too long, they can turn into pistachio butter.
Make sure you're pulsing your food processor on and off (so the nuts don't over heat and liquefy), and stop once they're finely ground (going over will release too much oil).
Pistachio cake storage:
Using oil in this cake batter helps preserve it for slightly longer than an all butter cake! Avoid slicing the cake until ready to serve because air is ultimately what will dry out the cake.
Cover your cake tightly with a cake keeper or plastic wrap, and store in the fridge. This cake will keep for about 1 week in the fridge.
You can also make the cake layers and freeze ahead of time. Wrap the cakes (individually) tightly in plastic wrap followed by a layer of aluminum foil. Keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.
You can frost the cake layers while they're still frozen (I find it's easier anyways!) and let the cake defrost after assembly. The layers tend to defrost by the time you're done decorating (unless you work at lightning speed - which most certainly is NOT the case for me lol)!
Check out these other recipes!
Pistachio Cake Recipe
- 2 cups (260g) unsalted pistachios, deshelled
- 3 cups (360g) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 10 tablespoons (145g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- ⅓ cup (80mL) vegetable oil
- 1 & ¾ cups (350g) granulated sugar
- 6 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ¾ cup (180g) sour cream, at room temperature
- 1 cup (240mL) buttermilk, at room temperature
- Ermine Frosting, Cream Cheese, Buttercream Frosting, or your choice
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Butter 3 (9 inch) cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Lightly dust the sides with flour to prevent sticking and set aside.* Note: If you don't own 3 cake pans, you can bake 2 thicker cakes instead, or bake the cakes in batches. The cake batter can sit out at room temperature for over 30 minutes. Make sure the cake pan is fully cooled and wiped clean before using.
- Add pistachios to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the processor on and off until the nuts are finely ground. Take care not to over pulse the pistachios or they will release too much oil and turn into butter! (Optional) After pulsing a few times, take out and set aside a few larger pistachio pieces for added texture.
- In a medium bowl, combine ground pistachios, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix to combine, and set aside.
- Whisk egg whites into the sugar mixture until broken up and combined. Whisk in vanilla extract and sour cream.
- Alternate adding dry ingredients and buttermilk to the egg white mixture. Whisk about half of the dry ingredients, followed by all of your buttermilk (optional - for added color, mix in a few drops of food coloring with the buttermilk). Finish off by whisking in the remaining dry ingredients until just combined. Take care not to over mix!
- Divide the cake batter evenly between your cake pans. Bake in the center of your preheated 350°F oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Cool the cakes in the pans for about 10 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack and set aside to cool completely to room temperature before frosting.
- Make your favorite frosting, and layer and decorate your cakes! I used vanilla buttercream and decorated with blackberries and chopped pistachios. But feel free to get creative!