Fluffy Pistachio Layer Cake

published Feb 1, 2022
Pistachio Cake Recipe

This three-layer pistachio cake contains no artificial flavors, cake mix, or pudding mix, but is still infused with a delicate pistachio flavor.

Serves8 to 10

Makes1 (9-inch) cake

Prep30 minutes

Cook19 minutes to 24 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Pistachio cake, with a slice being lifted up, so you can the two layers with white filling.
Credit: Stephanie Loo

Pistachio cake is one of my all-time favorite cakes — so much so that it’s what I had for my birthday this past year. But as much as I love it, I’ve found that many recipes include boxed pistachio pudding or cake mix. I set out to create a layered version infused with a

delicate pistachio flavor

The ground pistachios in this cake paired with a hint of almond lend a naturally nutty flavor that pairs perfectly with the honey and cream cheese in the frosting. Though the batter requires a little more effort than most — you need to grind the pistachios in the food processor and separate an egg — the payoff is worth it. The texture of the cake is soft, moist, and fluffy.

What Is Pistachio Cake Made Of?

Pistachio cake relies largely on the ground pistachios to give it the earthy green color and subtle pistachio flavor. The addition of oil and sour cream give the cake moisture, and the combination of cake flour and all-purpose flour give the pistachio cake tenderness while maintaining structure. (You can also use a combination of all-purpose flour and cornstarch.)

What Flavors Pair Well with Pistachio?

Almond is a natural complement to pistachio, which is why I’ve included a small amount of almond extract in the cake batter. Although pistachio is the overwhelming flavor that comes through, almond helps in creating a distinctly nutty flavor. I highly recommend using real almond extract and not the imitation extract.

Credit: Stephanie Loo

What Type of Frosting Goes on Pistachio Cake?

This pistachio cake goes with a honey cream cheese frosting, a slightly floral, tangy, and sweet accompaniment to the three layers of pistachio cake.

Pistachio Cake Recipe

This three-layer pistachio cake contains no artificial flavors, cake mix, or pudding mix, but is still infused with a delicate pistachio flavor.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 19 minutes to 24 minutes

Makes 1 (9-inch) cake

Serves 8 to 10

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the cake and decorating:

  • 4 tablespoons

    (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

  • 1

    large egg

  • 1

    large egg white

  • 1/3 cup

    sour cream

  • 1/3 cup

    whole milk

  • Cooking spray

  • 1 1/2 cups

    unsalted raw shelled pistachios, divided

  • 3/4 cup

    cake flour

  • 1/2 cup

    all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon

    baking powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    baking soda

  • 3/4 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 2 tablespoons

    netural oil, such as vegetable

  • 2 teaspoons

    vanilla extract

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    almond extract

  • 1 to 2 drops

    green food coloring (optional)

For the honey cream cheese frosting:

  • 8 tablespoons

    (1 stick) unsalted butter

  • 8 ounces

    cream cheese

  • 2 cups

    powdered sugar

  • 2 tablespoons

    honey

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon

    whole milk or heavy cream

Instructions

  1. Place the following on the counter: 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, 1 large egg, 1 large egg white, 1/3 cup sour cream, 1/3 cup whole milk, and 8 ounces cream cheese. Let sit until the butter softens.

Make the cake:

  1. Arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly coat 3 (6-inch) or 2 (9-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray. Line the bottom of each cake pan with a parchment paper round.

  2. Place 1 cup of the unsalted raw pistachios in a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Pulse until ground into a very fine powder, 30 to 40 pulses. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the remaining 1/2 cup pistachios to the food processor and pulse until desired coarseness for decorating the finished cake.

  3. Add 3/4 cup cake flour, 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda to the finely ground pistachios and whisk to combine.

  4. Place 4 tablespoons of the unsalted butter, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, and 2 tablespoons neutral oil in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer). Beat with the paddle attachment on high speed until very light, creamy, and pale in color, about 5 minutes. Add the egg and egg white and beat on high until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the sour cream, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract, and beat on high speed until combined, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

  5. With the mixer on low speed, add half of the flour mixture and beat until just a few streaks of flour remain, about 30 seconds. Add the milk and beat until just incorporated, about 30 seconds. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat until just combined, about 30 seconds. Beat in 1 to 2 drops green food coloring if using. Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans.

  6. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean, 19 to 24 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then flip out onto wire racks and let cool completely. Meanwhile, wash and dry the mixer bowl and make the frosting.

Make the honey cream cheese frosting:

  1. Place the remaining 1 stick unsalted butter in the stand mixer bowl (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer). Beat with the paddle atttachment on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the cream cheese and beat at medium speed until combined, 1 to 2 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add 2 cups powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons honey, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Increase the speed to high and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon heavy cream and mix on low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and beat until fluffy and smooth, about 2 minutes.

  2. Use a large serrated knife to slice a thin layer off the top of each cake to create a flat surface. Place 1 cake on a cake turntable or serving platter. For the 6-inch cake, evenly spread 1/4 of the frosting on top. Top with a second cake and spread 1/3 of the remaining frosting on that layer. Top with the third cake. For the 9-inch cake, evenly spread 1/3 of the frosting on top. Top with the second cake.

  3. Spread the remaining frosting all over the top and sides of the cake and smooth with an offset spatula or bench scraper. Cover the top edges and sides of the cake with the ground pistachios by taking a handful of the pistachios and gently pressing them against the side of the cake (start at the bottom and work your way until about halfway up) so they stick to the frosting. Any pieces that don’t stick and fall off can be pressed back into the frosting until the sides and top edges are covered.

Recipe Notes

Flour: If you want to skip the cake flour, substitute 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour and 2 tablespoons cornstarch for the 3/4 cup cake flour and 1/2 cup all-purpose flour.

Make ahead: The cake layers can be baked and cooled up to 1 day ahead. Completely wrap cake in plastic wrap and store at room temperature. The frosting can be made up to 1 day ahead, covered, and refrigerated. Frosted or unfrosted cake layers can be frozen for up to 2 to 3 months if tightly wrapped. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and let come to room temperature before decorating or serving.

Storage: Once assembled and decorated, the cake can be loosely covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature about 1 hour before serving.