My pistachio cake is made WITHOUT any pudding mixes or emulsions! Instead, we’ll combine pistachios, almond extract, and browned butter (my secret ingredient) to create an incredible flavor and crumb. Recipe includes a how-to video!
Pistachio Cake From Scratch
It took a lot of trial and error to get the flavor of this pistachio cake just right. Since I didn’t want to use pudding mix or emulsions (which can be expensive, hard to find, and inconsistent), it was important for me to create an authentic flavor in a simple, attainable way.
The solution? Brown butter!
Just like in my butter pecan cake, brown butter adds a nutty, well rounded, deep flavor to this cake. When paired with the bright flavor of almond extract and plenty of chopped pistachios, we truly perfectly nail the pistachio flavor. It’s incredible!
Why you’ll love my recipe:
- Uses the reverse creaming method, which yields a plush crumb AND avoids the risk of over-mixing the cake. This cake truly melts in your mouth!
- Made entirely from scratch with no artificial flavors, emulsions, or boxed mixes of any kind.
- Pairs well with many frostings (suggestions below!), but I especially love it with my swiss meringue buttercream.
This is nothing like those bright green, pudding-filled pistachio cake you’ve made in the past–it’s remarkably better!
What You Need
My pistachio cake recipe uses mostly basic ingredients, but there are a few wildcards. You will need:
- Buttermilk. Buttermilk is key for flavor, tenderness, and moisture in this pistachio cake recipe. Yours should be at room temperature when you add it for easy combining (and on that note, you should be using room temperature eggs too!).
- Brown butter. If you haven’t made brown butter before, don’t panic! I go over this in my video below and also have an entire post on how to brown butter if you need even more pointers. Make sure your butter cools down completely before adding it to the recipe; it doesn’t have to be solidified, but it shouldn’t be at all warm.
- Almond extract. While we are using a small amount of vanilla extract, we will add even more almond extract to really bring out the pistachio flavor.
- Pistachios. Use salted, dry roasted pistachios and finely chop them (I like to use a mini food processor for this). If you can’t find salted pistachios, use unsalted pistachios and increase the salt in the recipe to 1 teaspoon.
- Food coloring. Food coloring is obviously optional, but if you want your pistachio cake to have a greenish hue, you will need to add it. I talk more about the brand and colors I like to use in the recipe notes below.
SAM’S TIP: Do NOT over-bake this cake! While the crumb is soft and tender, the crumb will appear a bit more crumbly due to the finely chopped pistachios (just like my butter pecan cake). If baked properly, it won’t be; however, if the cake is over-baked, it will actually be dry.
Remember, this is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How to Make Pistachio Cake
- Brown the butter – melt the butter over medium heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently, until brown bits form in the pan. Pour the brown butter into a heatproof bowl and let cool completely before proceeding.
- Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl, then gradually stir in the cooled brown butter until incorporated. The mixture will be dough-like at this stage; this is normal!
- Whisk together the wet ingredients in a separate bowl (or large measuring cup), then gradually stir them into the butter/flour mixture until the batter is uniform.
- Fold in the pistachios until evenly distributed.
- Add food coloring, if desired, and stir to combine.
- Evenly portion the batter into three greased, floured, and parchment lined pans. Bake at 350F for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Remember, do not over-bake!
- Let the cakes cool in their pans for 15 minutes before inverting onto cooling racks to cool completely.
- Level the cakes if needed, then decorate with icing. I have a post on how to decorate a cake if you want to hone your decorating skills!
SAM’S TIP: Most ovens bake unevenly, so test each cake individually if you are baking all three at the same time. If you can only fit two layers on the center rack of your oven at the same time, just let the one sit on the counter while the others bake.
Frequently Asked Questions
Cake flour makes for a soft, tight crumb here that works perfectly with the chopped nuts. Cake flour is my recommendation, but in a pinch all-purpose flour can be substituted, just be sure to substitute properly and note the texture will not be as soft or plush.
Chocolate, raspberry, almond, cherry, citrus, apricot, honey, cardamom, and rose are just a few flavors that pair well with pistachio. If you’re looking to spice up this cake, try adding my raspberry cake filling or pastry cream between the layers, or swap the icing with white chocolate buttercream or whipped cream frosting. A chocolate ganache drip and garnish of dried rose petals or fruit would also be lovely here!
Yes you can. Just make sure to wrap it tightly before freezing in an airtight container or freezer-safe ziploc bag. This cake will keep for several months in the freezer.
I seriously LOVE this pistachio cake recipe, and I’m so excited to hear how you like it!
Let’s bake together! I’ll be walking you through all the steps in my written recipe and video below! If you try this recipe, be sure to tag me on Instagram, and you can also find me on YouTube and Facebook
- 1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter
- 3 cups (339 g) cake flour
- 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ cups (354 ml) buttermilk room temperature preferred
- 2 large eggs room temperature preferred
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¾ teaspoon almond extract
- 1 cup (145 g) dry roasted salted pistachios finely chopped
- Green food coloring optional (see note)
- 1 batch Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Brown the Butter
- Melt butter in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat.1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter
- Decrease heat to medium-low and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom with a heatproof spatula, until brown bits form on the bottom of the pan (butter will sizzle, foam, and pop then this will slow before it browns). Pour into a heatproof bowl and allow to cool until no longer warm to the touch before proceeding.
Make the Cake
- Preheat oven to 350F (175C) and grease 3 8” (20cm) round baking pans with baking spray. Line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper to ensure the cakes won’t stick.
- In a large mixing bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), whisk together cake flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.3 cups (339 g) cake flour, 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon baking powder, ½ teaspoon baking soda, ¾ teaspoon salt
- Add (cooled) browned butter and use an electric mixer to stir on low-speed until thoroughly incorporated.
- In a separate, medium-sized bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, and extracts until well-combined.1 ½ cups (354 ml) buttermilk room temperature preferred, 2 large eggs room temperature preferred, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, ¾ teaspoon almond extract
- With mixer on low-speed, gradually drizzle the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure the batter is uniform (it’s alright if you notice small lumps in the batter).
- Add pistachios and use a spatula to stir until well incorporated.1 cup (145 g) dry roasted salted pistachios
- Add drops of food coloring, if desired. Stir until uniform in color.Green food coloring
- Evenly divide batter into prepared pans and bake in the center rack of 350F (175C) oven for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with moist crumbs.
- Allow cakes to cool in their pans for 15 minutes before running a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan then carefully invert onto a cooling rack to cool completely. Cakes must be completely cooled before decorating.
- Level cakes if needed (I linked to my favorite cake leveler in the “Equipment” section above) and decorate with frosting. I did a smooth, semi-naked covering for the sides of the cake with thicker frosting in between layers and on top of the cake, but you can completely cover the entire cake with a single batch of Swiss meringue buttercream. If desired, top cake with additional chopped pistachios.1 batch Swiss Meringue Buttercream
PistachiosPistachios can be measured before or after chopping. If you cannot find salted pistachios, increase salt in the recipe to 1 teaspoon.
Food ColoringOptional, cake will not be green without food coloring. I prefer to use Americolor gel food coloring. I use a small drop each of “Mint” and “Avocado” though either one would work fine. A little goes a long way, pistachio should be a pale green.
FrostingSwiss Meringue Buttercream is my preference. Other options include marshmallow frosting, cream cheese frosting, white chocolate buttercream, or really any buttercream from my frosting library.
StoringStore in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 24 hours or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.