If you’re looking for a unique cake recipe but also want it to be no-fuss, you’re in the right place! This Pistachio Cake recipe is completely prepped in a food processor, doesn’t require any specialty ingredients like pistachio extract or pistachio pudding, and is baked in a loaf pan (no bundt pan needed!). Finish this nutty-flavored cake with a bright and citrusy glaze for the perfect finish. 

What Makes This an Easy Pistachio Cake Recipe

The batter for this pistachio cake recipe is made start to finish in the food processor. Not only is this absolutely easy and foolproof, but it also cuts down immensely on prep bowls and utensils.

Plus, since the cake is made with whole-wheat flour, you can process it into the batter without fear of over-mixing and creating a tough cake. (Whole-wheat flour doesn’t readily form gluten, so you can work a whole-wheat batter more than an all-purpose flour batter.)

Aside from the process, the ingredients are simple and straightforward—no specialty butter, extracts or pistachio pudding mixes here. 

slices of iced pistachio cake on a large white platter topped with chopped pistachios

Simple Ingredients for Pistachio Cake

Pistachios: the star of the show in this pistachio cake recipe! You’ll need raw shelled pistachios for this recipe. Do not use roasted and salted shelled pistachios or you will end up with a far too salty cake!

Be sure to toast them (and let them cool) prior to making the batter. Toasting them enhanced their flavor. 

Sugar: we usually like to bake with natural sweeteners. But for this cake, granulated sugar is a must.  

Butter: unsalted butter is blended with toasted pistachios and sugar to create a sort of “pistachio butter.” Which, on its own, is absolutely delicious. But this mixture lays the flavor foundation for the cake. 

Eggs: you’ll need three large eggs. Be sure to use eggs labeled and sold as “large.” If you use medium eggs, you won’t have enough liquid or binding properties in the batter.

If you use too large of eggs (such as jumbo) the cake will be more springy and eggy. A large egg should weigh 50 grams (without the shell), give or take 2 or 3 grams. 

slices of iced pistachio cake on a large white platter topped with chopped pistachios

Buttermilk: just a bit of buttermilk loosens up the mixture and adds some tang which enhances the pistachio.

Use up leftover buttermilk in our Whole-Wheat Muffins, Buttermilk Buckwheat Pancakes, Healthy Skillet Cornbread (and Gluten-Free Cornbread) and our vibrant Green Goddess Dressing

Almond and vanilla extract: just a splash of almond extract is important for enhancing the pistachio flavor.

Don’t be tempted to add more than what’s listed in the recipe—too much and it will over-powder the pistachio. The vanilla is there to enhance the overall flavor of the cake. 

Whole-wheat flour: baking with whole-wheat flour is easier and more enjoyable than you may think! Give this pistachio cake recipe a try and I guarantee you wouldn’t guess it’s made with whole-wheat flour.  

Spices and leavening: baking powder is the only leavener in this pistachio cake. To enhance the flavor of pistachio add some dried ground ginger and just a dash of cardamom.

Only a ¼ teaspoon of cardamom is added—which isn’t much. But this tiny amount makes the spice itself nearly undetectable while enhancing the pistachio flavor.

How to Make Pistachio Cake

  1. Process the Pistachios
  2. Add the pistachios, sugar and salt to a food processor and process until finely ground. It should be on the verge of turning into a paste—but still ground and powdery. 

    ground pistachios in a food processor
  3. Blend Into a Butter
  4. Add the butter to the ground pistachio mixture and pulse to combine then process until it is shiny and smooth. The mixture will first turn into a loose, pale batter, but keep processing until it is no longer pale, is somewhat balled up and is very shiny.

    nut butter in a food processor
  5. Add the Eggs and Buttermilk
  6. With the processor running, stream in the eggs one at a time then stream in the buttermilk. The mixture should loosen up and be very thin. Add the extracts and process to combine.

    thin yellow pistachio cake batter in a food processor
  7. Add the Dry Ingredients
  8. Add the flour, baking powder, ginger and cardamom. (No need to combine the dry ingredients in a second bowl prior mixing them into the wet ingredients.) Process to combine. 

  9. Bake the Cake
  10. Pour the batter into a parchment lined loaf pan (make sure your loaf pan is 8½ × 4½-inch—if it’s larger, you may need a shorter bake time). Sprinkle the top of the loaf with sugar and bake until it’s tall, golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs.

    This will take between 65 and 72 minutes. But keep in mind—all ovens are different. If you aren’t sure whether or not your oven runs hot or cold, get an oven thermometer and adjust the preheated temp as needed.

  11. Cool and Glaze the Cake
  12. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 15 minutes on a wire rack before removing it from the pan using the parchment overhang. Allow the cake to cool completely before glazing it. 

pistachio cake on a wire rack with glaze dripping down it and chopped pistachios on top

Tips for Making This Cake

  • The best way to toast shelled pistachios is to arrange them on a baking sheet and toast them in a 350ºF oven until golden brown and fragrant. Depending on how many nuts you’re toasting and how spread out they are, this can take anywhere from 8 to 18 minutes. Keep an eye on them as they can quickly go from perfectly toasted to burnt.
  • Process the pistachio mixture longer than you think. ​​After adding the butter, the mixture will first turn into a loose, pale batter (it’s gorgeous!), but keep processing until it is no longer pale, is somewhat balled up and is very shiny. It should take about 2 minutes to get to this stage. 
  • All of our loaf cakes and quick breads (like our Yogurt Banana Bread) are developed in 8½ × 4½-inch loaf pans. If your pan is larger, you will need to keep an eye on the cake as it bakes—it’s likely it will need less time to bake. 
  • If you want this to be “green cake” you can add a few drops of green food coloring to the batter. 

Make Ahead and Storage

  • The cake can be made up to 1 day ahead of time. If you plan on making it ahead, we recommend waiting to glaze it until the day of serving. 
  • To store this cake, wrap it tightly in foil and store at room temperature for up to 3 days, or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. 
slices of iced pistachio cake on a large white platter topped with chopped pistachios

More Cake Recipes to Try

If you like lemony desserts, try out Lemon Olive Oil Cake! Top it with whipped cream and some pistachios! Once you give that a try, check out our Orange Olive Oil Cake.

This Spiced Sweet Potato Cake is the perfect fall treat. It can be served as a dessert or for brunch as a coffee cake.

Dust off the bundt pan and make our Triple Chocolate Sour Cream Cake or our Orange and Ginger Cake. They’re totally different from each other but equally delicious. 

Pistachio Cake Recipe

4.89 from 9 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Cooling Time 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Yield 1 loaf (8 servings)
Category Dessert
Cuisine Amercican

Description

A simple yet elegant and unique pistachio cake prepped in a food processor and baked in a loaf pan. Finished with a lemon glaze, this cake is nutty, citrusy and perfectly sweet.

Ingredients

Pistachio Cake

  • 1 ¼ cup (160g) raw shelled pistachios, toasted + more for garnish
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar + more for top
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons (113g) cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 3 large eggs (150g)
  • cup (85g) buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp (145g) whole-wheat flour
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons (6g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (2g) ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

Lemon Glaze

  • 1 ¼ cups (140g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced

Instructions

Pistachio Cake

  • Heat oven to 325ºF with rack set in middle position. Line an 8½ × 4½-inch loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides.
  • Process 1 ¼ cups (160g) pistachios, 1 cup (200g) sugar, and ½ teaspoon salt in a food processor until finely ground into a powder, but not a paste, about 1 ½ minutes; scraping down sides and bottom halfway through.
  • Pulse 8 tablespoons butter into pistachio mixture (10 pulses), then process until the mixture is clumpy yet smooth and shiny, about 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl halfway through. (The mixture will go from very loose and batter-like to clumpy yet shiny—this is what you want.)
  • Stream in 3 eggs (150g) and ⅓ cup (85g) buttermilk and blend to combine, 1 minute. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and ½ teaspoon almond extract; process to combine.
  • Add 1 cup + 2 tbsp (145g) whole-wheat flour, 1 ¼ teaspoons (6g) baking powder, 1 teaspoon ginger, and ¼ teaspoon cardamom; process just until combined.
  • Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle granulated sugar over top (1–2 tablespoons). Transfer to oven and bake until cake is tall, browned, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 65–72 minutes.
  • Let cake cool in pan on rack for 15 minutes, then run a knife around cake and use parchment overhang to lift cake out of pan; transfer to cooling rack and cool completely.

Lemon Glaze

  • In a medium-small bowl, whisk together 1 ¼ cups (140g) confectioners’ sugar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest, and a pinch of salt until smooth.
  • Pour glaze over cooled cake, allowing it to drip down sides of cake, and sprinkle with chopped toasted pistachios. Let glaze set, then slice and serve.

Notes

After adding the butter, the mixture will first turn into a loose, pale batter, but keep processing until it is no longer pale, is somewhat balled up and is very shiny.
Make Ahead:
  • The cake can be made up to 1 day ahead of time. If you plan on making it ahead, we recommend waiting to glaze it until the day of serving.
  • To store this cake, wrap it tightly in foil and store at room temperature for up to 3 days, or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Topping Alternatives:
  • Skip the lemony glaze and instead serve slices of this cake with lemony whipped cream. Simply add a teaspoon or two of grated lemon zest to whipped cream (you can also add a splash of lemon extract).
  • Top with whipped cream, fresh berries, chopped pistachios and lemon zest.
  • Give it the ultimate cake treatment and frost the cake with a lemon buttercream.
Toasting Pistachios:
The best way to toast shelled pistachios is to arrange them on a baking sheet and toast them in a 350ºF oven until golden brown and fragrant. Depending on how many nuts you’re toasting and how spread out they are, this can take anywhere from 8 minutes to 18 minutes. Keep an eye on them! 
All of our loaf cakes and quick breads are developed in 8½ × 4½-inch loaf pans. If your pan is larger, you will need to keep an eye on the cake as it bakes—it’s likely it will need less time to bake.
If you want this to be “green cake” you can add a few drops of green food coloring to the batter.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 piece (⅛ recipe)Calories: 475kcalCarbohydrates: 60gProtein: 9gFat: 22gSaturated Fat: 8.5gCholesterol: 100mgSodium: 276mgFiber: 4gSugar: 43g
Like this? Leave a comment below!I love hearing from you and I want to hear how it went with this recipe! Leave a comment and rating below, then share on social media @zestfulkitchen and #zestfulkitchen!
slices of iced pistachio cake on a large white platter topped with chopped pistachios

Pin This Recipe

Love this recipe and want to save it? Pin this recipe!

Pin This Recipe
5 Test Kitchen Approved Tips
Years of test kitchen experience distilled into a simple series to help you become a better, more confident cook!
Photograph of America'sTest Kitchen with test cooks testing recipes

Share it with the world

Pin

About The Author

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine, EatingWell.com, AmericasTestKitchen.com, and more.

Learn More

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

How many stars would you give this recipe?




Comments

  1. Looks delicious! I love to make it. But my husband is on keto diet. Can I make it with almond flour? Thank you.

    1. Hi Gina, I haven’t tested this with almond flour, but I don’t think it would work well. The cake will likely come out dense and overly oily. I wish I had better news!

  2. Hi, Lauren, any substitutions for the buttermilk? I don’t generally cook with buttermilk and thus don’t keep it at home.

    1. Hi Sanjana, you can make buttermilk by combining milk and an acid, such as white vinegar or lemon juice. Add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice or vinegar to a liquid measuring cup then pour milk into the cup to fill to 1/3 cup. Give it a quick stir, then let it sit for about 10 minutes before using as directed. I hope that helps!

  3. 5 stars
    I popped this out of the oven about 30 minutes ago and its already half gone!
    I only had about 1 cup of pistachios so I think the almond flavor overpowered a bit but I’m certainly not complaining. It was so so good!!! I’m not a big glaze girl so I just ate it without any topping but it still rocks.

    I love how easy it was to just blitz everything in the food processor and pour into the pan — made cleanup a breeze. Honestly the hardest part of the whole process was shelling the pistachios lol
    Thanks for the fab recipe!

    1. Hi Anna! I’m so glad you enjoyed this and love hearing that you liked it even without the glaze. Definitely sweet enough without it! Bravo for shelling all the pistachios—that’s a lot of work!!
      Thanks for trying this and reviewing it!!

  4. I’m so looking forward to making this next week after I get my hands on some pistachios. A perfect end-of-summer loaf 🙂 Also, thank you for developing this recipe…finally one without pudding mix and tons of artificial flavors! I do have one question though – would it work to substitute all purpose flour?

    1. Hi Sarah, I haven’t tested this with all-purpose flour but I think it should work. I would measure the flour by weight (145 grams) if you can. If you don’t have a food scale, I would recommend using 1 cup + 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour. Let me know how it goes!

  5. 5 stars
    My girlfriend shared your tiktok of this recipe while ago, sharing how much it looked delicious and would love to be able to try it sometime. A couple of months pass by and her birthday was approaching and I thought it’d be a great idea to help bake this cake for her! Suffice to say, both her and her family loved it and they all enjoyed how perfectly sweet it was (not too overpowering in sweetness and not too little if that makes sense).

    The recipe is detailed and easy to follow and I ended up baking up another batch for my grandmother, to which it came out nicely again. Thanks for the awesome and tasty recipe!

  6. curious, could I swap the type of fat? I noticed your recipe asks for cold butter but I wonder if using half butter half EVOO could work too?

    1. Hi Cale, great question. I haven’t tested this, but I worry the olive oil will make this cake a bit too dense. Butter is made up of 16-18% water which gets evaporated off during baking. Oil on the other had has no water in it, which could cause the cake the be dense and greasy. If you want to sub in some oil, I would go a bit safer and do 2 tablespoons olive oil and 6 tablespoons butter. Let me know what you end up doing and how it turns out!!