Pistachio Cake

Let me tell you how insanely in-love I am with pistachios nuts. It didn’t start out that way, mind you. I thought to myself the other day, what if I didn’t realize that deep and tender adoration for the said nuts? Perhaps, this cake might have never been…

While living in the Philippines as a child, I never understood all that fever-pitched excitement my family – my parents, aunts, and uncles – showered this nut with! Most of the adults I knew regarded pistachios as a prized commodity in the pantry. Every time we went to Manila’s specialty food purveyors that imported pistachios from Iran, Turkey, or California, I see the adults almost jumping out of their skin in a rush of joyfulness. That happens right before they start hoarding bags after bags of these nuts. For me, though, they were just…meh! They’re alright, I guess.

But as I got older and my palate developed, these amorous green kernels started drawing me in as if I were a spellbound woman. It wasn’t until recently, though, that I embarked on a full-fledge devotion to these nuts!

Aside from enjoying them whole, I like pistachios in everything else: ice creams, spreads, flavoured oils, pesto, cookies, cakes…you get my drift.

So, after a copy of Christina Tosi’s Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook mysteriously landed on my lap (no, I didn’t buy yet another cookbook, wink wink), it was, like, fate. Christina is an amazingly talented pastry chef! Her recipe for pistachio layer cake jumped out at me – like a punch in the face – that I knew instantly I just had to make it!

The original recipe had several components to it that I’m, one day, going to tackle (hopefully). In fact, the recipe in the book is called “Pistachio Layer Cake,” as it has a lemon curd filling and pistachio buttercream frosting that I decided to ignore. Instead, I opted for just the pistachio cake itself. This is the result…

You can eat the cake plain – without any fancy garnishing or frosting – because it is pleasing as it is. Or you can sprinkle some ground pistachios on top, or have it with a side of whipped cream like below. Choose your own adventure.

My two Tartine girls loved this to bits – they couldn’t get enough of it! And as if you couldn’t tell right now, I am swooning just thinking about this pistachio cake! It was so delicious that I felt like I couldn’t do justice to it with the gazillion photos I took to show you!

Just trust me on this one. For pistachio lovers, this is one helluva cake!

5.0 from 6 reviews
Pistachio Cake
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This recipe was adapted (with minor changes) from Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook by Christina Tosi. Published by Clarkson Potter, 2011.
Recipe Type: Dessert
Serves: 8-inch cake
  • 190 grams (2/3 cup) pistachio paste*
  • 35 grams (2 tbsp) honey
  • 6 egg whites
  • 280 grams (1¾ cups) confectioners' sugar
  • 110 grams (1¼ cups) blanched almond flour
  • 75 grams (1/2 cup) pistachio oil
  • 55 grams (1/4 cup) heavy cream
  • 160 grams (1 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 6 grams (1½ tsp) baking powder
  • 6 grams (1½ tsp) kosher salt
  • Pam or other nonstick cooking spray
  • 95 grams (1/3 cup) raw shelled pistachios, ground
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Combine the pistachio paste and honey in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-low for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture turns into a sticky green paste. Scrape down the side of the bowl with a spatula.
  3. On low speed, add the egg whites one at a time, being careful not to add the next egg white until the previous one is completely incorporated. Stop the mixer and scrape down the side of the bowl after every 2 to 3 egg whites. Once all the egg whites have been incorporated, you will have a green "soup" in your mixing bowl.
  4. Add the confectioners' sugar and almond flour and, on low speed, paddle them in for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture thickens. Stop the mixer and scrape down the side of the bowl.
  5. Stream in the pistachio oil, followed by the heavy cream while paddling on low speed. Mix for 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides again.
  6. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and paddle on low for 2 to 3 minutes, until the batter is super-smooth and viscous.
  7. Spray an 8-inch round pan with nonstick cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper cut out to fit the bottom of the pan.
  8. Using a spatula, spread the pour and spread the cake batter in an even layer in the pan. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes, checking for doneness at the 25- to 30-minute mark.
  9. To check for doneness, gently poke the edge of the cake with your finger: the cake should bounce back (like a sponge cake), and it should be golden brown on the sides and pulling away from the sides of the pan ever so slightly. Leave the cake in the oven for an extra 1 minute or 2 minutes if it doesn't pass these tests.
  10. Take the cake out of the oven and cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Invert cake to a wire rack and remove the parchment paper at the bottom. Turn right side up on the rack and continue cooling.
  11. Put the pistachio in a food processor or spice grinder and whirl until the nuts are coarsely ground. Garnish the cooled cake with the pistachio meal.
  12. The cake can be stored in the refrigerator or at room temperature, wrapped in plastic, for up to 5 days.
*pistachio paste can be found at specialty stores or online sellers. You can also make your own pistachio paste with successful results. My pal, Jean, from Lemons and Anchovies blog has a wonderful recipe.



  • Reply August 30, 2012

    Choc Chip Uru

    Ok so admittedly pistachios (too many) give me nosebleeds but for your fantastic crumby soft cake, it is SO worth it :)

    Choc Chip Uru

  • I love pistachio ice cream and pistachio cake and anything pistachio too!. I also have the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook but haven’t made anything from it yet because the recipes are so complicated/take too long…

  • Reply August 30, 2012

    Phenomenal Mama

    I love pistachios! It just so happens I have a big bag of it right now… so this will definitely be one of the recipes I will be doing with that big bag.

  • I love pistachios, too! If you’re ever looking for a new way to use them, I make a lemon + pistachio rice that is insanely delicious. I’ve never blogged about it (why?!) but here’s the recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Lemon-Pistachio-Pilaf-106647

  • Reply August 30, 2012


    I’m with you on the pistachio nut love;-) Your photos are stunning -I think I’ll take my piece of cake with a spoonful of whipped cream on top, although that buttercream does sound decadent doesn’t it?

  • Reply August 30, 2012

    Laura (Tutti Dolci)

    I like pistachios but typically just use them in savory cooking. What a beautiful cake! I love the crushed pistachio topping!

  • Reply August 30, 2012

    Suzanne Perazzini

    I also love them – they are my favourite nut and I could eat them all day. The cakes looks spot on and your photos are delightful.

  • First time I had pistachio nuts was at a small Turkish bakery sprinkled over baklava.
    I love these little green nuts and buy them quite often.
    I haven’t seen pistachio paste around here but I remember Jean’s recipe.
    Thanks for sharing the recipe for this delicious cake Jen

  • Reply August 31, 2012

    Jen @ Savory Simple

    Definitely pinning this one. My grandma has a “famous” pistachio cake in our family. It’s beautiful with swirls of chocolate running through the cake. I was very surprised to find out she uses cake mix and pistachio jello. I think I’d like to try your version and see how it compares!

  • Reply August 31, 2012

    Lora @cakeduchess

    I also adore pistachios. Luckily, so do my munchkins. I would love to try your adaption of the cake by Christina. It looks like a cake we would bake over and over again:)

  • Reply August 31, 2012

    Sandra's Easy Cooking

    I am Pistachio nut LOL! I love love this cake…amazing recipe and it’s must try! i am drooling over your pics right now hehe! Have a lovely weekend!

  • Reply September 1, 2012


    The cake looks awesome!! And I really need to get that cookbook! Stunning photos as always :)

  • Jen – I adore pistachios! Your cake looks absolutely stunning and I bet it tasted sooooooo great. Lovely photos!!! Happy Weekend!!

  • Reply September 2, 2012


    I love pistachios and I wonder why I havent tried something like this, it will be bookmarked.

  • My husband is obsessed with pistachios, he would LOVE this!!!
    And your little cutie is such a great helper :)

  • Reply September 3, 2012


    That cake looks so delicious and moist! I kinda like how it’s quite simple with just a dollop of whipped cream; all the frosting that people usually put on their cakes really puts me off.

  • Reply September 3, 2012


    Wow, this cake looks so moist and delicious, definitely a keeper. Love the photos too :)

  • Reply September 3, 2012


    I’m with you – I love pistachio!!! This is a gorgeous cake and I bet it just screams pistachio!!! Lovely pics!

  • Reply September 4, 2012


    The crumb and texture of this cake alone is enough to make me want to run out and buy pistachios! Gorgeous! You could have even added 10 more photos!! 😀

  • Reply September 6, 2012

    Nami | Just One Cookbook

    Pistachio is my husband’s favorite nuts! Its’ always in the pantry but I’ve never used it for cooking/baking before. Hmm, I love pistachio gelato…but that’s about it – I guess I don’t really eat pistachio in general. This cake looks delicious. I love your daughter’s help – reminds me of my own, but I have to say mine doesn’t cooperate with me and she insists on taking pictures of her stuffed animal with the food etc and bug me!!! I love your little helper. :)

  • Reply September 9, 2012


    I recently discovered baking with pistachios, and they are rapidly becoming my favorite nut. This cake is gorgeous and I am pinning it for sure.

  • Reply September 23, 2012

    Laura Dembowski

    I love anything and everything Momofuku. I also love pistachios but have never baked with them. I am definitely going to have to give it a try after seeing this beautiful cake!

  • Reply October 9, 2012


    I can’t wait to try this for my husband who is both Filipino and a pistachio fanatic & his birthday is just around the corner – thank you!

  • Reply October 30, 2012


    oh look at the colour it’s just gorgeous!

  • Reply January 16, 2013


    I love pistachios and would love to try this recipe. One question please, can I use ground pistachios instead of pistachio paste? if yes, what amount?
    thank you

    • Reply January 18, 2013


      Hi, Nicole. Yes, you can just use ground pistachios, but my friend Jean has a wonderful recipe for pistachio paste here. It’s basically just ground pistachio, some ground almonds, and sugar. Try and see if you can make your own pistachio paste :) Let me know how it turns out!

  • Reply January 24, 2013


    Can I replace the pistachio oil with vegetable oil? I don’t have the pistachio oil on hand.

  • Reply August 5, 2013


    Hello! I’m about to try this out. One question though… I would like to add a fruit element to hit. Can the cake hold up if I add chopped dried apricots?

  • Reply January 29, 2014


    Has anyone made this cake using a different oil? I can’t find pistachio oil :)

    • Reply March 25, 2014


      The Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook says that you can substitute Grapeseed oil, but you won’t get the depth of toasted pistachio flavor (you brush this oil on the cake).

  • Reply June 30, 2014


    do you think we could use a different oil?

    • Reply July 25, 2014


      Hi, you can use any oil you prefer. The oil really does little for flavouring, so even if you don’t have pistachio oil, it’s not the end of the road!

  • Reply August 31, 2015


    Hi! I am making this cake tonight. I’m super excited it looks amazing.
    I urgently need to know though, if I reduce the sugar (because the people I’m making it for have requested frosting, so it really needs to be less sweet), will it be less moist? (I read somewhere that in order to get the texture just right you need to add the same amount of sugar).

    And don’t egg yolks make a cake more soft/moist?

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