Bake this fluffy pistachio cake from scratch and frost it with rose water frosting for a unique dessert, also known as Persian love cake.
Every celebration needs a nice dessert, and this cake is ideal because the velvety, melt-in-your-mouth texture is combined perfectly with the fluffy buttercream.
You could say that it's another type of Persian love cake, except that the almond flour is being replaced with ground pistachios.
Since pistachios, cardamom, and rose water are ingredients commonly used in the Mediterranean cuisine, this cake couldn't be missing from this blog!
So, for those of you who are wondering if you can bake with pistachios, my answer is this: A pistachio and rose cake and some pistachio cookies are probably the two best things you can bake with pistachios.
This real pistachio ice cream (no ice cream machine needed) is another great thing you can do with pistachios.
How to make this cake from scratch.
Making a pistachio cake from scratch is something that I enjoy very much, mostly because I get to see every ingredient that goes into my mixing bowl. The steps for the recipe are:
- Ground the pistachios in a food processor until they resemble almond flour. If you add some sugar and flour, they will absorb some of the oils from the nuts and will not let the mixture become pasty.
- Combine the dry ingredients with the butter in the bowl of your electric mixer.
- Combine the wet ingredients in another bowl.
- Add the wet ingredients to the bowl of your mixer in two batches while mixing.
- Bake the cakes.
- Make the rose water frosting. This maybe be a Persian love cake, but the frosting is your typical American buttercream scented with rosewater and vanilla. You can add a tiny portion of red food coloring for a beautiful pink color.
- Frost the cake and serve.
This Persian love cake recipe follows the one-bowl method. I've learned this method from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible. It produces a very light, velvety and fluffy cake with an amazingly tender crumb. You have to be very careful though, because all the ingredients must be at room temperature and the butter soft enough.
How do you enhance the pistachio flavor?
Pistachios have a very delicate flavor which is complemented by some vanilla extract and ground cardamom (you could also use a tiny bit of lemon zest and a pinch of cinnamon).
Roasting fresh pistachios helps to intensify their flavor by far. If you want to enhance the pistachio flavor more, you can add some more ground pistachios but that may have a negative effect to the texture of the cake. Your other solution is to add 2-3 drops of almond extract for extra nuttiness.
Since pistachio desserts are often correlated with green color, you can use some drops of green food coloring in order to achieve the desired hue.
Can you use salted pistachios in cake?
I will have to say no, because you can never know how much salt will go into the recipe.
If salted roasted pistachios is the only thing you have, I would advise you to rinse them very well under running water, let them drain in a sieve and bake them in the oven for 5-10 minutes until they're completely dry (this will also freshen they're aroma).
Do pistachios need to be roasted?
Yes, mainly for two reasons: Their flavor is much more better and intense, and they will also lose some moisture so they will become like flour more easily when you ground them.
Making a cake from scratch can be a time consuming job, especially nowadays when we have so much more on our plates. That's why I've kept the frosting simple, like a classic American buttercream vanilla frosting, only it is flavored with some additional rose water. You can also add a few drops of almond extract, but I don't feel it is necessary, especially if the rose water is good quality.
An even easier solution is to make a rose water glaze with two cups of icing sugar and as much rose water needed (add it drop by drop) until it reaches a pouring consistency. The rose water glaze is ideal if you want to make half the recipe in one 8-inch pan. Don't forget to add a pinch of salt to cut down the sweetness. I'm guessing you will have a lot of rose water left, so make sure to also try this no-churn Turkish delight ice cream!
If you can’t find or don’t like rose water, you can always use only vanilla extract (increase it to 3 teaspoons), or try it with some orange blossom water for a different flavor profile. Either way, it will be delicious!
For these photos I used two cakes with one layer of filling in the middle, but if you want an even more spectacular birthday pistachio cake, you can cut each cake horizontally into two layers. This way you’ll end up with four cake layers and three layers of filling.
How to bake level cakes:
This is my trick for baking a level cake: I wrap the pans with towel strips soaked in water (squeeze them lightly before wrapping the pans) and secure them with safety pins. If you have an old, worn out towel, this is the perfect use for it!
These strips (usually called cake strips) prevent the edges of the cake from baking too quickly, so the whole surface rises at the same time, thus remaining level. Of course, a good cake recipe helps too! You can see my DIY cake strips below:
(they’re not dirty, they’re just a little browned from the times they've been in the oven!). You can also buy them on line.
And here's the cake with minimum dome:
- Bring all the ingredients at room temperature. This is very important for the proper emulsification which will result in a great texture.
- If possible, weight the ingredients for better accuracy.
- If you only have large eggs, use 3 whole and one egg white.
White chocolate and roasted almond mousse cake (Nougat torte)
Pure chocolate mousse cake - Torte
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Pistachio cake recipe with rose water frosting
For the pistachio cakes
- 3 ⅓ cups (400 grams) cake flour, sifted
- 5 teaspoons (25 grams) baking powder
- ¾ to 1 cups (90 grams) roasted pistachios, unsalted
- 2 cups (400 grams) sugar
- ¾ teaspoon fine salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 cup minus 1 heaped tablespoon (210 grams) soft butter
- 4 medium eggs (200 grams), room temperature
- 1 ¼ cups (300 grams) milk, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons (10 grams) vanilla
- 2-3 drops green food coloring, optional
For the rosewater buttercream
- 1 cup (2 sticks / 250 grams) unsalted butter, softened
- 4-5 cups (500-625 grams) confectioners (powdered) sugar, sifted (you’ll adjust this according to your preference)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2-3 tablespoons rose water (or to taste)
- 3-4 drops pink food coloring
- Some chopped pistachios for decoration
- 2 8-inch (20 cm) round pans
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C) and grease and line with baking paper two 8-inch round pans. Then, wrap them with wet cake/towel-strips.
- Ground the pistachios: In a food processor, process one cup flour, one cup sugar and the pistachios until finely ground (processing nuts with the flour and sugar prevents them from turning pasty).
- Prepare the dry ingredients: In the bowl of your electric mixer combine all of the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, pistachios, salt, baking powder, and cardamom) and mix for 10-20 seconds until well combined. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the mixture resembles wet sand.
- Make the cake: Combine the milk, the vanilla and the eggs in a jug and mix with a fork just to break down the eggs. Add about three-quarters of the wet ingredients in the bowl and beat on medium to medium-high speed for 2 minutes, scraping the bowl halfway. You will see the mixture to lighten in color and get fluffier. Add the rest of the wet ingredients and beat for another 30seconds until well combined. Add the green food coloring (if using) and mix well.
- Bake: Divide mixture into two pans and bake for 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Invert onto a rack and let the cakes cool.
- Make the buttercream: For the buttercream, beat the butter and 3 ½ cups sugar on low speed until well incorporated. Increase speed to high and beat well for 3-4 minutes until very fluffy. Add the salt, the vanilla, the food coloring, and two tablespoons rosewater and beat to incorporate. Taste the buttercream and add more sugar or rosewater to your preference, until you get the consistency you want.
- Assemble the cake: When cakes are completely cooled, frost with buttercream and decorate with chopped pistachios.
- Make sure that all of the ingredients are at room temperature and the butter very soft.
- From what I know, many products with pistachio flavor (especially ice cream) actually have almond extract as the main flavoring. This cake gets its' delicate aroma from real, roasted pistachios. Some vanilla and cardamom is used to complement the pistachio flavor. If you want a stronger flavor, you can add 3-4 drops of almond extract, but this might overpower the real pistachio taste.
This recipe is also published as a pistachio cake web story
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heather (delicious not gorgeous)
congrats on the one year! i love the colors of this cake, but it also sounds incredibly delicious and like the perfect way to celebrate (:
Thank you very much Heather!!! 🙂
Congratulations Makos and a Happy Birthday to thehungrybites 🙂 !! Your blog is amazing, it opened a new world of Mediterranean cuisine for me (I know I've said this before). The use of spices, ingredients, content you pen down behind every post, and every effort you put reflects your passion for food. You are a great friend and big inspiration to me. Looking forward to the many more awesome years of delicious food!
The cake looks super soft and it’s so pretty. I love the idea of using towel strips around baking pan, that was genius. So Thanks for that great tip, it’s helpful for amateurs like me!
Thank you so much Akhila!!!
Your words make me very happy, and you know I feel exactly the same way about you and your blog!
We all learn a lot from each other in this great community! 🙂
Happy Blogiversary! And congrats on the nomination! It's amazing that you have accomplished so much in just a short year!
I'm in love with this cake! I have never thought of adding rose water into frosting. That sounds very good! Gotta try it next time!
I don't cook Mediterranean food often, but thank you for introducing me to all these new ingredients and flavors! I can't wait to dive into the kitchen and do some exploration. Looking forward to seeing more of your delicious recipes!
Thank you so much Lokness!!!
I had the feeling we had talked before, and when I saw the rassberry cheesecake I realized I first sew your recipes on Google+ !
Keep up the good work too! <3
Oh my gosh, this looks amazing & I want to make it right now. Also, happy anniversary!
Thank you very much Stephanie!
I love baking myself and I am very ecstatic reading this recipe. Thanks for sharing! 🙂
I am really glad you liked it!
Ah! I want to attempt this so bad! Saving this on Pinterest!!
Thank you Diana!
i LOVE pistachio anything - so this s sounds right up my alley!
Yes, pistachios are great, aren't they?
LOL you might want to edit your 2nd step where your instructions say to wrap the pans in wet CAKE strips. 😀
LOL, they're not strips made of cake! They're towel strips used to help produce a level cake, that's why they're called cake strips 🙂
Making this cake today. This recipe is for licking the bowl. I don't usually do that but with this one I couldn't resist after testing a bit for taste. The cake' s in the oven. Can't wait to try it.
I wonder if you've used rose geranium leaves for flavouring. I've read about it. This recipe reminded me of it. But since geraniums don't grow where I live I have never tried it.
Thank you for your kind words MM! I've used rose geranium leaves in a recent summer cocktail and in a tomato mrmalade I've made, but not in a cake. What a wonderful idea!
Rose geranium has a lemony aroma with some flowery notes that can remind you of rose, so it would pair very well with this cake 🙂
Hi, worst cake baker here but up for a challenge. For the cakes it says 10g of vanilla. Is this vanilla extract?
I see the buttercream says vanilla extract so wondering if there is a difference?
Hi Leanne! Yes, it's liquid vanilla extract. Just make sure you have all the ingredients at room temperatute and follow the instructions. You should have no problem! Good luck!
This cake came out perfect! It is tender and tastes very nice! I will definitely make it again! Thanks for the recipe
I'm so glad you liked it Efi!
Thank you for this wonderful recipe!
I made this cake for my 30th birthday yesterday...it turned out amazing!
And happy birthday!!! 🙂
Well--I made it but was not blown away. But that said...It was my first time dealing with the recipe. I even made some small cupcakes out of some of the dough. I think I made a mistake to use regular flour instead of cake flour. It seemed pretty heavy, almost like the texture of banana bread. I have seen recipes that used 3 egg whites and one whole egg... If you feel like experimenting to lighten the cake since ground up pistachios is already pretty heavy in batter try this.... Also as far as the buttercream recipe...I found it to be super sweet! It was calling for 3-4cups of powder sugar was very sweet. If you want it to not overpower the cake and taste butter as well as sugar in the buttercream, maybe go with less powder sugar...start with one cup and work your way up by tasting it Its more refined not to make it sickly sweet. Then add the rose water carefully. Too much can overpower. I only put it in the middle layer and just used plain buttercream on the outside, but mainly because it was so sweet. Finally it did not have a huge pistachio flavor to me...but it was still nice. So I wonder if adding more cardamon would give it a bit more flavor..but not sure about this since I do not bake often. A great idea but I need to practice it and make it my own.
This cake uses the one-bowl method (i think Rose Levy Beranbaum first made this method well-known with her book "The Cake Bible") and it always produces a silky batter and a very soft and tender cake (like the photos in the post). But in order to work best, all the ingredients must be at room temperature, and especially the butter should be very soft. Also, I would suggest measuring the ingredients by weight to ensure better accuracy.
For the buttercream, I agree with you. It's based on the classic American-type buttercream which is pretty sweet 🙂 Maybe another type of filling (like a white chocolate ganache with some rosewater added to the heavy cream) would suit you better.
For the flavor, it is my understanding that many store-bought, pistachio-flavored products have some almond extract as an additional flavoring - maybe that was what you were missing (tastewise). If you make this recipe again, you can try adding a few drops of almond extract along with the rest of the flavorings.
Hope that helps!
Thanks for trying this recipe!
Made this cake for my grandpa’s 103rd birthday yesterday. Everyone loved it and helped themselves to seconds. The cake strips are an amazing idea.
Thank you for the wonderful receipe
Thank you very much Halona, I'm very happy you liked it!!!
In your recipe it says process pistachios with 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of sugar. Should I take the sugar & flour from the recipe? Or it is additional 1 cup of sugar & a cup of flour for processing the pistachios?
Take the sugar and flour from the recipe.
I made this cake. The frosting was wonderful. I did add some lemon juice to cut some of the sweetness of the frosting and it was delicious.
Baking the pistachios into the cake seemed like a waste of pistachios. The flavor and texture of the nut didn’t come through and just seemed to weigh the cake down. It wasn’t fluffy like I hoped it would be.
5 teaspoons of baking powder, as the recipe called for, was way too much. Baking powder overpowered the flavor of the cake.
I'm sorry you weren't pleased with the cake.
Pistachios have a delicate flavor and they should be roasted for the flavor to come through. Also, this cake is based on the one bowl method, which produces soft and tender cake as long as you follow the directions exactly. The most important thing is to have all of the ingredients at room temperature and especially the butter should be soft to the touch, otherwise the cake can come out dense.
I've made this cake several times and never had a problem, it always comes out like you see in the photos. Did you use the right measurements for the ingredients? All the cups and teaspoons should be levelled.
Thanks for trying this recipe and good luck next time!
Hi, when you measure 90g of pistachios, is that the weight of shelled pistachios or pistachios still in their shells?
It's 90 grams shelled pistachios ?
Just a quick question- what do you mean “wrap the pans with wet cake strips”? The recipe sounds phenominal, but I was only confused about this part.
I mean wet towel strips (which are also called cake strips- but are not made of cake, haha). Wrapping the pan with towel strips bakes the cake more evenly and results in a level top
I’d like to make this cake but wondered if ‘cake flour’ means plain, all purpose or self raising (ie with baking powder already in). In the UK it means self raising but not sure if it does elsewhere
Thanks very much
That's interesting, haha. Here it means plain flour but with a lower protein content. If you can't find it, use plain or all-purpose flour. Don't use self raising flour because the recipe also calls for some baking powder.
Thank you and happy baking!
Thanks for replying. I made the cake just using plain flour as couldn’t get the cake flour locally and it came out really well. I’m definitely going to make it again. Thanks for great recipe
Hi thanku so much.
I made this cake for my mother for her bday and everyone loved it, instead of vanilla, i used rose essence. Smells amazing. But only any idea to make the cake more moist?
I find this cake moist enough (as long as it's not overbaked). A light drizzle of simple syrup will add moisture but it will also make it a little sweeter
Hi thanku so much.
I made this cake for my mother for her bday and everyone loved it, instead of vanilla, i used rose essence. Smells amazing. But only any idea to make the cake more moist?
Can this recipe be halved?
If you half it, you can just bake it in one 8-inch pan. Otherwise, you can divide the mixture into 2 pans but the baking time will probably have to be less.
Looking forward to trying this recipe. Just wanted to check whether the sugar in cake recipe is caster or granulated? Thanks
Hi! If you can find caster sugar use it because the texture of the cake can benefit from it. If you can't find caster, the recipe will also work with granulated sugar
Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe. I followed your recipe exactly step by step. I must say this is the best cake I ever made in my life. I made it for my hubby’s 40th Birthday and I got a big applause. The hint of cardamom is the best part of the cake. I did not put any rose water to the icing and I just used plain vanilla and Oh my Gosh they just married so well with the cake. Thanks a ton again.
Thanks for trying this! I'm very happy you liked it and happy birthday to your husband! 🙂
What a delicious recipe. I’ve made this cake twice now and it was a hit both times. Such a lovely and flavoursome sponge. Thank you!
I wanted to try it again but eggless if possible. Can you suggest a substitute or any change in the recipe to make it eggless but just as light and fluffy? Thanks in advance.
Thank you for your kind words Neha!
I'm afraid this recipe will probably not work without eggs.
I have this oil cake on the blog ( https://www.thehungrybites.com/vegan-olive-oil-cake-fanouropita-with-tahini-ganache/ ) which is very fluffy but is also a little crumbly. If you want to try it use a neutral tasting oil and omit the spices (use the vanilla and the pistachios from the pistachio cake instead).
Hi !is this buttercream too sweet if i use 1:2 butter to sugar ratio ?
I haven't made it like this so I don't know, but the consistency will be different
This cake tasted amazing. I made it for my birthday because nobody ever wants to eat rose-flavored things with me, and I thought it would be my one chance to make this! But everybody finished every last crumb and raved about it. Plus we couldn't stop sniffing it because it had such a beautiful aroma! I used my own rosewater buttercream recipe, and added a thin layer of almond paste in the center of the frosting in the middle of the cake, just for fun. Everybody loved it, and I'm definitely making it again. It was beautiful and delicious, the perfect cake, thank you!
Happy birthday Heather! I'm very happy you all enjoyed this cake and thanks for the feedback!
Anastasia Gayol Gayol Cintron
I am making this cake today, are the flour and sugar that are added to the pistachio grind included in the recipe or is it + this?
Hi, you take the flour and the sugar from the total amount stated in the ingredients. It's not plus. Good luck!
Hi can I replace the vanilla in the cake with rose water?
Yes you can but rose water has less intense aroma than vanilla
After a few needed adjustments I fell in love with this recipe! I decreased the amount of sugar to 1 1/2 cups of sugar instead of 2, and added 1/8 tsp of almond extract which I felt complimented the pistachio flavor without overpowering it. I also creamed the butter in the mixer first and added 1/3 of the wet ingredients. Then I slowly incorporated the dry ingredients and the rest of the wet ingredients. This helped decrease clumping. Also make sure your roasted pistachios are completely cooled before grinding. This will also prevent clumping.
Can’t wait to try this recipe! Question, when you say grind the pistachios with a cup of flower, is that cup in addition to the 3 1/3 cups in the ingredients list for a total of 4 1/3 cups or should I just use 1 cup out of the 3 1/3? Thanks!
Hi Terry, you'll use 1 cup out of the 3 1/3 🙂
How long will the cake keep please? Can I make it the cake the day before and ice it on the day?
Hi Amina. Yes, wrap it with plastic wrap and the cake will be fine
I plan to make this cake this week, just want to make sure I have to use salted butter. I did many cakes that required unsalted butter, don’t want to make any mistakes!
Hi Lise, the recipe calls for unsalted butter, that's why it includes 3/4 tsp salt.