This soft and fluffy Lemon Pistachio Cake is a simple single layer cake with a tender pistachio sponge made with olive oil and topped with a dreamy lemon cream cheese frosting. This cake is full of flavor and I like to make it all year round since it is light and fresh for Spring and Summer, and then also festive with pistachios during the holidays and makes use of lemons when they are in season in late winter. I think you will love this recipe and if you enjoy making fruity sheet cakes, check out my Strawberry Lemon Cake and Lemon Raspberry Sheet Cake too!
WHY YOU WILL LOVE THIS RECIPE:
- Soft and moist pistachio cake - this recipe makes a tender cake with a bouncy, moist crumb texture.
- Easy to make - I love single layer sheet cakes because they are fuss-free and it means less dishes!
- Fragrant lemon cake - lemon zest adds a lot of flavor to this cake and pairs really well with pistachio.
- Olive oil cake - I use olive oil which is SO good here since it pairs with pistachios and lemon so well. You can use any oil though.
- Cream cheese frosting - this is one of my favorite ways to make frosting. There is NO butter! It's just a combination of cream cheese and whipping cream and it's like a more flavorful, thicker whipped cream. It is luscious!
INGREDIENTS FOR LEMON PISTACHIO CAKE
Here are some on the key ingredients for this recipe. For a full list of ingredients, check out the recipe card at the bottom of the post.
- All purpose flour - unbleached all-purpose flour works great for fluffy spongy cake. You could use cake flour, but if you use bleached flour (a lot of cake flour is bleached) then it tends to absorb more water and might give the cake a drier texture.
- Unsalted butter - this recipe uses a combination of butter and oil. Butter adds incredible flavor and I highly recommend that you follow this method for the best results! You can use unsalted or salted butter - it won't make much of a difference here.
- Oil - liquid oil will keep this cake soft and helps with movement of leavening gases through the batter for a nice even rise to create a flat cake. I use olive oil because it tastes so delicious with pistachios and lemon, however you can use any neutral-tasting cooking oil. I recommend sunflower for the cleanest taste.
- Pistachios - the lovely green color of this cake is naturally coming from the pistachios and a bit of matcha powder. For the most flavor, I like to roast the pistachios before grinding them.
- Granulated sugar - simple granulated sugar keeps this cake moist and doesn't interfere with the strawberry and lemon flavor.
- Egg - one large egg will add nice structure but won't get in the way of the pistachio flavor.
- Pure vanilla extract - vanilla will elevate and complement the lemon and strawberry taste. I like this Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla extract.
- Almond extract - this is optional, but almond will enhance the taste of the pistachios.
- Yogurt - use full fat plain yogurt to add tanginess to this recipe and complement the fruity notes.
- Matcha powder - this is optional, if you have it or want to try it, but it will really enhance the green color and it also adds a nice earthy taste that complements the pistachios.
- Lemon zest - the zest from one lemon is enough to give this cake a nice citrus note. If you like more lemon, just use more! You can use up to a tablespoon of lemon zest.
- Milk - any type of milk will do. I prefer whole milk for baking.
STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS
- STEP 1). Infuse the sugar. Add sugar to a large bowl with the lemon zest and rub it together with your fingers or using the back of a large spoon until the sugar is fragrant and takes on a hint of yellow. This helps to release more essential oils from the zest.
- STEP 2). Combine dry ingredients. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into the bowl with the lemony sugar and whisk it to blend evenly. Add the ground pistachios.
- STEP 3). Combine wet ingredients. Whisk together eggs, melted butter, oil, yogurt, vanilla and milk in a medium bowl.
- STEP 4). Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the liquid mixture. Whisk gently to combine the ingredients until mostly combined.
- STEP 5). Bake. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan and bake until evenly golden and a skewer inserted into the center comes out with clean. It should spring back when you press it gently. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to the rack to finish cooling.
- STEP 6). Make the frosting. Beat soft cream cheese until smooth. Add 2 tablespoons of cream and beat until very smooth and there are no lumps. Then gradually add remaining cream and beat until it forms soft peaks. Gradually beat in sugar until it is thickened to a spreadable consistency, then mix in lemon juice and almond extract. Spread frosting over cooled cake and then top with crushed pistachios before serving.
EXPERT BAKING TIPS FOR LEMON PISTACHIO CAKE
- Infuse the sugar with lemon flavor. To get the most out of your lemons, rub the sugar with the lemon zest first before mixing with the liquid ingredients. The friction will release the essential oils in the yellow zest and they will coat sugar crystals to carry all of that wonderful flavor through the batter!
- Use room temperature ingredients. Since this is a simple dump and mix (almost one bowl) method, there is minimal mixing steps involved so it is important to have all ingredients at the same temperature (not cold!) in order to help them blend evenly together.
- Roast the pistachios. If you only have raw pistachios, definitely roast them to bring out the flavor. Just place them in a dry frying pan over medium heat until they begin to darken and become fragrant.
- Sift the dry ingredients. This is optional, but it will minimize the amount of mixing needed to combine the ingredients evenly so that you do not over-mix the batter.
- Do not over-mix the batter. Once the flour is combined then the batter is ready for baking. You can use a whisk and mix by hand if you are concerned about over-mixing.
I highly recommend using oil for this recipe because the oil will give it a softer texture in the presence of all the nuts which have a tendency to firm up the crumb.
Yes, you can use any type of cooking oil, such as canola oil, olive oil or sunflower oil. You can also use coconut oil, but it has a much higher melting fat profile so it will make the crumb more crumbly and less soft.
If your cake turns out dense, then it could be a couple of things: you over-mixed the batter, or your raising agents are not active. Make sure to use fresh baking powder and baking soda. Also, be very gentle with mixing and stop once the flour is just incorporated.
Too much flour and not enough sugar is the main reason why cake can turn out dry and dense. It is important to have the right proportions of liquid to dry ingredients in a one bowl cake recipe.
I really recommend using plain yogurt for this recipe (2-5% fat) because it gives the perfect amount of fat and acidity, however you can make this cake with Greek yogurt or sour cream. The texture will just be slightly firmer from the higher protein content.
Yes, you can make this in am 8 or 9-inch round pan. If you use an 8-inch pan, you will need to add at least 5 minutes to the baking time.
If you love cake and fruit, check out these recipes!Caramel Apple CakeDark Chocolate Cherry Almond CakeCopycat Starbucks Lemon Loaf recipeRaspberry Almond CakeULTIMATE Moist Chocolate Fudge CakeLemon Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Lemon Curd FrostingCreamy Raspberry CheesecakeSticky Toffee Date CakeMoist Lemon Blueberry BreadOlive Oil Chocolate Bundt CakeBlueberry Peach Upside Down CakeBlueberry Swirl Lemon Loaf Cake
Lemon Pistachio Cake
Pistachio Cake Batter:
- 1 cup 142g all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon matcha powder (optional)
- ¾ cup 150g granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup 40g finely ground roasted, unsalted pistachios
- ¼ cup 60ml olive oil or sunflower oil
- 1 large egg at room temperature
- ½ cup 120ml full fat yogurt
- 2 teaspoon lemon zest
- ¼ cup 60ml milk at room temperature
- ½ teaspoon 5ml pure vanilla extract
Cream Cheese Frosting:
- ½ cup 125g very soft cream cheese
- ⅔ cup 160ml whipping cream
- 4 tablespoon 50g granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon 5ml lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon 5ml pure vanilla extract or almond extract
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and line an 8x8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper.
- Make the cake batter. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and matcha powder (if you have it) into a large bowl. Add sugar and ground pistachios and whisk until very well evenly blended.
- Combine oil, egg, yogurt, milk and vanilla in a medium bowl and whisk until completely smooth.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with dry ingredients and gently fold it all together being sure to get down to the bottom and bring up any dry pockets. Stop right when the batter is fully combined and be careful not to over mix.
- Spread batter evenly into the prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for 20 minutes in the pan and then transfer cake to a cooling rack.
- Make the frosting. Beat soft cream cheese until smooth. Add 2 tablespoons of cream and beat until very smooth and there are no lumps. Then gradually add remaining cream and beat until it forms soft peaks. Gradually beat in sugar until it is thickened to a spreadable consistency, then mix in lemon juice and almond extract. Spread frosting over cooled cake and then top with crushed pistachios before serving.