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Pistachio Cake with Chocolate Hazelnut Buttercream

Pistachio cake: The ultimate celebration cake!

Thin layers of white cake filled with pistachio Swiss meringue buttercream and chopped pistachios, covered in a chocolate hazelnut buttercream and decorated with candied hazelnuts. It doesn’t get much better!

This Pistachio Cake recipe was created by special request for a very dear family member of mine and has quickly become a new favorite! Similar to my Chocolate Bavarian Cream Domes, it is strongly recommended that you space this recipe over the course of two days: Baking the cake and preparing the pistachios the first day and making the buttercreams on the second day.

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White cake

What I love the most about this white cake is not only its sweet vanilla taste but it’s perfectly sliceable texture. Vegetable oil is used in place of butter, and sour cream and whole milk add the perfect amount of moisture to this cake. It slices beautifully to allow neat and even layers.

While it isn’t necessary to halve each cake into two layers, I highly recommended it. The more evenly distributed the cake and buttercream are in each bite, the better the cake will taste. I don’t exactly know why, but it’s true!


Preparing the pistachios

If you’ve ever baked with pistachios, you know preparing them can be very time consuming. For this recipe, preparing the pistachios can take about 2 hours in total, so grab a friend to help, or pick up the phone to catch up with a friend or family member to pass the time while you prep!

For this recipe, unsalted pistachios are recommended (I purchase mine at Trader Joe’s).

Preparing the pistachios involve:

  • Deshelling the pistachios
  • Blanching the pistachios to remove the skins (see the before and after photos below!)
  • Drying the pistachios
  • Roasting the pistachios to bring out and enhance the nutty flavor
  • Griding some of the pistachios into a fine powder and hand chopping the rest to layer into the cake

Pistachio Swiss meringue buttercream

Pistachio Swiss meringue buttercream is certainly a labor of love, but the end result is well worth the effort! This style of buttercream can be very tricky, so follow the instructions diligently. The biggest feat with this buttercream is ensuring the correct temperature is maintained every single step of the way to avoid curdling!

For specialty celebration cakes such as this, I would recommend splurging for the highest quality ingredients! This includes European-Style Butter (such as Kerrigold) and high-quality chocolate (such as Guittard).

Want to skip the chocolate and cover this cake in Pistachio Swiss Meringue Buttercream? Double the quantities for the Swiss meringue buttercream, using half for the filling and half to frost the outside of the cake!


Chocolate hazelnut buttercream

What makes this chocolate buttercream so special is that it is elevated with a touch of chocolate hazelnut spread. It is rich and creamy and spreads into a nice, smooth layer to surround this already decadent cake!


Candied hazelnuts

The best way to make candied hazelnuts is to follow this video tutorial from Better Homes & Gardens. Making the sugar syrup can be a bit tricky, especially if it browns too quickly (or not quickly enough). A few tips on making the candied hazelnuts:

  • When cooking the sugar syrup, don’t keep your heat too high. Once the sugar syrup starts to brown, it can go from that beautiful amber color to burnt very quickly. It can even burn from the residual heat of the saucepan after it has been removed from the stovetop if you’re not careful. Keep a close eye on it and trust your judgement, since it won’t always reach that perfect caramelization in the 15 minutes.
  • Stay mindful of the thickness of the caramel within the 5 minutes that it cools. Don’t stir it too much or it will cool and solidify too quickly, limiting the time you have to coat your hazelnuts.
  • Don’t hang the hazelnuts too close together, or the sugar strands will stick to one another.
Candied hazelnuts.

Assembling the Pistachio Cake

For assembly, I recommend purchasing Wilton’s Adjustable Cake Leveler – it will ensure the most even layers! It is affordable and is thin enough to store just about anywhere!


Equipment needed for the pistachio cake

  • (3) 8-inch round cake pans
  • A food processor for the pistachios. Alternately, you can use a blender.
  • Bain-Marie – or a heat-proof bowl that can be set over a saucepan of simmering water.
  • Wilton’s Adjustable Cake Leveler
  • Candy thermometer – for the Swiss meringue buttercream

Prepare in advance

The white cake: Set out the following ingredients to bring to room temperature:

  • 7 large egg whites (275 g)
  • 432 ml whole milk
  • 72 g full-fat sour cream

For the pistachios: Since preparing the pistachios does take time, they will need to be fully prepared before making the buttercreams.

The pistachio Swiss meringue buttercream: Set out the following ingredients to bring to room temperature:

  • 3 sticks (339 g) unsalted butter

For the chocolate hazelnut buttercream:

  • Finely chop the chocolate
  • Set out the following ingredients to bring to room temperature:
    • 2 sticks (226 g) unsalted butter
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Pistachio Cake with Chocolate Hazelnut Buttercream


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  • Author: Amy @ The Pastry Blog
  • Yield: 12 servings 1x

Description

Want to skip the chocolate and cover this cake in Pistachio Swiss Meringue Buttercream? Double the quantities for the Swiss meringue buttercream, using half for the filling and half to frost the outside of the cake!


Ingredients

Units Scale

For the white cake:

  • 432 ml whole milk, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 450 g unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp aluminum free baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 275 g egg whites (from 8 large eggs), at room temperature
  • 266 ml vegetable oil
  • 480 g granulated sugar
  • 72 g full-fat sour cream, at room temperature

For the pistachio Swiss meringue buttercream:

  • 300 g shelled, unsalted pistachios, divided (200 g to ground, 100 g to chop)
  • 250 g granulated sugar
  • 189 g egg whites (from 6 large eggs)
  • 339 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the chocolate hazelnut buttercream:

  • 226 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 113 g dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 40 g dark dutched-processed cocoa powder
  • 300 g confectioner’s sugar
  • 5060 ml whole milk
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 50 g chocolate hazelnut spread

For the candied hazelnuts (optional):

  • 1012 hazelnuts
  • 120 g granulated sugar
  • 30 g water
  • 2 tbsp corn syrup

Instructions

For the white cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour (3) 8-inch round cake pans, lining the bottom of the cake pan with parchment and greasing and flouring the parchment as well. 
  2. Combine the milk and vanilla and set aside.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer using a whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites on medium high speed until soft peaks form (about 2 minutes). The egg whites should be glossy and soft, but not overly stiff. Transfer the beaten egg whites to a separate bowl and set aside.
  5. In the bowl of a stand mixer using a whisk attachment, whisk the oil and sugar on medium speed until incorporated.
  6. Whisk in the sour cream and mix until fully incorporated.
  7. Add sifted flour mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
  8. Gently fold in the whipped egg whites by hand.
  9. Evenly distribute the batter into (3) 8-inch round cake pans and bake at 350°F for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out dry.
  10. Allow the cakes to cool completely on a wire rack.
  11. If baking the cakes one day in advance, cover the cake pans with cling film and store at room temperature. Prior to making the buttercreams, use a cake leveler to level the top of each cake, then horizontally slice each cake into two even layers.

To prepare the pistachios:

  1. Deshell from the pistachios (this will take about 30 minutes)
  2. Blanch the pistachios – bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Once boiling, add in the pistachios continue to boil for 2 minutes.
  3. Drain the pistachios and immediately rinse with cold water.
  4. Squeeze/pinch each [pistachio between your fingers to remove the skins.
  5. Once the skins have been removed, spread the pistachios across a flat surface lined with paper towels to dry.
  6. Roast the pistachios – once the pistachios are mostly dry, preheat the oven to 375°F and roast the pistachios for 8-9 minutes.
  7. Divide the pistachios into two separate bowls. Two-thirds of the pistachios (100 g deshelled) into one bowl and one third (50 g deshelled) into another.
  8. Place the 100 g of deshelled pistachios into a food processor and grind for 3-5 minutes or until ground into a fine paste.
  9. Finely chop the remaining 50 g of deshelled pistachios and set aside for assembly. 

For the Pistachio Swiss meringue buttercream:

  1. Place the sugar and egg whites into a bain-marie over simmering water, whisking constantly until all of the sugar has dissolved and the temperature of a candy thermometer reaches 140°F.
  2. Transfer the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk the meringue for 5 minutes on medium-high speed. Before proceeding to the next step, it is crucial be sure the meringue is fully cooled, or the meringue will flatten with the addition of butter. After whisking for 5 minutes, the sides of the bowl should be cool, but the base of the bowl may still be warm to the touch. If it is, place the bowl in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes. Avoid refrigerating it for longer or the meringue will be too chilled to properly blend with the butter in the next step. Even if you’ve never made a Swiss meringue before, this is a time when you’ll need to trust your best instincts. If you’ve refrigerated the meringue and still find the base of the bowl to be too warm, let the meringue sit at room temperature for 10 minutes or so before proceeding.
  3. Once the meringue has been cooled, gradually whisk in the room temperature butter on medium high speed, 2 tablespoons at a time, waiting until it is incorporated before adding more. 
  4. Add in the ground pistachios and vanilla and mix until just blended.

For the chocolate hazelnut buttercream:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer using a paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  2. Finely chop the chocolate and place into a bain-marie over simmering water stirring occasionally until melted and smooth. Once melted, remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Sift the cocoa powder and powdered sugar into a medium bowl and set aside.
  4. With the mixer speed on low, gradually add the cooled chocolate to the creamed butter and mix until incorporated. Before moving to the next step, scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, being sure to incorporate any hiding ingredients.
  5. Combine the milk and vanilla and set aside.
  6. With the mixer speed on low, gradually add the cocoa mixture alternately with the milk mixture (one tablespoon at a time), beginning and ending with the cocoa mixture.
  7. Keeping the mixer on low speed, stir in the chocolate hazelnut spread until just incorporated.

For the candied hazelnuts (optional):

  1. Follow this video tutorial from Better Homes & Gardens and note the following:
    • When cooking the sugar syrup, don’t keep your heat too high. Once the sugar syrup starts to brown, it can go from that beautiful amber color to burnt very quickly. It can even burn from the residual heat of the saucepan after it has been removed from the stovetop if you’re not careful. Keep a close eye on it and trust your judgement, since it won’t always reach that perfect caramelization in the 15 minutes.
    • Stay mindful of the thickness of the caramel within the 5 minutes that it cools. Don’t stir it too much or it will cool and solidify too quickly, limiting the time you have to coat your hazelnuts. 
    • Don’t hang the hazelnuts too close together, or the sugar strands will stick to one another.

To assemble the cake:

  1. Place one of the split bottom layers of cake on a cake stand. Top with 140 g of the pistachio buttercream and spread with an offset spatula to make an even layer. Top with 10 g of the chopped pistachios.
  2. Repeat the steps above, topping the cake with another split bottom layer of cake. 
  3. Frost the cake with the chocolate hazelnut buttercream and top with candied hazelnuts (if desired).

This cake should be stored in an airtight container the refrigerator and should be brought to room temperature before serving. 

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