Pistachio Pudding Cake

When someone successfully defends their PhD thesis in our department, we have a much-loved tradition of making them a personalized cake that ties into their research topic. This week, someone from my group defended, so of course it was cake baking time!

I did some reconnaissance at his practice talk for decoration inspiration, and quickly noticed something distinctly unique: every time “organic aerosol” was mentioned, this little face showed up:



He had worked up his own silly image to reference organic aerosol throughout his talk, and boy oh boy did that make decorating a cake easy! Because who wants a cake that looks like this?


No one. Sorry, Dr., it’s a lovely figure for a science paper, but cakes ought to be more fun!

(Well, okay, maybe that would make a very impressive and colorful cake… but I’m a one-woman show here, and holy moly does that look difficult to translate into a cake!! Round faces are much easier and more forgiving.)

Additionally, his research involves putting organic aerosol (not actually living things, just FYI for anyone out there who’s confused by the faces) into a UV-light chamber and “aging” it via oxidation:


Which he hilariously compared to a tanning bed:


So, BOOM. Theme ready for cake execution!! Only one thing remaining: colored frosting can sometimes be… suspicious. How much coloring do you really want to consume, right? Needing green frosting meant I was looking for a green-flavored item; mint and pistachio sprang to mind. After consuming a fair bit of mint ice cream (three cheers for ice cream for dinner!), I wasn’t feeling the mint cake. I WAS, however, very intrigued by the prospect of a pistachio cake (hello, new flavor I’ve never worked with before!). So, without further ado, the cake to celebrate our newly minted Dr:


Those ridiculous purple-rolls-in-a-white-box are meant to represent the UV lights in the chamber (hence the label of “New Dr.’s organic aerosol Tanning Bed”)… cut a girl some slack, okay?! I tried my best! And despite the fact that it would be AWESOME, my lab mates wouldn’t let me bring the actual UV lights out of the lab. Apparently something about contamination, safety, blah blah etc… whatever. It would have been cool, and you know it.






*Courtesy of Karlynn Johnston at The Kitchen Magpie*

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons cornstarch

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

¾ cup unsalted butter, softened

1 ½ cups white granulated sugar

1 (99g) package of instant jello pistachio pudding mix

4 large eggs

¾ cup chopped pistachios (¼ cup reserved for topping, if you desire)

1 ¼ cup whole milk

⅓ cup canola or vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

green gel food coloring (if you want a brighter green)



1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour three (3) 8-inch round cake pans, or one (1) standard Bundt pan (12 cup capacity).

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

3. Using an electric mixer on medium speed with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add in the pistachio pudding mix and combine thoroughly.

4. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, making sure each is well mixed.

5. Mix in the chopped pistachios.

6. Combine the milk, oil, and vanilla extract in a bowl.

7. Starting with the dry ingredients, alternate pouring a third of the dry and wet ingredients into the bowl. Mix thoroughly after each addition. After the last addition (which should be wet), mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add a few drops of gel food coloring (before the 2 minute mix) if you’d like brighter green cake.

8. Pour the cake batter evenly into the three cake pans and bake for approximately 50 minutes. The cake is done when a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

9. Invert the cake on a baking rack to cool.

10. Frost with pistachio pudding buttercream icing when the cake is completely cool, and sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup of pistachios on top if desired.



*Courtesy of Karlynn Johnston at The Kitchen Magpie*

½ cup salted butter, softened

½ cup milk

3 tablespoons pistachio pudding powder

~3 cups powdered sugar

green gel food coloring (if you want a brighter green)



1. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until light and fluffy.

2. In a small bowl, combine the milk and pudding mix until completely dissolved. This is very important! If it is not completely dissolved at this point, you will have gritty icing! And no one likes gritty icing.

3. Beat the pudding mixture into the butter completely. Add a few drops of gel food coloring at this point if you’d like brighter green icing.

4. Add in the powdered sugar slowly (about ½ cup at a time), beating in completely.

5. Chill for approximately 20 minutes to allow the jello and butter to set.

6. Decorate your cake! This makes about 2 cups of icing.


Mmm pistachio cake… such an unusual, unexpected flavor. It was quite the hit with everyone! Even the doctor of the hour, who normally doesn’t care for cake, said it was very good. Success!

Next time you need to bake a cake, why not venture outside the realm of the obvious and try a pistachio cake? Most people have never eaten a pistachio cake before (me included), so if you’re going to break that wall down, you may as well do it with an exceptional recipe like this one (instead of most pistachio cake recipes that use a boxed cake mix). I promise you won’t regret it. It’s tout à fait délicieuse!


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