This Food-Processor Pistachio Cake Is Tender, Fluffy & Moist as Can Be

May  6, 2019
Photo by Bobbi Lin

Once you are converted to the tender, fluffy, and moist magic of oil-based cakes, it’s hard to go back to their buttery counterparts, which, in comparison, seem stodgy and dry. And, for what it’s worth, are stodgier and drier. Oil coats flour more effectively than butter, which means less gluten production, which means a tenderer, fluffier, and moister cake.

I’m not saying you can’t love both. But if you were stuck on an island and someone said you could have only one kind of cake for the rest of your life, you’d pick oil-based, wouldn’t you? I would.

Luckily, I have yet to be stuck on an island.

Even after my eyes have been opened up to pudding-like olive oil cake and extra-fudgy chocolate cake and never-dry gingerbread, there are a few special butter cakes I keep on call.

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Top Comment:
“I would love to make this cake however. Is there any way I can substitute ground pistachios for the paste? ”
— beenz

Like this sour cream pound cake from my friend Jodi Rhoden. Or our co-founder Amanda Hesser’s family-favorite chocolate dump-it cake. Or this life-changing almond cake from David Lebovitz, who adapted it from Chez Panisse Desserts by Lindsey Shere.

Lebovitz himself is an alum of Alice Waters’s iconic restaurant Chez Panisse—and went on to become an icon in his own right, thanks to his blog and cookbooks. So when he says something like, “Although chocolate figures largely into the equation for many of my favorite desserts...I’d have to pick this almond cake as the one that I would choose to sustain me through thick and thin,” you have to make the cake.

It helps that the whole thing comes together in a food processor—asking little more of you than: Dump these ingredients into the bowl and pulse, pulse, pulse.

I’ve made this cake more times than I can count, and riffed on it more times than I can count, too. I’ve swapped out the almond paste for a DIY version with ground almonds and confectioners’ sugar. I’ve topped it with fresh fruit and lemon cream. I’ve drowned it in dark chocolate ganache.

My all-time favorite riff just happens to be the easiest. Instead of using almond paste, I use pistachio paste, which can you find in stores like Whole Foods or order online.

With that, I skip the almond extract (giving the pistachios a chance to shine) and added salt, to dial up the contrast on all the flavors. But I left the butter just the same, because the fatty pistachios bring their own “oil” and keep the cake moist as can be.

The raspberry-cream topping is optional, but not really: It takes a mere moment to pull together and makes the whole cake sing spring. I snagged the idea from Nigel Slater via Genius Recipes. You whip slightly sweetened cream until it’s puffy and slouchy, then fold in jammy mashed raspberries. Slater serves it on white toast, but it turns out:

Raspberry cream and pistachio cake are soulmates.

You could slice the cake in half and frost it like a Victoria sandwich. Personally, I prefer to dust the top with sugar, then have everyone add their own raspberry cream in floppy, oversized plops.

Do you have a preference between butter versus oil cakes? Tell us why in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Lauren Lever
    Lauren Lever
  • Js123
  • beenz
  • Emma Laperruque
    Emma Laperruque
  • Anne Marie
    Anne Marie
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.


Lauren L. May 8, 2019
The recipe gives the measurements for butter but if one were to substitute olive oil how much would be used? Is this a 1:1 substitution?
Emma L. May 8, 2019
Hi Lauren! I wouldn't recommend that substitution here because when you cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, you're essentially creating lots of little air bubbles in the batter. The liquid oil wouldn't act the same at this step, so I'm not sure how the end result would turn out.
Js123 May 7, 2019
Oops! My bad! I didn’t see the second column of ingredients - not vegan! Well, it still looks amazing and I’m going to try it anyway! Thanks again!
Js123 May 7, 2019
I love that the cake part is VEGAN for my vegan family members! THANK YOU THANK YOU! Making it this weekend for mothers day. Can’t wait!
beenz May 6, 2019
Where I live (Hong Kong) pistachio Paste is a distant dream. I would love to make this cake however. Is there any way I can substitute ground pistachios for the paste?
Anne M. May 6, 2019
If you have the pistachios and a food processor, simple to make your own paste. This is in French but self-explanatory.
Johanna A. May 22, 2019
This is in English so may help
beenz May 25, 2019
Thank you very much Johanna. This looks like an easier to follow recipe as well.