Mini Pistachio-Vanilla Birthday Cake

July 11, 2014
3 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 4-6
Author Notes

A 5-inch cake perfect for that tiny cake stand you adore. Creamy and nutty (and easy to boot). —Erin Jeanne McDowell

What You'll Need
  • Pistachio Cake
  • 1/2 cup toasted pistachios
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • Vanilla Whipped Cream Frosting
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons powdered gelatin
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved and scraped
  • 1/3 cup superfine sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13 by 9-inch baking sheet with parchment paper and grease the paper with nonstick spray.
  2. In a food processor, grind the nuts to a fine powder. You can also chop them very finely in a pinch.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes.
  4. Add the eggs and yolk one at a time, mixing until incorporated and scraping the bowl well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract.
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt to combine. Add 1/3 of the mixture to the butter mixture, mixing until incorporated. Add 1/3 of the milk and mix to combine. Repeat two more times until all of the wet and dry ingredients are incorporated and the batter is smooth. Fold in the ground pistachios.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and use a spatula to smooth it as evenly as possible. Bake until the cake springs back lightly when touched, 15-20 minutes. Cool completely.
  7. When the cake is cooled, cut out the layers. I used a paring knife and a small 5-inch cocktail plate as a guide, tracing around the plate to make the layers. I got 4 layers out of the baking sheet. You can use a slightly larger or smaller guide, just know it might affect the number of layers. Set aside.
  8. To make the whipped cream, sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water. Let sit for 5 minutes. In a small pot, melt the gelatin mixture until dissolved. Cool slightly.
  9. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, whip the cream and vanilla on medium speed. Gradually add the sugar. When the mixture starts to look thick, gradually add the gelatin mixture. Continue to whip to medium peaks.
  10. Layer the cake with frosting in between each layer and frost all around. Garnish with chopped pistachios and cherries, if desired.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • eluu
  • Maria
  • Erin Jeanne McDowell
    Erin Jeanne McDowell
  • Arlenebdm
I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, Savory Baking, came out in Fall of 2022 - is full of recipes to translate a love of baking into recipes for breakfast, dinner, and everything in between!

7 Reviews

eluu September 23, 2022
I doubled the recipe and baked them in 9-inch cake pans. Turned out beautifully, though it was a denser cake. I made this for my toddler's birthday party (yes, he's two and loves pistachios). Everyone loved it! I reduced the sugar in the frosting.
Arlenebdm May 30, 2019
Delicious recipe. I added Italian pistachio cream between layers in addition to the frosting. Had a similar version in Sicily last year. Also cut the cake into 3 equal rectangles and stacked them. Not as elegant as the round version but quicker. Definitely a keeper.
Maria June 9, 2015
Has there been an update on this recipe? Is the 1/2 cup of pistachios supposed to be added to the batter, and if so, how? Some recipes I've seen run the nuts through the food processor. I've been dying to make this particular cake and would appreciate any tips. Thank you! I was hoping to make it tomorrow for my daughter's birthday.
Erin J. June 9, 2015
Yes, grind the nuts then fold them into the batter at the end of step 4. I'll fix the method now! Happy Birthday to your daughter!
Maria June 10, 2015
Thank you! Also, I'm assuming that since the frosting is made with whipped cream it has to be refrigerated, right? How long would it hold at room temperature? I am so excited to be making this cake!
Maria June 11, 2015
So I finally made the cake and it is AMAZING!!!! My daughter loved it so much she actually said I could just make this from now on; didn't need to make my old recipe anymore! (You mean the one I've been making for all my five kids' birthdays for the last 30 years because they insisted and it would be sacrilege to buy a Bakery cake?!???!) Yeah, THAT one. Thank you for such a wonderful and delicious recipe; it has now become a treasured family recipe! You know, the kind you make over and over, and only share with your closest friends. It doesn't hurt that we love pistachios in any shape or form.
Tara Z. October 28, 2014
are there any pistachios in the cake itself (the batter)? the instructions don't include them...