Lemon Pistachio Cake with Pistachio Cream Filling

Get ready for the most delightful flavor combination – lemon and pistachio! My new Lemon Pistachio Cake has lemon pistachio cake layers, pistachio cream filling, lemon curd, and lemon pistachio cream cheese buttercream.

Lemon Pistachio Cake

Lemon Pistachio Cake

I’m so excited for you to try this cake! I haven’t stopped thinking about it since my first bite of scraps. And we can all thank my mom for the idea for this cake. She called me a couple weeks ago raving about lemon gelato paired with pistachio gelato and said, “you just have to put these flavors into a cake!”

Of course, as the obedient child that I am, I did just that!

What’s In Lemon Pistachio Cake?

To be honest, this cake isn’t the fastest to whip up. There are four different elements in this cake, but each one makes the cake that much more special and memorable.

  • Lemon pistachio cake layers – the cake layers are tender and flavorful, thanks to finely ground pistachios, lemon zest, and lemon juice. These layers also have a full cup of buttermilk in them to help create and retain moisture.
  • Lemon curd – this thin layer of lemon curd adds just the right pop of tartness to the cake.
  • Pistachio cream filling – the pistachio cream filling is made by making a pistachio paste, adding the paste to a white chocolate ganache to create a mousse, and then adding the mousse to freshly whipped cream.
  • Lemon pistachio cream cheese buttercream – to top this cake off, I’ve paired my cream cheese buttercream with a hint of lemon and very, very finely ground pistachios for a frosting that not only enhances the flavors, but also provides great balance to the cake.
Can I simplify this cake?

Yes! You can absolutely simplify this four-layer lemon pistachio cake. The cake layers and buttercream are filled with pistachio and lemon, so if you don’t have a lot of time or you simply don’t want the extra work – you can easily skip the fillings and still create a delicious cake!

Can I make this cake as a 9-inch by 13-inch sheet pan cake?

For sure! In fact, you can turn any of my cakes into 9-inch by 13-inch cakes, or even bundt cakes and cupcakes. The only thing that really changes is the bake time:

  • 9″ x 13″ – you’ll generally increase the bake time by about 10 to 15 minutes
  • Bundt pan – a bundt cake bakes almost twice as long as the layers. Plan for 50 to 60 minutes, in most cases
  • Cupcakes – for cupcakes, you’ll want to decrease the bake by 5 to 10 minutes

Remember, each recipe is a little different, so bake times will vary. The best way to know your cake is done is to insert a toothpick in the center of the cake. When you take that toothpick out, it should have a few moist crumbs on it.

How to Make Lemon Curd

If you haven’t made homemade lemon curd before, you’re in for a treat! Not only is it incredibly delicious, it’s actually quite easy to make. I have detailed instructions in my cookbook, as well as on my blog post for my Lemon Bar Cake.

Tips for the lemon curd:

  • Make the lemon curd a few days in advance.
  • DO NOT put too much curd in between the layers so it doesn’t lose stability. Instead, use only about ¼ to ⅓ cup curd in the cake and serve extra on the side of each slice.

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https://cakebycourtney.com/cakedecorating101/

Lemon Pistachio Cake

4.93 from 51 votes
Lemon pistachio cake layers with lemon curd filling, pistachio cream filling, and lemon pistachio cream cheese buttercream.

Ingredients
 

FOR THE PISTACHIO LEMON CAKE

  • 3 cups (345 g) cake flour
  • 3/4 cup (115 g) finely ground pistachios
  • 1 tablespoon (10 g) baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon (9 g) lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon (6 g) salt
  • 1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cup (350 g) granulated sugar
  • 5 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (240 g) buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

FOR THE LEMON CURD

  • 1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon (4.5 g) grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1 to 2 large lemons
  • 1 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons (28.25 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

For the Pistachio Cream Filling

  • 1 cup (150 g) shelled unsalted pistachios
  • 3/4 cup (180 g) whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons (28.25 g) unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces white chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon (12.50 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (240 g) heavy whipping cream

FOR THE PISTACHIO LEMON CREAM CHEESE BUTTERCREAM

  • 1 1/2 cups (339 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 6 ounces cream cheese
  • 6 cups (750 g) powdered sugar, measured then sifted
  • 1/4 cup (40 g) finely ground pistachios, this takes about ½ cup ground up pistachios that have been sifted through a mesh sieve.
  • 2 tablespoons (16.2 g) heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 tablespoon (4.5 g) lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt
  • *This buttercream recipe makes enough to fill and cover your cake. If you want to add additional piping you’ll want to make an extra ½ batch. However, because it is a cream cheese buttercream, I don’t recommend using it for piping.

Instructions
 

FOR THE CAKE

  • Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Spray two 8-inch round cake pans with nonstick spray, line the bottoms with parchment paper and spray again. Set aside.
  • In a medium size bowl, whisk together the cake flour, pistachios, baking powder, lemon zest, and salt. Set aside.
  • In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until the texture is lighter in color and smooth in texture.
  • With the mixer on medium speed, gradually add the egg whites. Make sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl between additions. When all of the egg whites are added, turn your mixer to medium-high speed and beat the batter for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. At this point, the texture should be smooth and the mixture should have nearly doubled in volume.
  • As the batter mixes, combine the buttermilk and lemon juice.
  • With the mixer on low speed on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk mixture to the butter mixture, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure all the batter has been incorporated. Stir for an additional 30 seconds.
  • Divide batter evenly in the two pans, about 25 to 26 ounces of batter in each 8-inch pan.
  • Bake the cakes until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs inserted into the center, about 35 minutes. Let cool on wire racks for 10 minutes before inverting them onto cooling racks to cool completely.
  • Once the layers are cooled completely, carefully divide the cake layers in half horizontally, creating two thin layers from each cake.

FOR THE LEMON CURD

  • Whisk the sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the whole eggs and yolks in a small bowl and then whisk them into the lemon mixture.
  • Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until it’s thick like pudding, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, a few pieces at a time until incorporated.
  • Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl, pushing it through with a rubber spatula. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until completely set, at least 4 hours and up to 5 days.

For the Pistachio Cream Filling

  • In a medium size saucepan, heat about 2 cups of water to a soft boil and add the shelled pistachios. Boil the pistachios for about 3 minutes, drain the pistachios and spread on a clean kitchen towel.
  • Fold the towel over and rub the pistachios in the towel to loosen the skins. Discard as much of the skins as you can. I know it’s tedious, so it doesn’t have to be perfect.
  • Combine the pistachios, ¼ cup of the milk and the sugar in a food processor. Pulse until the ingredients create a smooth paste.
  • In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining milk, butter and white chocolate chips. Heat on low, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is melted.
  • In a high powdered blender, combine the pistachio paste and white chocolate mixer. Blend until smooth and creamy. If you need to adjust the consistency, you can add a couple splashes of milk.
  • Let the pistachio mousse reach room temperature before folding in the heavy whipping cream.
  • For the heavy whipping cream: In a stainless steel bowl, beat the heavy whipping cream with the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form.
  • Fold the whipped cream into the pistachio mousse.

FOR THE BUTTERCREAM

  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese for about one minute.
  • With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the sifted powdered sugar, followed by the pistachios, lemon zest, lemon juice, heavy whipping cream and pinch of salt.
  • Turn the mixer on medium-high speed and beat for about 3 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.
  • Remove the bowl from the mixer and mix the frosting by hand with a wooden spoon to push out any air bubbles.

For the Assembly

  • Reminder, each of the two 8-inch cake layers should be divided in half, horizontally, giving you FOUR thin cake layers.
  • Place the first cake layer, top side up, in the center of a cake board or cake stand.
  • Spread about 1 cup of the pistachio cream filling over the cake layer, making sure to get eye level with the cake to ensure the filling is spread evenly.
  • Place the second cake layer on top of the cream filling. Spread about ½ cup of the buttercream over the cake. Pipe a rim of buttercream around the edge of the cake.
  • Fill the center with about 1/4-⅓ cup lemon curd, reserving leftover curd to use on top of the cake or to serve with each slice of cake.
  • Place the third cake layer on top of the lemon curd and spread another cup of pistachio cream filling over the cake.
  • Top with the final cake layer, top side down.
  • Apply a thin layer of buttercream around the entire cake to create a crumb coat. Freeze the cake for about 10 to 15 minutes to set the crumb coat and lock the crumbs in place.
  • Continue frosting the cake with the remaining buttercream and top with pistachios, lemons, and/or extra lemon curd.
Cuisine Cake
Course Dessert
Keyword Advanced, Lemon, Lemon curd, Lemon Pistachio, Lemon Pistachio Cake, Pistachio, Pistachio Cake

Courtney Rich

I’m a self-taught baker, obsessed with cake.

I long ago ditched box mixes in pursuit of melt-in-your-mouth, to-die-for flavor combinations, fillings and textures. I believe cake must be decadent, life-changing and worthy of celebration! And I believe anyone should be able to bake that kind of cake – and I’m here to teach you just that!

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Recipe Rating




Comments

  1. Looks so yummy, but it is just my hubby and I. Can I make this into a 6’ round I have three of them. And what would the measurements be? Thanks love all Your cakes!💕

  2. Hi Courtney! I’m planning to make this cake for Easter and I’m wondering how far in advance you think I could make the pistachio cream filling?

  3. 5 stars
    We made this yesterday! It was delicious but the pistachio mousse with the whipped cream in it was extremely runny. We used one cup of stiff whipped cream and double checked our steps. Any ideas?

    1. My guess is the cream wasn’t stiff enough or it was mixed too much and softened the peaks. You could try less heavy cream.

  4. This looks absolutely divine. I have a couple of questions. Is it ok to use pistachios with bits of the skins still on? I find them devilishly hard to get off completely, and blanching them (for me) makes them soggy. Also, for those who are not fans of cream cheese, can you recommend a different buttercream to pair with this recipe — maybe just plain lemon? Thank you so much!

  5. Hello,
    I’m going to try to make this cake. I have a question about the cream cheese buttercream. Does the cream cheese have to be at room temperature as well (you say the butter needs to be at room temp, but you don’t mention anything about the cream cheese?).

  6. 5 stars
    Layers are so moist and tender!! Fillings are full of flavor. Icing is to die for!!! My pistachio filling was a little runny, but still delicious!

  7. Hi Courtney! This looks delish! Could you make this cake ahead of time and freeze it for a few days? Or will it not do well because of the lemon curd? Thank you!

  8. I am curious about the use of egg whites and not whole eggs in this cake. Would you be willing to explain why you decided to use egg whites on this cake, please? Thank you

  9. 5 stars
    I made this cake a few days ago and it was the best cake I have ever tasted. I’m not that much of a baker but had to try to make it because it sounded so good. I made it for my birthday and everyone loved it! Your instructions were very helpful in making sure this cake turned out wonderful. I am now so eager to try some of your other cakes. Maybe the easier ones though!

  10. 5 stars
    Hi Courtney!! I’m so excited to make this recipe! I’m planning to make it in cupcake form for a bridal shower. Would you recommend making both fillings for cupcakes or should I just make one? Also, would these be okay to eat after sitting outside (50s or 60s degrees) for probably about 2.5-3 hours? Thank you so much in advance for the help!

    1. I would probably just make one because that’s all you will have room for! They will be ok outside!

  11. 5 stars
    Hi Courtney,

    I made this cake for Easter and everyone absolutely loved it, such a big hit!!! It was a little more work than I had anticipated while shelling all of the pistachios, lol. It was a labor of love and I could not be happier that it all stayed stacked together nicely and tasted even better!!

  12. Hi there! Just wondering how you would substitute the liquid from the lemon juice in this cake if you wanted it just as a pistachio cake?

  13. Hi Courtney!
    I need to make a plain pistachio cake (although I think this combo is awesome but plain is what was asked for but I will make this for myself for sure!), could I follow your recipe here and omit the lemon zest and juice? Would it turn out okay or do I need to sub the lemon juice for another liquid?

  14. 3 stars
    The cake was delicious, but I agree the pistachio filling was extremely runny. Whipping cream was very stiff and cold but the pistachio filling seemed too liquified with all the milk and once the whip cream was added it fell flat! In fact, the entire cake fell apart! The cake could not support it… had to scoop up the pieces into containers. Still good but not what was pictured. I think a second try and a few recipe changes will do the trick.

  15. 5 stars
    Not the fastest cake to put together, but your recipe and instructions are so great for a novice like me!!

  16. 5 stars
    Come on. I’m going to be making this every day for the rest of my life! Yes. It’s that good folks. I need to be gluten free, so obviously I made my own gf cake, but these fillings are just over the top!! You definitely need extra moisture to choke down any gf cake(I don’t care how great of a baker you are) and these fillings certainly did the trick sandwiched between an angelfood cake! Going to try with a yellow cake as well!

  17. Hi Courtney, thanks for the recipe.
    Can you pls tell if it is possible to reduce this recipe to just make 1 kg of cake? (2 6” inch cake?)

  18. Is this a new cake? Or was an existing recipe updated? I thought I used this recipe this past summer? Just wondering.

  19. 4 stars
    I made this recipe into 2 6″ cakes (each with 4 cake half layers).

    I was nervous about the stability of the cakes so I assembled the cakes in acetate strips, piped a buttercream dam for both the lemon curd and pistachio cream then froze the cakes for 20 minutes before removing the acetate and crumb coating. This worked like a charm!

    The cake flavor and texture are quite nice, the lemon and pistachio flavors and well balanced. If i were to make this cake again, I would double the lemon curd recipe, I had enough curd to fill the middle of the cakes, but not enough to serve the slices with an extra spoonful and who doesn’t want an extra spoonful of lemon curd?!

  20. 4 stars
    The cake turned out pretty dense. Wondering how I could make it less dense or what I did wrong that made it so dense?

    1. Did you by chance use cold ingredients? That will create a dense cake. Another thing that will help make sure your cakes are lighter in texture is mixing the butter, sugar and eggs really well – ensuring that mixture is smooth before adding the flour.

      1. 5 stars
        Trying this recipe out for my husbands birthday. His favorite cake is pistachio and I think this recipe will be a great twist!
        Now the actual cake and curd (the only two steps I’ve gotten through so far) taste amazing but I have a question… why did the cake begin to fall apart when transferring to a rack? Did I not allow it to cool enough or should I have pulled them out of the oven earlier? I did cook one a tad bit longer than the other but both did the same thing- I can still work with it none the less but I don’t feel comfortable cutting the layers in half.
        Thankfully this is my first go at this before his actual birthday in September (I have baked birthday cakes before *for my kids/family*, so I do have a tiny bit of experience lol). I’m just wondering if you might have some insight of where I went a tad bit wrong. Thank you so much for reading this far if you have ♥️

  21. 5 stars
    I made this cake for Easter and it was amazing! It was a labor of love, but well worth it! Knowing there were 4 components to this cake, I split it up over 3 days. I started with the lemon curd which was super easy. The following day I made the pistachio cream (note: I saved the last step of folding in the whipped cream for just before assembly. It came out thick and creamy). It also helped to prepare the finely ground pistachios a day ahead to have them ready for the cake and buttercream. All 4 components of this cake came together beautifully and everyone raved over the flavors! I had a lot of pistachio cream left after assembly, but will surely not let it go to waste! Thank you for this wonderful recipe and the detailed instructions!

  22. 5 stars
    Dying to try this because it sounds amazing!! Just wondering how long can the components containing cream last if i were to prepare them in advance?

  23. Will this recipe work with roasted unsalted pistachios? I don’t know of anywhere that i can buy raw pistachios.