A Perfect Christmas Cake: Pistachio Cranberry Cake

December 7, 2022

Pistachio Cranberry Cake – Pistachio cake layers with cranberry compote and cranberry buttercream.

Pink cake on a cake stand with trees around it.

Pistachio Cranberry Cake

Just when I thought I was done with my Christmas cakes, I have another ide: pistachio and cranberry! The idea for this cake actually came from the colors, pink and green. This color combination has been a popular one over the last few years for Christmas decorations. While I love a classic red and green Christmas, I actually have loved a splash of pink thrown into it all.

Close up picture of the texture on a cake with cranberries on top.

Pistachio Cake

I immediately thought of my Pistachio Chocolate Chip Cake. I made this one earlier in the year. You’ll see the cake recipe has mini chocolate chips and a vanilla buttercream with a hint of lime. It’s delicious! I knew the layers would be perfect for this cake, minus the chocolate chips.

Top view of a cake.

You’ll see the cake batter calls for Jell-O pistachio pudding mix. This is essential to getting the pale green color. I didn’t add any additional coloring. If you can’t find pistachio pudding mix, you can substitute it for vanilla pudding mix and add a drop of green food coloring.

Pistachio Cranberry Cake - Pistachio cake layers with cranberry compote and cranberry buttercream. #cakebycourtney #pistachiocranberrycake #pistachiocake #cranberry #christmascake #easycakerecipe

Cranberry Compote

For the compote, I referred to a recipe I’ve used in my Cranberry White Chocolate Cake and my Citrus Cranberry Cake. The flavor is outstanding and I love the texture it adds to the cake.

Inside view of a pistachio cake with cranberry compote.

The compote is quite easy to make!

Two suggestions for the compote:

  • Make it a day ahead of time so that it has time to chill and thicken.
  • Sift the corn starch to avoid getting white clumps of corn starch in your compote.
Cake on a cake stand.


For the buttercream, I used my basic buttercream recipe as the base and then added a few tablespoons of the cranberry sauce from the compote. To make sure you don’t get chunks of cranberry in the buttercream, be sure to strain the thickened sauce from the compote before you add the sauce to the buttercream.

Slice of cake on a plate.

The sauce adds a beautiful, natural pink color, but you’ll notice it doesn’t create a super strong cranberry flavor. That’s on purpose. With the compote having such a dominant flavor, I let the buttercream compliment the compote.


Pistachio Cranberry Cake

5 from 12 votes
Pistachio cake layers with cranberry compote and cranberry buttercream.
Servings 20 people


For the Cake

  • 12 tbsp. (169.5 g) unsalted butter room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (300 g) granulated sugar
  • 3 large egg whites room temperature
  • 2 large egg room temperature
  • 1 cup (240 g) buttermilk room temperature
  • 1 tsp. (4.2 g) pure vanilla extract
  • 2 3/4 cups (316 g) cups cake flour
  • 3/4 cup (115 g) finely ground pistachios
  • 1 package pistachio Jell-O pudding mix 3.4 ounce package
  • 1 tbsp. (12 g) baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp (2.8 g) salt
  • zest of one large lime

For the Cranberry Compote

  • 12 ounces (340 g) fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup (118.3 g) water
  • 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp. ( 8 g) corn starch sifted

For the Buttercream

  • 2 cups (452 g) unsalted butter slightly cold
  • 6 cups (750 g) powdered sugar measured and then sifted
  • 1 teaspoon (4.2 g) vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (57.75 g) heavy whipping cream
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 tbsp. (58 g) strained juice from cranberry compote
  • *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.


For the Cake

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spray three 8- inch or four 6-inch pans with nonstick spray, line the bottoms with parchment paper and spray again. Set aside.
  • In a medium size bowl, combine the egg whites, whole eggs, and vanilla. Set aside.
  • In another mixing bowl, combine the cake flour, pistachios, baking powder, salt, lime zest and Jell-O mix. Stir with a whisk and then set aside.
  • In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy, about two minutes.
  • Add the egg mixture in a few additions, making sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl between each one. Beat until well blended, about one minute.
  • With your mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and the buttermilk, starting and finishing with the flour mixture. Between each addition, you're only mixing for about 10-20 seconds. Once all of the flour mixture and buttermilk are added, keep your mixer on low speed and mix until the ingredients are incorporated. This should only be about 30 seconds or so. Make sure to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl and mix again for just 10 to 20 seconds. Over mixing your batter will cause it to sink, not rise, or taste dense.
  • Divide batter evenly among your prepared pans, about 16 oz of batter in each for the 8-inch pans or 12 oz in the 6-inch pans.
  • Bake the cakes for about 22 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs on it. Let cool on wire racks for 10 minutes before inverting them onto cooling racks to cool completely.
  • After the cakes are cooled completely, level the tops, if needed. You'll then wrap each cake layer in plastic wrap and freeze for at least an hour before decorating. It's important to use slightly-chilled cakes when you decorate. The colder cakes will make it easier to handle and you'll have less crumbs get into your crumb coat.
  • If you're making the cakes several days ahead of time, you'll freeze the layers and then give them about 30 to 60 minutes to thaw before decorating.

For the Cranberry Compote

  • In a saucepan, combine the cranberries, sugar and water over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar and then cover to allow the cranberries to cook and soften.
  • When the cranberries have softened and begin to pop, slowly add the sifted corn starch and stir until it is incorporated. (If you don't sift the cornstarch, you'll likely get white clumps in the compote that are hard to dissolve).
  • Allow the cranberries to simmer for another 5-10 minutes. The mixture will become thick and somewhat jelly-like. Transfer to a heatproof bowl and let cool to room temperature or store, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to use.

For the Buttercream

  • In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium-high speed for about two minutes.
  • With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the sifted powdered sugar until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and continue to mix for another minute.
  • Slowly add the heavy cream, followed by the vanilla, pinch of salt and strained cranberry sauce. Once incorporated, turn the speed to medium-high and beat the frosting for 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Be sure to mix the frosting by hand with a spatula or wooden spoon before apply your final coat of frosting. This will help push out the air pockets and create a silky, smooth buttercream which will be easier for you to smooth.


  • Spread a little dollop of frosting on a cake board or cake plate to hold your cake in place. Place your first cake layer, top side up, in the center of the cake board.
  • Evenly spread about ¾ cup frosting over the cake and then pipe a small rim of frosting around the edge of the cake to create a barrier for the cranberry compote.
  • Fill the center of the cake with about ½ to ¾ cup compote. You don't want to over fill the center so the compote doesn't spill out the sides. Reserve any left over compote and serve a scoop of it with the slice of each cake.
  • Follow these steps for the next cake layer and filling.
  • Place the final cake layer, top side down, on the last layer of filling.
  • Apply a thin layer of frosting around the entire cake. This is your crumb coat, which will lock in your crumbs. Freeze the cake for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Once the crumb coat is set, finish frosting the cake with the remaining buttercream.
  • Use fresh cranberries and pistachios for decorating.


If you want to pipe additional decorations on or around your cake, I suggest making an extra half batch of my frosting. 
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Cake
Keyword: Christmas Cake, Cranberry Compote, Pistachio Cake, Pistachio Cranberry Cake

Join the Conversation

  1. What size cake pans are you recommending?

    1. 3 8 inch pans or 4 6 inch pans.

  2. Made this for my in-laws for Christmas! It was delicious! We forgot to grab a lime at the store so I added orange zest instead and it was still really tasty, plus it was so pretty! All of the kids begged for seconds, which I wasn’t sure would happen with the tartness of the cranberry, but it all balanced out beautifully and was delicious.

  3. Can I omit the jello mix? What is its substitute?

    1. Yes you can. Just sub with sugar. The same amount.

  4. 5 stars
    This cake was so good!! I made this for my family and we all loved it and devoured it in one day. I made this gluten-free and it turned out delicious. The cranberry compote in this cake was one of our favorite parts. It complemented the cake perfectly. I am loving your cake recipes! Thank you for sharing!! 🙂

    1. Lolly Bostic says:

      Hey! Do you use instant jello pudding mix? Thx!

  5. Justina Koerper says:

    Hi! Does it matter if the pudding is instant pudding or regular pudding mix?

  6. 5 stars
    I can’t find the pistachio pudding mix anywhere!! What can I substitute for this 🙁 thanks

  7. Can I use powdered pistachios instead of the pudding mix?

    1. You certainly can add them for some texture, but it won’t come out exactly as my layers did. I think it’s worth a shot though!

  8. Hello! Does it matter if you use salted pistachio or did you use just the raw regular?

    1. doesn’t matter!

  9. Jennifer Christian says:

    5 stars
    This cake received rave reviews from my Bible study group! I made three of Courtney’s cakes for this gathering – Cranberry Pistachio, Chocolate Peppermint and Gingerbread Latte. Cranberry Pistachio was the fav, with Chocolate Peppermint a close second.

    I have to admit – I over-baked the Pistachio cake. If you’ve made any of Courtney’s cakes you know they’re time consuming. I wasn’t about to throw this one out and start over. So I racked my brain and decided to poke holes in the cake, then pipe in pistachio pudding! That really helped!

    I also like to make these cakes in four six inch pans – then I create two – two layer cakes – one for others and one for the family!

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