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A rich chocolate cake slathered in light, creamy pistachio frosting and topped with a luscious chocolate ganache, this layered Chocolate Pistachio Cake is a chocolate lover’s dream!

Chocolate pistachio cake on a wooden cake stand with a cream colored napkin around the base.

A Luscious, Decadent Chocolate Cake

This Chocolate Pistachio Cake is chocolatey perfection. Full of rich, chocolate goodness, balanced with a light pistachio buttercream and topped with a silky ganache.

While this layer cake looks extravagant and difficult, it’s actually really simple. I turned to my favorite chocolate cake base. It’s the same one used for my Nutella cake and peppermint fudge cake. The buttercream frosting is easy to make and the chocolate ganache requires just 3 ingredients.

The hardest part of this cake is the time required to make it, which really just requires making the cake layers well in advance so they have time to cool. I like to prepare them the night before so the assembly is quick and easy.

If you’re a fan of chocolate or pistachios, this cake is for you!

A slice of triple layer chocolate pistachio cake on a bamboo plate with a fork next to it.

What You’ll Need

Each layer of this recipe – the chocolate cake, buttercream frosting, and chocolate ganache – is made with easy-to-find ingredients.

Ingredients

  • All-purpose flour
  • Cocoa powder – You’ll need Dutch-processed cocoa powder, not any other kind.
  • Baking soda & baking powder – A small amount of each leavening agent gives this cake the perfect rise and texture.
  • Salt
  • Unsweetened chocolate – Since this cake is so sweet and rich, I don’t recommend sweetened chocolate here.
  • Granulated sugar
  • Vanilla extract
  • Eggs
  • Buttermilk – Buttermilk and eggs helps create a tender crumb.
  • Strong brewed coffee – If you don’t want to use coffee, you can use additional buttermilk.
  • Pistachios – Raw or roasted pistachios both work in this recipe. Roasted pistachios will have a much stronger flavor.
  • Canola oil
  • Unsalted butter – Softened for easier creaming.
  • Heavy cream – Gives the frosting a smooth, creamy texture.
  • Confectioners’ sugar – Sweetens the frosting as well as helps make the texture extra smooth.
  • Green food coloring – Optional but I like to add it to give it the green color.
  • Semisweet chocolate – Be sure to use a quality brand for the best flavor.
  • Light corn syrup – Gives the ganache a glossy finish.

How to Make Chocolate Pistachio Cake

While making this layered pistachio cake does require some time, the process itself is simple.

Prepare the Cake

Make the cake batter. Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over barely simmering water, stirring until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool.

Beat the butter and sugar until fluffy, then add in the eggs and vanilla. Mix in the melted chocolate then gradually add the flour mixture, alternating with buttermilk and coffee.

Bake. Divide the batter between three pans. Use a spatula to smooth out the batter. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes.

Cool slightly in the cake pans, then invert the cakes onto a wire rack to cool completely. Peel the parchment paper off the bottoms.

Prepare the Frosting

Make the pistachio paste. Process the pistachios until they are coarsely ground. Add the oil if needed. Continue to blend, stopping and scraping down the sides as needed, until smooth and creamy.

Make the frosting. Beat the butter until smooth, then add the cream, vanilla and salt. Add 2 cups of confectioner’s sugar, beating until moistened.

Gradually add the remaining confectioner’s sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add in the pistachio paste and food coloring.

Assemble

Assemble the cake. Place the first cake layer on a serving platter and spread a generous amount of frosting over the top. Repeat with the second and third layer.

After the third layer, cover the top and sides of the cake with frosting. Press the chopping pistachios on the sides and on the outer edge. Place in the freezer for 10 minutes.

Add the ganache. Melt the ingredients over a pot of barely simmering water, stirring until melted and smooth. Let cool for 5 minutes.

Spoon over the top of the cake, in the center of the pistachio border, using the spoon to create a smooth layer. Freeze for an additional 10 minutes.

High-angled view of chocolate pistachio cake on a wooden cake stand.

Tips for Success

For the perfect pistachio cake, keep these things in mind.

  • Use roasted pistachios for more flavor. While raw pistachios also work, roasted pistachios will provide much more flavor.
  • Do not overmix the batter. The batter is going to be thick. Be sure to only mix it enough to incorporate the ingredients. Over-mixing will result in a less tender cake.
  • Use only as much confectioner’s sugar as needed. Your buttercream frosting may need more or less confectioner’s sugar depending on how soft the butter is. Add it slowly and don’t worry if you don’t use all of it.
  • Grinding pistachios. You need a strong food processor to grind the pistachios into a paste.

Serving Suggestions

This rich, decadent cake will be a hit whenever and however you serve it. With the light green color, I love to serve this up in the spring and it makes a great Easter dessert as well.

Since it’s a layer cake, I serve smaller slices than usual. There’s no need to add any toppings or anything extra – it’s perfect just as it is!


Can I Make This in Advance?

Yes, parts of this chocolate pistachio cake can be made in advance. The cake layers (once cooled) can be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated. The frosting can also be prepared a day in advance. Be sure to frost and assemble the cake within two days.


How to Store

  • How to store leftovers. Leftover cake can be stored at room temperature or in the fridge. At room temperature it will stay fresh for up to 3 days while it will last for 5 days in the fridge.
  • Can I freeze this cake? Yes, this cake can be frozen. The frosted cake will last for up to 2 months. Just thaw overnight in the fridge before serving.

More Chocolate Cake Recipes:

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aA slice of triple layer chocolate pistachio cake on a bamboo plate with a fork next to it.

Chocolate Pistachio Cake

Yield: 24 servings
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

A rich chocolate cake slathered in light, creamy pistachio frosting and topped with a luscious chocolate ganache, this layer Chocolate Pistachio Cake is a chocolate lover's dream!

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 2 cups (260 g) all-purpose flour
  • ⅔ cup (57 g) Dutch-processed cocoa powder, plus more for dusting the pans
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces (113 g) unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • ¾ cup (170 g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 ¾ cups (350 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups (360 ml) buttermilk
  • ½ cup (120 ml) strong brewed coffee, cooled

For the frosting

  • 1 ½ cups (184 g) unsalted pistachios, shelled - Note 1
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 2 cups (454 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3-6 cups (720 g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1-2 drops green food coloring
  • 1 cup (123 g) unsalted pistachios, shelled and chopped for garnish

For the ganache

  • 2 ounces (56 g) semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup

Instructions

Make the cake

  1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Spray 3 8-inch round pans with nonstick spray. Line the bottoms with parchment paper cut into a circle to fit the pan. Spray the parchment paper with nonstick spray and dust the pan lightly with cocoa powder. Tap out any excess and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir with a whisk and set aside.
  3. Add the chocolate to a small heatproof bowl and set it over a pot of barely simmering water. Stir continuously until melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Set aside to cool.
  4. Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or a handheld electric mixer beat the butter and sugar together on medium-low speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla. Add the melted chocolate and mix until well incorporated. With the mixer set to low speed. gradually add half the flour mixture, followed by the buttermilk and coffee, and then the remaining flour mixture. Beat just until combined. The batter will be thick.
  5. Divide the batter evenly between the 3 prepared pans. Use an offset spatula to spread the batter all the way to the edges of the pan and smooth out the surface. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few dry crumbs. Cool the cake in the pans for 10 minutes, then invert the cakes onto a wire rack to cool completely. Peel the parchment paper off the bottoms before filling.

Make the frosting

  1. In a food processor, process the pistachios until they become coarsely ground. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the oil if the pistachios aren't breaking down easily. Continue to blend, stopping and scraping down the sides as needed until smooth and creamy. This can take a while depending on the strength of your blender. Set aside.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or with an electric hand mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed until smooth. Add the cream, vanilla, and salt. Continue to beat until incorporated.
  3. Add 2 cups of confectioner's sugar, beat on medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened. Gradually add in the remaining sugar, one cup at a time. You may need more or less depending on how soft the butter is. Beat on medium-low speed until the sugar is moistened. Turn the speed up to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the pistachio paste and food coloring. Mix until well combined.

Assemble the cake

  1. Place one cake layer onto a serving platter. Add a generous amount of frosting and spread it to the edge with a spatula. Repeat with a second cake layer, topping it with a generous amount of frosting. Add the third cake layer and cover the top and sides of the cake with frosting. Press chopped pistachios into the sides of the cake near the bottom and coming up less than halfway. Sprinkle pistachios over the outer edge on top of the cake creating a 1-inch border. Set the cake in the freezer for 10 minutes.

Make the ganache

  1. Place the chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in a medium heatproof bowl set over a pot of barely simmering water. Stir until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
  2. Spoon the ganache over the top of the cake in the center of the pistachio border. Use the back of the spoon to create a smooth layer of ganache. Set the cake back into the freezer for 10 minutes.

Notes

  1. You can use dry roasted or raw pistachios. The roasted pistachios will have a stronger flavor.

Make ahead tip

  1. Once the cake has been assembled, it will stay fresh for up to 3 days at room temperature or up to 5 days in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.
  2. The frosted cake can be frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature just before serving. 
  3. Wrap baked and cooled cake layers tightly in plastic wrap and store them in the refrigerator. The frosting can be prepared, covered, and refrigerated overnight. Assemble and frost the cake within 2 days.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 24 Serving Size: 1 slice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 758Total Fat: 33gSaturated Fat: 17gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 76mgSodium: 333mgCarbohydrates: 114gFiber: 3gSugar: 99gProtein: 6g

The nutrition information provided is for convenience and as a courtesy only. It is not guaranteed to be accurate because nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator and input the exact ingredients you used in the recipe.

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41 Comments

  1. What adjustments to the recipe are needed to make it up at altitude? We are talking over 4500 feet in altitude. TIA

    1. Unfortunately, I don’t bake at high altitude so I can’t offer suggestions.