pistachio petit-four cake

Last weekend, I baked three birthday cakes. One of my mother’s oldest friends was turning 65, and when she mentioned that she was going to order the cake for her birthday party from a bakery, I had to object. People, when I turn 65 someone better bake me a homemade cake, is all I am saying. I think the very least someone deserves for hitting such a fine age with style is a friend, elbows-deep in flour, frosting and devotion.

So I volunteered myself, and I knew exactly what I wanted to make. I had seen this utterly insane and therefore completely and totally awesome cake on Leite’s a couple months ago. It involved all of the best things on earth: a pistachio layer cake, thin ribbons of jam, sheets of marzipan and bitter-chocolate ganache filling and coating. It had marzipan flowers on top, with a trail of pistachios simulating leaves. It was the prettiest things I have ever seen.

pistachio cake batter

But as we got to discussing what would work for her party, we decided to go another route, one that would ensure there would be something for everyone, and in a move that everyone I know still considers utterly insane, I offered to bake three: one Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake (I doubled it, filled and coated it with ganache), one Tiramisu Cake and one Perfect Party Cake from Dorie Greenspan (don’t worry, I’ll get to this one soon). What can I say? I imagined three square cakes lined up on their stands, and the cuteness was almost too much to bear.

Astoundingly, we made it to the party on time with all three cakes intact–and even managed to score a parking space right in front of the Upper West Side apartment building, making for the easiest cake-delivery, ever. But I forgot my camera, something I might kick myself for until the end of time. [P.S. The cakes were a hit!]

pistachio cake cooling

So why am I telling you about this today? Because I couldn’t get the pistachio-marzipan-chocolate cake out of my mind. And my birthday was last week. And I wanted that cake, and that cake only. I bided my time until Sunday, when we’d see our families for Father’s Day and SantaDad’s birthday, not to mention my mother (the ultimate marzipan fanatic). And though the cake decorating session I commenced at 10:30 p.m. on Saturday night was the grimiest, messiest, most gummed-counter one yet, I have to say: this puts last year’s birthday cake to shame.

rolling marzipanmarzipan layerapricot layerganache layerglazing the "petit four"fin

Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne modeled this cake after European petits fours glacees, those pretty, tiny, complicated things composed of cake layers and jams, covered in fondant, marzipan, chocolate or glaze, always with a piped flower on top. This is my kind of baking. I loved how elaborate the cake was, such a welcome change from the generic layers plus butter cream readily available. I can’t wait to see what else is in the book. But really–because who are we kidding here–I can’t wait to try the leftover slice in the fridge tonight.


Pistachio Petit Four Cake
Adapted from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes via Leite’s Culinaria

Look, I don’t need to tell you that this cake is a little insane to make. But I can tell you it’s worth it, and not nearly as complicated as it might seem from the outset. It’s a one bowl (plus food processor) cake, the jam comes from a jar, ganache takes two minutes to make, and next time, I’d probably just buy the marzipan from a tube, already made, rather than making my own from almond paste.

For the cake
3/4 cup skinned pistachio nuts
1 2/3 cups sugar
2 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 eggs, lightly beaten

For the marzipan
8 ounces almond paste
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup

For the dark ganache glaze
1 pound extra-bittersweet chocolate
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup apricot preserves

Marzipan roses for decoration (optional; see note)

Make the cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter three 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. Spread out the pistachios in a baking pan and toast in the oven for 7 to 10 minutes, or until lightly colored. Transfer to a dish and let cool completely. Finely chop the pistachios and set 1/4 cup aside for decoration.

3. Put the remaining 1/2 cup pistachios in a food processor. Add the sugar and pulse just enough to grind them finely.

4. Pour into a large mixing bowl and add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Blend with the mixer on low for 30 seconds. Add the butter, milk, and vanilla and, with the mixer on low, beat until completely incorporated.

5. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the beaten eggs in 2 or 3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl well and mixing only long enough to blend after each addition. Divide the batter among the 3 prepared pans.

6. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the layers to cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely.

Make the marzipan
1. Crumble the almond paste into a large mixing bowl. Use an electric mixer on low speed to soften the almond paste. Add the confectioners’ sugar and corn syrup and beat until smooth. Wrap well in plastic so it doesn’t dry out, and allow to rest at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours before rolling out.

Make the dark ganache glaze
1. Chop the chocolate coarsely and put it in a heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to a bare simmer. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth and use the glaze soon after making so that it doesn’t set.

Assemble the cake
1. Roll out a third of the marzipan on a work surface dusted with a little confectioners’ sugar to about 1/8-inch thickness.

2. Set one of the cake pans upside down on the marzipan and trim around it with a small knife to make an 8-inch round. Repeat two more times with the remaining marzipan. Save all your scraps to make roses for decoration, if you like.

3. Place one cake layer on a cake board, flat side up. Spread 1/4 cup of the preserves evenly over the top, leaving a 1/4-inch margin all around. Place one marzipan round on top of the preserves and spread 1/3 cup of the Dark Ganache Glaze over the marzipan so that it completely covers the surface. Repeat with the second cake layer, adding more preserves, another round of marzipan, and more ganache glaze. Top the cake with the third layer. Spread the last of the apricot preserves over the top of the cake and cover it with the last round of marzipan.

4. Place the cake on a wire cooling rack that is nesting in a baking pan. Pour the remaining ganache glaze over the cake, in several additions, spreading to coat the top and sides. Allow the ganache to set. Garnish the cake with the reserved chopped toasted pistachio nuts and a single marzipan rose or several smaller roses.

Note: To make marzipan roses
1. First, tint the marzipan, if desired, by kneading in a tiny amount of paste food coloring, dabbing just a small bit onto the marzipan with the tip of a toothpick. Flatten the tinted marzipan into a disk and roll out on a work surface dusted with confectioners’ sugar or between 2 sheets of waxed paper to a sheet 1/8 inch thick.

2. With a 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, cut out 8 or 9 circles. Cover all the marzipan you are not using immediately with plastic wrap so it doesn’t dry out.

3. Roll one piece of marzipan into a ball the size of a marble and pinch with your fingers to shape into a cone about 1 to 1 1/4 inches high, tapering to a fine point at the top.

4. Take another round of marzipan and wrap it like a petal around the cone, pinching it at the bottom to adhere and at the top to thin and ruffle slightly like a flower. Repeat with the remaining “petals,” overlapping slightly as you work your way around. If necessary, use a little water to help glue the marzipan in place.

Some Prep and Travel Tips

The more cakes I make, the more I get back to the basics I learned when I worked in a bakery in high school. Previously, I never thought that all of those “extra” things they did applied to the home baker; I was wrong.

First, I baked the cake itself a few days in advance, flash-froze them, wrapped each layer in three sheets of plastic wrap, and decorated it, still frozen. This made them very easy to maneuver, and saved me from the chaos that would be baking and decorating in one session. (It also saved us the mighty inferno of last weekend’s weather. By the time the heatwave hit, I’d already had all the cakes baked, THANK GOD.) Wrapped well, you can freeze cakes for up to a month and nobody would ever know upon tasting the final product.

Second, I finally started using cake boards, or those cardboard rounds about 1-inch wider in diameter than the cake. Bakeries use them for a reason: they protect the sides of the cake when it is boxed up. They also make it very easy to transfer the cake from box to plate. You can line them with a shiny foil paper or a doily. Having tried both, I think I prefer the former.

Third, I’m finally slipping some scraps of waxed paper under the cake, protecting the board from my decorating messes. Yes, I know this is Cake Decorating 101 material, but my laziness always won out in the past.

Finally, I didn’t even bother trying to use my cake carrier. I simply bought three boxes from a local bakery (they give them to us for about $2 each, the smartest money we spend.) Hearkening back to my bakery days, I tied them with bakery string, the honest-to-god easiest way to carry a boxed cake, while keeping it balanced. In a pinch, you can even stack the boxes (rotating each one slightly, so their sides cross the corners of the box below), though I don’t recommend this for any extended period of time.

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190 comments on pistachio petit-four cake

  1. Three cakes! The madness! This pistachio cake looks absolutely packed with flavor! I love the marzipan, jam AND ganache. Not only is the cake amazing, but the fact that you had three cakes AND found a killer parking spot is a show stopper in itself. Go you!

  2. You baked not one, not two but three cakes last weekend? During the heatwave to end all heatwaves? The birthday lady must be one special woman.

    And happy belated birthday to you too!

  3. Taryn

    I adore pistachios, and it’s refreshing to see them in a dessert that is not pudding-related. I might just have to pick up some marzipan and make it myself. And speaking of the Hazelnut Brown Butter cake, I made that last week and it was devoured faster than I could save myself an extra piece for later… shame! :(

  4. Dancer who eats

    WOW….. Happy Birthday! I am salivating and I am a “salty”, not “sweet” person…… drool…….

  5. Cannot. Stop. Drooling.Darn, we’re leaving to go out of town in two days… won’t be able to try this until halfway through July! But it’s bookmarked and I’m determined. This looks awesome.

    Happy Birthday!

  6. Natalie

    Oh I love your site- sometimes I keep it up for a while, and just refresh the screen to see if you’ve posted something new. I’m not really a commenting kind of gal- and until recently, not a baking type of gal either, but thanks to you and Ree from Pioneer Woman, I’m a changed soul. I want want want to make this cake- I just recently purchased a cake carrier, so I feel up to the challenge- not to mention I LOVE pistachios; but I am truly intimidated- my kitchen is also re-to-the-donkulously small- and I am not quite familiar w/ marizpan, or ganache- (yikes! i know..). However- I am confident that, despite my learning curve- I can make this cake! Any advice, for an adventurous not-quite-a-beginner-but-not-a-novice-baker, such as myself?

    PS- I feel your pain, up there hugging it out w/the AC- here in Birmingham, AL, it is allready well into the 90’s most days- and it’s only june…sigh.
    PPS- I’ve been stalking your chocolate babka recipe for weeks- srsly. I’m a recipe stalker- if I don’t make it sooner rather than later- I will just keep returning to look at it, and think about making it, than actually making it- I don’t want this cake to go the way of the babka!!

  7. Allie

    this all sounds amazing. would love more on how you manage to bake 3 cakes at one time in a small kitchen – where did you keep them in between baking them and the party? and how do you find room in your freezer to freeze a layer cake?

    ps: made the confetti bean salad this week – fabulous (though I added more lime, as my 1 lime didn’t seem juicy enough). will be eating it all week!

  8. santadad

    I can still taste that cake from last night. I keep staring at the slice in the refridgerator and saying, “NO! NO! NO!”

  9. The pistashio cake looks yummy…but I keep fixating on making three cakes for one party. I can’t even remember the last time I baked a cake, much less three! I’m so ashamed…my Grandma will get a fresh baked cake from me on her next birthday!

  10. deb

    I didn’t bake the three cakes all at once. I baked them over the week and two weeks before, and froze them. I had to kick the ice cream maker bowl and a big container of high-gluten bread flour (from the bagel-making last fall!) out of the freezer to make some space, but otherwise just stacked the cake layers, each individually wrapped. They were all the same size: 8-inch square.

    Btw, not that anyone asked, but I realized mid-way through my 8-inch square cake-a-thon the most startling math: these pans hold the same volume as a 9-inch circle (not, as I was thinking, an 8-inch circle). Whoever said nobody uses geometry equations post-school was lying.

  11. danny

    Hey! Wifey and I bake cakes from scratch for ALL family and friends…kinda became our “trademark”. This cake looks like a winner….can’t wait to bake one

  12. Mireille

    Wow! Just waiting for your blog today was worth it! Miam, le gateau de pistache! It might also go well with passionfruit, or white chocolate frosting. I agree 100% that baking a homemade cake is twice as better than buying one for a special birthday. However, the only exception is if we were in France or some pastry shops in Japan, then it is just as good to buy a cake in a shop, than bake one. Excellent!

  13. Ann

    Oh the insanity! Three cakes. This one would’ve sounded delicious with one of these “wow” ingredients – but the combo of marzipan, ganache, and preserves – really makes it sound over-the-top. Gorgeousness.

  14. Peky

    OH My!! This is crazy!! You just completely put down all the cakes I’ve ever had for my birthdayss!! I’m sooooo craving for this one!! I love pistachio..I LOVEEE chocolate!!..and my birthday was just last month!! Hahaha.. Could you FedEx?? :D

  15. Good grief. This is love in cake form. You can tell by how long the instructions are!!

    But I’m with you. You just can’t have a momentous birthday without someone putting themselves out. But this is a whole new layer of love. Absolutely stunning.

  16. Yum! Looks good. I hope some one makes me a homemade cake too! I can’t stand to eat anything from a box anymore. Homemade is almost no more effort {unless you are making this cake!} and tastes sooo much better!

  17. Deb, I have that book and it’s absolutely fabulous. It’s a recent purchase, so I have only tried one recipe from it (Chocolate cola cake with toasted coconut-almond frosting, it’s on my blog). It was a huge hit. Even my dad, who is not into birthday cakes, ate it and ate it again. :)
    Your cake is absolutely gorgeous!

  18. LyB

    I hate forgetting my camera, but it keeps happening to me. Then I kick myself forever! I can imagine those three cakes lined up, must have been spectacular. The pistachio cake sounds incredible, and it looks fabulous.

  19. to Dancer who eats: you are drooling because you’re a salty person and there are pistachios in the cake!! ;-) yummy.

    Deb: this sounds like it is a retro blast from the past: layer cake, pistachios, flowers…if only the flowers were just regular piped frosting, then i could see this on the tattered, yellowed pages of a cookbook that’s 30+ years old!

    congrats on all your hard work, it looks like it turned out great!

  20. Susan

    Oh..don’t you love birthdays as an excuse to try new cake recipes? The BD person is so grateful even if the cake is, unfortunately, mediocre. Just knowing someone attempted it for them make them happy. I insist on making my own BD cake too cuz I want what I want on that special day, thank you very much, I’ll just do it my own self!

    These cakes sound wonderful. I love marzipan too but have never worked with it. My son’s kindergarten teacher sent me some petite fours with toppings of apricot jam and marzipan but with a white icing, once ages ago..I’ve never forgotten them they were so this pistacio petite four cake intrigues me.

    Thanks, Deb..your experimenting keeps me stretching my skills too!

  21. Allie

    Deb, since you are the cake queen, thoughts on a good chocolate cupcake that kids and adults will enjoy? And that can be made ahead of time? (Though can be frosted right before.) I will be making at least 50.


  22. nan

    I’m absolutely parched…for cake, that is…and I’d give my first born for a slice of yours – it looks divine…divinely divine…okay, I’ll go grab a handful of Cheetos or something to quench my cake thirst. Nan

  23. Sarah

    What is it going to take to make you my best friend? We can spend the rest of our lives baking each other cakes, sharing recipes and ideas, and antique shopping for cute stands!

  24. amy b

    Deb, desperate for a classic golden cake recipe that will be moist, buttery, and delectable… any suggestions? Do you have a favorite?

  25. Well this is it for me. Next February, when I turn 60, I am going to make this cake for myself, to make sure I get the exact cake I want. I’m not even much of a cake person, but this is the One for me. Gorgeous, and pistachios get me right where I live.

  26. What a beautiful cake. I love that you objected from her ordering from a bakery…I guess I shouldn’t order from a bakery for my birthday coming up either, huh. Will you bake me a cake?! :)

  27. joelle

    Wow – Deb – that’s a beauty! I want to make it for my Dad’s birthday now…

    What do you mean by flash-freeze? Do you put them in the freezer directly from the oven? Or sometime after cooling?

    I certainly won’t be able to make the whole cake in one night, especially how the DC heat works against me…

  28. Kaley

    Marzipan a.k.a. “mazapan” is sooo popular in the town I studied abroad in this past semester. (Toledo, Spain) So this sounds delicious!! I want to try to make it, a rather ambitious undertaking to be sure, but thanks for posting it!

  29. Absinthe

    I made this for my own birthday on Saturday since I’m the baker in my circle and enjoy cake baking in particular. What a gorgeous and delicious cake. My only tweak next time, and there WILL be a next time, would be to use a different type of icing. Don’t get me wrong, the bittersweet ganache looks gorgeous and tastes wonderful in its own right. However, I thought the delicate pistachio flavor a little overwhelmed by the chocolate. What could be the alternative, though? White chocolate ganache? Hmm.

  30. Laura

    I made this cake this weekend and it was so delicious! My only critique is that next time I’m going to have more marzipan! So delicious! I can no longer eat store bought cake. After the orange chocolate chunk, chocolate mosaic cheesecake, pineapple upside down and now this one, all my friends ever do is ask me to make them a cake! Thanks SK!

  31. Erin

    I am making this cake tomorrow for a birthday party and when I was reading through the recipe again and shelling my salted pistachios I noticed (like Chirky) that it does not specify salted or unsalted. I got online to read through the comments and saw that you noted that you used unsalted. Would it be possible to use salted pistachios and maybe skip the salt in the cake, or would that affect the texture/flavor of the cake adversely?

  32. Katie in Berkeley

    I made this cake this weekend and loved it. It was a great process, and fun. A few notes about what I might do differently next time:

    1. More pistachios! The half-cup somehow wasn’t quite enough, flavor-wise, in the finished product.
    2. More apricot! I had exactly 3/4 c. and it got a little buried under the marzipan and chocolate flavors.
    3. Marzipan: I went with store-bought and needed about 18 oz.
    4. Less ganache. It came out a bit chocolately for my taste, considering the other yumminess that was waiting below.

    I made the roses, less any food coloring, and the off-white marzipan looked faboo on the chocolate ganache.

    Thanks for sharing and inspiring. :-)

  33. Hi there! I just had to come by and say that I made this pistachio chocolate cake yesterday for a birthday occasion, and it was DELICIOUS. Thank you so much for posting about it and photographing it, it made it so much easier. I was worried the cake wouldn’t turn out or that the glaze wouldn’t make it, but no, it was all perfect. Without the nudge from your posts about these gorgeous cakes I probably would have done one of my usual cupcake batches but this was so much better. In fact, I am wondering about how to make it in cupcake form….

    Also, in the last week I’ve completely followed the leader and made huevos rancheros, and they were wonderful. Must make again.

  34. Susan

    Deb, I just had to thank you, finally, for posting this recipe. I made this cake yesterday (along with 2 other cakes; sound familiar?) for my daughter’s party today. This cake was simply outstanding. I took your advice and just bought the marzipan and I’m glad I did, I’m sure it would have been too much work with all the other things I had going on. This was my first time using marzipan and wasn’t hard at all. Iit rolled out easily for the cake layers and the roses were even easy fact, I just rolled bits of the stuff into balls and flattend them with the bottom of a glass..perfect circles, then cut the circles in half to form the rose petals..they went together so pretty and easily..I was so impressed with myself! ANYWAY, everyone just raved about this cake, the combination is really very nice. The cake itself was so moist and had good body..not dense, but not fluffy either..more tender firm, my favorite kind of texture. The ganache was heavenly. I made sure I had all the layers completely assembled before I poured on the ganache, so it went off without a hitch..and was glossy and beautiful on top with waves of chocolate spreading out from the pour. Gorgeous! You were’s not a difficult cake to put together at all, it just reads like it would be. You are becoming my courage to bake new and interesting things, and I thank you for that.

  35. Susan

    Oh, one more thing..I did tone down the ganache. I had some Sharfenberger 70% and it is a little too bitter for my taste and I was afraid it would drown out the delicate flavors of the cake, marzipan and apricot. So, I used 8oz Ghiradelli semi sweet and 8oz of their 60% bittersweet. It was perfect. I even took the chocolate that dripped into the pan and made a few truffles out of it. Man..were they good!

  36. I have to say, this is the best cake I have ever eaten, let alone made. I have been ‘stalking’ this recipe since you posted it, and finally got a chance to make it. It did not disappoint. Delicious. I can’t wait to make (and devour) it again! Thank you for sharing!

  37. I want to make this for my Daddy’s birthday, which we’re celebrating in LA (I live in SF). How should I prep/transport? Should I make the whole thing and refrigerate for a few days till I fly? Freeze it? I’ve also never baked a cake before :D

  38. Kayte

    I would just like to say that this looks like the most amazing cake in the history of the universe. I am definitely the world’s biggest marzipan fanatic. I even named my little kitten Marzipan. My birthday is on the 8th of next month, so hopefully I can find someone to make it for me!

  39. Mommabird

    Delicious disaster! You cannot cut this cake cool, let it set at room temp for an hour! The chocolate ganache is too hard to put a candle in or cut. I baked this exact cake for my mother’s 80 th birthday this weekend. It looked beautiful until we tried to put a candle in. It cracked and fell apart all over. Warning,let it get soft at room temp before attempting to serve (thanks for telling me as I’d never made ganache before). Also,if you buy the marzipan in 6 oz tube , you will need three…I had only bought one and didn’t have near enough. But it was yummy. Could become pretty expensive to make.

  40. Michele

    My son and I made this cake for special dinner guests…it was much easier than I anticipated and came out beautifully! Your blog is always a source of inspiration…thanks so much!

  41. kari

    Woo! I love this recipe. Attempting to making cupcakes for a Spring party this weekend–we’ll see how they turn out. Did you ever post the Dorie Greenspan Perfect Birthday Cake? Thanks for this Deb. It’s a beautiful cake!

  42. Lisa

    Hey Deb! Thanks so much for all of the great recipes! This one looks spectacular. I’m making it for my sister’s birthday this Friday, and I just made the cake layers and flash froze them. They’re all wrapped up in the freezer waiting for assembly. What’s your suggestion for the defrosting/assembly/decorating timeline? I can either do the cake Thursday night or Friday morning. What would you suggest so that it’s ready to go Friday night? And if I assemble/decorate on Thursday, should it be refrigerated overnight? Or is it ok left out on a closed cake stand? Thanks!

    1. deb

      You can frost it either day. I don’t think that this cake must be refrigerated, but if you’re nervous (cream in the ganache? probably pretty stable but…) just put it in the fridge overnight. You should check out my layer cake tips. I think that’ll cover your other questions. Good luck!

  43. j

    I REALLY need some advice…I am making this cake for mother’s day tomorrow and have run into a BIG problem:
    I only have one 8 inch cake pan- do you think I should use 2 9 inch cake pans? or perhaps 2 9 inch and the one eight inch?

    1. deb

      You can bake it in 9-inch pans… I did! Slightly thinner layers, but nobody will be the wiser as a three-layer cake is already pretty tall.

  44. j

    Thanks so much for the advice… it’s just like me to panic over nothing. Anyway, In the nine inch pans it took about 20 minutes to bake, just to forwarn anyone else caught in a similar conondrum. The cake was fantastic and absolutely BEAUTIFUL!!! I made a few changes which I totally recommend. First, I used just scant of one cup of apricot preserves and I microwaved the preserves to loosen them up a bit before spreading on. Also, to keep it moist, I made a simple syrup (per deb’s instructions) with brandy and simple syrup. I was afraid to mess with the amount of pistachio in the cake per other’s suggestions, but I added a dash of almond extract to really bring out the nuttiness in the cake layers. Finally, I messed around with the marzipan quite a bit…and I totally advise anyone making this to MAKE IT IN THE FOOD PROCESSOR (this made the whole process so simple and it cake out perfectly even with my alterations)!!!!!!! I used delicious raw honey in place of half the corn syrup for superior flavor. Also, almond paste is sold in 7 oz tubes, and at 6 dollars per tube I was not about to buy another tube for the last ounce; therefore I ended up adding one ounce of raw almonds. I just let everything rip in the food processor, drizzled in a little extra honey until it all came together in a beautiful dough, and then wrapped it in a double layer of plastic wrap to keep it moist. The marzipan behaved just beautifully for me and was so delicious. Overall this was a fantastically beautiful and delicious cake and was much easier than I had anticipated.

  45. My mother positively cried today when I made her this cake. It’s definitely the coolest cake recipe I’ve tried so far, and your instructions/tips were great. Everyone in my family said they thought the dark chocolate was a bit much, so I think the next time I make it I’ll either cut back on the amount of ganache or substitute milk chocolate for half of the dark. But oooooh, this was good. And my favorite part was making the marzipan roses per your excellent instructions. :)

  46. Also, I meant to add my own tips/observations about this recipe for the possible benefit of others who try this cake (since I had to make it twice and messed around with it a bit):

    1. I used storebought marzipan and one 7-ounce tube was the perfect amount for filling and four small roses. Bought an extra tube just in case, but ended up not needing it. (though I was tempted to bust it open just to make more roses.. SO much fun!)
    2. Make sure you use the parchment in the baking pan; my first parchment-less cakes stuck like crazy and were unusable, even though I greased (with Crisco) and floured the pans. (more cakey for me to snacky. just broke my heart.)
    3. In the first cakes, I followed the recipe’s recommendation for the amount of pistachio; in the second cakes I doubled it (used 1 full cup) and preferred this. Also, my pistachios were salted, but I rinsed them and omitted the salt in the recipe, which worked well.
    4. Like I said earlier, I plan to tweak the dark chocolate’s role in this just a bit. I thought the apricot and marzipan amounts were perfect, but I thought they and the pistachio flavor were overwhelmed by the dark chocolate.

    So.. you know, not that it really matters :).. but tharr’s my two and a half cents. This cake was so much fun to make and didn’t take nearly as long as I anticipated. A keeper for sure!

  47. Yael

    Ran into this, and was thinking of perhaps making it for some occasion (I’ll find a reason!), because we bought some pistachio puree last Passover and I’ve been wanting to use what we have left.
    Then read through the instructions and realised you don’t use puree, you use actual pistachios. How would you suggest to make the switch?
    I guess there might be different types of those purees, what we have is non-brand (through a local baking shop), and it is made from ground pistachios and oil (I asked them), so is not sweet, but rather oily, so I can’t used it straight instead of the pistachios-ground-with-sugar, in the recipe… maybe drop some of the butter? Any ideas?

  48. Elisa

    Hi, Deb!

    This looks ridiculously fantastic, and I’m thinking of making it for my next birthday. I just wanted to know, that if I buy my marzipan ready from a shop, how much would I need?

    Thanks for the recipe!

  49. Debs

    Elisa, I just made this cake (literally; it’s chilling in the fridge) and I needed 2 tubes of marzipan (they were 7 oz. each). That was enough for the three circles and a few roses. I did require a pretty good sprinkling of powdered sugar on both my countertop and my rolling pin — straight from the packaging, the marzipan was sticky (and Houston is humid). Also, I used Susan’s tip about making the roses — rolling marzipan into small balls and flattening with the bottom of a glass.

    Agree with J and Lisa, above — the cake was fun to make and came together quicker than I thought it would. It’s going into the repertoire!

  50. sarah

    Hi Deb! I just finished making this cake into cupcakes for a coworker’s birthday tomorrow (no need for plates and utensils that way!), and WOW, that is one delicious batter! I haven’t tasted one yet, but I’m optimistic. I halved your recipe to make only 12 cupcakes, filled the cupcakes with apricot preserves (a la your method with the irish whiskey/cream cupcakes), and then glazed. I skipped the marzipan, b/c I have never worked with it before and was nervous enough about the cupcake conversion, but if I make the cupcake version again, I’m definitely going to try a marzipan rose or two. Thanks Deb!

  51. Hoda

    Hi Deb! I’m planning on making this cake for a friends birthday and was wondering how you think a chocolate marzipan top would hold up. I’m thinking of replacing the chocolate ganache with a marzipan or chocolate marzipan coating and was curious if you think the cakes are dense enough to hold it. Also do you have a good chocolate marzipan recipe?

  52. Hi Deb! I checked out Leite’s website just for fun and it’s been reorganized, fyi. The page I found asked surfers to let referring websites know so they could update their links. I’m hugely enjoying reading your archives and have resolved to make a wedding cake (I know, everyone says that). For practice, though, I think I’m going to be coming here a lot for warm-up cakes! Thanks for a fantastic site!!!

  53. I made this cake yesterday for my husband’s birthday. A few notes from my experience:
    1. Tastes a lot better the second day!
    2. I used Ghiradelli 60% bittersweet chips and it was still a little much for me, although my husband liked it the way it was.
    3. I could only find shelled salted pistachios and I just rinsed them and cut the salt in half in the recipe and it worked fine. I also put the full 3/4 cup of pistachios in the batter and liked it like that.
    4. I bought extra-fine baking marizpan from World Market for $3.99 a stick. Each stick was about 5 ounces and I used 3 sticks.

    You can see my post about it here:

  54. Dominique

    I love to bake and I saw this recipe with in perfect timing to bake it for Easter! I agree that you need to up the pistachio amount, I would at the very least double it next time I make it. I knew the ganache would be a bit much for my taste as written in the recipe so I doctored it a bit. I used Ghiradelli 60% bittersweet chips, but when bringing the cream to a simmer I added about 1/2 cup of honey and the insides of 1 whole vanilla bean. I suggest whomever thought the plain ganache was too strong try this. I think I will also try adding a bit of sour cream to my cake batter next time, it turned out just a little drier than I’d like.

  55. Katie

    Long time reader, first time commenter — this cake just made me do it! I made this yesterday for my boyfriend’s birthday, and it was a huge hit. I bumped up the number of pistachios to a full cup, and added a dash of almond extract to the batter. I baked this in three, 9-inch pans for about 20 minutes. It was definitely time-consuming, but no where near as daunting as I expected. The cake batter was, well, a piece of cake, and by using store-bought marzipan I cut the time down a great deal. (It wasn’t that messy either — I just used a generous sprinkling of powdered sugar now and then, and stored the marzipan layers between parchment paper while the cake cooled.) I had SO much fun decorating this, and the marzipan roses garnered a lot of praise. (They definitely look more complicated to make than they are.) Plus, the cake is just phenomenally delicious. Fantastic!

  56. ConorRoberts

    OK. After weeks of craving this one, I finally found time to make it. As I sit and admire my work(giggle), I can not help but wonder how long it will be before my frozen cake layers will be thawed.

    My cake layers were less than level, and thus it was hard to get the ganache to look even. I suppose I can level the layers, and trim the edges. I’ve never tried to do so before and more so I couldn’t wait that long to get this thing ready to eat this time, perhaps in the future.

    Thank you for what was an easier than expected recipe!

  57. Made this for a friend’s birthday this weekend. Thought the pistachio cake’s flavor actually got a bit lost with the ganache and the preserves overpowering it…. and I had even amped up the pistachios to a full cup. I could barely finish my piece and I have a wicked sweet tooth… it was a pretty cake… but too sweet for my taste. Maybe it would be nice sliced reeeaaallly thin with a strong cup of coffee on the side?

  58. Grace

    I just made the cake part of your recipe and it is to die for. Moist and holds up well for icing. SO good and FINALLY a recipe that doesn’t use pudding mix and uses real pistachios instead. As I’m not a fond of marzipan, so I used 1 tsp of vanilla and 1 tsp of almond extract instead. Unfortunately the person I’m making the cake for doesn’t like chocolate so I’m just going to use vanilla frosting with ground pistachios instead. Thank you for the recipe and wonderful photos.

  59. Matt

    Do you like Dorie Greenspan’s Perferct Party Cake? It does indeed look like *the* perfect cake, but I’ve read the icing can be sweet, and I know you don’t like sweet things. Any advice with it? Thanks!

    1. deb

      I’ve made the cake; it’s a white cake, which was lovely but not my favorite as they can get dry very easily and must be brushed with syrup to avoid this. Very pretty cake though. The frosting looks like a swiss buttercream (I have a post about this over here) with a bit of lemon in it, which I think is pretty cool for contrast. I would say that most swiss buttercreams are not overly sweet; I mean, they’re sweet but not like quick buttercreams which rely on sugar for structure so they need a lot more. SB’s rely on egg whites and a whole lotta butter. They spread nicely and don’t crust but they do taste very buttery. Hope that helps.

  60. Heather McPherson

    Made this cake on Thursday for our 22 year daughter’s birthday – looked every bit as good as your pictures. Two tips – I added pure almond flavouring to the marzipan as I found it a bit bland. I found 1 1/2inch cookie cutter too big to make the rose petals so I took a medicine bottle with a child proof lid and pried out the “child proof” inner part. This made a perfect circle cutter that was under 1 inch. Heeded other commenters and didn’t use bittersweet chocolate but just dark chocolate.

  61. Ilana

    Hi Deb,
    I am itching to make this cake, but I have already ground pistachios, and cannot measure them by cups. Do you have any estimation about the weight of 3/4 cups of whole pistachios?
    Thanks in advance.

  62. Martianet

    After reading your post, I too had to make this cake! Made it tonight, and ate it shortly after finishing assembling it – this is lush! I’m not a huge fan of marzipan but it works very well in contrast with the ganache. As one of my guests said, it’s a proper autumnal cake to eat with a hot cup of coffee as the rain and wind howl outside. Thanks for sharing!

  63. Devyani

    Thank you for this recipe!! I finally made this cake for my husband’s birthday party 2 months ago and the whole thing was almost gone by the end of the night. The only changes I made were making a two-layer cake since I had two 9-inch round pans and no 8-inch pans. I would’ve loved to make it a 3-layer one but wasn’t sure if the individual layers would come out too thin in the 9-inch pans. Also, I’d never worked with marzipan before so I decided to get the ready marzipan in a tube from the grocery store but it was a complete disaster to work with. It was completely stiff and I wasn’t able to roll it out smoothly. I tried microwaving it to soften it but it just got harder the longer it stayed out and I finally had to toss it and just go with the apricot preserves between the layers. It still turned out really yummy!! Any tips for working with the store-bought marzipan or if one brand is better than the other? I’ll try making the marzipan from scratch next time and see how it turns out. But all in all, this recipe was absolutely one of the best I’ve ever tried! Keep up the good work!

  64. Liz D.

    So, so, so excited about this cake. Have been lusting after it for some time, but have decided finally it is time to get in and make it. My birthday is coming up in two days and I think this cake is in order. I always do a fabulous birthday cake (usually from the SK kitchen, actually) once a year, either for my birthday, or for our anniversary. This year it is all about me. Thanks for the scrupulous notes, Deb. Also, thanks to all those that posted amounts on marzipan pre-made and 9 in pans – I was looking for that info and was glad to find it in the notes.

  65. Liz D.

    Update: I made the cake and it is hands down the most awesome cake I have ever produced. It is easier than it looks. Time consuming yes, but not difficult. And it is the most delicious combination of flavors I think I have yet to experience. Try this cake ASAP!

  66. Cosgrove’s gal

    Made this yesterday and it is stupendous. What a cake! A friend and I did it together for a party — this one and the lemon layer cake. It took us six hours for both. The pistachio cake is beyond wonderful. It has already gone down in legend among our friends. We used raspberry instead of apricot for the glaze ’cause one person doesn’t like apricot, and rolled out the marzipan very thin. It was gorgeous and elegant and divine and I love how tall and narrow it is. What a fabulous recipe. Thanks for everything, Deb. Esp the mushrooms bourguignons, which we love and which are our best dish now for vegetarian dinner parties.

  67. Jeanne T.

    My daughter made this for my birthday (yesterday), It is the best cake I have ever tasted. She did a fantastic job. She loves me. (It was a lot of work for her – without a food processor.)

  68. Making this cake with a lemon curd filling for Easter cannot wait to see how it comes out! …It will also be one of my first blog posts on my new blog :-D. Thank you for all your inspiring ideas!!

  69. I have just discovered your wonderful blog. I sent it to both of my daughters as a result, the oldest one wanted this cake made for her birthday which is on Monday (our Victoria Day holiday). She helped peel the raw pistachios.(covering them with boiling water and allowing then to sit for 30 minutes makes this task very easy.
    I did all the measuring while my daughter did the peeling. I then put the cake together after she went to her home. I had not taken a good look at the picturesyou provided and should have since after the cake was in the oven I discovered the measured butter on the counter. I now have a basically fat free cake. I had buttered the parchment so all 3 layers came out just fine.I used 8 inch square pans. The crumbs tasted just fine but just in case the cake tastes terrible , I have just finished making 3 more layers using butter this time. The batter this time did look just like your picture. It has finished baking and came out of the oven just fine.
    Do you think the fat-free cake layers will be edible? Anyway, thanks for a great cake recipe. I will use the hints I read about for the marzipan and ganache.

  70. hazelnutbbdoublecake

    “one Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake (I doubled it, filled and coated it with ganache)”

    hey hey hey …you drop this as an aside! holding out on us, here? i jest. but how much ganache do you use to fill and frost the double layer?

  71. Jen

    What an amazing birthday cake! I am saving this recipe for my own birthday.. well, that’s in March. I am saving this recipe for a worthy holiday!

    Oh, heck, maybe I’ll make it this weekend.. for funsies!

  72. Grace

    I made this cake and it was simply marvelous. Following some of the feedback, I added about 50% more pistachio in the cake and used a combination of bittersweet and semisweet chocolate in the ganache (about 60 bitter, 40 semi). I also used store bought marzipan and found that two tubes was more than enough. The only change I would make next time is to use 9 inch cake pans. I didn’t read ALL the comments and didn’t catch the ones about using 9 inch (which is what I have) so I actually went out and bought 8 inch pans. The cake ended up being a bit too high for my liking – I think I would have preferred the thinner layers that would have resulted from using 9 inch pans. Would probably make frosting easier as well. It’s a truly fabulous cake and does require some effort but it is indeed worth it!

  73. Karen

    By the way, Rose Levy Beranbaum has an amazing pistachio marzipan recipe in her book Cake Bible. I used it for a wedding cake once and it was fantastic. I bet it would be a wonderful substitute for your almond marzipan layer in this cake as a variation.

  74. I would like to make this for my mother-in-law’s birthday but I’m concerned the cake may be too dry. I have the Sky High book and notice a lot of their cakes turn out a little on the dry side. Any thoughts, Deb? What did you think of the texture and crumb of this cake?

  75. deb

    I didn’t find this one dry, but you can always brush it with a flavored simple syrup if you’re concerned. I think the cakes that some folks find dry are her white cakes, i.e. the ones made with egg whites only. They’re used a lot in weddings because they’re light and stack and level well, and of course, have a bright color.

  76. Michelle

    Just made this cake for my birthday today. Delicious!! Took others advice and upped the pistachios to 1 cup total. Agree that this really made for a pistachio punch! Also, made a few changes for personal preference. Instead of apricot, we went for raspberry which was super yummy, especially paired with the Magnolia Bakery’s Creamy Vanilla Frosting, which we made into Creamy Almond Frosting. I love me some buttercream frosting and that recipe, listed on Epicurious, has a less intensely sweet taste and is super smooth. For that recipe, I only made 75% of the frosting as it called for 2 pounds of butter and that just seemed excessive. 75% produced the perfect amount of frosting for three layers. Anywho, I made my own marzipan from scratch using bourbon as the liquid element. It came out okay, but I’m no marzipan expert so its hard for me to say how good it really was comparatively. Bottom-line, loved this cake, love all the prior bakers’ comments which were an incredible help, and love Deb’s feedback in the comments as well. What an excellent blog!

  77. Inés

    I’m about to make this cake and I live in Spain. I’ve never work with Marzipan and I’m not sure which kind to get. Here it seems to be sold either with 50-50 almond-sugar ratio, or 33-64 almond sugar ratio… If anyone know which would be better for rolling out and placing between layers, let me know! Thanks!

  78. KitKat

    I made this cake for a dinner party (and my mom’s birthday!) this weekend, and it was amazing! I’m pretty impatient and had no problems assembling the cake without flash freezing (or waiting a full two hours for the marzipan to chill.) I made a two layer version with the ganache (which was an overall hit), and a smaller, one layer cake without ganache for our hostess, who can’t have chocolate. I’m a chocoholic and so preferred the original, but the lighter cake was well loved by the hostess as well as by my mom. I had difficulty effectively blending the marzipan ingredients, so I added about two tablespoons of slightly warmed butter to the mixture, accompanied by a pinch of cake flour. I also kneaded the marzipan by hand a bit in order to get everything to stick together. The batter is delicious, but I did feel that the pistachio cake would have been slightly dry to eat by itself (however, when layered with the jam and marzipan, the cake texture is fine and was picky dad approved, at least in my house.)

  79. Cayla

    Great cake! My uncle loves pistachios and I have found it increasingly difficult to find good birthday cakes which include them. I did change the recipe quite a bit though because I’m a vegan. I was worried it wouldn’t turn out very well but it did so thanks for the inspiration!

  80. Elle

    Do you think the same recipe for ganache would work with white chocolate instead? Or would the amount of cocoa butter somehow change it?

  81. Rachel K

    Deb-I have loved everything I have made from your site. Would love to make this cake for the boyfriend (haven’t yet made him the you-won’t-be-single-for-long pasta yet, for obvious reasons) BUT he doesn’t like chocolate (his one major flaw) so any ideas for a different frosting? Would a buttercream work you think?

  82. Cherie M

    I made this for my mother’s birthday, which was last night. I took your advice and made the cakes earlier in the week, then made the marzipan and some apricot preserves the day before assembly, and the ganache the day of. Everything turned out perfect, and the cake got rave reviews! Thank you for sharing, and thank you more for the tips. This is definitely a keeper.

    My only change was to put a touch of butter in the hot cream before pouring it over the chocolate. It gave the chocolate a nice sheen and made it a little easier to cut at serving time.

  83. Susie

    I’ve now made this cake 4 times for different reasons (my birthday, christmas eve, friends birthday and just a test) and it’s been perfect each time. Absolutely delicious, easy, perfect. Thanks so much!

  84. Vidya

    Did you find that the batter for this cake was really, really thick? I don’t have a stand mixer and my arm almost broke off trying to whip up a triple batch of this in one go. Lesson learned, stick to one batch at a time, else invest in a KitchenAid. It also took a long, long time to cook and browned a lot before it was done all the way through, so parts were a little dry. Still delicious though, so, so rich and buttery and the flavour of the pistachios really comes through.

  85. Alyssa

    I was considering making this cake for my birthday since I absolutely adore marzipan, but am not the biggest fan of pistachios. Has anyone tried to make this cake with a different type of nut? I was thinking of using almonds to go with the marzipan and adding a bit of almond extract to boot.

  86. Jen

    Thank you for this recipe. This cake has won a permanent position in my cake top five. I am trying it out today with a dash of apricot in the apricot preserves. I was wondering if you had an tips for “boozing” up a cake? The fancy liquors section of my house bar just don’t find enough use. To those who had problems spreading the preserves: I find if you brush it through a sieve, it has a much nicer, silkier consistency.
    Thanks for all the wonderfulness; I can’t wait for your book!

  87. Tia

    I just made this gorgeous cake and it’s a smashing success. I’m probably an intermediate-level baker and was able to follow the recipe and make adjustments where required – I think a beginner could make this recipe as long as she is patient and considers the notes in the comments (and elsewhere around the baking blogosphere) to troubleshoot in case anything starts going south.

    First and foremost, I prefer not to use cake flour. Give me a dense cake any day! None of this fluffy, powdery, “tender crumb” stuff for me. I find cake flour makes cakes not only too crumbly and hard to work with, but the texture and mouth-feel is just not satisfying. I went ahead and substituted all purpose flour for the cake flour without causing problems in the recipe or final result. Just make sure you remove two tablespoons per one cup of flour in the recipe when you use all purpose instead of cake flour.

    I also increased the pistachio amount to 3/4 cup, as per the suggestion of many notes here, and used 1 teaspoon of almond extract and 1 of vanilla instead of the recipe’s 2 teaspoons of vanilla. That really upped the nutty flavor in the baked cake.

    One nice thing about this cake is that it domes when you bake it (which made me nervous) but flattens back out as it cools. I like to carve my cakes so they have sharp, straight tops and sides and carving was not necessary with these tops. To trim the sides for a very professional look, I find it’s easiest to cut a paper plate into the size you want, place it on top of your layers, put them on a plate you can turn, and trim with a serrated bread knife in a continuous saw, keeping the knife perpendicular to the plates. I’m not sure this would work very well with the cake flour recipe (it would produce lots of crumbs, I think) but with the all purpose flour it came out very clean and straight.

    Also, I used 6 inch pans instead of 8 or 9 inch. I think this cake just looks so elegant when it’s small. I got 5 layers out of the full recipe, so I made a little double layer cake today and saved three in the freezer for a birthday coming up in a few weeks. I’ll probably only make that one a double as well, and it takes a lot of pressure off to know you have a spare layer in case of a disaster! I also wrapped up half the marzipan tightly in the fridge, but only made half the ganache recipe today because I find it doesn’t keep.

    Okay, let’s talk marzipan. Why, oh, why would anyone use corn syrup here? It’s not necessary. Feel free to sub honey if corn syrup freaks you out as much as it freaks me out. When candy making corn syrup is a necessary evil because it cooks in a particular way you can’t really replicate properly with a substitute like honey, but since the marzipan isn’t cooked you can use honey. Also, I only used half the amount of confectioner’s sugar. Yikes.

    This probably made my marzipan just a touch too sticky, as I should have reduced the amount of honey along with it but forgot. I really don’t recommend you use more confectioner’s sugar to deal with sticky marzipan when you roll it out and make your roses. It actually isn’t very good at keeping things from sticking to pretty much everything (you, your kitchen, your utensils, itself, your cat). Keep corn starch handy and you’ll have no need to be intimidated by your marzipan (I admit, I was a little at first). Use it generously, it brushes right off and you really can’t taste it unless you go super crazy with it. Also, I highly recommend gel food coloring and not liquid. A little goes a very (very) long way.

    What else? Oh, I reduced the amount of cream in the ganache by about a quarter cup and instead put in a few tablespoons of butter and a few tablespoons of coffee, plus a touch of vanilla extract for flavor. I think that giving it a little depth of flavor may help cut the richness some people reported in the comments.

    I baked the cakes and made the marzipan yesterday, assembled, made the ganache, and decorated today. Today took me about 2 hours. Not including clean-up (there is chocolate and corn starch and possibly food coloring all over my kitchen right now). But the cake is so gorgeous and delicious and I will definitely keep it in my repertoire of fancy cakes.

    Thanks so much for posting this recipe!

  88. Adrienne

    Hey Deb, quick question. Do you think these will work fine as cupcakes? I think my friend will like for her birthday this weekend but I hate trying to travel out into the city with a cake, so I usually make these into cupcake form.

  89. Sarah

    This is my first time commenting, but not my first time making one of your recipes. You’re my go-to for desserts, and I’ve got a list of recipes to try about a mile long, and my husband has joined the band wagon for your savory dishes.
    I made this cake for my birthday, and I loved the cake, and the apricot and marzipan, but the chocolate ganache ended up feeling like too much. It might have been because I used 55% cacao Callebaut that I had on hand thanks to a stroke of luck at Costco, maybe it would have been better with a slightly less dark chocolate, or a little sugar thrown into the ganache (GASP, sacrilege!). I ended up eating the frosting off the cake, taking a big swig of water, and then eating the cake separately. I’m not exactly complaining about the experience…
    Anyway, a lighter chocolate would probably go really well with this cake since the cake itself isn’t so sweet that it needs the bitterness of the dark chocolate to cut it, and as much as I love chocolate, a non-chocolate frosting would transform it from rich over-indulgence into something light and pleasantly fruity. The recipe came out exactly as described though and is otherwise flawless. I wouldn’t want to attempt it without at least a hand mixer though, like I saw some people did, because if you do it right, the batter does get very thick.

  90. phara

    I just made this for thanksgiving. I turned it into a kind of persian cake, adding saffron to the batter, and 2 t. rosewater and the juice of one lime to the apricot jam. I was so excited by this I haven’t slept for two nights. I’m going around acting like I invented cake. I listened to the people who said ‘too much chocolate’ and made ganache using 3/4 cup cream: 10 oz chocolate. Bittersweet ghirardelli. So it’s there, but in significantly less quantity. I also listened to those who urged ‘more pistachios’, adding 1 1/4 c. to the batter. The bowl of cake scraps in jam and chocolate went down good.
    What am I thankful for this thanksgiving? I’m beyond thankful for your site, your recipes, your enthusiasm, and your generosity of spirit! I’ve lived in your blog for a year, and I’ve never loved cooking or eating more. THANK YOU)))) and happy thanksgiving!!

  91. marwa

    Hello. I’m looking for a nice cake recipe to decorate for my daughter’s second birthday. I love pistachios and almonds and this cake looks awesome. I wondering if it would be a good idea to replace the ganache with nutella…that would be easier and everyone loves nutella. Has anyone tried it? Or can anyone predict how the flavors would blend? I’m not a baker at all….Also, I want to cover the cake with marzipan or fondant. So, I wouldn’t cover the entire cake with nutella, just the layers. Then I’d use apricot jam as a glue for the marzipan. Any tips and/or advice would be greatly appreciated!!! Thanks!

  92. CookFromMassachusetts

    I made this cake and it is amazing. I am going to remake it for a birthday (I wanted to do a test drive and I’m glad I did!) I went into the kitchen and there was a note from my 21 year old son: “Mom, this is the cake of the Gods.” Nuff said.

    My hints: I used Trader Joe’s bittersweet chocolate. MEH. Use good chocolate. I will upgrade for the real birthday cake.
    I had two 8 inch pans that were my grandmothers and bought a third but they were a bit different: when the cake was done it looked a bit topsy turvy.

    ALso, I used apricot preseves and it was very chunky, I think I would cut up the bits a bit to make a smoother finish. But hey, even imperfect, it was amazing and my husband is French. NOW to tackle those roses…

  93. Kathy in St. Louis

    Finally made this after stalking it on and off for a year or two. Despite the fact that I used half bread flour and half white whole wheat, added twice as much cream as it needed for the ganache, and baked the layers in disposable pie tins (hey, I’ve taken a perhaps-too-long break from baking), it was a very special, perfectly rich, special-occasion cake. We loved the way the apricot zinged through the heavier, earthy, richer elements, tying everything together. Oh! And I’m here to say that if the only marzipan you can easily get is a chocolate-covered bar, that’s okay. I bashed mine up in the mixer, then added powdered sugar and corn syrup (and almond extract, to help overpower the chocolate coating) without measuring. This was the first time I’ve worked with marzipan in this way, and I enjoyed it. Thanks, Deb, for another winner!

  94. mm

    made it for my lovely mother in law’s birthday – we share a love for marzipan – and it was a hit. for those considering this cake i would definitely recommend using cake flour – i forgot this and the cakes though very nice were just a tad firm. next time i would probably make a scaled-back version with just two layers as it is very rich and our tastes are a little simpler. still, a fabulous fabulous cake, and the marzipan flowers are just so pretty and easy to create. my toddler ‘helped’ and was so proud of himself! thanks smitten kitchen!

  95. I just made this for my sister’s surprise birthday party. Many people said it was the best cake they’ve ever had. Turned out absolutely gorgeous and tasted just as good as it looks. I love the sky high cakes book, so many amazing cakes!

  96. Rachel K.

    Thank you for this recipe! I have been trying to find a pistachio cake recipe for my friend’s wedding cake I am baking because she asked me to make one like I made 3 years ago. However, I cannot for the life of me remember how I made it! I think I just added pistachios to a yellow cake recipe but I really don’t want to mess up her cake since it is for her wedding! All the other pistachio cake recipes online are the old fashioned one with pistachio Jell-o and I know I didn’t do that last time. I can’t wait to try this because it looks amazing!

  97. carol

    Hi Deb
    Always like your recipes and the way I can link to the past. I have absolutely no occasion for this cake but it sounds so delicious I am going to make it this weekend and hopefully be able to give slices away. Two questionsif you have a way to read comments on old recipes; would you use that marzipan in a tube and how do you think that the Pound Plus bar of Trader Joe chocolate would work in a ganache. I have been using it , smashed up in that fancy NYT chocolate chip cookie so that they don’t cost a fortune. (btw it works great in that.) Love your stuff

    1. deb

      carol — Yes on the TJ’s chocolate; it’s great for baking. I would try packaged marzipan next time; it felt like an excessive step at that point to make my own. See Comment #67 and 74 and 90 (and more), where readers suggest amounts

  98. Amanda

    This makes me think of the dominostein that my great-uncle sent us from Germany every year, and it makes me nostalgic and happy. And I am probably going to make this cake as soon as I can manufacture a reason to do so!

    And, on that note, how many does this serve? And, sheepishly I am forced to ask how could I adapt it for a wedding cake!

  99. Susie

    I love thus cake more than just about any other cake I’ve ever made. I have made it as my birthday cake several years running. Just made it with hazelnuts instead of pistachios and frosted it with a chocolate, caramel ganache frosting from Food52 and it’s phenomenal this way too. Such a great cake. Thanks.

  100. Kelley

    Hi Deb,

    How many would you say this cake serves? I’m making the cake for a friend who is expecting about 40 people and I’m not sure how to scale it up.

    I’m also thinking of using the pistachio cake, making a strawberry filling, and doing a rose water whipped cream topping. I’m hoping the floral of the rose water will mimic the bitterness of the chocolate ganache. What do you think?

    1. deb

      Kelly — You might use a wedding cake cutting guide as a place to start. If you’re cutting it like that, the way the pros do in very small pieces (as the cakes are tall) you have almost what you need in one cake. If you want to cut it in generous slices, it’s often just 8 to 10 per cake, sometimes 12.

  101. Fjoony

    Hi Deb, I will be attempting this cake in the next day or two-it looks incredible. How do you transfer your cakes from cooling rack (after ganache) to your cake board??

  102. anne

    Thanks for posting the recipe! (And the tips…!) I just made this cake and had a few notes I can share in case it’s helpful to anyone reading this.
    First – upped the pistachio content and even with with double the amount it was still a subtle pistachio flavor on the first day. So subtle I was wondering of the peeling, roasting and pulsing of the pistachios was really worth it. On the second and third day the flavor really came together. So: this cake is best prepared a day on advance.
    I used sour cream instead of heavy cream and used just slightly more (1.5 cups): delicious frosting.
    I used raspberry preserves rather than apricot. FlVors went together well.
    This cake is huge!! It yields probably 20 big pieces. Next time I will halve the recipe.
    I used a 12X6, cut it in half and did my two layers that way. Because the frosting covers the cake, no one could see the “cut” side. Saved me a lot of time baking only one cake. I monitored it closely and cooked it for 28m.
    Overall a really good recipe but very time consuming. Took me about 2.5hours including baking and cooling time.

  103. MB

    Just served this at my Aunt’s 70th birthday! It was a huge hit! If folks read down this far, I thought the ganache with 60% Ghirardelli chips was divine, not overpowering at all. I only had 9 inch cake pans, and it took 19-20 minutes for those to cook. I used pre-shelled, pre-roasted and salted pistachios (no way I was shelling and roasting nuts!), which eliminated a ton of work and I just did not add the salt to the batter, turned out great. Not too salty. I liked the amount of pistachio flavor from the amount in the recipe and didn’t add any other extracts. I did find it hard to work with marzipan (I used store-bought and had never used it before), it took a couple of tries before I finally used enough powdered sugar to keep it from sticking after I rolled it out. I did not attempt the roses :-) Thanks for this awesome, beautiful cake! It completely reminded me of eating petit fours as a special treat as a kid.

  104. Laura W.

    I made the cake layers with almonds instead of pistachios, and they are wonderful! (I’m using a different filling/icing, but since so many people were wondering about almonds, I figured I’d post my experience.) The only other substitution was to use almond extract instead of vanilla. The layers are both nutty and sweet–they capture both the nuttiness of eating an almond straight, as well as that delicious sweet-almond-dessert flavor.

    That being said, while almonds are delicious, I can totally see this cake being even better with pistachios. The cake is almost creamy or milky (?) in the way that pistachio desserts tend to be.

    One more thing–if you use the trick with the wet towel strips on the side of the pans, this is a good place to use it. My layers were very domed. I trimmed off almost the equivalent of a whole layer from the three 8-inch rounds.

  105. Laura L.

    Just served this for a family birthday extravaganza: Dad’s 75th, Sister’s 45th, Uncle’s 70th, Brother in law’s 48th. Made it exactly as written, including the store bought marzipan (14 oz. total). I used Guittard extra dark (63%) baking chips 11.5 oz bag, plus 4 oz. Ghirardelli bittersweet (60%), plus a few Guittard semisweet thrown in for the extra half oz. Fantastic! We love you, Deb!! You’ve made me a more confident and adventurous baker. My husband discovered you years ago and is also an amazing cook, so cheers to you both!! Thank you for the care and fun you put into your work and our kitchen :)

  106. jayme

    I made this cake yesterday. I didn’t read the comments first, but skimming them now, I see others who agree that there’s too much ganache. Maybe I just prefer a more delicate frosting / filling in general, but especially in this application, the ganache overwhelms any pistachio taste – which is annoying mostly because pistachios are expensive and annoying to shell. This cake still tastes good, especially with plenty of piping hot coffee, and I’m sure some folks would say there’s never too much ganache – but I find myself leaving some on the plate, which is telling.

  107. Amy

    My partner and I made this as a birthday cake and it was phenomenal. It received a lot of compliments and was generally irresistible.

    We doubled the pistachios in the layers like a few other readers recommended, and they ended up with a very nice, prominent pistachio flavor. If I made it again I wouldn’t try to use all the ganache – a thin layer on the outside, like the amount between the layers, would have been plenty.

  108. Neja

    This cake basically includes all my boyfriend’s favourite things so I made it for his birthday this weekend.
    I only have 23 cm (9-inch) springforms so I made 1.5 times the recipe divided in two springforms which I then split after baking (and cooling) into four layers. After all the recommendations in the comments I used 1 1/2 cups of pistachios and 400 g of store-bought marzipan.
    Oh, and I used original amount of ganache which was perfect.
    Even with slightly underbaking the layers, the cake was delicious with a nice pistachio flavour!

  109. Helene Cass

    I made this cake for my daughter’s 29th birthday and it was AMAZING! Everyone who tasted is was blown away–a friend said it was “life changing”!!!

    My daughter chose this cake from your website and as a result I am now a devoted fan and follower of the Smitten Kitchen.

    Thank you so much!

    Helene Cass

  110. I just made this tonight! I started it at about 7:15pm and finished just around 9:30pm. Of course, this means I didn’t wait long enough for my layers to cool or the marzipan to set for hours, but it is still wonderful looking and tasting! I did not have three 8 inch round pans, so I used my two 8 inch rounds plus a 9 inch pie pan. I just trimmed off the excess cake from the biggest layer and had one shorter layer than the others, but it only affected the look, not the taste. I also somehow did not use up all the chocolate ganache, so we drizzled the extra onto the slices after we cut the cake. It was not a simple cake, but it is delicious. I decided to make this at my husband’s request, and I am glad I tried it! Thank you, Deb, for a great recipe!

  111. Lindsey

    I’m a long time follower and almost exclusively use your recipes for baked goods. I need advice!! I’ve been commissioned to make a lemon-pistachio teired topsy turvy cake! I’m thinking I’ll use this recipe for the pistachio cake and double it. And then use your lemon curd recipe for the filling and use your Swiss buttercream recipe and add some lemon to the frosting. My questions: should I use a lemon syrup to moisten the cakes? How would I go about adding lemony flavor to the buttercream? Any other tips?! Thank you!!

  112. I browned the butter and let it cool to room temperature for this cake. I lost a little in the pan/from transfer and made up the rest of the weight with regular butter. I did 2/3 of the recipe and divided it into three 6in pans because I like thicker cake layers. It came together so easily and baked up with the perfect texture! I did double the pistachios like others suggested, and am glad I did. I filled my cake with blackberry jam and made an orange honey American buttercream/cream cheese frosting hybrid to cover it. I kept cutting more pieces to “taste” before bringing it to work! Thanks for the amazing cake recipe!

  113. phyllis

    Hi, I am ready to make this wonderful looking cake – but I would try to buy the Marzipan instead of making my own, as you said I might do…. How much Marzipan should I buy? they come in 7 oz tubes, and your make your own uses 8 oz of almond paste plus the conf. sugar and corn syrup…. so do I need 2 tubes?

  114. deletemygravatar

    I haven’t made the recipe above, only the pistachio cake, and it is THE BEST cake recipe I have in my repertoire now. I frost it with with raspberry swiss meringue buttercream and fill in with lemon curd and it is HEAVEN! My partner requested it two years in a row and now our friend has requested it for her wedding! Thank you, Deb, for helping me bring so much joy to the people I love :)

    I wanted to share some of the dry measurements by weight, in case that is helpful to others:

    – 140 g pistachios (like people in the comments suggested, I doubled the amount Deb calls for… 140 g is just for the cake batter, not the decoration. So I guess that’d be… 210 g)
    – 330 g sugar
    – 240 g cake flour
    – 15 g baking powder
    – 5 g salt

  115. I made this and it came out great! Here are my collected thoughts, based on the wisdom of the other commenters.

    1. Pistachios: I used 1c pistachios in the batter – they were salted and roasted already. I did NOT soak them to lower the salty factor but I did skip the other salt in the ingredients list. I measured out the cup of pistachios before grinding them. It tasted great, not too salty at all.

    2. I used 1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste and 1/2 tsp almond extract and it tasted really good – I chose these measurements by happenstance as I only had 1/2 tsp left of the almond extract.

    3. Marzipan: I bought pre-made, two tubes of 7 oz each. I wound up only using 1 1/2 tubes for the disks – I think I used about 50 grams each before rolling, to keep them the same thickness. I later learned I’m terrible at marzipan flowers so I actually had a half-tube that I didn’t use, so next time I might use more marzipan per disk. Also, I rolled out using cornstarch instead of powdered sugar and it worked well.

    4. Ganache: I used 60% less-dark and 40% more-dark (I forget now what the cocoa percentages were). I was sparing on the ganache in the layers and on the outside, and had almost a cup of ganache left over. This was a good choice because even with a fairly thin coat of ganache on the outside and in the layers, it gave a pretty pronounced dark chocolate flavor.

    5. Decoration: I copied Jessica who posted her picture/comment in June 2008. I cut a big hole in a piece of parchment paper and left about a 2-inch margin, filled the center with chopped pistachios and pressed them gently into the ganache. It looked great!

    Other notes: This is the first time I’ve used a cake board (I cut mine from a box and covered with foil) and it was LIFE CHANGING. Highly recommend.

    And, this was a pretty expensive cake: with the pistachios and marzipan it cost about $50. I would probably make it again but only for a very special occasion. But it was really enjoyable and I’m so glad I tried it!

    (sorry if this gets posted twice – I am having issues!)

  116. Debby

    so, this is probably going to sound weird, but instead of making/buying marzipan, what would you think of just using plain almond paste instead?! Would it work?

    1. deb

      I feel like it would here. I’m very overdue to revisit this recipe — soon, I hope. I’ll report back when I do. I definitely wouldn’t make it again, but that’s just me. Marzipan is almond paste that’s a little sweeter and has other ingredients that help it mold into shapes better, so it might be easier to roll out, however.

  117. Rebecca

    I want to nominate this recipe as one that’s ready for an update with weights. I’m looking forward to making this cake this weekend as my birthday cake for myself. (Everyone else in my family always demands your chocolate cake with peanut butter cream cheese frosting, so my own birthday is the only time I get to try anything new.) I see that one commenter added her own weights for the cake part. Thanks DELETEMYGRAVATAR! But it’d be great to have weights for the fillings and decorations, too, especially with all of the conversation in the comments about marzipan and pistachio substitutions and cutting back on the ganache. I have some marzipan brought back from a summer trip to Lubeck that I’m excited to use. I’ll eyeball a reasonable amount and cut a chunk off and I’m sure it’ll be tasty no matter what, but it’d be nice to have a more precise guide :)

  118. Graceann Dorse

    Literally making this right now. I have to take a break to write this… I should have realized that creaming the butter with the sugar/pistachio mixture FIRST, then incorporating the milk and flour alternating, would have been the way to go. As it is right now, I followed the directions and mixed the butter, sugar/pistachios, and flour all together. Now I have a tough mess because I’m overworking the flour as I’m trying to cream the butter. (Yes, my butter was at room temp). I know everyone else is raving about this recipe, but I am ashamed as a baker that I didn’t see this misstep ahead of time and course corrected. Unless mixing everything all together serves a larger purpose that I’m missing?

    1. Megan

      This cake uses a reverse creaming method. The dry ingredients get coated with fat before most of the liquid ingredients are added. In this and other recipes, I’ve found that the reverse creaming method makes for a more even air pockets and better texture than the standard creaming method.

      For reference, it took about 45 seconds in my stand mixer, scraping once, to get the fat blended into the dry ingredients. It looks awful at this step, but looks good again after the 2-3 minutes at medium speed.

  119. Reney

    Hi Deb,
    I’m hoping you see this in time. I’m planning to buy new ingredients today. Would it be okay to assemble the cake the day before? I need to travel with it for a socially distanced 40th birthday party and don’t want to assemble on site. Thanks.

    1. deb

      Absolutely. It keeps well. I’d maybe do fridge overnight (but it’s not essential, a cool spot would be fine) and then car-temp the rest of the way.

      1. Reney

        One other question. If I’m putting this on a cake board, do I still glaze on wire rack and then slide into cake board or just protect cake board with wax paper while glazing? Thank you.

  120. Kate

    Ok here to share all my missteps and reassurance that they didn’t matter.
    1) Pistachios- could only find “lightly salted.” Tried to soak them to get salt out, but ended up leaving them too long and they became a soft mess. Just very briefly rinsed the next batch and dried in a towel quickly. Kept recipe’s amount of salt. I measured nuts with 1/4 cup and just did heaping cups three times. Turned out just fine. The pistachio flavor was good but I wonder if even more would be even better- or would it maybe dry out the cake? Maybe reduce a little flour in that case?
    2) Marzipan- made according to recipe but my almond paste would not soften and wouldn’t mix. It seemed way too dry. I flicked a bit of water into it and it came together finally…..but then it was way too wet! Like a paste that just stuck to the counter or parchment paper or rolling pin when I rolled it out. I ended up patching together pieces of it onto the apricot preserve layer (looked like land masses on a map), which turned out 100% fine and delicious and did not impede spreading the ganache and just seemed like a marzipan layer when eating. When making the flowers, I realized I just had to add a ton more powdered sugar to firm it up enough to form the petals. My flowers looked a little suggestively Georgia O’Keefe but the whole package was really pretty.
    3) used an apricot jam that was ‘simply fruit’ and it came out great. I almost skipped this layer cuz I’m not a big jam or apricot person BUT DON’T DO THAT! It really kept the cake bright and complex and contrasted beautifully with the dark chocolate.
    4) I used about 3/4 60% Ghirardelli baking chips and 1/4 semisweet chocolate chips because that’s what I had and it came out great.
    I made this for a neighbor’s birthday and they both said it was the most complex flavor they’d had in a cake and they absolutely loved it. It was definitely quite a project for me! But rewarding!

  121. H R

    Does the marzipan really add to the taste/texture? We don’t get ready made marzipan in India and making homemade marzipan adds another layer of complexity to this recipe!
    Also, can we use another flavour of jam/preserves instead of apricot? I’m not toot fond of apricot, also we don’t get this either in India. Would raspberry work?

    1. deb

      So I love the marzipan here, but it doesn’t mean it won’t work without it, it’s just a different sort of cake. Pistachio jam sounds wonderful too!

  122. JanetinBeantown

    I made this cake with the recommended doubling of pistachios, and while the flavor was great, I found the texture too dense for a multilayer cake. Instead of the chocolate ganache, I filled and topped with honey buttercream from zoebakes. Yum.

  123. Sujatha Nigam

    Has anyone ever tried substituting hazelnuts for pistachios? No particular need except that I happen to have the perfect amount of hazelnuts in my pantry to use up. Would marzipan/apricot flavor profile still work?

  124. Sandra

    Has anyone tried making what sounds like an amazing cake in 9 inch pans? I seem to have many assorted sizes but no 8 inch. And thought tempted, am reluctant to add yet more pans to my already overflowing cupboards. Thanks!

    1. deb

      An 8-inch square will hold the same volume as 9-inch round at a similar height, so they’re a clean swap. An 8-inch round will be taller, but I don’t think these are so high that it will spill out.