The Best Gluten Free Pistachio Cupcakes

Moist, tender, nutty, and oh-so delicious - this pistachio cake will knock your socks completely off. You'll never reach for another recipe.. ever. It's full of flavor and will have you coming back for another bite, every time. And, I promise you - you'll never know it's gluten free. 

I've always been a huge fan of pistachio flavored anything. Pudding, macarons, cookies, mousse, ice cream, etc. But, I remember when I tried pistachio cake for the first time. I had a friend and client who asked for a gluten free pistachio cake for her wedding cake, and I had never made one before.

I immediately popped into the kitchen to start testing to see if I could create one that I was proud enough to serve at her intimate lake wedding.

After a bit of experimenting, I created the perfect one, and I've never looked back. I used inspiration from several different recipes, but mainly Sally's from Sally's Baking Recipes. I've adapted her recipe and my recipe has been inspired by hers. 

I love this cake so much that I even used included this flavor in one of the tiers of my own wedding cake. (See the photos below - the pistachio cake was in the top tier, and it was completely devoured by all of our guests.) I very gladly smashed it in my husband's face - not shown in these photos. But, it was so stinking delicious. Are you hungry yet?


One of my childhood best friends (of nineteen years) got married on October 29, 2022 in South Bend, Indiana, and following, she had a celebration with the rest of our friends and family here in North Carolina who couldn't attend the wedding. So, I got to make all of the cupcakes for their party, and it was so fun.

This delicious cupcake was one of the flavors, and I paired it with a fresh blueberry buttercream. It was spectacular. It might have been my favorite of the three options we had, all of which were gluten free. I decided to give myself a bit of an extra challenge, ha!

Ingredients Needed for Gluten Free Pistachio Cake:

- Pistachios: Whole, roasted pistachio are used & ground up finely in a food processor until it's pistachio meal, almost. Think of it as pistachio flour, like almond flour is - just not as fine. I try to get it as fine as I can without making pistachio butter. I don't mind a few little pieces in the cake to add some texture. It adds a unique touch. 

- Gluten Free Flour: I make my own flour blend, and it does not contain xanthan gum. When I use a store-bought flour blend - I like to get one without xanthin gum, so that I can control the amount that goes into to each baked good. 

I love the King Arthur All Purpose Flour Mix, as it is one of the only gluten free store bought blends that does not contain xanthan gum. I just love this brand, anyway. They have wonderful products - not sponsored. I have loved them for years. 

- Xanthan Gum: I know that it sounds like I defeat the purpose of buying a gluten free flour blend without xanthan gum,  but I like to be able to control the amount that goes into each baked good. Depending on what I am wanting to make - whether pizza crust, muffin, cupcake, or scone, each need a differing amount of xanthan gum to achieve the proper texture I am looking for. This gives me the best control for this. Trust me on this. No one wants a gummy or rubbery cake. Ew. 

- Baking Powder & Baking Soda

- Salt

- Butter: I use unsalted butter, and it needs to be really soft.

- Sugar

- Egg Whites, room temperature

- Sour Cream, room temperature : I have not tried this with a non dairy sour cream, but lactose sour cream works splendidly. When you're able, always use full fat, over low-fat.

- Vanilla Extract

- Almond Extract : This adds to the nutty flavor and helps it feel a bit more like pistachio. I know, its a bit odd to add almond, but it works. Just be careful to not add too much. It's strong stuff.

- Pistachio Flavor / Emulsion : this is optional, but sometimes I will add in a splash, and I like the added boost of flavor it gives. This is the one I use, and I have purchased it from Amazon.

- Milk : You can use oat milk or a non dairy milk, but whole milk always works best.

- Green Food Coloring : I use Moss Green, and only about 1 drop. It does not need much. This step is also optional. This is the one I use from Americolor.

Can I Make this into a Cake instead of Cupcakes?

Absolutely, this recipe works great as a layered cake, as I have already shared. All you need to do is divide the cake batter into three greased and parchment lined 6-inch cake pans. 

If you're baking them into layers, the cakes will need to bake longer than the cupcakes:

- Bake at 350°F for between 23-25 minutes, checking for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean and without any batter, it is done.

- Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for about 10 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely before stacking and decorating your cake.

How Do I Make a Gluten Free Cake into a Regular Cake? 

If you and your family are not in need of a gluten free cake, no worries! Here's all you need to do:

- Swap the flour amount that this recipe calls for - 2 1/3 cups (or 257 grams) and swap it for Cake Flour, NOT simply All Purpose flour. It would work, but the cake would be heavier than normal.

If you've ever wondered what the difference is between cake flour and all purpose flour - here is a great article from King Arthur that explains it. 


What Buttercream Should I Use?

Oh, what a question. The possibilities are endless, and oh so fun.

Personally, this cake is phenomenal with this Fresh Blueberry Buttercream, and I just adore it. It brightens it up and isn't too sweet. It might be borderline perfect. However, I love so many others too.

I do love a classic Traditional Vanilla Buttercream, as you can never really go wrong with that. It's what you grew up with eating every birthday, and is just made with softened butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, splash of milk, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. 

Another classic to try is the incredible, creamy, dreamy, decadent, luxurious, heavenly, and every other delicious adjective you can think of .... Vanilla Italian Meringue Buttercream. It's made by first whipping together an Italian Meringue with a hot sugar syrup and whipped egg whites, and adding in softened butter and vanilla bean paste. It's so delicious. It's my favorite style of buttercream. It's a bit of a labor or love for the first couple times you make it, but it is worth it. That would be so dang good on these cupcakes, too. You can easily flavor that buttercream in other ways, too. 

Looking for other delicious cake recipes and inspiration?

- Check out this Churro Inspired Cake that I created and competed with on Food Network's Halloween Wars Season 12 - Episode 5. The judges loved it, and it's perfectly balanced between bright, creamy, light, spicy, sweet, and a touch of warmth. It's so divine. You can't miss it. Especially that Strawberry Chili Jam. It's delicious on so many things. It combines all the warm and delicious flavors of a churro and includes some wonderful textures, too. It's a win - win. 

- Don't skip this amazing Chocolate Peanut Butter & Salted Caramel dream of a cake. It's fabulous. Yep, for a challenge I added fried and chocolate covered seaweed - but you can skip that. It's a delicious chocolate cake with Peanut Butter Italian Buttercream, toasted peanuts, Salted Ginger Caramel, and so much more. It's one of my favorites of all time. It totally blew the minds of the judges on Food Network's Halloween Wars, and I'm still so proud of it.

- Not wanting cake? Well, here's a muffin that's so dang good that it borders being carrot cake's best friend but with so much more excitement and nutrition. Carrots, apples, dried fruits, warm spices, chopped nuts, and a ton of flavor are all wrapped up into The Very Best Morning Glory Muffins.

- Feeling something savory? Well, look no further - these Savory Ham and Cheese muffins are here to rock your world and blow your mind. They are phenomenal. Filled with so much flavor, protein, nutrition, and deliciousness in every single bite. Ham, cheese, herbs, green onions, and goodness.. what could be better? Plus, it only gets even more delicious if you top them with garlic butter. But, only do it at your own risk. They're highly addictive.


made the recipe?

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