This zucchini and pistachio cake has a super moist crumb and a soft slightly chewy texture. It is topped with a sweet creamy cheese frosting and sprinkled with crunchy pistachio nuts. You can bake it as a traybake, or make individual muffins – either way, I’m sure you are going to love it. It’s also the perfect way to use up the last of the summer zucchini!
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If you’ve ever grown zucchini (also known as courgettes or baby marrows) you’ll know how prolific they are. It seems as though they grow virtually overnight. The more you pick them, the more they seem to produce! And much as I love zucchini as a vegetable, I don’t want to be eating it every day.
Which is why I came up with this recipe for zucchini and pistachio cake. It’s loosely based on my recipe for carrot cake in that it’s made with oil instead of butter. I’ve also used yoghurt in place of milk which adds a lovely flavour. And for extra texture, I’ve added in some chopped pistachio nuts.
Actually, thanks to cold storage and importation, zucchini are available in the shops year-round, so there’s no need to wait for your next harvest to make this delicious cake.
Why I love this cake
First and foremost it’s easy to mix. Because there is no butter in the zucchini cake, there’s no messing about creaming the butter and sugar first. Just mix the dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately, and then mix the wet into the dry. Job done.
Secondly, you can hide zucchini in the cake and your fussy eaters will never guess it’s even there. The zucchini blends with the cake crumb, and apart from a few bits of green here and there, you would never know the cake was packed with goodness. If you want to be sneaky you can always say the green bits are pistachio nuts!
Thirdly, this zucchini cake stays fresh for days in the refrigerator. It has to be stored in the refrigerator because of the cream cheese frosting.
And finally, talking of frosting, this is the quickest and easiest frosting ever to make. All you have to do to make this delicious cream cheese frosting is to mix icing sugar and cream cheese together. Spread it over the baked cake and sprinkle it with chopped pistachio nuts. That’s all there is to it.
What you will need
**Get the complete list of ingredients and full instructions for making this zucchini and pistachio cake on the printable recipe card at the end of this post**
To make this zucchini and pistachio cake you will need 9 ingredients:
- Flour, salt, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda – I used plain all-purpose white flour. If you would like to use self-raising flour, that is perfectly fine, just omit the baking powder. Use the bicarbonate of soda in either instance. Salt is optional and to your own taste.
- Sugar – you can use either granulated sugar or caster sugar. If you use granulated sugar you will have to mix it a little bit longer as granulated sugar does not dissolve as quickly as caster sugar.
- Eggs – medium to large is fine. Don’t use jumbo-sized eggs – it will make the batter too runny.
- Yoghurt – you can use Greek or Natural yoghurt. It should be very thick. Don’t use fruit flavoured yoghurt.
- Pistachio nuts – if you can get ready-shelled pistachios then that’s great, otherwise just shell them yourself. They should be roughly chopped. I find a food processor chops the pistachios too finely so I prefer to use a sharp knife and a chopping board for this.
- Oil – I used plain sunflower oil, but you can use any other vegetable oil such as canola. I have seen some people use olive oil for this recipe, but I haven’t tried it with olive oil myself.
- Zucchini / courgettes – these should be grated on the largest holes of a box grater. Once grated take the zucchini in your hand and squeeze to remove most of the liquid. You don’t need to bother about wringing it out in a tea-towel or pressing it between layers of paper kitchen towel. Just squeezing it in your hand will be fine.
Make the cake batter
Just 3 easy steps to mix the cake batter.
- Start off by mixing the flour, salt, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda in a large mixing bowl. Then mix in the three-quarters of the pistachio nuts (reserve the remainder for topping the cake) and the grated zucchini until the zucchini is completely coated in the flour. The reason for adding the zucchini to the flour is that once the zucchini has been coated with flour it will distribute itself evenly through the cake and will not sink to the bottom of the cake during baking.
- In a smaller separate bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together with an electric hand mixer until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture has almost doubled in size. You can do this with a wooden spoon or balloon whisk if you don’t have a hand mixer – it will just take a bit longer (2).
- Now stir the oil and yoghurt into the eggs.
- Add this wet mixture to the flour mixture and mix until the flour has all been combined. Don’t over mix – you don’t want to knock all the air out of your carefully mixed eggs and sugar.
Bake the zucchini cake
The next steps are to line the cake tin and bake the cake. I normally set the oven to preheat before I start to line the baking pan. The oven should be set to 180 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you don’t have baking parchment, just grease the baking pan with a little oil or butter.
- Transfer the batter into the baking pan, taking care to get the batter into the corners of the pan (2).
- Place the cake into the preheated oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into the cake comes out cleanly, with no traces of batter sticking to it (3).
- My cake was completely cooked after 27 minutes, but it depends on your oven. Don’t open the oven door until the cake has been in the oven for at least 20 minutes or the cake may sink.
- Allow the cake to cool in the pan then carefully take it out of the pan and remove the baking parchment (4). You can use a large spatula to help you turn the cake over.
Make the cream cheese frosting
While the cake is baking you can make the frosting.
- For the cream cheese you can use your favourite brand (in the UK it’s probably Philaelphia but a supermarket own brand is fine.
- For this recipe I used 120 grams (4 ounces) of cream cheese and the same amount of icing sugar (that’s 1 cup). You may need to use more or less icing sugar depending on the consistency of your cream cheese. You are looking for a nice soft spreadable consistency.
- Blend the cheese and icing sugar together using either an electric hand mixer or a flat-bladed knife. Be careful with the electric blender – you might find it distributes the icing sugar all over the kitchen 🙂 .
- Spread the mixture evenly over the top of the cake and sprinkle with the reserved pistachio nuts.
- Store in the refrigerator. Cut into squares for serving. You should get 12 squares from this cake.
Questions and tips
Yes, this recipe will make 12 – 15 muffins.
Line a muffin pan with paper baking cases and fill them three-quarters full of the batter. Bake as per the recipe instructions.
Yes, but freeze it before you put the frosting on. Wrap the cake in non-stick tinfoil and then wrap it in a double layer of plastic wrap before placing it in the freezer. Freeze for up to 3 months.
Allow the cake to defrost and come to room temperature before covering it with the frosting.
The cake should be stored in the refrigerator because of the cream cheese in the frosting. If you choose not to cover the cake with frosting it will be perfectly fine to keep it in a covered container in the kitchen. It will stay fresh for up to 3 days unrefrigerated. Refrigerated, the cake will stay fresh for up to 5 days.
Lemon or lime would go well with this cake. Zest a lemon or lime and squeeze out the juice. Add the juice to the cake batter along with the wet ingredients. Mix the zest in with the frosting before covering the cake.
Don’t forget to check out my handy Cookery Conversion Calculator if you want to convert any of your recipe measurements from grams to cups, ounces, tablespoons or millilitres and vice versa. You can also use the calculator for converting oven temperatures between Fahrenheit, Celsius and Gas marks.
If you live at a high altitude you may find you need to adjust your baking recipes to compensate for this. You can read all about it in this post on baking at high altitudes.
Pin for later
If you’d like to try this zucchini and pistachio cake with cream cheese frosting for yourself, why not pin the recipe to one of your Pinterest boards so you can find it easily when you are ready to make it. Just click on the image below.
Other tasty cakes
Why not try some of my other cakes and bakes.
- Coffee and walnut layer cake with coffee buttercream frosting
- Fresh pear cream slice
- German bee sting cake
- Quick mix chocolate cake tray bake
- Easy coconut pie
Zucchini and pistachio cake with cream cheese frosting
(Click the stars to rate this recipe)
- 2 cups / 280 grams plain white all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup / 150 grams caster sugar or granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup / 120 ml sunflower oil
- ½ cup / 120 ml Greek yoghurt or natural yoghurt
- 1 – 2 medium zucchini / courgettes (grated) approximately 1 cup grated volume
- ¾ cup / 90 grams chopped pistachio nuts shelled
- 4 ounces / 120 grams soft cream cheese
- 1 cup / 120 grams icing sugar / confectioner's sugar
- ¼ cup / 30 grams chopped pistachio nuts for sprinkling on top
- Preheat oven to 180°C / 350°F
- Line a 7" x 10" (17cm x 25cm) baking dish with baking parchment. If you don't have baking parchment grease the dish lightly with oil or melted butter.
- Place the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix lightly to combine.½ teaspoon baking powder, ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda, ½ teaspoon salt, 2 cups / 280 grams plain white all purpose flour
- Mix in the grated zucchini and ¾ of the pistachio nuts until the zucchini is completely coated in flour. (Reserve the remaining nuts for sprinkling on top of the cake).1 – 2 medium zucchini / courgettes (grated), ¾ cup / 90 grams chopped pistachio nuts
- In a smaller separate bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together with an electric hand mixer until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture has almost doubled in size. You can do this with a wooden spoon or balloon whisk if you don't have a hand mixer.2 large eggs, ¾ cup / 150 grams caster sugar
- Stir the oil and the yoghurt into the sugar/egg mixture.½ cup / 120 ml sunflower oil, ½ cup / 120 ml Greek yoghurt
- Add this wet mixture to the zucchini and flour mixture and stir gently until well combined.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish, taking care to get it evenly into all the corners.
- Bake in the preheated over for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into the cake comes out cleanly, with no traces of batter sticking to it.
- Allow the cake to cool in the pan then carefully take it out of the pan and remove the baking parchment.
- Using an electric hand mixer or a flat-bladed knife, combine the cream cheese and icing sugar.4 ounces / 120 grams soft cream cheese, 1 cup / 120 grams icing sugar / confectioner's sugar
- Spread the mixture evenly over the top of the cake and sprinkle with the chopped pistachio nuts.¼ cup / 30 grams chopped pistachio nuts
- Store the cake in the refrigerator. Cut into squares for serving.
I am not a nutritionist. The nutrition information has been calculated using an on-line calculator, and is intended for information and guidance purposes only. If the nutrition information is important to you, you should consider calculating it yourself, using your preferred tool.
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