Pistachio Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting

Mariel here. Apparently our sweet-teeth weren’t sated last week since both my mom and I opted to post desserts this week. There’s just something about the holidays that screams for more-more-more sugar. But I’d like to think I have an even better reason than that…today we’re celebrating both my husband’s and my step-father-in-law’s birthday. Yesterday was my dad’s.

In honor of the big guys’ special days, I did something a little out of character this morning. Rather than hitch up to my laptop and hammer away on a post for MarthaStewart.com or a deadline for SELF, I took the first half of the day off and just baked….and baked….and baked. For my husband, I conjured up a new recipe, one that “occurred” to me on my morning run of all places: Pistachio Cupcakes.

The man loves pistachios – not so much the nut – but pistachio-flavored things, like gelato and ice cream. These pint-size treats were exactly as I’d hoped they’d be – fluffy and sweet with a subtle nutty flavor and little nibs of real-live nuts. They’re winners all around and I’ve already indulged in two despite the fact that the birthday boy has yet to sample even one.

For my step-father-in-law, I whipped up a Key Lime Pie. It’s his all-time favorite dessert and he keeps threatening to take a stab at my mom’s recipe, but hasn’t yet found the time. I decided to do the work for him and will be surprising him tonight at dinner. Since most restaurants aren’t so hot on BYO-dessert, I’ll be sneaking it inside in a soft-case cooler that semi-resembles a handbag. We’ll see how that goes.

We promise we won’t totally abandon the savory side of life this December – I’m not sure my skinny jeans could handle another round of confectioner’s sugar. Now back to my “real” job.

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Pistachio Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting
Makes 12

Ingredients for Cupcakes:
1 cup shelled unsalted pistachios – $6.89
1 cup cake flour (not self-rising) – $2.99
2 teaspoons baking powder – stock
¼-teaspoon salt – stock
½-cup milk – stock
½-teaspoon vanilla – stock
1 stick unsalted butter, softened – stock
¾-cup sugar – stock
2 large eggs – stock

Ingredients for Frosting:
1/3-cup unsalted butter, softened – stock
2 cups confectioner’s sugar – stock
½-teaspoon vanilla – stock
2½ Tablespoons milk – stock
¼-cup shelled unsalted pistachios – cost calculated above
Grand total assuming well-stocked kitchen: $9.88
Cost per cupcake: $0.82

Directions for Cupcakes:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with paper liners

2. Pulse the 1 cup of pistachios in a food processor until finely ground, but don’t go nuts or you’ll create a paste. In a large bowl, whisk together the ground pistachios, flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

3. Combine the milk and vanilla in a spouted measuring cup.

4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy and pale – about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time until just combined. Use a spatula to scrape along the bottom of the bowl and dredge up anything that gets stuck. On low speed, alternately add the pistachio mixture and the milk in batches, starting and finishing with the flour. Finish mixing by hand and avoid over-beating.

5. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin filling to the top of the liners. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in the tin on a wire rack, then remove from tin and cool completely on wire rack.

Directions for Frosting:
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together all frosting ingredients except for the pistachios until creamy.

2. Pulse the pistachios in a food processor.

3. Frost the cupcakes once completely cool then garnish with ground pistachios.


  1. says


  2. says

    I’m new to your website. What a fun place. These pistachio cupcakes look so good. We are pistachio fans at my house, too. P.S.–I’m a nurse, also, and do food experiments on my co-workers as well. Nurses are always an appreciative audience–great appetites, even the uber skinny ones!

    • feastonthecheap says

      @Terri. That’s so funny that you experiment on your co-workers as well! It’s true – in general, the medical profession LOVES their fat, carbs, and sugar – even as we scold patients for indulging! Your note brought a smile to my face! So glad you found our little blog. Cheers!

  3. says

    Happy birthday to all the men in your family. They are so fortunate to have such talented cooks in their family to make creations that they can enjoy. I’m sure this pistachio cupcake must have gone over really well!

  4. Carolyn says

    I made these cupcakes yesterday, and they were A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! The pistachios gave a great flavor and the cake was moist. Instead of buttercream frosting, I made marshmallow fluff frosting, which was equally delicious. All 12 are gone in less than 24 hours! Thanks for sharing. I’ll definitely be making these again!

  5. germanlady says

    I made 3 different Pistachio cupcake recipes and they all were horrible,until I made this ,it was the most inexpensive,easiest to follow but the most delicious Pistachio cupcakes I ever tasted.I will make this over and over again. Thank you for posting this.

  6. Loi says

    Hi! I stumbled upon your page while looking for a good pistachio cake recipe. The other ones i saw seemed complicated so I decided to try this one out. I have to say I loved loved it. I added one more egg yolk as my cupcakes are always dry and I read somewhere that adding an extra yolk would create a very moist cupcake. I love the texture and flavor. For the frosting I decided to make a pistachio creamcheese frosting and it turned out to pair very well with the cupcake. I’m so glad I found your page. :)) Thank you!

  7. Eloiza carino says

    I’m so glad i found your website. I will definitely try this recipe. What milk would u suggest i use ? Would fresh milk do? Thanks!


    • feastonthecheap says

      Whole milk offers the richest flavor, but you can definitely use 2%. I’ve even used 1% in baking when that’s all that I have on hand. But still…nothing like the real deal when it comes to a rich dessert! :-)

    • feastonthecheap says

      No food coloring, just used green cupcake liners which gave the illusion that the cake was tinted green

  8. says

    Just last weekend I had a pistachio cupcake a Magnolia Bakery in NYC. It was superb! When I got home I immediately searched for a recipe and found yours. I can’t wait to try it. (perhaps with Swiss Meringue Buttercream like at MB)


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