These Honey Pistachio Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting are made from scratch with ground pistachios. They are light and fluffy, and they have notes of honey, almond, and vanilla. The honey cream cheese frosting is both sweet and tangy, complementing the cupcakes perfectly.
Pistachio is one of those flavors that often tastes nothing like most pistachio flavored desserts. Pistachios have a very subtle flavor that’s slightly sweet and a pinch earthy, which is a stark contrast from the pistachio pudding mix you can buy at the store.
I happen to love that pistachio pudding mix and it’s distinct flavor, but there is something about the subtlty of the natural pistachio flavor, especially in cake. When paired with the sweet yet earthy honey flavor, these pistachio cupcakes have a tender crumb and a nutty, buttery flavor.
Let’s learn how to make homemade Honey Pistachio Cupcakes! Light and fluffy cake, sweet nutty flavor, and tangy cream cheese frosting.
Why Make Honey Pistachio Cupcakes From Scratch:
- They are incredibly light and fluffy!
- Using real pistachios rather than pistachio pudding mix makes for a very nutty and fresh flavor.
- Honey and pistachios pair extremely well together, and the honey helps sweeten the cupcakes without overpowering the pistachios.
- Almond extract helps enhance the pistachio flavors.
- unsalted butter: I prefer unsalted butter in baking almost always so that you can control the salt content.
- granulated sugar
- honey: honey brings out the flavor of the pistachios without overwhelming the cupcakes with sweet flavor
- eggs: the eggs are separated in this recipe because you will whip the whites and fold them in later
- cake flour: cake makes ultra light and fluffy cakes
- pistachios: shelled (and unsalted) pistachios are put into a food processor to make fine crumbs
- baking powder, baking soda, salt
- half and half
- sour cream
- vanilla extract
- almond extract: almond extract brings out the pistachio flavor; it’s also the flavor used in most pistachio ice cream recipes and in instant pistachio pudding
- green food coloring: just a drop or two, if you use it. I didn’t use any food coloring so you can see the natural green color in the photos.
Honey Cream Cheese Frosting:
- cream cheese
- unsalted butter
- powdered sugar
- salt to taste: salt cuts through the sweetness
How To Make Pistachio Cupcakes Without Pistachio Pudding Mix:
Instant pistachio pudding mix, while I love it for certain recipes, does have an artificial flavor I didn’t want in these cupcakes.
Begin with quality pistachios. Quality nuts have more flavor. Grind the nuts into fine pieces (see photo)—it will be a combination of some finely ground crumbs as well as little bits and chunks. We’ll use all of it in these pistachio cupcakes.
Finally, we use the flavors of honey, almond extract, and vanilla extract to enhance the pistachio flavors naturally.
*Note: Because we are using real pistachios instead of pudding mix, the flavor is more subtle than what you taste in the pudding mix.
Let’s Make Cupcakes:
- Eggs: Separate the eggs while cold and let them come to room temperature before baking.
- Pistachio Crumbs: place unsalted and shelled pistachios into a food processor and grind them until you have fine crumbs.
- Sift Dry Ingredients: sift together cake flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder. Then add pistachio crumbs. Set aside.
- Cream Butter and Sugar: using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together. Then, add in the honey. Cream the batter until well combined. Finally, add in the egg yolks and beat until combined.
- Wet Ingredients: Whisk half and half, almond extract, and vanilla extract together.
- Combine: Beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, alternately add dry and wet ingredients to the butter mixture, mixing until just combined.
- Sour Cream: Add in sour cream and mix.
- Egg Whites: Whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. Then, gently fold egg whites into the cupcake batter until they are fully incorporated.
- Food coloring: If adding in food coloring, use just 1 drop or so and gently fold it in.
- Bake: Divide batter evenly in cupcake trays, filling about 2/3 of the way full (this yields about 15-16 cupcakes).
- Frosting: Mix cream cheese and butter together until light and fluffy. Add in honey and mix until combined. Then add powdered sugar, and pinch of salt.
Honey Cream Cheese Frosting:
Cream cheese frosting is soft and runny as compared to a traditional buttercream frosting. When I use cream cheese frosting, I prefer to spread it on rather than pipe it on.
Other pistachio cupcake frosting options:
- strawberry buttercream
- vanilla buttercream
- lemon cream cheese frosting
- coconut cream cheese frosting
- whipped cream cheese frosting
- Unfrosted cupcakes can be stored at room temperature for 2-3 days. (Although these cupcakes are best when eaten fresh.)
- Cream cheese frosted cupcakes can be left out at room temperature for a few hours, but leftovers need to be stored in the fridge.
- If making ahead of time, I suggest letting them come to room temperature before serving (it takes about 1-2 hours to fully reach room temperature).
Other Recipes to Try Next:
- Chocolate Chip Pistachio Pudding Cookies
- No Bake Pistachio Pudding Cream Pie
- Banana Pudding with Vanilla Wafers
- Oreo Cookies and Cream Cupcakes
- Can’t find unsalted pistachios? Use salted pistchios, but reduce the salt in the cake batter to a 1/4 tsp.
- No cake flour? While I highly suggest cake flour, if you don’t have it, you can use a combination of cornstarch and all purpose flour. For this recipe use 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour + 2 Tbsp cornstarch.
- Use full fat sour cream and cream cheese. It makes rich and tender cupcakes, while the full fat cream cheese makes lucious, silky frosting.
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 eggs, separated
- 1 cup shelled pistachios, unsalted
- 1 1/2 cups cake flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup half and half
- 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 - 1/2 tsp almond extract
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- green food coloring, optional
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 8 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 3-4 cups powdered sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1/3 cup chopped pistachios
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line your muffin pan with paper cupcake liners.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer (or in a medium/large bowl with a hand mixer), beat butter until light and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes.
- Add in granulated sugar and honey, and beat the mixture until creamy.
- Add in the egg yolks, one at a time; beat well after each addition. Set aside.
- Using a food processor, grind 1 cup of shelled pistachios into fine pieces/crumbs. Set aside.
- Sift together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add in pistachio crumbs. Set aside.
- Whisk half and half, vanilla extract, and almond extract* together.
- Beginning and ending with dry ingredients, alternately add dry ingredients and wet ingredients to the butter mixture. Mix until just combined.
- Add in sour cream, and mix until just combined.
- With a standing mixer (with the whisk attachment) or a hand mixer, whip egg whites until stiff peaks form.
- Gently fold egg whites into the batter, folding until the whites are fully combined.
- Lastly, if using food coloring, add in 1-2 drops liquid green food coloring, and gently stir until combined.
- Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 of the way full (this recipe makes about 15-18 cupcakes).
- Lightly tap the cupcake pan on the counter to remove any air bubbles.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Because of their color, it can be difficult to tell when they’re done. Around the 16 minute mark, I keep a very close eye on them so they don’t overcook.
- Allow to cool completely before frosting.
- Beat cream cheese and butter together until combined and very light and fluffy.
- Add in honey. Beat until combined.
- Add in powdered sugar, beginning with 3 cups. If the frosting isn’t sweet enough, add in the remaining cup. (Remember, cream cheese frosting is looser/thinner than a buttercream frosting.)
- Add a pinch of salt to taste—salt helps balance the sweetness.
- Frost each cupcake with cream cheese frosting. Add chopped pistachios on top, if desired.
- Serve immediately, or serve within 3-4 hours of frosting.
- Due to the cream cheese frosting, leftovers must be stored in the fridge. I suggest allowing cupcakes to come to room temperature before serving.
For best results, separate egg yolks from egg whites while cold (the eggs separate better when cold).
Allow both to reach room temperature before baking—egg yolks will mix into the cake batter better when at room temperature, and egg whites will whip into stiff peaks better when at room temperature.
Almond Extract: Almond extract is very strong. I love the flavor and used 1/2 tsp in this recipe. However, if you would prefer a subtle flavoring, use 1/4 tsp almond extract.
Here are some other recent favorites: