Here’s the result of my goal to create a completely new and COLORFUL cupcake this winter. Help break us out of our winter blues and deliver some PINK to our dreary days and routine weeks. ♥ I also wanted to highlight one of my favorite frostings on the planet: strawberry. Also a frosting that now has its own blog post and video in the frosting section!
We’ll chat about what makes the strawberry frosting so *dynamite* later on in this post.
Pistachio! A seriously underrated flavor in the dessert world. Delicious cracked open and eaten on their own, but even better when they shine as the main flavor in ice cream. Or cake. Or cookies! Or, best of all, cupcakes. Buttery and smooth, pistachios pair perfectly with almond and vanilla flavors– both of which are present in today’s cupcakes. Btw, did you know that pistachio ice cream is usually flavored with almond extract? It complements the pistachio flavor!
For quality pistachio flavor, let’s use quality nuts. We all know Diamond of California offers the best baking nuts on the planet–> um, hello! they rule the baking aisle! We’ll grind shelled, unsalted pistachios up into fine little chips and chunks and pour directly into a vanilla almond cupcake batter. They’ll be some pistachio powder hiding in all those teeny pistachio pieces– that’s ok! Add it to the batter; it will tint it a whimsical light green!
*Why unsalted nuts?* Because you can control the salt in the cupcake that way.
I know what you’re thinking. Hard chunks of nuts in a soft cupcake? No no no! The pistachios pieces become ultra soft inside the cupcake when baked. Plus, the pistachio pieces are so small. You won’t taste the actual chunks– just their impeccable flavor.
Here’s the cupcake batter we’ll use: simply perfect vanilla cupcakes.
Here’s why they’re simply perfect: without a doubt, the softest vanilla cupcake I’ve ever made. So fluffy that all the puffy clouds in the sky are jealous. So light that a marshmallow feels heavy. Cake flour is behind this cupcake perfection, as well as 3 egg whites and sour cream. I promise you’ve never tasted a cupcake like this and these three power ingredients are why. If you’re curious, read here for exactly what each ingredient does and why they’re crucial! (Baking science is cool.)
This simply perfect vanilla cupcake batter + lots of teeny pistachio crumbs + almond extract = a nutty and sweet cupcake. Now let me be clear… the pistachio flavor isn’t strong. That’s because we are relying on just the actual nuts and not artificial pistachio flavor. You can certainly add artificial flavor if you’d like, but I love the light pistachio, delicious almond, and strong vanilla flavor balance in the recipe as written below.
Let’s talk strawberry frosting!! If you haven’t experienced it yet, this is the best strawberry frosting. It’s made with strawberry dust! Aka freeze-dried strawberries ground up into a powder– which is perfect for the pistachio cupcakes because you need a food processor anyway for the nuts!
The reason we’ll use freeze-dried strawberries in this strawberry frosting is because they deliver the most intense (and natural) strawberry flavor while, at the same time, do not mess up the texture of the actual frosting. Real strawberries, as you can read here, can end up curdling your pretty frosting. And let’s avoid the artificial flavor route. Where to buy freeze-dried strawberries? I always find them at my regular grocery stores in the dried fruit section. Also at Target and Trader Joe’s too– or online here and here.
I love the specks of *real* strawberries in the frosting.
I encourage you to use this piping tip from now on: Ateco #849 closed star tip. First of all, you need absolutely zero skill for using this piping tip. That’s why I love it. Virtually impossible to mess up. All I do is start in the center of the cupcake, apply pressure to squeeze the frosting out, and slowly lift straight up. No swirling around the cupcake– just start on the center and squeeze frosting out while lifting the tip off the cupcake. Takes 2 seconds per cupcake. Voila:
These fresh flavors! These happy colors! ?
- 1 cup Diamond of California unsalted shelled pistachios
- 1 and 3/4 cups (200g) cake flour1
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
- 1/2 cup (120g) full-fat sour cream at room temperature2
- 1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk at room temperature2
- optional: 1 tiny drop green food coloring3
- 1 cup (10-12g) freeze-dried strawberries
- 1 cup (235g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 4 cups (480g) confectioners’ sugar
- 3 Tablespoons (45ml) heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- salt, to taste
- optional for garnish: fresh strawberry slices
- Pulse the pistachios in a food processor until ground up into fine crumbs. See photo above for a visual. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. Line a second pan with 4 liners – this recipe makes about 16 cupcakes. Set aside.
- Make the cupcakes: Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 3/4 cup of pistachio crumbs together. Reserve the rest of the pistachio crumbs for decoration.
- Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy – about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed for 2 minutes until creamed together. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the egg whites, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Beat on medium-high speed until combined, then beat in the sour cream. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients until just incorporated. With the mixer still running on low, slowly pour in the milk until combined. Do not overmix. You may need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be slightly thick.
- Pour/spoon the batter into the liners – fill only 2/3 full to avoid spilling over the sides. Bake for 19-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. For around 30 mini cupcakes, bake for about 11-13 minutes, same oven temperature. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.
- Using a blender or food processor, process the freeze-dried strawberries into a powdery crumb. You should have around 1/2 cup. In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar, strawberry powder, cream, and vanilla. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then switch to high speed and beat for 2 minutes. Taste. Add a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet.
- Frost cooled cupcakes and decorate with remaining pistachio crumbs and strawberry slices. I used the Ateco #849 closed star tip.
Make ahead tip: Cupcakes can be made ahead 1 day in advance, covered, and stored at room temperature. Frosting can also be made 1 day in advance, covered, and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. Leftover cupcakes keep well covered tightly in the refrigerator for 3 days. Frosted or unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
- If you cannot get your hands on cake flour, you can make a DIY version from all-purpose flour and cornstarch. Measure 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Remove 2 Tablespoons. Mix in 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch. This equals 1 cup of cake flour. I suggest doing this twice, mixing it all up in 1 bowl then removing 1/4 cup since you need 1 and 3/4 cups in this recipe.
- Whole milk and sour cream are strongly recommended for the best taste and texture. A full fat plain yogurt would work instead, though the cupcakes may not be as light. Same goes with a lower fat milk.
- While the pistachio crumbs do tint the batter light green, I added 1 *very teeny* drop of green food coloring to help brighten the green color. This is completely optional!
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SHOP THE RECIPE
Here are some items I used to make today’s recipe.
Kitchenaid Stand Mixer |5-qt Tilt-Head Glass Mixing Bowl | Kitchenaid Hand Mixer | Ninja Master Prep Professional Blender | Trader Joe’s Freeze Dried Strawberries | Mother Earth Freeze Dried Strawberries | Heart + Arrows Spatula | Cupcake Pan | Paper Cupcake Liners | 16-inch Frosting Bags | Closed Star Frosting Tip
This post is in partnership with Diamond of California. Some of the links above are affiliate links, which pay me a small commission for my referral at no extra cost to you! Thank you for supporting Sally’s Baking Addiction.