Cakes/ Desserts/ Diwali

Pistachio Kulfi Milk Cake

pistachio kulfi milk cake

Try my pistachio kulfi milk cake, a pistachio and cardamom infused sponge soaked in saffron milk, topped with a sweet whipped cream.

This pistachio kulfi milk cake is soft, moist, decadent and so incredibly flavourful.

It pulls inspiration and flavours from two incredible desserts. It’s a fusion between the Indian ‘pistachio kulfi’ and the Latin American ‘Tres Leches’ cake.

It sits somewhere between the two, combining my favourite aspects of both recipes and merging them together to form this beautiful bake. If you’ve never heard of either of these desserts then feel free to read the next few paragraphs in the blogpost. I’ll explain everything.

But first, let me tell you a little bit more about this pistachio kulfi milk cake. It consists of a soft pistachio sponge that’s been soaked in a flavourful milk until every drop has been absorbed. That’s what gives each bite of the cake its light and moist texture.

The cake is then finished with a sweet whipped cream and garnished with toasted pistachios and rose. This cake is served cold and hence it’s perfect for a summer bake. It’s honestly one of the most refreshing cakes to eat on a hot day.

What is pistachio kulfi?

Kulfi is a traditional Indian ice cream that’s commonly made with milk, sugar, nuts and cardamom. The milk is often simmered for a long period of time to thicken it and to evaporate some of the liquid, in turn leaving a high proportion of fat solids.

This allows for a more creamy, rich, and slightly more dense result, which is usually served straight out of a kulfi mould.

Kulfi is an immensely popular dessert and it encompasses a huge variety of flavours. Think of it as the Indian equivalent to gelato, it’s a broad term and it’s available in so many incredible varieties. Some of these include:

  • Mango kulfi
  • Malai kulfi
  • Pistachio kulfi
  • Strawberry kulfi
  • Saffron and pistachio kulfi
  • Coconut kulfi

The list is honestly endless. For this recipe I’ve been influenced by the pistachio kulfi (my personal favourite) and I’ve encompassed those flavours within the cake.

pistachio kulfi milk cake

What is a tres leches cake?

Tres leches directly translates to ‘three milks’ and is a popular Latin American cake. The ‘three milks’ refers to the combination of milks that are used to soak the cake in. The cake portion of the tres leches consists of a super light sponge which is not too dissimilar to an angel cake.

The sponge is pierced all over and the milk mix poured on top and allowed to soak in. It’s not hugely available around the UK and I’ve only ever seen it on a handful of menus. It’s quite a simple cake but one that’s incredibly rich and more-ish.

The three milks that are traditionally used in tres leches are:

  • Whole milk or heavy cream
  • Evaporated milk
  • Sweetened condensed milk

The sponge usually has a lower fat content and relies quite heavily on eggs to provide structure. It is also usually drier than a traditional sponge, to allow it to absorb the milk mixture more readily.

The cake is traditionally topped with a whipped cream and often some fresh fruit or a light dusting of cinnamon. Tres leches is usually prepared in advance to allow it to soak up all the liquid and is kept refrigerated so that it can be served cold.

This cake genuinely gets better day by day as it continues to take up all that sweet milky flavour.

pistachio kulfi milk cake

Pistachio kulfi milk cake

There are a few differences in this pistachio kulfi milk cake compared to the traditional tres leches. For starters, I’ve only used 2 milks and a lesser quantity of the mixture itself. This is because as much as I love the moistness and milky texture, I’m not keen on my cake drowning in it.

I did test a few batches with a higher quantity of the milks, and it was just far too soggy for my preference. I’ve also decided to omit the evaporated milk. I felt that the sweetened condensed milk and whole milk were sufficient for adding sweetness and the traditional milky flavour.

The sponge in my pistachio kulfi milk cake contains no eggs, and hence there is a higher proportion of fat to compensate in comparison to a traditional tres leches. It’s still an incredibly light sponge and perfect for soaking up all of the milk.

You may also notice that this sponge differs slightly from my normal sponge recipe. One of the main differences is the lack of flax seeds here. The main reason for this is because the ‘flax egg’ largely adds moisture to the cake which is completely unnecessary here.

We want the cake to be slightly on the drier side as it’s going to soak up the milk and that will be the main source of moisture, and hence there is no need for the flax.

This cake is also finished with a beautiful whipped cream topping which is quite traditional for a tres leches. It’s a necessity and hence I strongly advise that you don’t skip this!

What you’ll need

This is not the full recipe – the full recipe can be found at the end of the blogpost

To make the sponge portion of the pistachio kulfi milk cake you’ll require the following ingredients:

  • Plain flour
  • Pistachios, blitzed into small chunks
  • Ground cardamom
  • Vanilla extract
  • Flavourless oil – (sunflower, vegetable etc)
  • Milk of choice – either dairy based or use oat or soy for the best plant based results
  • Baking powder
  • Salt

For the milk portion of the cake, you’ll also require:

  • Sweetened condensed milk – if you’re making this vegan, there are vegan sweetened condensed milk tins readily available
  • Whole milk – or use a full fat/barista blend of oat milk
  • Saffron

And finally, for the whipped cream layer, you’ll need:

  • Double cream – or coconut cream for a vegan alternative
  • Icing sugar
  • Vanilla extract
  • Pistachios, blitzed

How to make this Pistachio Kulfi Milk Cake (photos)

Making the pistachio sponge:

1+2) For best results shell the pistachios yourself to ensure maximum freshness. Then blitz in a food processor

3) Blitz the pistachios until small chunks, do not turn it into a paste
4) Placed the pistachios, ground cardamom and sugar in a mixing bowl

5+6) Add vanilla extract and the oil, then whisk until incorporated

7) Add the milk and continue to whisk until incorporated
8) Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl

9) Sieve the flour mix, don’t skip this step. As much as it can be a bore, does make a difference
10) Whisk in the flour briefly, then fold until incorporated

11+12) Pour the cake batter into a 35×25 rectangular tray that’s been lined with baking paper. This will make removal far easier so I highly recommend using baking paper

14) Once the cake has baked, turn this out onto a wire rack till completely cooled
15) Then transfer back to the baking tray and use a toothpick or chopstick to poke holes all over

Making the milk mix

1+2) Bring the sweetened condensed milk and whole milk to a gentle simmer on low heat. As soon as the edges bubble, turn the heat off and add a pinch of saffron. This does not need to infuse for long as the saffron flavour can become overpowering


3) Pour the milk mixture over the cooled cake, then cover the tray with cling film. Place this in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours or overnight for best results. The cake should soak up all the milk

Making the whipped cream

1+2) Place the double cream, icing sugar, and vanilla in to a mixing bowl and whisk until thickened. Do not over whisk or you risk this clumping and turning into a sweet butter

3) Place the cream over the cake and smooth on top
4) Add more pistachios to a food processor and blitz

5) You can blitz the pistachios further if you wish, this is down to preference
6) Top the pistachio kulfi milk cake with the ground pistachios and rose petals (optional). You can wrap the tray in cling film once again, the cake will continue to get better and better

How to make this Pistachio Kulfi Milk Cake (video)

Pistachio paste:

You can also top the whipped cream with some pistachio paste (which I HIGHLY recommend). It’s an optional step and you don’t have to do it. But if you can get a hold of it, it really adds a great finishing touch to the Pistachio Kulfi Milk Cake.

The one I use will be linked below:

This post contains an Amazon Affiliate link. This is the product that I use in this recipe. It is not a gifted or sponsored product. By using this affiliate link, I receive a small commission which is at no expense to yourself. This helps to support this blog for its day to day running. Many thanks.

I can’t advise on making your own pistachio paste as mine has never come out as smooth as the shop bought jars. In order to really achieve that smooth creamy texture, you need to use a melanger. This is a machine that grinds nuts and cocoa between stone or granite until it is entirely smooth.

That texture is not achievable with a normal household blender.

Pistachio kulfi milk cake tips:

  • It’s better to overbake the cake than underbake. Don’t worry if it goes a little over, the sponge will soak up the milk mixture so it will not be dry
  • Shell the pistachios yourself for maximum freshness, vibrancy and flavour
  • Turkish, Iranian or Californian pistachios tend to be the best for flavou and colour
  • Roasted pistachios are preferable. Hence if yours are not roasted, place them in a wide pan on low heat and gently toast them for around 5-7 minutes
  • Refrigerate overnight for best results
  • Serve cold for a refreshing bite
pistachio kulfi milk cake

Frequently asked questions

Can I make this vegan?

Yes, use an oat or soy milk for the sponge portion of the recipe. Use vegan sweetened condensed milk and a full fat oat milk/barista blend for the milk portion. Finally use coconut cream instead of double cream for the topping. It’s easily doable and tastes great.

How long will the pistachio kulfi milk cake last?

It’s best served the next day, but can be kept refrigerated for 3-4 days. Make sure to cover the cake with clingfilm if refrigerating

What if I want this to be more milky?

You can increase the amount of milk, but this will alter the level of sweetness so you may need to balance this out with more sweetened condensed milk and saffron. If you add too much milk, the cake will not soak this all up and hence you run the risk of it becoming very soggy.

I’m aware that this is actually how some prefer their tres leches cakes to be, but personally I’m not too keen on an overly soggy sponge.

Why is the cake baked at a lower temperature?

This will allow for a more even rise and will prevent a crust forming on top.

pistachio kulfi milk cake

If you enjoyed this recipe

Please do let me know! Leave a review and a rating below, I’d love to know how you got on.

You can also tag me on Instagram at @dish_by_rish. Or follow me on FacebookPinterestYoutube, and TikTok to keep up with all my cooking and baking creations.

Until then, happy cooking!

pistachio kulfi milk cake

Pistachio Kulfi Milk Cake

A pistachio and cardamom sponge soaked in saffron milk with a whipped cream finish
5 from 15 votes
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Refrigeration 2 hours
Total Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine Indian, Latin American
Servings 16 slices


  • 25×35 baking tray


Pistachio kulfi sponge:

  • 400 g plain flour
  • 200 g white granulated sugar
  • 60 g roasted unsalted pistachios blitzed
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 200 ml flavourless oil vegetable or sunflower
  • 400 ml milk of choice
  • 16 g baking powder (around 4.5tsps)
  • 1 tsp salt

Milk mixture:

  • 225 g sweetened condensed milk
  • 225 ml whole milk
  • Pinch of saffron

Whipped cream:

  • 450 ml double cream
  • 40 g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


  • 20 g roasted unsalted pistachios ground
  • Dried rose petals optional
  • Pistachio cream optional


  • Preheat your oven to 140’C fan/160’C conventional
  • Grease a 25x35cm baking tray and line with baking paper
  • Shell pistachios until you have 60g, then blitz into small pieces
  • Add these pistachios to the sugar and cardamom in a large mixing bowl
  • Add the oil and vanilla, and whisk until incorporated
  • Then add the milk (for the sponge portion) and continue to whisk
  • In a separate bowl, mix the flour, salt and baking powder
  • Sieve the flour mix into the wet mix and briefly whisk to mix. Then fold to ensure the flour has been fully incorporated
  • Pour the batter into your lined tray and bake for 50 mins in the middle rack of your oven. A toothpick should come out clean
  • Allow the cake to cool for 10 mins before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely
  • During this time heat the sweetened condensed milk and whole milk together in a saucepan over low heat until the edges just begin to bubble. Turn the heat off and add a pinch of saffron and leave briefly to infuse and for the mixture to cool down
  • Once cooled, transfer the cake back to the tray and poke all over with a toothpick or chopstick, then pour the milk mixture all over
  • Allow the cake to sit for 30 mins at room temperature, then cover with cling film and place in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours for the sponge to soak up all the milk. For best results leave overnight
  • Then whisk the double cream, icing sugar and vanilla together until thickened. Do not over whisk or the cream will begin to clump. Use an electric whisk for ease
  • Place the whipped cream over the cake and smooth till even
  • Drizzle with pistachio cream if using, followed by the ground pistachios and dried rose petals
  • Best served cold


See blogpost for vegan alternatives
Keyword cake, cardamom, kulfi, milk cake, pistachio, saffron, tres leches, whipped cream

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  • Reply
    August 10, 2021 at 10:06 pm

    5 stars
    Cool 💙

  • Reply
    Jalpa hirani
    November 9, 2021 at 6:33 am

    5 stars
    Absolutely delicious. I made this for the first time and it went down a treat. So simple.
    I didnt soak it over night but still turned out amazing. Will be making it again very soon.
    Thank you

    • Reply
      December 5, 2021 at 3:02 pm

      Thank you Jalpa for the amazing review, I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed it!

  • Reply
    Meg from Meg's Mithai
    February 5, 2022 at 9:25 am

    5 stars
    This was absolutely stunning in taste and look. The recipe was easy to follow and everyone loved it so much. Definitely one to make again and again.. Thanks Rishi for sharing this awesome recipe.

    • Reply
      February 7, 2022 at 9:02 pm

      Thanks Meghna for the epic review! Glad you all thoroughly enjoyed this one and that you found the recipe easy to follow!

  • Reply
    February 18, 2022 at 9:53 pm

    5 stars
    I tried this cake recently and was blown away by the flavour. You’ve managed to incorporate all the kulfi flavours perfectly. I’m very impressed, will definitely be making this again.

    • Reply
      February 19, 2022 at 12:04 am

      Thank you for the review, and it means a lot to hear how much you enjoyed it. Kulfi is one of the best Indian desserts (in my humble opinion) so it was only fitting to have the same flavours here!

  • Reply
    March 29, 2022 at 5:10 am

    5 stars
    Really enjoyed making the cake and it was delicious. Thank you for a fantastic recipe 😋

    • Reply
      April 9, 2022 at 5:42 pm

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it Reema! Thank you so much for letting me know!

  • Reply
    Rupa Raja
    April 29, 2022 at 4:50 pm

    5 stars
    It looks too good to be simple so I was glad to see and read that it’s not thar hard to make. Being eggless makes it extra special, because hard to get the moisture in eggless cakes unless u buy shop bought. Just a small question, how long should you soak the saffron!!??

    • Reply
      May 1, 2022 at 8:34 pm

      Thank you so much Rupa! It’s a very simple cake but packed with flavour. All of my cakes are eggless and very moist, so this one won’t disappoint. That’s totally up to you, the longer you soak it for the stronger the flavour will be. As the milk turns a creamy yellow and smells of saffron, you’re good to go.

  • Reply
    May 1, 2022 at 7:09 am

    Thanks for the recipe! Can you make this gluten free?

    • Reply
      May 1, 2022 at 8:36 pm

      You’re very welcome! Yes, I’ll add a section about it on the blogpost – quite a few people have said it worked perfectly with the Doves Farm gluten free blend.

      • Reply
        May 20, 2022 at 5:36 pm

        Hi attempting to make this for my son who has a gluten/wheat allergy. Will use Doves farm plain flour. Is the quantity the same as regular flour? Also baking powder the same? As I find gf flours don’t rise as much as regular flours.

        • Reply
          May 21, 2022 at 6:47 pm

          Hey Mina, awesome. Many others have had great success with Doves farm without needing any other adjustments. I haven’t tested it myself, but from the feedback the same quantity of Doves Farm has worked perfectly. Enjoy.

  • Reply
    May 15, 2022 at 8:09 pm

    Hi, can this be done as a layered cake if the milk soak is reduced. Thanks

    • Reply
      May 21, 2022 at 6:45 pm

      Hi for layered I would recommend skipping the soaking entirely. It weighs down the cake and you definitely won’t be able to layer it, even with a reduced quantity.

  • Reply
    May 22, 2022 at 4:49 pm

    5 stars
    Most delicious and moist cake I have ever made and tasted.
    I used 10% less sugar in the sponge portion and a little less milk for soaking. Still sweet enough.
    I will definitely be making it again.

    • Reply
      May 22, 2022 at 9:07 pm

      Wow, epic feedback Kara! I’m glad you loved it as much as I do! That’s such high praise!! Thank you for taking the time to leave such wonderful feedback and a review. Much appreciated! 🙂

  • Reply
    November 25, 2022 at 10:04 pm

    5 stars
    A friend brought this to a party and it was a huge hit! Wonderful flavors and presentation. My toddler son devoured it so I will be making it this holiday season!

    • Reply
      December 7, 2022 at 8:39 pm

      Thank you so much for your feedback and lovely review. I’m so glad you all enjoyed it! It’s a family favourite over here too 🙂

  • Reply
    December 27, 2022 at 4:36 pm

    5 stars
    Amazing work Rish. Love you recipe ideas. Hope you get all the support to give us more recipes!

    • Reply
      December 28, 2022 at 5:03 pm

      Thank you ever so much Kabelan, I really appreciate it!

  • Reply
    January 6, 2023 at 1:23 am

    5 stars
    Made this for a family friends New Years Eve party and it was an absolute hit! It was a little tricky to measure out everything in grams (american here haha) but i managed to do it and everyone who tried the cake was a fan (friends, aunties and uncles alike)! I left the cake to soak overnight but I do think it would’ve absorbed better throughout if I had either made more of the milk mixture or added more on top before adding the whipped cream layer, not sure. Either way, I’m glad this turned out well and it seems I’m now in charge of making the NYE cake instead of our normal store bought!

    • Reply
      February 11, 2023 at 2:04 pm

      Thank you for such a wonderful review Riya! It means the world! If you prefer it more milky I’ve got a section towards the end of the blogpost on that. You can absolutely make extra and pour around the cake when serving too, many people love doing that! I too, would put you in charge of making NYE desserts now! Thank you once again Riya!

  • Reply
    January 15, 2023 at 1:06 pm

    I’d like to give this recipe a try and I’m curious about using rose water for flavor. Could I swap out saffron for rose water for a different flavor profile?

    • Reply
      January 23, 2023 at 2:39 pm

      Yes you absolutely could. Rose water would work beautifully. Rose water tends to lose flavour when it’s placed under heat so you’ll need to use a lot more than you may think. Another option would be to use a rose extract as that would be more potent. Hope that helps!

  • Reply
    January 21, 2023 at 8:08 pm

    Hi Rish, I’d like to make this for a bridal shower. Luckily, where I live I can get the pistachio paste you mentioned. To clarify, do I spread the pistachio paste over the whipped cream and still sprinkle the ground pistachio on top?


    • Reply
      January 23, 2023 at 2:41 pm

      Hey Minaal, this would be perfect for a bridal shower! I’m glad you can get a hold of the paste. Yes, just simply drizzle some of the paste over the whipped cream then add the pistachios. It’s totally optional but adds an extra pop of pistachio flavour!

  • Reply
    January 25, 2023 at 10:21 pm

    I would like to make this for my mom’s 60th birthday coming up. Do you think I can bake this in a bundt pan for a prettier presentation? Would the baking times need to be adjusted? I noticed you said that this would not be a good cake for layering because the milk makes the cake dense and hard to keep its shape, should I be concerned about this?

    • Reply
      February 1, 2023 at 2:30 pm

      Happy birthday in advance to your mum! The pistachio sponge portion can indeed be baked in a bundt tin, but you would struggle with the milk portion. I also can’t comment on whether you’d have to adjust the batter amount to compensate for the change in tin as it’s not something I’ve tried myself. You may also struggle to soak the milk in the bundt tin as you won’t be able to remove the cake after. Definitely not a cake you can layer. It’s best served as a sheet cake from the same tray it soaks the milk in. Hope that helps!

  • Reply
    February 3, 2023 at 7:01 pm

    5 stars
    I don’t usually leave reviews but this Cake deserves it. It was fantastic and so flavourful. I actually realized after that I forgot to add the pistachio paste. You can definitely make it without the paste and it will still be amazing. I also added rose water to the whipped cream. Will definitely be making this cake again. Looking forward to trying other recipes on this site as well.

    • Reply
      February 10, 2023 at 2:34 pm

      I’m blown away Naz. That is one of the kindest reviews, if not THE kindest I have ever received. It means the world that you took time out of your day to leave such a glowing, lovely review for one of my personal favourite creations. I’m so glad you enjoyed it and have the utmost appreciation for your lovely words!

  • Reply
    Jinaa Patel
    February 10, 2023 at 2:29 pm

    5 stars
    I wish I’d found this recipe earlier!! Easy recipe to follow and worth the mess you may make! I loved this cake and can’t wait to make it again. So sponge is super moist and the cream is just right! I didn’t have the right baking tray so used a smaller one and reduced the bake time a bit. I’m a proper beginner at baking but this one I managed to do justice.

    • Reply
      February 11, 2023 at 2:01 pm

      Wow Jinaa, I’m in absolute awe that you would take the time to leave such a glowing review! Thank you so much for your lovely words!

  • Reply
    February 10, 2023 at 11:52 pm

    5 stars
    Omg thank you Rishi!!! Called my picky in laws over for dinner tonight and served this for dessert. They NEVER give out compliments but let’s just say, they couldn’t stop praising this cake!! I don’t even like milk cakes myself but the cardamom sponge!!!! You’re right, it’s a vibe! So flavourful, rich and beautiful! Thank you for helping me receive the only praises I’ll ever hear from my in laws 😄

    • Reply
      February 13, 2023 at 5:50 pm

      Thank you so much Anam for such a great review, it truly means so much! Haha I am sure they will be praising you continuously! I’m so glad to hear you guys all enjoyed this one! Once again thank you for taking the time to leave such a lovely review!

  • Reply
    February 17, 2023 at 5:18 am

    I have not tried this cake yet but the recipe looks amazing. Do you have any conversions to American measurements? When I look up conversions online, the information is contradictory. So my baked cakes tend to fall short of the original. Any advice is appreciated.

    • Reply
      February 17, 2023 at 1:18 pm

      Unfortunately not. I don’t use American measurements due to their inconsistency. One cup measure will vary between households and even countries making it a hugely unreliable measurement. All my recipes will be measured by weight to ensure they are reproducible, reliable, and consistent for all. It’s definitely worth purchasing a scale to aid in baking, it will ensure every recipe turns out as intended. They’re quite inexpensive pieces of kit too and very handy!

  • Reply
    Baked Pistachio Kulfi Cheesecake - Dish by Rish
    April 2, 2023 at 7:39 pm

    […] recipes previously for my Pistachio Kulfi Cookies, Almond and Pistachio Kulfi Shortbread, and my Pistachio Kulfi Milk Cake. All of which have been incredibly popular, which makes me think that you guys share the same love […]

  • Reply
    Pooja J
    June 7, 2023 at 8:17 pm

    5 stars
    Wow what a beautiful and delicious cake! Made it for my son’s birthday and everyone loved the cake (specially my inlaws 😉). I skipped the pistachio paste because I couldn’t find it in the grocery stores. This is the first recipe I tried from the blog and CANNOT wait to try other recipes.
    Thank you for this superb recipe!

    • Reply
      June 7, 2023 at 10:40 pm

      Thank you so much for such a kind review! Sending your son all the birthday wishes. Extra points when the in laws are happy I imagine haha! Thank you once again for taking the time to leave such a lovely review. I hope you enjoy every recipe you get to try! Best wishes, Rish

  • Reply
    July 20, 2023 at 10:16 am

    Hi! I will definitely try this recipe. But before I do, is it possible to reduce the sugar quantity of the sponge and whipping cream without compromising on the quality of the cake? Thank you.

    • Reply
      July 20, 2023 at 1:53 pm

      The sugar in the whipped cream can be reduced as it’s not imperative for structure (but the whipped cream honestly isn’t that sweet – I promise!). However I wouldn’t recommend reducing the sugar in the cake as it provides structure and browning. But by all means feel free to reduce if you want to, but I unfortunately cannot guarantee the final result will be the same

  • Reply
    Teri L
    August 3, 2023 at 3:22 am

    5 stars
    I made this this week. We had some after dinner today and it was great! I even found a video on how to make the pistachio cream.

    • Reply
      August 3, 2023 at 6:48 pm

      I’m so glad you loved it, thank you for taking the time to leave a review. I really appreciate that! Did your pistachio cream turn out quite smooth?

  • Reply
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