Kesar Pista Cupcakes – Indian Fusion Dessert- Pistachio Cupcakes with Saffron Frosting

5 from 10 votes

Pistachio cupcakes with a cream cheese saffron topping! Easy to make cupcakes use ground pistachios for a delicious flavor.

kesar pista cupcakes indian fusion

Popular Indian flavor profile in a new form – Kesar Pista Cupcakes!

This recipe is for from scratch kesar pista cupcakes.  Kesar means saffron and pista pistachio.  So the base cupcake is an eggless pistachio cupcake made from ground pistachios.  It is then topped with a saffron cream cheese buttercream frosting. 

Kesar pista is a popular Indian flavor ice cream.  The two are also used in many sweets so I thought it would be fun to make it in a new form for an Indian fusion dessert. Pistachio is a versatile ingredient and goes great with the flavor of saffron.

Six saffron pistachio cupcakes or kesar pista cupcakes on a plate.

Note: If you’ve worked with saffron you know it takes some time for the flavor to be absorbed.  I recommend making these the day before you serve them to give a more pronounced saffron flavor.

Saffron was once highly sought after and the ingredient of royalty. I think saffron is totally under utilized. It has a lovely floral taste and gives a beautiful color to sweets. A little goes a long way when it comes to saffron. The saffron cream cheese buttercream frosting tastes a bit like shrikhand because of the tang!

These pistachio cupcakes also taste great as Pistachio Cupcakes with Rose water Buttercream

If you are a fan of Indian fusion eggless cake recipes or fusion Indian sweets, you will love my Gulab Jamun Cake, Kesar Pista Milk Cake, Gajar Ka Halwa Cake, Mango Shrikhand Cheesecake, Chikoo Cheesecake, Tiramisu Burfi, Cookies and Cream Burfi and Kesar Pista Cupcakes.

Ingredients for Pistachio Cupcakes

Ingredients for eggless pistaschio cupcakes.

All-Purpose Flour: All-purpose flour serves as the base for the cupcakes, providing structure and volume. It’s a versatile ingredient commonly used in baking.

Roasted Ground Pistachios: Roasted ground pistachios add a delightful nutty flavor and a subtle green hue to these cupcakes. They also contribute to the cupcakes’ moist texture.

Sugar: I’ve used white sugar.

Salted Butter: Salted butter lends a rich and buttery taste to the cupcakes. The salt content in the butter balances the sweetness and enhances the overall flavor profile.

If you use unsalted butter I would add 1/8 tsp salt instead of 1/16 teaspoon.

Note: I’ve also made these substituting oil for butter and it turned out well.

Salt: A small amount of salt is used to enhance the flavor of the cupcakes and to balance the sweetness. It’s a crucial ingredient in most baking recipes.

Baking Powder: Baking powder is a leavening agent that helps the cupcakes rise and become fluffy. It’s essential for achieving a light and airy texture.

Whole Milk: Whole milk provides moisture to the cupcakes and contributes to their tenderness. It also helps create a smooth batter.

Apple Cider Vinegar: Vinegar is used as an acid to react with the baking powder, creating carbon dioxide gas, which helps the cupcakes rise. It also plays a role in enhancing the cupcakes’ texture.

Vanilla and Almond Extracts: Vanilla extract adds a classic, sweet, and aromatic flavor to the cupcakes, while almond extract imparts a subtle nuttiness, complementing the pistachio flavor.

Ingredients for Saffron Cream Cheese Frosting

Saffron Cream Cheese Frosting is a luxurious and exotic topping that can elevate your desserts to a whole new level. Here are the key ingredients that come together to create this delectable frosting:

Saffron cream cheese frosting ingredients.

Salted Butter: Salted butter provides a rich and creamy base for the frosting. The slight saltiness enhances the overall flavor, adding depth and balancing the sweetness.

Cream Cheese: Cream cheese contributes a tangy and creamy texture to the frosting. It’s a classic ingredient in cream cheese frostings and pairs wonderfully with the saffron’s unique flavor.

Saffron: Saffron, often referred to as the “red gold,” is a prized spice known for its vibrant color and distinct aroma. When infused into the frosting, saffron imparts a subtle floral and earthy flavor along with its signature golden hue.

Powdered Sugar: Powdered sugar, also known as confectioner’s sugar, is the primary sweetening agent. It helps to achieve the desired sweetness and a smooth, lump-free texture in the frosting.

Milk: Whole milk serves as a liquid medium for dissolving saffron strands, allowing the saffron’s flavor and color to infuse into the frosting.

Top view of a kesar pista cupcake.

How to make the Kesar Pista cupcake batter

Roasting Pistachios

Roast pistachios on stove on medium heat 3-4 minutes or until fragrant. Toss in flour before grinding, this helps prevent them from becoming pasty. You’ll get a mix of finely ground pistachios with some pieces.

Pulse to grind to prevent it from turning into a paste and releasing too much fat.

Roasting pistachios in a pan.
Roast on medium heat. It will take about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat. Let them cool.
Flour coated pistachios in a food processor.
Use 2 tablespoons of the flour needed for this recipe to coat the pistachios before grinding.
Ground roasted pistachios.
You’ll get ground pistachios with some pieces.

I recommend sifting the dry ingredients (except sugar) together to make the cupcakes lighter and fluffier.

Prep Ingredients

Mix apple cider vinegar or vinegar with milk.

Combine ground roasted pistachios with flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl.

vinegar with milk
Add apple cider vinegar to milk and mix.
Flour, ground pistachios, salt, and baking powder mixed in a bowl.
Combine flour, ground pistachios, salt, and baking powder in a bowl.

Make the batter

Beat room temperature butter until creamy. Then, beat in sugar and vanilla and almond extracts.

Butter in a mixing bowl.
Beat room temperature butter in a mixer until creamy and lighter in color. Beat in sugar and the vanilla and almond extract.
Kesar pista cupcake batter in a bowl.
Alternate between adding and mixing the dry ingredients and the vinegar-milk mixture to make the batter.


Line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners. Fill each about 3/4 way full with batter. Bake at 350F for 18-22 minutes. Every oven is different. Mine are usually ready at the 20 minute mark.

Check with a toothpick to ensure they are baked through.

Cupcake batter in cupcake tin for eggless pistachio cupcakes.

Saffron Cream Cheese Frosting

Tastes a bit like shrikhand because of the tang of the cream cheese!

If you’ve worked with saffron you know it takes some time for the flavor to be absorbed. I recommend making these the day before you serve them to give a more pronounced saffron flavor.

Mix crushed saffron in milk, let bloom at least 10 minutes.

Add sugar, butter, cream cheese to mixing bowl (softened, room temp). Cream with mixer.

Add saffron milk and mix.

Kesar pista cupcakes.
Once cooled, top cupcakes with saffron cream cheese frosting. Garnish with chopped pistachios and saffron strands.
kesar pista cupcakes indian fusion dessert
kesar pista cupcake indian fusion dessert

Kesar Pista Cupcakes (Saffron Pistachio)

Shilpa Joshi
Pistachio cupcakes with a cream cheese saffron topping! Easy to make cupcakes use ground pistachios for a delicious flavor.
5 from 10 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 22 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American, Indian, indian fusion
Servings 12 cupcakes
Calories 167 kcal


  • Cupcake pan
  • Cupcake liners
  • Mixing bowl


Pistachio Cupcakes

  • 1 cup all purpose flour 125g
  • ¾ cup sugar 162g, sifted
  • ½ cup unsalted butter softened (room temp)
  • 1 cup roast pistachios 138g, ground finely, some chunks ok
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar white vinegar can be substituted
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Saffron Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 2 generous pinches saffron crushed
  • tbsp milk warmed in microwave 20 seconds
  • 4 oz cream cheese ½ block
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter ½ stick, 2oz
  • cups powdered sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt


  • extra chopped pistachios for topping
  • few strands of saffron


Pistachio Cupcakes

  • Roast pistachios and grind into powder. Use 2 tbsp of the flour while grinding to prevent pistachio mixture from becoming pasty.
  • Mix milk with vinegar.
  • Sift together all dry ingredients except sugar.
  • Beat butter on medium until creamy. Slowly beat in sugar until all is incorporated. Beat in extracts.
  • Alternating between dry ingredients and milk, slowly beat into butter/sugar mixture until all is combined.
  • Heat oven to 350F and line cupcake tin with liners. Pour cupcake batter into liners to about 3/4 full.
  • Bake for 18-22 minutes. Check with toothpick to ensure fully baked. Let cool completely before icing so they set up properly.

Saffron Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Mix milk and crushed saffron. Let sit to bloom 10 minutes.
  • Beat sugar, butter and cream cheese together
  • Beat in bloomed saffron milk until fluffy. Spoon into piping bag and top cupcakes.


I like to leave out the butter and cream cheese for 1 hour atleast before starting the recipe, but time may vary dependent on the temperature in your kitchen.
Saffron flavor grows over time.  If possible make day ahead of serving to give the saffron more time to absorb into the frosting.
Bloom the saffron in warm milk (microwaved 20 seconds) before using.  Let sit atleast 10 minutes.  Leave longer, if you have time.
See recipe for eggless pistachio cupcakes here: Eggless Pistachio Cupcakes


Calories: 167kcalCarbohydrates: 21gProtein: 2gFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 22mgSodium: 125mgPotassium: 38mgFiber: 1gSugar: 14gVitamin A: 269IUCalcium: 27mgIron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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Recipe Rating


    1. Hey Renu – I made these with all oil and they turned out fine. The vegan in my fam said they tasted good 🙂 I posted a reel and a few pics in my stories on Instagram and TikTok if you want to see!

  1. Hello! Excited to try for Thanksgiving with my family. My mom does not like the taste of butter (I know bad Desi!) Could I do something like 1/2 butter and 1/2 oil or all oil? Thanks for the help 🙂

    1. Hi Renu – Haha, not bad Desi! It’s all good 🙂 I actually think all oil may work. I’ve noticed for most cupcake recipes I’ve been ok using oil only for a fam member who is vegan. I will try to test it out in the next few weeks if I can squeeze it in and I will reply again here or post on IG.

  2. 5 stars
    This was SOOOOO GOOD!!! I had to stop in the middle of eating these just to write a review on them. These forever changed my life! I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before because pistachio desserts are my all time favorite, but thank you so much for sharing this!!! Much love!!

  3. Can you substitute with other mild besides whole milk? I have some folks that are lactose intolerant. They can make do with some butter and cream cheese but are very mild sensitive? Thanks!

    1. Hi Priyanka – I often make my cakes using plant-based milks for vegans in the fam. Most often used soy milk (unsweetened) and at times oat milk and it works fine. I think it should be ok!

  4. 5 stars
    These were incredibly lovely! I used all vanilla extract. I baked mini cupcakes and used store bought frosting because I had some left over in the fridge. Everyone loved these. Thank you. 🙂

    1. Hi Aimee – Thanks so much for taking time to let me know, I’m so happy to hear 🙂 Also, appreciate you sharing that you used all vanilla extract and that it worked well as others may want to do the same!

  5. Hi! This is the first website I’ve seen that fuses indian and western confectionery. I loved this idea and want to make this but i have a few doubts. If i use salted butter, can i skip the additional salt? Also what should I use instead of cream cheese? Can i use Amul cream? Or perhaps whipping powder?

    1. Hi Saara! Thanks so much for stopping by. Yes, if you use salted butter then skip the additional salt in the batter. A substitute for cream cheese in the frosting is hard to determine. You could try marscapone cheese but I have not tried it. Amul cream is too liquidy to use so your frosting won’t set. As an alternative, you could make a whipping cream frosting and add saffron to it. Ingredients for whipping cream are in this recipe card:
      Hope that helps!

      1. thank you for the clarification but again, to make the whipping cream, is amul cream okay? i also have Baker’s whip whipping powder though it gives a chemical taste.

        1. I’ve never tried it so I’m not sure of the consistency of Amul Cream so cannot confirm if it would work. You could definitely give it a try! Where are you based? The grocery stores here also sell a cream cheese frosting which could save you time! Feel free to email me with further questions: shilpa at

    1. Hi Preeti, I haven’t tried with salted pistachios. It may become too salty. If you do give it a try, I would skip the salt added to the batter in the recipe.