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This vintage Watergate Cake is a pistachio, pecan, and coconut dessert that’s topped with a creamy whipped frosting. The beautiful green cake is a classic, old-fashioned treat that has been a favorite for generations!

Close up front shot of a slice of pistachio pudding cake with coconut and pecans

My grandmother made Watergate Cake back in the 70’s, and I’m so excited to share it with all of you today! The delicious dessert is a perfect recipe for just about any gathering, and for so many different holidays. Your family and friends will love this cake on:

  • St. Patrick’s Day — it’s green!
  • Christmas — just add maraschino cherries for a green and red holiday theme and finish with plenty of snow-like coconut!
  • Easter — the pastel green color and the white, fluffy coconut just screams Spring!
  • Summer potlucks — the cake is so light and refreshing!
  • Sunday suppers with your family — a time to enjoy classic, old-fashioned dishes that bring everyone together around the table!

What is Watergate Cake?

While there are many versions of this dessert, a vintage Watergate Cake recipe typically includes a white cake with pistachio pudding in the batter, pecans, 7UP (or club soda) and sometimes pineapple or coconut.

You may find recipes for a Watergate Bundt cake (like this Pistachio Pudding Cake) or a Watergate layer cake, but we’re keeping it as easy as possible with this delicious Watergate sheet cake, which is baked in a 9 x 13 inch pan.

Where did the name “Watergate Cake” come from?

Home cooks have been making this particular pistachio cake with 7UP since the 50’s and 60’s — long before the Watergate political scandal of the 1970’s. The cake was a twist on a similar salad that was made with pistachio pudding mix, pineapple, pecans and Cool Whip.

Story has it that both the cake and the salad were renamed “Watergate Cake” and “Watergate Salad” in the 1970’s, because beneath its “cover up” of icing, this dessert hides a bunch of nuts!

I love history and I love cake, so naturally…I love this dessert!

Plates of watergate cake surrounded by coconut on a wooden table

How to make Watergate Cake:

This cake comes together with just a handful of really basic ingredients that you can find at just about any grocery store. No special baking skills required!

Ingredients for Watergate Cake:

First, prepare the cake batter and then fold in the pecans and coconut.

Batter for watergate cake in a mixing bowl

Transfer the batter to a 9 x 13 pan, bake at 350 degrees F for about 35 minutes, and then let the cake cool completely before icing.

Ingredients for Watergate Cake Icing:

Frosting ingredients for watergate cake

Some call this “Impeachment Frosting,” and it couldn’t be easier. Simply beat together the Dream Whip and milk until soft peaks form, and then mix in the pudding until the frosting is nice and fluffy.

Frosting for watergate cake in a mixing bowl

Spread the frosting over the cake, sprinkle with chopped pecans and coconut, slice and serve!

Close up front shot of a bite of vintage watergate cake on a fork

How to store Watergate Cake:

Cover the cake and store it in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. If you want to make the cake in advance, you can freeze the cake (unfrosted) for up to 3 months. Then allow the cake to thaw on the counter, frost with the icing, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Close overhead shot of a slice of vintage Watergate Cake

Cook’s Tips and Recipe Variations:

  • Instead of the Dream Whip, you can make the frosting using Cool Whip. To do so, beat 1 1/2 cups of cold milk with the pudding mix on low speed for 2 minutes. Fold in an 8-ounce carton of thawed Cool Whip, spread on the cake, and garnish with pecans and coconut.
  • A box of yellow cake mix will also work — the color and flavor of the cake will just be slightly different.
  • While it’s not as traditional, you can also make a Watergate Cake with pineapple. Here’s a quick recipe if you want to try that version.
  • I used 7UP in this recipe, but club soda or ginger ale are also good options. The carbonation helps the cake rise and gives it a light, fluffy texture!
  • For a pop of color, garnish the cake with maraschino cherries. This is especially great at Christmas when you want a festive red-and-green dessert!
Slice of watergate cake on a blue and white plate

More easy cake recipes that you might enjoy:

Slice of Watergate Cake with coconut and pecans on a blue and white plate

Watergate Cake

5 from 2 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 35 minutes
Cooling Time 2 hours
Total: 2 hours 50 minutes
Servings 16 slices
Calories 340.2 kcal
This vintage Watergate Cake is a pistachio, pecan, and coconut dessert that's topped with a creamy whipped frosting.

Ingredients
  

FOR THE CAKE:

  • 1 (15.25 ounce) box white cake mix
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 small box instant pistachio pudding mix (either the 1-ounce box of sugar-free instant pudding or the 3.4-ounce box of regular instant pudding will work)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup club soda, 7UP or ginger ale
  • ½ cup finely chopped pecans
  • ½ cup sweetened coconut flakes

FOR THE FROSTING:

  • 2 envelopes (2.6 oz total) Dream Whip
  • 1 ¼ cups cold milk
  • 1 small box instant pistachio pudding mix (either the 1-ounce box of sugar-free instant pudding or the 3.4-ounce box of regular instant pudding will work)
  • ½ cup sweetened coconut flakes
  • ½ cup finely chopped pecans

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine cake mix, oil, pudding mix, eggs and soda. Using an electric mixer, beat on low speed for about 30 seconds, and then on medium speed for about 3-4 minutes (scraping the sides of the bowl regularly). Fold in the pecans and coconut. Transfer batter to prepared baking dish.
  • Bake the cake at 350 degrees F for about 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place on a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Once the cake is cool, prepare the frosting.
  • In a large bowl, combine Dream Whip and cold milk. Beat on high speed until soft peaks form (about 4-5 minutes). Add pudding mix and beat until fluffy. Spread on cake and sprinkle coconut and pecans over top.

Notes

  • Instead of the Dream Whip, you can make the frosting using Cool Whip. To do so, beat 1 1/2 cups of cold milk with the pudding mix on low speed for 2 minutes. Fold in an 8-ounce carton of thawed Cool Whip, spread on the cake, and garnish with pecans and coconut.
  • A box of yellow cake mix will also work — the color and flavor of the cake will just be slightly different.
  • While it’s not as traditional, you can also make a Watergate Cake with pineapple. Here’s a quick recipe if you want to try that version.
  • I used 7UP in this recipe, but club soda or ginger ale are also good options. The carbonation helps the cake rise and gives it a light, fluffy texture!
  • For a pop of color, garnish the cake with maraschino cherries. This is especially great at Christmas when you want a festive red-and-green dessert!

Nutrition

Serving: 1sliceCalories: 340.2kcalCarbohydrates: 34.5gProtein: 4.3gFat: 22.5gSaturated Fat: 9.8gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.2gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.4gCholesterol: 35.8mgSodium: 220.4mgPotassium: 41.5mgFiber: 1.3gSugar: 15.3g
Keyword: pistachio cake, pistachio pudding cake, watergate cake
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

Read More

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Comments

    1. Yep, I like to add crushed pineapple to my Watergate Salad, but I’ve used it in the cake. Feel free to add some pineapple to the batter if you like, though!

  1. I haven’t made the cake yet but plan to do so tomorrow. Can I use sprite in place of the 7Up and can cake be cooked in aluminum foil pan?
    So excited to try it!

    1. Hi, Deb! Yes — the 7UP will work fine, and the cake should do well in a foil pan (you just may need to add a few minutes to the baking time). Enjoy!

  2. I can’t find a cake mix that is 18 oz. only 15.25 for all of them. What can I adjust in the recipe to compensate for this? Thank you!

    1. You’re fine, Debbie! The recipe card at the bottom of the post specifies a 15.25 ounce box. That’s what you want to use. 🙂

  3. I once had a Watergate Cake which was a sheet cake but instead of frosting, it has a pistacchio flavor drizzle which was soaked into the cake. Has anyone got a recipe like this ?

    1. It’s not clear, so it probably went by a number of different names. The Watergate salad was originally known as “pistachio delight,” so the cake may have been something similar. 🙂

      1. Thanks Blair. I’ve never seen nor heard of either the pie or the salad, so it’s piqued my interest. My only cookbook from that era (pre Watergate BH&G) doesn’t seem to have anything pistachio, but that could be just a poor index.

  4. 5 stars
    I had made this for our Pastor, just as you had written it and it was delicious.
    Later I made it again for my diabetic husband using the Swerve Sweets Vanilla cake mix and sugar free pistachio Jello pudding. Since it was less cake mix I decreased the oil to 2/3 cup, used diet 7-up and reduced it to 3/4 cup. I also used unsweetened coconut. I still used regular milk and dream whip and sugar free pistachio pudding for the frosting. I thought it was fantastic.

    1. That’s great, Crystal! I’m so glad that you were able to adapt it to suit your husband’s needs. Thanks for sharing your tips so that others can do the same. 🙂

  5. I remembered having this cake when I was younger. My mom used to make it for us every blue moon so now I wanted to make it for my kids for Christmas this year. This will be my first time so I am glad I came upon your recipe. I do have a question however. The recipe calls for 15.25 oz cake mix. I wanted to use better Crocker super moist white cake mix but I just noticed that it 16.25 instead. Can I still use this with the same measurements for the other ingredients, or should I switch it out for the Duncan Hines white cake mix that is 15.25 oz?

    1. Hi, Taisha! The Betty Crocker box that weighs slightly more should still be fine with the same measurements for the other ingredients. I hope that your kids enjoy it! Merry Christmas!