★★★★★

Watergate Cake

Watergate Cake brings together pistachio, coconut, and pudding in a delicious layer cake! A light whipped frosting and pecans on top make it hard to stop at just one slice.

Looking for a cupcake version of this vintage cake? Try my Watergate Cupcakes recipe. Or give our pistachio bundt cake recipe a try next!

Watergate cake with pistachio pudding, coconut, and pecans on cake platter.

What is Watergate Cake

If you have any of those old-school church or neighborhood cookbooks, I can bet you there will find at least one recipe for Watergate Cake.

Watergate Cake is about as classic as it gets. There are probably a million variations within each family, but the general elements are white cake mix, pistachio pudding mix, 7Up, coconut and pecans.

You may be familiar with this Watergate Salad recipe…seriously amazing!

Why this Recipe is the Best

Every family has their version of a Watergate Cake recipe, and this is ours.

  • The great thing about Watergate Cake, though, is that it starts with a white cake mix, so it’s pretty quick and easy to make.
  • Adding pistachio pudding mix and lemon-lime soda makes it extra light and moist, and the chopped pecans and coconut add texture and flavor.
  • The original frosting recipe uses Dream Whip (a shelf-stable version of Cool Whip) as the base and is flavored with more pistachio pudding mix to get that classic Watergate Cake green color and flavor. It’s light and fluffy and super easy to make.

If you love my Watergate Cake recipe and are looking for some other senior citizen-style recipes, check out Dad’s Bread Pudding, Pineapple Coconut Cupcakes or Shortbread Cookies.

Ingredient Notes

Ingredients needed to make pistachio cake.
  • Cake Mix. a package of dry white cake mix. In a pinch, a yellow cake mix will work, but the green pistachio color may not be as vibrant.
  • Cool Whip. The original watergate cake recipe that’s been passed down to me called for DREAM WHIP. You can totally swap out the cool whip and use that instead. OR, make homemade whipped cream and add the pudding mix to that.
  • Pistachio Pudding. You will need the Instant Pudding Mix for this recipe. It’s added to both the cake and the frosting for amazing pistachio flavor.
  • Coconut. Sweetened shredded coconut is best. If you prefer, you can add toasted coconut to the outside of the cake, instead of untoasted.
  • Pecans. I like to toast the pecans that we use for this cake, but it’s not necessary.

Tips and Tricks

Step by step photos showing how to make watergate cake.
  • Refrigerate. Keep Watergate Cake chilled for best results. You can also freeze this cake by wrapping individual slices in a plastic wrap, then sliding them into a freezer bag.
  • Toasted coconut variation. Adding coconut to the cake adds so much moisture. But, some people don’t like it ON TOP of the cake. If that’s you, try toasting the coconut for a sweet candy crunch instead.
  • Best whipped topping. Before adding the Cool whip, beat the pudding mix with milk until thickened. This gives the frosting the best light and creamy consistency.

Recipe FAQs

Can I make this as a sheet cake in a 9 x 13 pan?

I’ve got you covered with this Watergate Sheet Cake Recipe! It has all the delicious taste of this one but baked in a single layer.

Can you freeze Watergate cake?

Yes, I recommend baking and freezing the cake layers unfrosted. Double wrap in foil or freezer bags and store for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before frosting.

What can I use instead of Cool whip for the frosting?

You can substitute the Cool whip and for Dream Whip. Just add the pudding mix, milk and beat. Homemade Whipped Cream can be used in this recipe too!

Slice of watergate cake with a fork taking a bite.

More Easy Cake Recipes

Yield: 12 servings

Watergate Cake

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Chill Time 2 hours
Total Time 3 hours 10 minutes

Watergate Cake brings together pistachio, coconut, and pudding in a delicious layer cake! A light whipped frosting and pecans on top make it hard to stop at just one slice.

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 1 box (18.25 ounce) white cake mix
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 package (3 ounce) instant pistachio pudding mix
  • 1 cup lemon lime soda
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup chopped pecans (toasted optional)
  • ½ cup sweetened, shredded coconut

For the Frosting

  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 1 package (3 ounce) instant pistachio pudding
  • 8 ounce Cool Whip, thawed
  • ½ cup chopped pecans (toasted optional)
  • ½ cup sweetened, shredded coconut

Instructions

  1. In large mixer bowl at medium speed, add cake mix, oil, pudding, eggs, and soda. Fold in chopped pecans and coconut.
  2. Pour into greased & floured 9-inch round baking pans and bake in a 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes. Cool completely on wire rack.
  3. For the frosting, combine pudding mix & milk until slightly thickened (about 2 minutes). Slowly, fold in the Cool Whip until combined. Spread on first layer of cake. Top with second cake layer and cover cake completely in frosting.
  4. Press pecans and coconut into cake and refrigerate two hours or more. Serve cold!

Notes

  • Cake Mix- can't find the 18oz size? This works with 15 oz too.
  • Cool Whip. The original recipe called for Dream Whip. If desired, use 2 envelopes with milk. Beat until fluffly, then add in pudding mix.
  • Refrigerate. Keep Watergate Cake chilled for best results. You can also freeze this cake by wrapping individual slices in a plastic wrap, then sliding them into a freezer bag.
  • Toasted coconut variation. Adding coconut to the cake adds so much moisture. But, some people don't like it ON TOP of the cake. If that's you, try toasting the coconut for a sweet candy crunch instead.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

12

Serving Size:

1 slice

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 348Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 24gCholesterol: 49mgSodium: 102mgCarbohydrates: 16gFiber: 2gSugar: 10gProtein: 4g

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

It may be vintage but this Watergate Cake recipe never goes out of style!

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About Aimee

Aimee is a dessert lover (specifically rice krispie treats), workout enthusiast, self-taught foodie, and recipe creator.

Learn more about Aimee.

Affiliate Disclosure:**There may be affiliate links in this post! By clicking on them, or purchasing recommended items I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love! Thank you for supporting Shugary Sweets! See my disclosure policy for more info**

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Posted on February 14, 2022

Comments & Reviews

  1. I texted the recipe to my SIL, who was hosting the family for Thanksgiving, on the drive down there. Suggested she and my other SIL consider it for an addition to the weekend festivities. Amazingly, she had a 4 envelope box of Dream Whip in her pantry so the game was on (plus we’re all of an age to remember Watergate and how cakes tasted back then). We made it and loved it. Three generations were there and all remarked how moist and yummy it was. Thanks Aimee!

  2. I made it with Extra Creamy Cool Whip in the topping. I had to add about a cup of pineapple juice because it was pasty and wouldn’t spread on the cake. I ended up using 2 tubs of cool whip and 2 pkgs of the pudding mix for just the topping but it was worth it. Plus adding the pineapple juice enhanced the Watergate salad flavor which I love.

  3. All of the white cake mixes I can find are 15.25 oz or in that range, nothing close to the 18 oz in your recipe, do you think this will be an issue and do you have a specific mix that you use?

    1. I think brands have changed their box sizes. However, I just made this a few weeks ago and had no issues (I didn’t notice the size of box, but assuming since it was new that it was smaller).

  4. It’s my birthday also, and I’m making my own cake and this is a great one. I am adding the crushed pineapple though. Happy birthday to us all!

  5. Dream Whip? Whoa, that is old-timey. I remember watergate cake was popular during the time of the Watergate hearings and Richard Nixon’s impeachment. It did not have pineapple. The official word from Southing Living Magazine is the following: Watergate Cake is rumored to have been inspired by the salad, but with a nod to the 1970s’ political drama that wracked the nation and lead to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. You see, the cake version has icing to ″cover up” any mistakes and, like politics, is chock full of nuts. Feb 20, 2019 (Maybe we need a 2020 recipe!)
    Though I am a new “senior citizen” I will add nostalgia for times past when I hear songs that were on the radio when my teens were in high school. Nor only so I miss them, but I miss seeing their friends as well.

  6. Where can you find Dream Whip? I have been looking for it for other recipes as well. This sound right up my alley.

    1. It’s usually found in the baking aisle near the pudding and jello mixes (it is a powdered mix). You could exclude it and the milk and use Cool Whip or homemade whipped cream instead.

      1. If substituting Cool Whip for the Dream Whip and milk, how much Cool Whip should be used -Same as milk?

  7. Happy Birthday, Aimee!

    You think you’re old????? I’m 92 and honestly, I don’t feel much different than I did at 39! Except, of course, now I’m getting the bonus of grandchildren, great grandchildren and even great- great grandchildren! (The second one is due next month!) I’m still married to my wonderful husband! (We’re on our 75th!!) Life is good, as I wish for you, Aimee. I still like to cook and will probably make this cake soon. I made lemon curd today, so I will be making a lemon Bundt cake for company tomorrow.

  8. Can I use a 9×13 pan? Same question was asked 2 or 3 x ‘s, but never answered. I do not make layer cakes. TY for a response.

  9. Amiee, Don’t look back, keep looking forward and enjoy every day you have. Age is just a number and you are such a blessing to each and every one of us with your recipes and happiness. I wish you the very best of birthdays and many more to come. Keep up the awesome work, girl. Love you!

  10. I have one of the original recipes, the frosting was called “cover up frosting”  the cake was light, and green, and nutty

  11. So I’m making this cake soon, I’m confused on the Dream Whip. My store had a box with (2) envelopes, totaling 2.6 oz.  do I need another box? I’ve not seen a 3 oz box.

  12. Where is the pineapple in this cake. I plan to try this out but thicken a can of crushed pineapple and add to the top of a sheath cake and then ice. Watergate salad had pineapple.

      1. I live in Australia. This looks delicious and would love to try but We don’t have the pistachio pudding mix. What can I use instead please?

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