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 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

Watergate Cake

4.53 from 93 votes
By: Aimee
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.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Chill Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 10 minutes
Servings: 12 servings

Ingredients 

For the cake:

  • 1 box white cake mix 18.25 ounce
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 package instant pistachio pudding mix 3 ounce
  • 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 instant pistachio pudding 3 ounce
  • 8 ounce Cool Whip thawed
  • ½ cup chopped pecans toasted optional
  • ½ cup sweetened shredded coconut

Instructions 

  • In large mixer bowl at medium speed, add cake mix, oil, pudding, eggs, and soda. Fold in chopped pecans and coconut.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Video

Nutrition

Serving: 1slice, Calories: 348kcal, Carbohydrates: 16g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 30g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 24g, Cholesterol: 49mg, Sodium: 102mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 10g
Course: Cake
Cuisine: American
Did you make this recipe?Mention @shugarysweets or tag #shugarysweets!

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. Omigosh! I turn 39 in September & and watergate salad was a annual birthday dinner request. My mom made it for every church potluck and and my birthday! I am so making this for my 39th. Thank you so much. Cheers to our 40s 🙂
    Tiffany

  2. Well, age is just a number. Young is an attitude! I would love to try this cake sometime…Curious on how I’d fare with a new recipe to try, this looks yummy!

    Myfudo here…Normally we’d never put a shameless plug back to us, but we just launched our new site and we would love for you to be a part of it. I’d love to share our newest launch with you, I hope you don’t mind? Now that we are getting a new look…Myfudo is moving to a new domain http://www.yumgoggle.com This has been a project we have been working on for almost a year now. We just launched our new gallery submission site, and we are just thrilled. We’d be proud to have your work as part of our growing collection to continue to have a larger reach and further inspire all fellow food lovers out there! Please sign up and check us out (it’s free) http://www.yumgoggle.com/gallery
    We look forward to seeing your wonderful pictures, as always.
    p.s. We are hosting a Kitchen Aid Mixer Giveaway to celebrate our new Yumgoggle site, we hope you’ll participate =)
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  3. Happy last Birthday before you are 40!! You look dang good! I have made a cake similar to this, but I have never tried that frosting and honestly your frosting along with those pecans and coconut is literally making me drool!

  4. Loved your post. Same story, same song as you except I made it past the age which is never to be mentioned. Found my silver lining in a reverse way. When I was 39 I was still a 30 something and after 20+ years and 8 kids I looked “mature” for that. Now I think I look pretty darn good for a lady going towards 50. Love the Watergate Cake but haven’t had it in years. May have to make it again soon.

  5. You know what…I have met you now and I can totally say…you are not old at all!!!!! In fact for being 150, you have aged very well. Those wrinkle creams are working better than you thought;-) LOL! Ok, so Watergate cake huh? I have heard of it, but have never ever tried it. But it’s covered in coconut so I know I would absolutely love it too!!! Guess that makes me old too!!!

  6. haha, i could have written that same post only last nov i turned the age that is never to be spoken (add 1 to yours)…*cringe* actually its not all that bad, and i just add “whatev” or “amazeballs” to my vocab and pretend i’m hip again. (love the cake btw!)

  7. I’ve never heard of the cake but it looks familiar, and no, I didn’t see it at an old person party or anything so no worries 🙂 Happy Birthday–that’s enough to celebrate right there! Another beautiful year of life enjoying what you do and being around who you love! Have a great day!!

  8. Have a fantastic birthday! I know how you feel – I just turned the big 40 and it was so different from my other birthdays. Enjoy your last year in your 30s – it goes by so fast!

    And I must be old, too, because that cake sounds and looks delicious!

  9. Happy Birthday. As mom’s we never feel old until the first grandchild, then it hits you, no matter what age you are. But after hearing the word Grandma come out of that baby’s sweet, precious mouth, you’ll never want anything else. That said, I’m not sure I’ll ever want to hear the words great-grandma, lol! Oh and by the way, I’m only “21”

  10. Happy Birthday Aimee! You are too funny! I know what you mean…I feel like I’m turning into an old person too. I’ve never heard of this cake, but it sounds amazing! I hope you have a wonderful birthday! 🙂

  11. Happy Birthday! I turned 39 a little over a week ago and I do feel older, but not “old”. Don’t get me wrong, I can relate to everything you said, but you’ll see in a few days you’ll feel like yourself again 🙂

  12. Happy Birthday tomorrow! I loved reading your post, Aimee. I agree that in your 30’s you feel such a bigger sense of confidence, compared to your 20’s. Ill be 32 this year, and Im truly so happy! I hope you have a fabulous 39th bday 🙂
    P S.. It was so neat to see those pics of you and Jocelyn together on Instagram! I’m so happy u two finally got to meet up!! 🙂

  13. You are so funny ~ and I would have never guessed that you are 150! This cake sounds amazing ~ ingredients are now on my shopping list! Happy Birthday! I love all of your recipes 🙂

  14. Yep…you’re old! LOL! The only problem with that is it makes me even OLDER! Have a wonderful birthday, eat lots of cake, and enjoy 39! Love, Aunt Sandy

    1. Haha, thanks Aunt Sandy! Hopefully we can “coffee” together next week, and I can laugh about how old YOU are!

    1. Have a wonderful and happy birthday. At 42 you are in the prime of life. Wait until you are 87years old. You want to do and think you can but you can’t do much any more. Enjoy your children God loans them to us for a while but many times calls them home before he calls you. I love to bake and made wedding cakes for over twenty five years. Loved every minute. Made wonderful friends and now many of those brides have children getting married & having children. The world doesn’t wait for us we have to adjust to it. Enjoy your birthday and some of those wonderful recipes. I can’t wait to get in the kitchen and try them. God’s Blessings.

  15. As someone who was married at 19 and had the first of her three babies by 20 I say, Welcome to old age!

    People always say, “You’re not old at 42!”. But when you factor in the 23 years of marriage (30 years together), three boys, house, pets, work, etc. that makes me…..what? 150?

    Have an utterly FANTASTIC birthday tomorrow!

  16. You are too funny! My birthday was on Monday…I celebrated the 2nd anniversary of my 39th birthday!! I decided I’m stopping at 39. :0)

    I’m curious, do you know how this cake got it’s name? I haven’t heard of it before…think I will give it a try!

    1. I actually googled it, not sure if it’s true, but Jello was releasing their Pistachio pudding at the same time of the watergate scandal. This cake was made in their ads, with the recipe, and title, “filled with nuts and fluff, just like Washington.”

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