★★★★★

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. Happy Birthday! And you are only as old as you feel! Today I feel like I am maybe 55, but i am only 51, some days like 80, some days like 21!!It never ends! I am just happy to be alive and have the best kids and grandkids ever!!! the kids make you feel older but the grandkids make you feel so much younger!!!

    I can;t wait to try your cake!!! I too have a favorite birthday cake, but all can say is that is is angel food with a TOP SECRET Recipe topping!!! My mom made it up many many years ago and would not share it with anyone until I asked for it and my sister and we had to give her our word we would never share it!!! SO I have to keep my word to my mom! But it is by far the most delicious cake I have ever had in my life! Glad you have yours too and are able to share it!!!

  2. to the blogger… Happy 39th bday and thanks for the great thoughts on turning ÓLDER
    (older ? i wish it was me)

    I like your list of what’s important now and what’s not.

    Oh, and the recipe? Sounds marvelous, I’ve never heard of it before. As I’ve gotten older, I am liking COCONUT, where before not much.

    ps “OLD
    hahaha, I guess being on the verge of turning the big 40 seems like you’re no longer in the “young adult”category anymore, but just wait till you are no longer in a Marketing Dept dream “demographic”category which ends at 54yrs old.
    LOL – May as well kill yourself since they think that your $$ don’t count anymore~

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY & Thanks for the recipe.

  3. I’ve read in the newspaper that 74 was “elderly.” Since I turned 65, I’ve thought elderly was 2 years older than I. Now that I’m 77, I know it is older than that! The cake sounds wonderful.

  4. Hello,
    I wasn’t to make this cake for my sister’s birfday, but can’t find dream whip in my area. Could I substitute cool whip?

  5. let’s see…bird watching check…spend too much money on bird food check…tried all the “miracle cures for wrinkles” check. lol you just described me. Guess I am a senior citizen as well. Happy birthday and this cake looks yummy.

  6. I’ve loved this cake for years – it was a favorite for birthdays at our house. Hmm, think I may have to go make one!!!!! And, as far as birthdays go, just remember “you’re not getting older, you’re getting better!”

  7. Omgee You have brought tears to my eyes, I was just talking to my Momma this morning about my Grannie(My Mom’s Mother) making this cake every year for my birthday, I always wanted her too make it for me.. It was my favorite cake, I remember when I first had it I was like 8 and from then on It was what I wanted for my bday from her this cake she made it for me .. she died before she could make it for me again..but i have memories…I didn’t think I would ever find the recipe and I click on pininterest and someone has pinned your recipe thank you so much for Making this 41 yr old girl very happy! I hope you had a awesome Birthday!

  8. I made the cake today and just tried it. I’m 33 and I loved it. I hope you had an awesome birthday!

  9. Happy Belated Birthday! I’m a little behind in blog reading. I LOVE watergate salad and am thrilled to see this cake recipe! YUM! I cannot wait to make this. Thank you!

  10. You are so, so funny. And silly. This cake looks amazing. And I’m twenty something. Don’t worry about that second number there 😉

    Hope you had a great birthday (at least after the whole car fiasco)!

  11. Happy Birthday! And I love cake with coconut & nuts too! Visiting from Kitchen Fun linkup 🙂

  12. Happy Bday! I make Watergate salad during the holidays, so I will definitely have to try this. It looks yummy! I’m visiting from Something Swanky link party.

  13. 39 is old? hahaha! I’m 66 and just finished putting a new roof on by MYSELF. Before that I installed a new sliding door and some other projects. You haven’t seen old yet my Dear. LOL. I cook everything from scratch(and bake too).Age is what you make it,just a number.Time does go to quickly tho,I agree.

  14. Happy birthday. I love my birthday too and make a big to do about it every single year.

    I laughed at the kids comments because I’m there too. I DO NOT want more, but I get sentimental when I see little kids who cling to their mothers. Sigh. Years gone by….

    I’ve never heard of this cake before, but it seems pretty interesting. Not a fan of pistachios, but if I ever meet anyone that likes them, I’ll have to make it and let them try it.

  15. Happy birthday! I would never eat the boxed cakes grandma made. Now I make my own. I would gladly try a slice of this!

  16. First, Happy Birthday =) Second, you’ve made my night, seriously. I am such a fan of watergate salad… and now there’s a cake? I really have to try recipe out! Thank you for sharing.

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