★★★★★

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. As I was reading what you wrote before the recipe i had to laugh to myself because in a couple days its MY birthday and I’ll be 27. I’ve been complaining that I’m getting old because I yell at the kids in the neighborhood to get off my grass and have noticed myself watching birds and even expressed interest in getting a couple bird feeders.

    So what I don’t agree with is that all kids wanted the chocolate cake. This has been my favorite cake (besides German Chocolate) since I can remember!

    Thank you for the recipe as I lost mine in a move.

  2. I recently came across something I wrote at 31 bemoaning the fact that I was getting old. I’m 67 now & pretty much fell out laughing! You seem to have a lot of older cooks on here & we all seem fabulous. The only thing I notice (which is truly annoying) is that I’m starting to call people sweetie (cringe). God compensates you by slowing up hair growth so that you almost never have to shave your legs. And that peach fuzz on the sides of your face? Gone! Seriously, that you realize how fast time is going and stop to appreciate your kids is a sign of maturity, which is quite different from age (know any MEN?) Senior citizenship will come someday, but it is a long way off. The trick is to be enjoying life too much to really notice. Will make your cake! Thank you.

    1. Just notice the date you originally posted. So that was two years ago now & you are over it, I’m assuming. Happy FORTY-FIRST birthday!

  3. Don’t worry. I will be 60 (!!) this year. I think 39 was my worst birthday–I just felt like I was a little overweight mom–kids were 8, 6, 3. So, my opinion is…it’s only getting better from here 🙂 Enjoy your birthday, don’t sweat the years. Happy Birthday!

  4. We made a cake like this when I lived in St. Louis in the early 80’s. It was made with pistachio pudding and was a bundt cake. It had cream cheese frosting, like every cake made in those days and was delicious. This is very similar, just in layers and of course different frosting. Might have to try this again for my Bunco group.

  5. LOL. Try baby and diapers in your forties……can’t wait to try this recipe when “Baby Girl” comes home from college soon–Baby Girl very much loves cake!

  6. The cake is delicious but I’m not a fan of the dream whipe. Next time I think I’ll use real whipping cream. But still very good. Great story too!

  7. Nuts and fluff just like Washington? Hilarious! I love cakes made with pudding mix as it’s Americana cooking at it’s best.

    I’m almost 11 years older than you, so you feeling old makes me giggle a little. And it reminds me I need to make an appointment to cover my gray hair. Sigh. Have a wonderful birthday!

  8. I will be turning 25 next week and don’t understand where the time goes. I have been married 6 year, been together a total of 8, and have three kids (2,1, and 2.5 months). The funny thing about your post is showing this to my mom or grandma; umm no because I’m making this for me on my birthday. DELICIOUS! (even if it isn’t chocolate 😉 )

  9. wait till you turn 58, then you can say SENIOR! My 40’s were the best years of my life, so far! Is there anything else I can use instead of Dream Whip? Heavy whipping cream or ugh, Cool Whip? This cake looks wonderful!

    1. The Dream WHip is a powder, in a box like gelatin. If you can’t find it, I’m not sure what to substitute. I always find it in the grocery store on the very top or the very bottom shelf with the pudding and jello.

  10. I remember the Watergate cake, but don’t remember the soda. Was there something else used in that cake. My aunt’s cat loved this cake. You could’t leave the cake unattended without that cat taking bites of the cake. Happy Hoidats.

  11. I am 61, so 39 does not sound old. If you like the watergate cake, then you might want to try watergate salad. I think the recipes were crafted in the 70’s when the watergate trials were being heard & we did not have numerous tv channels back then, so every station was inundated with nothing but the trials! I think because of this, every recipe that was developed around this time started with “watergate………”! It sure would historically date the recipes, but would also add nostalgia & maybe even a little story.

  12. OMG. Just made this cake and it is fabulous. So moist. I love the name and how it got its name. At 46 this was my first time making it but won’t be my last.

  13. Hey, I am 20 and this recipe looks AMAZING!!! I was wondering what dream whip is?? please help lol!

    1. Dream Whip is a powdered mix, you can usually find it on the shelves near the Jello pudding and gelatin mixes. ENJOY!

  14. I have made this cake for about 30 years. I will be 59 next week. Evidently the recipe came out about that time according to our ages. Happy Birthday to all of us!

  15. I remember this cake As far as I can rememberWatergate is ow it got its name I’m almost 75 years young and I don’t feel any older then I did when I was was 39. Just have fun and enjoy life God Bless you keep the good recepts comming

  16. I make a mixture of coolwhip, pineapple, nuts, & pistashio pudding. It is called Watergate Salad.

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