Vanilla cake is a delicious and classic dessert. Having a trusty recipe for it on hand can get you far in the kitchen. Vanilla is a rather subtle and neutral flavor which makes it the perfect base for various types of fillings and frostings such as fruits and curds, chocolate ganache as well as whipped cream and glazes. Today we are making a vanilla layer cake filled and frosted with a delicious Swiss meringue buttercream.
You can either bake the vanilla cake in one tall 16cm or 20cm (6 or 8-inch) pan or two 20cm (8-inch) pans. I personally prefer baking the layers separately as they tend to bake more evenly this way. Also be sure to thoroughly grease and flour the pans before adding in the batter. Don’t skip flouring the pans, otherwise, it can be quite tricky to get out the cakes (ask me how I know!).
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Swiss meringue buttercream is the more sophisticated version of ordinary buttercream. It has a silky smooth texture, holds its shape well and isn’t overly sweet. While it is an ideal frosting for layer cakes as it can be smoothed out easily and holds its shape at room temperature, it can be a bit tricky to work with. There are a few things you need to keep in mind to ensure that your buttercream turns out great, every single time.
– Make sure you are working with completely grease-free bowls and utensils. Wipe down the bowl of your stand mixer with a little bit of vinegar to remove any grease residue.
– Whip the meringue until the bowl of the stand mixer has cooled completely and the meringue forms stiff peaks, then add in your butter. If you add in the butter too soon your buttercream will not thicken.
– Work with fresh egg whites as they produce a more stable meringue.
Swiss meringue buttercream is a bit sensitive to temperature and humidity. Try to avoid making Swiss meringue on a very humid day. Even if you follow the recipe correctly, a too warm or cold kitchen can cause some troubles for your buttercream.
-If the buttercream is too soft or liquidy, place it into the fridge for 30 minutes or an hour until it has thickened.
-If the buttercream has curdled, scoop out 2 to 3 tablespoons and microwave for a few seconds until the buttercream has liquefied. With the mixer running, add in the liquefied mixture to the rest of your buttercream. Your buttercream should become smooth again. If not, repeat the process.
For frosting the cake, you’ll need an angled spatula and a bench scraper. To pipe on decorations, you’ll also need piping tips of choice and a piping bag. I used the Wilton 1M tip and disposable piping bags. I also used Wilton Sky Blue gel food color to tint my frosting and meringue cookies and a few sprinkles as decor. Feel free to decorate the cake however you wish. If you do not own any cake decorating tools but would still like to make this cake, you can smooth out the frosting with a butter knife and then make simple swirl patterns with the back of a spoon.
Vanilla Layer Cake with Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- 370 g all purpose flour 3 cups
- 2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 vanilla bean
- 220 g butter 2 sticks
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 340 g white granulated sugar
- 3 eggs + 1 extra yolk
- 250 ml whole milk 1 cup
- 50 ml rum 1/4 cup
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- 6 egg whites
- 300 g white granulated sugar 1 and 1/2 cup
- pinch of salt
- 220 g butter 2 sticks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Food color of choice eg. Wilton Sky Blue
Preheat the oven to 180C (350F) and coat two 20cm (8-inch) cake pans with non-stick spray and lightly flour the bottom.
Combine the flour, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl and whisk together.
Slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter, salt, vanilla seeds and sugar until fluffy.
With the mixer running on low, add in the eggs and yolk, one at a time and mix until smooth.
Combine the milk and the rum. With the mixer running on low, add 1/3 of the flour mixture and then 1/3 of the milk and rum mixture until and continue in this order until the ingredients are all combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans and bake for about 35 minutes* or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely.
For the frosting, combine the egg whites, sugar and salt in a double boiler and cook until all sugar granules are dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch. (About 70C or 160F). Then pour into the bowl of a stand mixer and whip until stiff peaks form (about 5-10 minutes). Slowly add in the cubed butter while continuously mixing. Lastly add the vanilla extract.
Add food color of your choice and mix until the color is evenly distributed.
Level the cake layers with a serrated knife and remove any large crumbs.
Add frosting to the first layer and stack the second layer on top.
Add a thin crumb coating to the cake and chill it in the fridge until the frosting is set.
Then add a thicker layer and smooth the sides out with a bench scraper.
Add decorations of choice.
*If baking in a single pan, bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour.
Cake layers can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container or wrapped tightly with plastic wrap and aluminum foil for up to 3 days at room temperature.
Unfrosted cake can be frozen for up to 3 months wrapped tightly.
Let’s get started!
Step 1 – Prepare Cake Pans
Preheat the oven to 180C (350F) and spray two 20cm (8-inch) cake pans with non-stick spray and lightly flour the bottom of the cake pans.
Step 2 – Whisk Flour Mixture
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and baking soda and whisk everything together until well combined.
Step 3 – Cut Vanilla Bean
With a sharp knife, slice the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds.
Step 4 – Cream Butter Mixture
In a stand mixer, cream the butter along with the salt, and vanilla seeds until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes.) Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Step 5 – Add Eggs
Keep the stand mixer running on low while adding in the eggs and extra yolk one at a time and continuing to mix until the batter is smooth.
Step 6 – Combine It All
In a separate bowl, combine the milk and the rum. With the stand mixer running on low speed, alternatingly add in the flour mixture and milk mixture, 1/3 at a time, until everything is mixed together. Be careful to not overmix the batter and turn off the mixer when the batter is lump free.
Step 7 – Bake Cake
Then pour the batter into the cake pans and bake for 35 minutes and golden brown, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
Step 8 – Make Meringue Buttercream
To make the frosting, add the egg whites, sugar and salt to a double boiler. (Any heat proof bowl will also work.) Cook the mixture, stirring frequently until the sugar has dissolved completely and the mixture has reached about 70C (160F) on a cooking thermometer. Quickly transfer to the bowl of your stand mixer and whip until the meringue has completely cooled and forms stiff peaks. Slowly add the cubed butter while the mixer is running, and once combined, add in the vanilla.
Step 9 – Tint Frosting
Tint the frosting with food color of your choice. (I used Wilton Sky Blue.)
Step 10 – Level Cake Layers
If you own a turntable, transfer the cake layers onto it to level them and remove any large crumbs.
Step 11 – Add Filling
With an angled spatula, frost the top of the first layer.
Step 12 – Crumb Coating
Add the second layer on top and coat the cake with a thin crumb coating and chill in the fridge until the frosting is set.
Step 13 – Thick Coating
Once the frosting has set, add a thick coating of frosting and remove excess with a bench scraper and spatula, smoothing out the sides and top.
Step 14 – Add Decorations
Add decorations of your choice. (I used a Wilton 1M tip to pipe decorations and added meringue kisses and sprinkles. )
The cake stays moist for up to 3 days which makes it ideal for preparing ahead of time and can easily be transformed to a birthday cake or any other occasion cake. Enjoy it with a cup of coffee as an afternoon treat or bring it to a party and stun your friends! If you love dessert, be sure to also try out this crunchy Coconut Pecan Pie or this decadent New York Cheesecake.