Three Layer Vanilla Cake Recipe

three-tier cake recipe

Photo by Farideh Sadeghin

Servings: a crowd
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Total duration: 3 hours


for the cake:
7 ⅓ cups | 993 grams of cake flour
4 teaspoons of baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons of baking soda
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
4 cups | 813 grams of granulated sugar
3 cups | 680 grams salted butter, softened
2 tablespoons of vanilla extract
6 large eggs plus 3 large egg whites
3 cups | 710 ml buttermilk

for the icing:
4 cups | 920 grams of unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
14 cups | 1 kilogram 494 grams of icing sugar
6 tablespoons | 90 ml heavy cream
food coloring, optional

to bake and build the cake:
2 cake pans (8 inches by 2 inches)
2 cake pans (6 inches by 2 inches)
2 cake pans (4 inches by 2 inches)
1 large cake knife or leveler
1 cake tray (10 inches) or cake stand
cake studs
offset spatula
frosting bags and tips
rotating plate


  1. Make the cakes: Heat the oven to 350 ° F. Grease two cake pans (8 inches by 2 inches), two cake pans (6 inches by 2 inches) and two cake pans (4 inches by 2 inches) with butter and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate large bowl and using an electric mixer, beat sugar and butter until light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla, whole eggs and egg whites and continue beating until combined, about 2 minutes more. Scrape down sides of bowl and stir in dry ingredients until just combined. With the mixer on low, slowly add the buttermilk, taking care to remove any lumps at the bottom of the bowl.
  3. Pour batter evenly into prepared cake pans. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until cakes are cooked through and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Check them after 20 minutes, as they will cook at different rates. Cool completely.
  4. Make the frosting: In a large bowl and using an electric mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy. Add the vanilla and salt, then slowly add the icing sugar one cup at a time. (You may want to cover your bowl to avoid sugar clouds!) After adding 4 cups, stir in 3 tablespoons of heavy cream. Keep adding sugar until 7 cups are combined, then repeat with the rest of the sugar and cream. If the frosting is too thick, add an extra tablespoon of cream at a time. If the icing is too thin, add more powdered sugar. Mix until desired consistency is achieved. Add food coloring to the frosting, if desired. (To make this recipe vegan, replace the same amount of unsalted butter with vegan butter and soy milk with heavy cream.)
  5. Assemble and Decorate Cake: Using a large knife or cake leveler, trim any overflow from the cakes so that their tops and bottoms are completely flat and ready to stack. Place a cake board or cake stand on a turntable or flat, level surface. Carefully place the bottom first layer (8 inch by 2 inch cake) in the center of the board. Cover this layer with a nice even layer of frosting. Carefully place the second 8-inch by 2-inch cake on top. Cover that layer with another layer of frosting and your base level is done!
  6. Then add the cake studs to support the weight of the incoming level to prevent collapse. Make sure the pegs are the same height as the top of the second cake. If not, cut them off with a pair of scissors. Place 5 studs in total in the lower level: one in the middle, 4 in the corners, like the number 5 on a dice.
  7. Place the first 6-inch by 4-inch cake on the base level and add a layer of frosting. Cover with the second 6-inch-by-4-inch layer, then cover with frosting. Add 3 to 5 cake studs to support the middle tier. Make sure they are the same height as the top of the middle tier (about 8 inches tall).
  8. Finally, add the two 4-inch-by-4-inch layers with a layer of frosting in between. At this point, the cake should be perfectly stacked and centered.
  9. Decorate the cake: add the larger, flattest tip of icing (as Wilton Cake Icing Decorator Tip # 789) in a large piping bag. Fill the bag with frosting, and starting with the bottom tier, cover the sides with a thick, even layer of frosting. (Because the frosting is a crispy buttercream, you should give this layer a few minutes to thicken. You can switch to frosting the sides of the middle and upper tiers before returning to the lower tier.)
  10. Once all sides have been frosted, use an angled spatula to smooth them out and spread the rest of the frosting evenly to cover the outside of the cake. Decorate with the tips and colors of your choice.

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This is part of a special series, Indulgence, which explores the extravagant life in a time of restraint. It is also in September 2021 VICE magazine issue. Subscribe here.

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