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Perfect Party Cake with Cranberry Buttercream

A moist, fluffy cake that pairs very well with fruit flavored compote or jam, frosted with a fluffy swiss meringue buttercream frosting, this makes the perfect party cake
Course Dessert
Cuisine European
Author Caramel Tinted Life (cake recipe by Dorie Greenspan)


  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour see notes for substitution
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¼ cups buttermilk see notes for substitution
  • 4 large egg whites at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 stick 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Cranberry Buttercream:
  • 5 egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 350 gm unsalted butter cubed, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Cranberry jam or cranberry syrup
  • Extra cranberry jam for the filling


  • Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 150 C (300 F). Butter two 8 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.
  • For the cake layers:
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  • Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl. Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant
  • Add the butter and beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, using either a hand-held mixer or a stand mixer
  • The butter and sugar should become very light
  • Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed
  • Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated
  • Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients
  • Give the batter a a final beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated
  • Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula
  • Bake for 40 minutes minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch - a skewer inserted into the centers should come out clean
  • Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).
  • To make the cranberry buttercream:
  • Set a saucepan filled one-third full of water over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer.
  • Whisk together the egg whites, sugar, and salt in a large heatproof bowl. Set over the simmering water and whisk until the mixture is hot to the touch and the sugar has dissolved.
  • Transfer the mixture to a large metal mixing bowl. Use a stand mixer of best results. I use a hand-held mixer, which takes around 30 minutes to whip the buttercream until it is set.
  • Beat on low speed for 2 minutes. Increase to medium-high until stiff peaks are formed.
  • Continue beating at medium-high speed until the mixture is fluffy and has cooled (the mixing bowl should feel cool to the touch).
  • On medium-low speed, add the butter, a few cubes at a time, beating until well incorporated before the next addition. The buttercream will appear to curdle, which is normal. This happens because the the butter 'shocks' the meringue when it is added.
  • Add the vanilla extract and the cranberry jam or syrup, and food coloring, if desired. I added a couple of drops of gel food coloring.
  • Beat until the frosting is thick and completely smooth.
  • To Assemble:
  • Using a serrated knife, slice each cake layer in half to get 4 layers.Spread a heaped teaspoon of cranberry jam over one layer, and smooth it out using an off-set spatula. Over this pipe out some buttercream and spread this with a spatula. Cover with the next layer of cake. Repeat with the next three layers. Using an offset spatula and a turntable to frost the edges neatly. Optionally, top the cake with some crushed meringue for texture. I used raspberry flavored macarons, which I crushed and sprinkled on top of the cake.


1. Although the original recipe calls for 2 x 9 inch pans, I recommend using 2 x 8 inch pans at 150 C for a little longer time instead (40 minutes of baking time in this recipe). The cake layers are not very high in a 9 inch pan, and you end up with flatter cake layers. I used 9 inch pans and landed up with 3 layers, instead of the 4 that I had planned for.
2. Cake Flour is flour with low gluten content, which can be measured by its protein content. Cake flour should have a protein content in the range of 7-8%. In Switzerland, we don´t have easy access to cake flour. All purpose flour (APF), also called as Weissmehl, has a protein content of 12%. Convert APF to cake flour by using the following ratio: 1 cup of cake flour = (1 cup of all purpose flour - 2 tablespoons) + 2 tablespoons of cornstarch
3. To make buttermilk, which is not easily available in Switzerland, you could mix yoghurt and milk in the ratio: 1 cup buttermilk = 1/3 cup whole milk + 2/3 cup yoghurt. Mix this well and use in place of buttermilk
4. As with most cake recipes, always make sure all ingredients you use are at room temperature, keep your eggs, buttermilk and butter on the counter at least an hour before you begin baking
5. A word on Swiss meringue buttercream (SMBC) - This is a very stable, fluffy and light buttercream, a favorite in my books. The light texture is due to the meringue that is created with the egg whites. The amount of sweetness is much less that regular buttercream which uses confectioners sugar and butter. It is perfect for frosting a cake, and spreads easily and very evenly. Extremely resilient, SMBC can stay fresh if kept on the counter at room temperature for upto 24 hours and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week. SMBC should ideally be served at room temperature. If kept refrigerated, you can take it out when needed, let it reach room temperature and re-whip it for 5 minutes.