Vanilla party cake

Vanilla party cake

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(30 ratings)

Prep: 1 hr, 15 mins Cook: 40 mins

A challenge

Serves 16

Cover the light buttery sponge of this classic celebration cake with silky-smooth meringue buttercream and colourful edible polka dots

Nutrition and extra info

  • un-iced

Nutrition: per serving

  • kcal510
  • fat30g
  • saturates19g
  • carbs55g
  • sugars38g
  • fibre1g
  • protein4g
  • salt0.5g
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  • 225g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
  • 350g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 5 large egg whites
  • 325g plain flour
  • 25g cornflour
  • 1½ tbsp baking powder
    Baking powder

    Baking powder

    bay-king pow-dah

    Baking powder is a raising agent that is commonly used in cake-making. It is made from an alkali…

  • 250ml buttermilk
    Buttermilk pancake mixture in bowl with whisk



    There are two types of buttermilk. Traditional buttermilk is a thin, cloudy, slightly tart but…

For the meringue buttercream

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 240g caster sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod, halved lengthways and seeds scraped out
  • 360g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • multi-coloured edible polka dots, to decorate


  1. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and grease 3 x 20cm sandwich tins, lining the bases with baking parchment and greasing the parchment too.

  2. Beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric whisk until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and the egg whites, a little at a time, beating until fully combined before adding more. Mix together the flour, cornflour and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk. Divide the batter between the tins and level the tops.

  3. Bake for 25-30 mins or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the tins for 10 mins, then turn out onto a wire rack, peeling off the parchment. Cool completely.

  4. To make the buttercream, put the egg whites and sugar in a big bowl (the bowl of your tabletop mixer, if you have one) with the vanilla seeds and set over a pan of gently simmering water. Lightly whisk until the sugar has fully dissolved – you can test this by dipping two fingers into the bowl and rubbing them together; if you can’t feel any grains of sugar, the mixture is ready. Remove the bowl from the heat and keep whisking until a thick meringue has formed. Continue whisking until the meringue has cooled to room temperature, then slowly add in the butter, 1 tbsp at a time. By the time all the butter has been incorporated, the mixture should have transformed into a silky-smooth buttercream. If it hasn’t, continue to whisk until it does. If it still refuses to thicken, it may be the mixture is still too warm, so chill for 10 mins, then continue whisking. Add the vanilla extract and mix to combine.

  5. To assemble the cake, place a sponge on a cake board or serving plate and top with a thin layer of buttercream. Repeat with the remaining cake layers and finish by spreading the remaining buttercream over the top and sides of the cake (see below). To get a smooth finish, use the edge of a palette knife, and drag carefully around the sides of the cake, smoothing out the buttercream. To decorate the cake, press the sides of it with the edible polka dot sprinkles creating a full border at the bottom with less and less the further up the cake you go. Best served within 2 days of baking, but the cake will keep for up to 4 days.

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Comments, questions and tips

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3rd Oct, 2019
This cake is fabulous! I'm not sure what went wrong for the people who it didn't work for - I followed the recipe and it came out perfectly. Made it for my son's birthday party, and it went down a storm. The icing is a bit time consuming, but worth it - it's what makes the cake special. You're essentially making a meringue, then whisking butter into it, so it does take a bit of time. But if you keep whisking, it comes together. It's not too sweet, with a lovely glossy finish. This is going to be my go-to buttercream from now on. Didn't have buttermilk, lemon juice and whole milk worked just fine. The cakes don't rise spectacularly, but they're plenty big enough when stacked, and lovely and moist. Agree with the jam layer suggestion - nice tart raspberry jam really complemented it. 10 out of 10!
Marcela Cárdenas's picture
Marcela Cárdenas
11th Jul, 2019
I made this cake - not sure what happened to those with a low rating. Everyone loved it! The sponge is very light and fluffy albeit the layers are on the thinner side (which makes sense since you’re stacking three!). Had to make more icing as I ran out after the crumb coat. This cake is on the sweeter side so I added raspberry jam in between the layers to add some tartness to balance the sweetness. Tips: whip the butter thourougly before adding the sugar. Then whip for a while after adding the egg whites - will make your cake fluffier and more delicate. For the icing, a pinch of salt really cuts through the fatty aspect of it. Good luck!
Karen Penny's picture
Karen Penny
12th Nov, 2018
Believe the negative comments, I chose not to and ended up with the worst cake I’ve ever made. The cake was eaten but the sponge was way too dense and heavy. The butter cream thickened nicely and looked great but the flavour was of pure butter. Such a shame as the overall cake looked fabulous but the flavour was very disappointing. Having said that, my kids and the birthday boy enjoyed it but none of the adults were very keen. But it was a lot of extra effort to make this cake for a below par outcome.
16th Sep, 2018
Cake was far too dense. Butter cream too waxy. Don't bother with this recipe
16th Sep, 2017
Made this for a 30th birthday party and it turned out fabulously with great flavour (similar to an "American wedding cake"), and texture. I made the sponges a month in advance and froze them (baking paper and tin foil), defrosted them about 24hr before icing, and you'd never have guessed the cake had been frozen. Icing was delicious, really light, too. So that it wasn't too yellow, per comments below, I beat the butter and sugar a bit longer to lighten it before continuing on with the recipe.
16th Aug, 2017
I made this cake for my grandpa's twin brothers for their birthday since one of them was over from Canada and they hadn't seen each other or spent a birthday together in years. This cake was a challenge but It came out great in the end. My family members loved it and couldn't believe that it was so soft and moist.
27th Apr, 2017
Does anyone know if this cake would be suitable for fondant?
26th Jan, 2017
ABSOLUTELY RECOMMEND! Never used a recipe with additional egg whites or with 3 sandwich tins but this cake is amazing! Couldn't find buttermilk in the supermarket so made my own by adding 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar to 250ml of pasteurized milk (blue top). Baked this for my colleague's birthday and everyone in the office lapped it up! One person even mentioned it was the best cake they've ever eaten (take that for high praise) the cake was light and moist, l substituted one buttercream layer for raspberry jam instead. The buttercream frosting very buttery but not too sweet and l will definitely be baking this cake again. The decoration was simple but cute and effective for a mature birthday girl. Wish l could post the picture of my work on here too.
18th Jul, 2016
Excellent recipe! I'm a beginner, but followed this recipe exactly (except for substituting creme fraiche thinned with fresh milk for buttermilk) when making a cake for a special birthday. Everything happened exactly as the recipe said it would -- both the cake mix and the buttercream turned out perfectly, and all tasted wonderful. For other beginners like myself, I would add the following advice, which I found later in another recipe on your site: When the buttercream mixtures are ready and the cake is cold, level the cakes with a bread knife, cut each one in half through the middle and stick all the layers together with the uncoloured buttercream. Cover the whole cake with a thin layer of the coloured buttercream – this will seal in any crumbs. Chill the cake for 30 mins, then cover with the rest of the buttercream and use a palette knife or pastry scraper to make the buttercream flat.
10th May, 2016
I agree with previous comments. Cakes were poorly risen despite the fact I followed the recipe to within an inch of my life. Then the buttercream appears to also be a disaster- I feel like it just tastes like butter more than anything. And is yellow in appearance, not the White the picture shows. Slightly apprehensive for people to eat it tomorrow! However as previous comments suggest persevere if the buttercream appears to have split- keep whisking for 1-3 more minutes and it comes together. Slightly disappointed, I thought the cake looked wonderful and not too difficult- how wrong I was!


3rd Oct, 2018
I need to do this cake in a heart shaped form... Shall i use the she quantities and cut the cake in the middle to get two layers?
goodfoodteam's picture
12th Oct, 2018
Thanks for your question. Unfortunately we can't give exact quantities or timings without testing the tin. We also wouldn't recommend using the whole quantity in one tin. You might find it easier to choose an alternative cake recipe eg easy vanilla cake, then decorating as above. Again you may need to adjust the quantities and timings depending on the the size of your tin.
14th Jan, 2016
Is it ok to make the icing a day in advance and keep in the fridge?
Marcela Cárdenas's picture
Marcela Cárdenas
11th Jul, 2019
Yes but be aware it will harden. Before you use it, leave it out for a few hours and whip again for a couple minutes so it’s spreadable again
25th Feb, 2015
Followed the recipe exactly but cake didn't rise what did I do wrong? Can anyone help
bella 1999
27th Jan, 2015
Can you tell me the quantities if I want to use a 10 inch sandwich tin? The recipe feeds 16 I need to feed 22/24.
goodfoodteam's picture
27th Jan, 2015
Hi bella 1999, thanks for your question. We haven't tested this recipe in larger tins, so cannot guarantee perfect results. You might be better to make 2 cakes or make an extra couple of layers of the same size.  Let us know how you get on. 
23rd Nov, 2014
Should the egg yolks be beaten before adding. The cake seems very heavy
goodfoodteam's picture
5th Dec, 2014
Hi there, thanks for your question. The recipe only calls for egg whites, not the yolks, that may be why it's turning out heavy.
6th Oct, 2014
I can't find these polka dots anywhere on the internet! The ones Ed has used are pink, purple, turquoise and green and all I can find are primary coloured ones. Can anyone help?


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