Vanilla party cake

Vanilla party cake

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(21 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 sponges only

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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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!
31st Mar, 2016
I made this with and followed the cake and buttercream mix exactly. The cakes were fine but my buttercream is more yellow than on the picture which I don't know if that should happen. It doesn't look bad, hope it tastes okay.
3rd Apr, 2016
Hi Loisneva, if your buttercream is very yellow you may need to beat it more. Because of the high butter content, the butter needs to be beaten in very very will lighten the texture and colour. It will still taste fine but the colour and texture will be nicer. Hope this helps.
Deborah143's picture
9th Oct, 2015
I've made this cake several times now and it always goes down a treat. And the meringue my go to for all cakes...easy to make and tastes sublime.


14th Jan, 2016
Is it ok to make the icing a day in advance and keep in the fridge?
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?
goodfoodteam's picture
15th Oct, 2014
Hi there, thanks for the question, you should be able to find them online at most cake craft shops, or try Lakeland. 
1st Oct, 2014
This seems like an inordinate amount of butter in the icing- does this really work? Surely it will primarily taste of butter in these quantities.
6th Oct, 2014
I agree, when I made it my daughter described the icing as being like margarine!


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