Fluffiest vanilla layer cake with dreamy blackberry buttercream – perfect for birthdays and celebrations.
A hot summer followed by lots of rain has made my garden turn into a mini ordered jungle (and to think it was completely bare this time last year). There’s masses of lavender, roses in bloom and tons of herbs.
The weather has also caused a veritable blackberry explosion. I have never seen so many blackberries in London – me and the kids have been picking bags and bags of them on our daily dog walks. I can’t resist seeing blackberrries without picking them – brings back so many memories of me foraging for them in Greece as a child.
I turned our first haul into blackberry jam and it turned out soooo good that it was begging to be used in a cake (I am hoping to blog the recipe soon). I used my favourite vanilla sponge recipe and decided to also do a little video.
What I wasn’t counting on was having 7 kids (my two plus visiting friends) running around while I was filming but that just makes life more fun. Plus when the cake was finally done I had several little volunteers to make it disappear!
I love making this vanilla cake, which uses the reverse creaming method, in a food processor. It is just so easy and always turns out fluffy, buttery and delicious. But you can also make it in a stand mixer – see the notes in the recipe below. The buttercream uses equal amounts of butter and icing sugar which makes it very rich. You do have to beat it very thouroughly, and scrape the bowl during the creaming, otherwise it can be a little dense.
The recipe makes quite a lot of buttercream, but it is better to have a bit too much than too little when frosting your cake. Any leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks, but you will need to soften before using.
I added several tablespoons of my seedless blackberry jam, which turned the buttercream a beautiful shade of pale pink and added bags of flavour. If you haven’t got homemade jam to hand, you can use store-bought blackberry jam or any flavour you prefer.
The cake is easier to layer if you make it the day before you frost it. If you haven’t got time for that, stick it in the fridge, well wrapped, to help it firm up a little. Adding a little vanilla sugar syrup will help keep the layers moist. Another trick to get a lovely finish is to freeze the cake once you add the crumb coat.
Top the cake with blackberries, edible flowers, a little gold dust and sprinkles. It works well as a celebration cake as it will last in the fridge for a few of days. Let the cake come back to room temperature before serving.
- For the cake
- 165 g | 5.8oz plain all purpose flour
- 165 g | 5.8oz caster sugar
- ½ tbsp baking powder
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- 100 g | 3.5oz cold unsalted butter cubed
- 2 large eggs lightly beaten
- 100 g | 3.5oz whole milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- For the buttercream
- 450 g | 1 lb unsalted butter softened
- 450 g | 1 lb icing sugar sifted
- 3-4 tbsp seedless blackberry jam
- 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
- You will also need
- sugar syrup optional - see notes
- 8-10 tbsp seedless blackberry jam
- handful fresh blackberries to decorate
- edible flowers to decorate
- gold dust or sprinkles to decorate
- Make the cake. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Lightly spray three 15cm (6in) cake tins with cake release and line with baking paper.
- Add all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder/soda and salt) to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse briefly to mix together.
- Add the cubed butter and pulse again until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- Mix the eggs and vanilla together. Gradually add the eggs through the feeding tube and process for a minute until well incorporated.
- Gradually pour the milk into the processor through the feeding tube and process together until you have an evenly mixed batter. Stop the mixer and use a spatula to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to make sure the batter is thoroughly mixed.
- Divide the batter between the tins (each will be around 210g/ 7.4oz) and bake for 20-22 minutes until the cakes are springy to the touch and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes then turn out to a wire rack.
- Brush the sponges with a little sugar syrup while they are still a little warm and leave to cool completely.
- Wrap well in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge, ideally overnight. Level the cake layers, if needed, using a large serrated knife before frosting the cake.
- Make the frosting. Put the butter and icing sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat well, starting on low speed setting and increasing to maximum speed once ingredients are incorporated.
- Keep beating until light and fluffy, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl halfway through.
- Add the vanilla paste and jam and beat until smooth.
- Transfer a third of the buttercream into a large piping bag fitted with a plain round tip.
- Add about 10 tablespoons of jam into a smaller piping bag fitted with a plain round tip.
- Pipe a ring of buttercream around the edge of the bottom cake layer.
- Pipe or spread jam inside the ring and spread to fill.
- Pipe more buttercream on top of the jam and smooth.
- Top with the second layer and repeat the process.
- Pipe or smooth a thin layer of buttercream (crumb coating) over the entire cake. Use a palette knife to smooth the top of the cake letting the buttercream spread over the edges.
- Use a side scraper to smooth the buttercream on the side of the cake – using a turntable will make this easier.
- Freeze the cake for 30 minutes before applying a second layer of buttercream to cover the cake. Repeat the process to smooth the buttercream for a clean finish.
- Pipe any extra buttercream on top of the cake using a selection of small or large star tips.
- Decorate with a few fresh blackberries and some edible flowers if you like. Add a little gold dust or pastel sprinkles and serve.
Make the sugar syrup: Put 100g each of sugar and water in a saucepan. Stir together and gradually bring to a simmer over medium heat. Take off the heat as soon as small bubbles appear on the surface. Add 1 tablespoon of vanilla paste and cool completely before using. The syrup will keep up to a month in the fridge. Use it to brush over cakes to keep the sponge moist.
Make the cake in a stand mixer: add the dry ingredients and mix briefly with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix until the batter resembles sand.
Mix in the eggs, scraping the bowl as needed, and finally beat in the milk until batter is smooth.