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Vanilla Layer Cake – 4 layers of cake perfection

This is the quintessential vanilla layer cake, only better than ever. There are a few special touches that make this cake the best vanilla cake you’ll ever taste.

A 4 layer vanilla layer cake

As good to look at as it is to eat, vanilla layer cake.

Unlike almost every page of Baking Sense, this post is not centered on a single recipe, but rather illustrates how to assemble a professional looking layer cake.

I’ll start by saying that I understand that not everyone who bakes at home needs to, or even wants to, put together a cake that looks like it was bought in a high end bakery.

Chances are, if you’re reading a baking blog you might find this information useful, or at least interesting.

a top view photo of a vanilla layer cake

Vanilla butter cake brushed with rum syrup and frosted with Italian Meringue buttercream.

How to put together a 4 Layer Cake:

  • To start, I like to trim off the browned edges and domed tops of each  cake. I love the brown crust on a cake that’s eaten without icing, like a pound cake. But the crust can get gummy within an iced cake. By cutting off the domed top of the cake you’ll end up with a beautifully level and symmetrical cake that is as lovely to see as it is to eat. If you feel guilty about tossing the cake scraps that you cut off I’ll bet you can find someone willing to snack on them while you assemble the cake.
  • I split each cake in two (this is called “torting) for a total of four layers. I torte the layers because I find it creates a more balanced bite of cake. I’m not a fan of two thick layers of cake with one thick layer of filling. 
  • Trimming and torting should be done with a cake that’s been chilled in the refrigerator long enough so that it can be handled without breaking. Usually 1-2 hours will do.
  • I use a cake turntable to ice the cake. They’re not expensive and are well worth the money if you bake on a regular basis. I also use the turntable when trimming and splitting the cake layers. 
  • I’m not going to describe how to ice a cake since it’s like trying to explain to someone how to ride a bike. I made a video to show how it’s done. The only tools you’ll need are a medium offset spatula, a bench scraper and a cake turntable.
  • No turntable? No problem. You can use the same technique with the cake on a plain plate. Just turn the plate like I spin the turntable in the video. It’s not quite as easy without a turntable, but it does work.
  • Last step-sit down and enjoy a slice of your beautiful creation!

I’ve included here the recipes for the cake, syrup and buttercream for a perfect Vanilla Layer Cake. But these steps are the same for any layer cake, any flavor.

If you love learning how to put together a professional looking 4 layer cake, please consider giving this project and a 5-star rating.

Watch the video to see how to assemble a 4 layer cake:

a four layer vanilla cake on a white cake stand

How-to: 4 Layer Vanilla Cake

Yield: 1 cake
Prep Time: 2 hours
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Difficulty: Medium
Estimated Cost: $10

This is the quintessential vanilla layer cake, only better than ever. There are a few special touches that make this cake the best vanilla cake you'll ever taste.

Materials

  • Two 8" vanilla cakes.
  • 1 Recipe Italian Meringue Buttercream
  • 1 Recipe Rum Simple Syrup
  • 8" Cardboard Cake Circle

Tools

  • Serrated Knife
  • Pastry Brush
  • Offset spatula
  • Bench Scraper
  • Revolving Cake Stand

Instructions

  1. Trim the sides, bottom and top of each cake then split the cakes in 1/2 horizontally so you have 4 layers.
  2. Flip the cakes so that the flat side of one cake is facing the bottom and the flat side of the other cake is on top,
  3. Divide the buttercream in 1/2, reserve one 1/2 for icing the cake, use the remaining for filling
  4. Place the bottom layer on your cardboard cake circle or serving platter. Brush the layer generously with rum syrup,
  5. Place 1/3 of the filling buttercream on the layer and spread it evenly to the edges. Repeat with the next three layers.
  6. Ice the sides and top of the cake with the reserved buttercream.
  7. Serve at room temperature

Did you make this project?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

A four layer Vanilla cake on a white cake stand.

Vanilla Butter Cake

Yield: 12-16 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Bake Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Perfectly tender and buttery vanilla cake layers. Super soft, yet strong enough for sculpted or wedding cakes.

Ingredients

  • 6 large egg yolks at room temperature
  • 1 cup (8 oz, 224g) sour cream at room temperature, divided
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (9 oz, 255g) cake flour
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 oz, 340g) granulated sugar, 1/4 cup separated
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 sticks + 2 tablespoons (9 oz, 255g) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3 large egg whites at room temperature

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two 8" round cake pans with a circle of parchment paper or butter and flour the bottom of the pans only, not the sides.
  2. Combine the yolks, 1/2 the sour cream and the vanilla in a small bowl, whisk to combine, set aside.
  3. Into a mixer bowl put 1 1/4 cups of the sugar, sift in the flour, leavening and salt. Mix on low speed for 10 seconds to distribute the leavening. Add the butter to the flour mixture. Mix on low until the butter is incorporated and the batter looks like a paste. Add the other 1/2 of the sour cream to the flour and butter mixture. Increase the speed to medium and mix about 3 minutes until the batter lightens in texture. If you're using a hand mixer add another minute or two to the total time.
  4. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. With the mixer on low, add 1/2 the egg yolk mixture. Mix until mostly incorporated. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the rest of the egg yolk mixture. Scrape the bowl and mix until incorporated.
  5. In another bowl, whip the egg whites on medium high until they form soft peaks. Turn the mixer to medium low and slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Turn the mixer to medium high and whip the whites to full peak. Fold the whites into the base in 2 parts, folding just until there are no streaks of egg whites.
  6. Divide the batter between the 2 pans and spread so it's level.
  7. Bake until the center of the cake springs back when lightly pressed or a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes.
  8. Cool 10 minutes in the pan and then turn out onto a cooling rack. When fully cooled, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight before filling and assembling the cake.

Notes

The cake is very soft the day that it's baked. If you'd like to trim the crust and split the layers allow it to chill in the refrigerator until it's firm enough to handle without breaking. The filled cake can be kept at room temperature for several days (unless it has a perishable filling). The cake cake be frozen for several months.

Did you make this recipe?

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Simple Syrup

Simple Syrup

Yield: 3/4 cup
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

Simple syrup is a pastry kitchen staple. Use it to add a layer of flavor to your favorite cake or stir it into iced tea or a cocktail.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (4 oz, 125 ml) water
  • 1/3 cup (3 oz, 85g) granulated sugar
  • liquor of choice to taste (I would use about 2 tablespoons)

Instructions

  1. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan
  2. Heat over medium high heat just until all the sugar is melted
  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely before adding the liquor/flavoring.

Notes

The simple syrup can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks.
Without the added liquor, this syrup is also great for sweetening iced tea or lemonade.

Did you make this recipe?

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Italian Meringue Buttercream

Italian Meringue Buttercream

Yield: 16 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Light, fluffy and not too sweet, Italian Meringue Buttercream is a dream to work with. It takes on almost any flavor and is strong enough to pipe roses and other decorations.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) water
  • 1 cup (8 oz, 226g) granulated sugar, divided
  • 5 large (6 oz, 170g) egg whites, at room temperature (see note 1)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 pound unsalted butter (453g) room temperature, cut into 16 pieces
  • 1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
  • Other flavorings to taste

Instructions

  1. Combine the water with 3/4 cup granulated sugar in a small saucepan. Cook the sugar syrup on medium high heat, stirring until the sugar is melted. Once the syrup begins to boil do not stir the syrup. Allow it to cook to 235°-240°F (soft ball stage).
  2. While the syrup is boiling, whip the whites on medium high speed. When the whites are at soft peak reduce the mixer to medium low and slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and a pinch of salt. Increase the speed to medium high and whip to full peak.
  3. As soon as the syrup is at the correct temperature, remove the pan from the heat. With the mixer running on medium low, pour the hot syrup in a steady stream between the edge of the bowl and the whisk. Increase the speed to medium high and continue whisking until the whites are cooled to about 80°F.
  4. When the whites have cooled, with the mixer running on medium, add the butter one piece at a time. Add the vanilla and increase the speed to medium high and whip until the buttercream comes together.
  5. Store at room temperature until ready to use.

Notes

Note 1: I always use fresh egg whites. If you use pasteurized egg whites from a carton make sure the package says they can be used for meringue. Some markets sell pasteurized eggs still in the shell, those can also be used for this recipe.

If the buttercream becomes "spongy" while standing re-whisk to correct the texture. The buttercream can be refrigerated 3-4 days or frozen for several weeks.

Return to room temperature and re-whisk before using.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

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Italian Meringue Buttercream is a dream for piping.
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CakenGifts.in

Thursday 22nd of June 2017

You have great write up, I always read your blog. and I must say you are doing good job, plz do write like this.

Eileen Gray

Thursday 22nd of June 2017

Thanks.