Let’s think of the sweetest way to spread some holiday cheer.
And by typing cheer, I accidentally typed CHEESE. I’d also like some holiday cheese please. With my Christmas cake!
You’ll see where I’m going with this. I swear.
Every year I share a few cookie recipes because those are such a staple for us around the holidays. I would bake with my grandma and now I bake with my cousin and am going to bake a few with Max. There is nothing I love more than giving people piles of cookies on a sparkly plate!
BUT. This year I wanted to try out something different. I don’t love to bake cakes (hellllo lack of patience) but was set on making a sparkly Christmas cake – one that was simple (well, as simple as cake can be) enough that I could share during the holiday season once or twice. Like take to a party or make on Christmas Eve.
And HERE IT IS!
This cake is heavy on the vanilla flavor with just a touch of almond. But the best part – in my opinion, what takes it over the top? Is the cream cheese icing!
OH MY GOSH.
Cream cheese icing is life.
If you have been following for a while, then you know that I just don’t LOVE icing. I’ve never been a frosting person. I either eat the cake only or I eat the cake with just a verrrrry light spread of the frosting. It’s always been this way.
Which is nuts, since I do have some sweet teeth. But frosting is just not my thing unless it’s very very very dark and chocolatey and rich.
Or unless it’s cream cheese frosting. Eeeep.
I think that I love cream cheese frosting so much because it reminds me of cheesecake, which has forever been my last mean dessert. Like the last dessert I would ever choose to have. My ultimate favorite.
This cake is SO pretty and such a show stopper and really NOT that difficult – that I wish I could have it on my table every single weekend… just because. Like as a permanent decoration.
And speaking of it being not that difficult, let me tell you a secret. I tested this a few times. I made a totally from-scratch version three times to make sure it would taste good enough. And it tasted delicious!
But guess what? I made it a final time using white cake mix from a box and it was still delicious. I am not a total cake mix snob. Mother Lovett, who baked all the time, used cake mix often. My mom uses cake mix often! So if you’re in a rush and don’t want to measure everything or wait for your butter to come to room temperature?
You can absolutely grab a white cake mix and make this cake. No shame. It’s all about the Christmas sparkle on the outside anyway.
For the from-scratch cake, I slightly adapted this white cake recipe from Robyn. It’s an amazing recipe and overall delish if you want to go that route.
You can probably also grab some cream cheese frosting from a container, but since I’m such a cream cheese frosting freak, I’d always make that myself. Mostly so I can lick the bowl.
Oh! And. The “snow” on my marble table here is just leftover crunched up sugar from making the sugared cranberries! Looks sooo much like fancy ass snow.
Let’s talk about garnishes! I made sugared cranberries like I normally do around the holiday season and while I had some syrup and sugar left… I figured that I would sugar rosemary. I didn’t even know if it was possible but I LOVED the end result! It was so festive that I might do it for a few Christmas cocktails this season too, like the mistletoe margaritas from yesterday.
ALSO. I have to give a huge shout out to Erin who helped me set up the photos and style this cake one morning when I was 38.5 weeks pregnant and praying to god that I didn’t go into labor. We basically only ate cake that day and it was wonderful.
Really trying to rally for that to happen weekly. Christmas always!
White Christmas Sparkle Cake
vanilla almond cake
- 3 cups cake flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups unsalted butter, softened
- 2 1/2 cups of sugar
- 5 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
cream cheese frosting
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 (8-ounce) blocks of cream cheese, softened
- 4 to 5 cups powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- tons of white sparkle sprinkles, for throwing on the frosting!
sugar cranberries and rosemary
- 6 ounces fresh cranberries
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 5 to 6 sprigs fresh rosemary
NOTE: YOU CAN TOTALLY USE WHITE CAKE MIX HERE TO MAKE THIS EASIER! I’VE DONE IT TWICE ALREADY. IT’S FINE! USE 2 BOXES OF YOUR FAVORITE WHITE CAKE MIX FOR 3 OR 4 LAYERS OF CAKE. Or use this recipe below.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 3 9-inch round cake pans with non-stick baking spray liberally. In a bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat the butter until creamy. Add in the sugar and beat on medium speed, scraping down the sides when needed, for 3 to 4 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add each egg one at a time and beat after each addition, beating just until combined. Gradually beat in half of the dry ingredients, then add in the milk. Add the remaining dry ingredients. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl and make sure all of the ingredients are combined.
Evenly pour the cake batter into the pans (I like to do this using a measuring cup!). Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the center is set and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes in the pan and then gently remove onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
To frost these successfully, once they are cool, I wrap each cake in plastic wrap and place is in the freezer overnight. I remove and frost the cake while frozen, just because it’s easier for me. To make the “naked” frosting look, I layered the frosting in the centers of the layers, then spread some on the sides but used a large spatula to scrape most of it off. As soon as I frosted the cakes, I threw white sparkle sprinkles on it (like these). Right before setting it out, you can top with the sugared cranberries and rosemary.
cream cheese frosting
In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until smooth. Gradually add in the powdered sugar with the mixer on low speed, increasing the speed once all of the sugar is added. Add in the vanilla extract, then beat on medium to medium-high speed for a good 2 to 3 minutes until creamy, scraping down the sides if needed. If you find the frosting it a bit too thick, add in some milk 1 teaspoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.
I love how this frosting works on cakes once they are refrigerated! It’s delicious.
Add 1 cup of the sugar and the water to a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk until the sugar dissolves and bring the mixture to a boil, cooking for 2 to 3 minutes. Set it aside until it is cool enough to touch. Once the syrup is cool, either dunk the cranberries in it or pour the liquid over top of them in a bowl. Place the remaining sugar on a plate. I find the cranberries stay the prettiest if you try to remove any syrup “globs” and roll them in sugar one at a time.
Same goes for the rosemary! Simply “dip” it in the sugar syrup mixture and them roll it in the sugar. Let it set before shaking off any excess sugar.
For the “snow look,” I simply used what was leftover of the sugar that I rolled the cranberries and rosemary in and placed it on the board.
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It’s like a Christmas cloud!