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Pastel Layer Cake

Five pastel layers form this colorful creation. You can also use the batter to make four dozen cupcakes or a two- or three-layer cake (bake each layer a few minutes longer than instructed). Use our Seven-Minute Frosting if you'd prefer a bright-white, swoopy finish.

  • Prep:
  • Total Time:
  • Yield: Makes one 8-inch layer cake
Pastel Layer Cake

Source: Martha Stewart Living, January

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans and parchment
  • 6 1/2 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising), plus more for pans and parchment
  • 3 tablespoons baking powder
  • Salt
  • 2 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 10 large egg whites
  • Gel-paste food coloring (nycake.com)
  • Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter five 8-inch round cake pans, and line with parchment (you may need to bake in batches). Butter parchment, and dust with flour, tapping out excess. Sift flour, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt into a large bowl. Combine milk and vanilla. Beat butter with a mixer on medium speed until very smooth. With machine running, gradually add sugar, and beat until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

  2. Reduce speed to low, and add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with milk mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Beat until just combined; do not overmix.

  3. Beat egg whites in a clean mixer bowl on medium speed until stiff (but not dry) peaks form, about 3 minutes. Gently fold egg-white mixture into batter in 3 additions.

  4. Divide batter among 5 bowls, and tint each with food coloring to create different pastel shades. Spread each into a prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool completely in pans on wire racks.

  5. Loosen edges of cake with a small metal spatula or paring knife; invert onto racks. Discard parchment. Reinvert cakes, top side up. Let cool completely.

  6. Trim top of each cake to make surface even. Spread 1 cup buttercream onto top of 1 cake. Top with another cake. Repeat, spreading 1 cup buttercream between each layer. Frost cake with 1 1/2 cups buttercream. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Frost cake with 2 cups buttercream.

Cook's Note

To make ahead, unfrosted cakes can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days. Refrigerate for up to 2 days to store.

Reviews (10)

  • Amanda S 20 Apr, 2014

    I agree, it seemed the amount of stirring required to properly distribute the food color must have deflated the egg whites. The cake was quite dense, but everyone thought it tasted great. I mixed in some seedless raspberry jam into the icing for the in-between icing which added a nice flavour. My cakes weren't quite as uniform as the picture, I struggled with the parchment paper so they varied more in size and roundness. I needed a lot of icing to compensate! Overall good though.

  • jmelkins1 24 Oct, 2013

    I always use this recipe for my white layer cakes, minus the layering of pastel of course. I think the people that say it came out dense collapsed their meringue when they where folding it in with their batter. I've made this cake dozens of times and it always comes out moist and fluffy. Just take your time when folding in the meringue and be gentle with the batter and it will come out perfect.

  • JLJ354 11 Mar, 2013

    I just made this today. If you attempt to add the food coloring after the egg whites have been added (according to the recipe), the coloring won't mix uniformly without some substantial stirring which undoes all the beating of the eggs whites. Although the cake is lovely, it is definitely not light and airy but rather dense and heavy - definitely not worth the effort. Perhaps Martha's team can figure out how to find a way to add the coloring with the wet ingredients and solve this problem...

  • Steffy Watson 22 Feb, 2013

    This colored layer pastel cake looks delicious. I want to learn baking colored cakes. I tried baking them many times but they always get messed up. Hope this recipe will help me. Can I use strawberries to garnish it?

  • Steffy Watson 22 Feb, 2013

    This colored layer pastel cake looks delicious. I want to learn baking colored cakes. I tried baking them many times but they always get messed up. Hope this recipe will help me. Can I use strawberries to garnish it?

  • Ann Butterfield 11 Nov, 2012

    I've always wanted to learn how to bake and make layer cakes, but it never works out for me, it either crumbles or just won't layer. :(

  • lilpslblondie 9 Mar, 2012

    How many servings does this cake make? And what are the size of the layers they look like half sized layers? Trying to make this cake for my baby shower in May. Thanks

  • irys 1 Mar, 2012

    I'm a bit late, but here are their gel pastes:

    http://www.nycake.com/gels.aspx

  • irys 1 Mar, 2012

    I'm a bit late, but here are their gel pastes:

    http://www.nycake.com/gels.aspx

  • uptemily 18 Jan, 2011

    can you tell me which colors you used for each layer? i didnt see a pastel gel-paste kit on the website (nycakes.com) provided. thank you

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