My totally awesome baby brother turned 24 last week.  Um, what?  How is that possible?  In my mind he still remains the sweet little “Stevie” who became hysterically upset when he saw a clown at my birthday party one year (I agree though, clowns are creepy), and who is the best sharer I have ever known (he’ll even give you the rest of his milkshake – for real!)  Sometimes it’s hard to reconcile my memories of that little guy with the young man now in his first year of teaching elementary school, and who also happens to be one of the two best uncles my kids could hope for.  Time is just flying.

Instead of dwelling on that fact, we celebrate!  We celebrate with family time together, which in part consisted of him pushing Andrew around the backyard on a riding mower that was not turned on.  Uh yeah…happy birthday, Uncle Steve!  We celebrate with macaroni and cheese, and his personal favorite, chicken taquitos.  And we celebrate with the cake of his choice.  This year, the choice was cherry vanilla.  Now having tasted it I can say, stellar choice, Steve!

Cherry cake sounds pretty great in theory but it made me a little anxious.  It isn’t a slam dunk like raspberry or strawberry.  It requires more finesse because the flavor can be way too strong or barely there.  Thankfully this version was an all around winner and I thought the flavor balance was just right.  The cherry vanilla combo is awesome…but the chocolate fiend in me is also thinking that a cherry chocolate chip version could be even more spectacular.  Either way you go, it’s bound to be a winner.  If you haven’t tried Swiss meringue buttercream yet, now is the time!  We had a big crowd for his party and many people commented on how much they enjoyed the frosting because it was so smooth and light without being too sweet.  This is an all-around wonderful celebration cake and there is a distinct possibility that the cherry-chocolate version will make its debut at my birthday in January :)

Note: Since people always ask for a photo of the inside: Per my usual birthday party policy, I do not photograph the sliced cake.  Parties are about the birthday honoree, not the perfect photo!  However, I did take some photos of the assembly process (below).


For the cake: 
3 1/3 cups (370 g) plus 2 tbsp. cake flour, divided
1½ tbsp. (20 g) baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
1¾ cups (415 ml) whole milk, at room temperature
6 egg whites, at room temperature
3 tbsp. (45 ml) cherry syrup (from the jar of cherries)
¼ tsp. almond extract
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2¼ cups (450 g) vanilla sugar (or regular granulated sugar)
¾ cup (173 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup maraschino cherries, finely chopped

For the filling:
1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups (250 g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tbsp. (15 ml) milk
1 tbsp. (15 ml) cherry syrup
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 cup maraschino cherries, finely chopped

For the frosting:
5 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. (225 g) granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1¾ cups (397 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract

Maraschino cherries with stems, for garnish


  • 01

    To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Grease and flour the edges of 3 8-inch round cake pans.  Line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper.  In a medium bowl, combine the 3 1/3 cups cake flour, baking powder, and salt.  In another bowl whisk together the milk, egg whites, cherry syrup, almond and vanilla extracts.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sugar and butter.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  With the mixer on low speed, mix in the dry ingredients in three additions alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Beat each addition just until incorporated, being careful not to over-mix.  In a small bowl, toss the chopped cherries with the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour.  Use a silicone spatula to fold in the chopped cherries by hand.

  • 02

    Divide the batter evenly between the three prepared pans.  Bake, rotating halfway through, until the cake springs back when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes total.  Transfer the pans to wire cooling racks.  Let cool at least 15-20 minutes in the pans, then carefully turn the layers out and let cool completely.

  • 03

    To make the filling, combine the butter and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until well combined.  Add in the milk, cherry syrup, vanilla, and salt.  Whip on medium-high speed for 5-6 minutes.  Stir in the chopped cherries.

  • 04

    To make the frosting, combine the egg whites, sugar and salt in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the bowl, and add the pod to the bowl as well.  Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160° F and the sugar has dissolved.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Discard the vanilla pod.  Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 5-8 minutes.  Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated.  If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more (don’t worry, it will come together!)  Stir in the vanilla extract and mix just until incorporated.

  • 05

    Level cake layers if necessary using a thin serrated knife.  To assemble the cake, place one of the layers on a serving platter (or a cake board).  Top with half of the cherry filling mixture and smooth in an even layer.  Place a second cake layer on top of the filling and top with the remaining filling.  Place the final cake layer on top.

  • 06

    Frost the top and sides of the assembled cake with the vanilla bean frosting.*  Use a pastry bag with a decorative tip to pipe swirls of frosting around the top of the cake.  Garnish with maraschino cherries.

  • 07

    *I am no expert at frosting cakes, but I’m getting better each time.  This video series from Zoë Bakes taught me everything I needed to know and I revisit it frequently.  As she mentions, a revolving cake stand is essential.  I have this Ateco stand and absolutely love it.

  • That is one beautiful cake! I’m going to pretend I just didnt do the math on how old my little brother will be in April.

  • Kristen

    Looks beautiful and delicious, Annie!!!! We will have to try this one!!!

  • Mrs_Bosslady

    Happy Birthday to your baby brother! Wow, what a delicious looking cake! I always steer away from cherry cakes. I too feel it is difficult to capture that perfect flavor balance. I will have to try this cake for sure. Just lovely…

    P.S. You have the most even cake layers I have ever seen!

  • Kare @ Kitchen Treaty

    That cake is just absolute perfection! I love your official birthday cake policy … keeping the focus on what really matters. :)

  • annieseats

    I weigh the batter in each pan so that they are equal. Works every time!

  • This is so pretty!

  • Ali | Gimme Some Oven


  • Hello, beautiful cake! This looks like lovely cherry heaven. I’ve never tried Swiss meringue buttercream, but the way you described it leads me to believe it might just be my new favorite frosting!

  • Julie

    How do you slide the cake off from the revolving table to the final cake stand without messing up the base of the cake?

  • SoDomesticated

    Beautiful cake!

  • Liz N.

    Annie, your frosting skills are awesome (so clean, so classic)! I look at that Zoe Bakes video regularly and find that I learn something new each time I watch it. Your cake photographs are among my favorites of all-time! Thank you for including the gram weights. I prefer to scale up my ingredients in grams because it’s so much more precise and results in consistent baking.

  • Caroline L.

    that looks like such an amazing cake… beautiful frosting job!! happy birthday to your brother :)

  • looks fantastic! My daughter loves cherry anything and would love this cake. I would like to turn it into cupcakes for her valentine party at school (my turn to bring the treats!!)
    Would the filling (which looks divine!) hold up well enough for the frosting on the cupcakes instead of the SM frosting? Thanks!

  • andrea

    Ha! My first thought (I admit) was…what? we don’t get to see the inside? Reading your note, I agree completely of course. Nothing would kill the birthday festivity buzz like having to stop mid cake-time to get the perfect shot. I’m going to resolve trying the meringue frosting next; to be honest, I have been so in love with the whipped buttercream recipe you shared I haven’t wanted to explore other options lately. :)

  • That looks amazing. I will have to make that for my sisters birthday. I love your cake policy. The pictures of the assembly are all you need to see what the cake looks like. I hope your brother had a great birthday.

  • annieseats

    Yes, I think it would!

  • Patti T.

    A beautiful cake and such a wonderful relationship with your brother!

  • This birthday cake is perfect and beautiful. You’re such a good sister. I enjoy Zoe Bakes as well. She always has great posts but then again you do as well.

  • Karen Grabowski

    This cake looks delicious, I think it’d even be great with a white chocolate and cherry combination

  • Karen Grabowski

    Looks lovely! I think a white chocolate and cherry combination would also be great.

  • I made this cake for my birthday and it was a total flop. The cake turned out fine but the icing and the filling was awful. I have never had anything turn out so bad. It was also very expensive to make.

  • Nicole

    I love Rosie’s cakes!

  • happy birthday to your brother! this combo reminds me of icecream!

  • Rachel Rivas

    2 questions….1. do you need to use cake flour? i only ask because i don’t bake a whole lot and don’t have any and would hate to buy it for 1 recipe…2. can you use anything other than the vanilla bean itself?

  • your brother has joy sure, hasn`t he? :)

  • Luscious Delights Blog

    I love your cakes, and this one reminds me of summer. I can’t wait to try it.

  • Nancy

    That looks super yummy! I really want to try Swiss Meringue but to be honest, it scares me. Is it something that needs to be done last minute and only good that day?

  • annieseats

    I’m not sure I understand your question. Why would it be last minute? It’s good about as long as any other frosting.

  • annieseats

    Please see the FAQ page regarding different types of flour and omissions/substitutions. Thanks!

  • I so want a slice of this cake, gorgeous Annie!

  • Loretta E

    I’m pretty sure you get to call yourself a cake frosting expert now! It looks perfectly gorgeous to me!

  • annieseats

    Oh, you are too sweet! Thank you.

  • annieseats

    Sorry to hear it didn’t work out on your end. We loved it at our house :) It’s not really expensive if you already have a well stocked pantry. The only additional item that I would not consider a staple is the cherries.

  • annieseats

    Using a cake board makes transfer from place to place very easy.

  • Jacqueline

    I went and watched the video – it is fabulous. Now I have to get the revolving cake stand! Thanks for linking with that. Your cake is beautiful and the flavors sounds wonderful.

  • sweetsugarbelle


  • Jen

    Hey Annie! I was wanting to make this cake this weekend. I was wondering if it is absolutely necessary to use the three cake pans or if I could put it in one cake pan and then cut into the layers?
    Thanks for your advice!!

  • annieseats

    I’m not sure I fully understand your question. Do you mean using a large sheet pan and then cutting out circle shapes? Or baking a massively tall round cake and then cutting that into three horizontal layers? Either way, I definitely recommend just making it as directed and using three pans. It will give the best results for sure.

  • Natalie

    Hi Annie! This cake is so gorgeous! I’m thinking of making it for Easter. Could either the filling or frosting be done ahead of time, or should it all be done day-of? I’m assuming I could probably make the cakes the night before. I’ve got two kids under two, so odds of me pulling this whole thing off on Easter morning are pretty slim, haha! Thanks in advance for your advice!

  • annieseats

    If I were you, I would assemble it all the day before (on Saturday), and you can bake the cake layers earlier if you wish. Supposedly you can make SMBC in advance, but I’ve had a time or two when I did that and the frosting “broke” and wasn’t good afterward. So I think bake cake layers early, fill, frost and assemble Saturday, enjoy Sunday! Hope that helps :)

  • Natalie

    That’s great, thank you!

  • Hi Annie- I have been reading your blog since 2009 and I have tried several of your recipes. Were you able to garnish the cake with the cherries several hours in advance? Or did you wait until right before the cake was served? Thanks for all of your hard work!

  • annieseats

    I think I went ahead and did it in advance, but I did blot off as much excess fluid as possible before placing them.