Vanilla Bean Latte Layer Cake

Vanilla Bean Latte Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

So, it turns out I have not one, but two addictions: cake and Vanilla Bean Lattes. I suppose this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, since I am a coffee/espresso enthusiast as well as a vanilla bean enthusiast. I love the combination of the deep and dark espresso, vanilla bean, steamed milk, and, for me, a sprinkling of cinnamon; it’s  full and flavourful, while still being light and airy. I’ve been wanting to translate this yumminess into a cake and, after thinking about it for awhile, I realized that there really are many ways to do this, because these flavours are all so cake-friendly, and work so well together. I decided to go about it in a pretty simplistic manner, as my first experiment with Vanilla Bean Lattes cake-style: three layers of moist vanilla bean cake, filled and decorated with Vanilla Bean Latte Swiss Meringue Buttercream, and sprinkled with a touch more cinnamon.

I have to admit that turning a vanilla cake into a latte-inspired confection took only moments to do, because I always keep a batch of vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream (SMB) in my freezer, and with the sprinkling of a few flavourings, it was transformed into the perfect filling for this cake. Not that it’s always about decadent desserts made speedy, but I have a feeling many of you are like me in that time is, well, rare! That’s also why I love this “open-faced” method of building the cake, aside from it being pretty and fun (I hope!), it’s very quick to do since there’s no fussing with excessive smoothing, crumb-coating, and focusing on, or obsessing about (#typeA) perfection. You can just fill a pastry bag and have fun. I timed it, and flavouring the buttercream took me about 5 minutes and assembling/decorating this cake took me 5 minutes (granted, it’s a bit of a fancy-free decorating  job I did), at a casual pace, so a total of 1o minutes. Typically, I love sitting for hours and fussing over cakes, but since that’s not always possible, it’s so important to me to have some cakes that can fancy-up quick. This is why I insist on keeping batches of SMB in my freezer!

Vanilla Bean Latte Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

To achieve the Vanilla Bean Latte flavour in the buttercream, I added instant espresso powder (has to be the instant variety), vanilla bean paste (interchangeable with vanilla beans), and a few pinches of cinnamon (which is how I love my lattes). The cinnamon is potent, so only a pinch is necessary–you don’t want to overpower the gorgeous vanilla bean and espresso flavours. I’ve included my ratios in the recipe, but if you try this version, play around, because it really is to taste.

Vanilla Bean Latte Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

My recipe also uses a vanilla bean cake, but you could easily try a light espresso cake with vanilla bean buttercream, or you could leave the vanilla bean out of the buttercream and use an espresso buttercream with a vanilla bean cake. I have a feeling you can’t go wrong, as long as the flavours aren’t overpowering.

Vanilla Bean Latte Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

Add a sprinkling of cinnamon before serving, for colour, a few coffee beans for garnish, and voila!

Vanilla Bean Latte Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

The cake itself is a butter vanilla cake, so the texture is moist but has some density, but is still fluffy with only the egg whites and a generous amount of baking powder. The recipe method is traditional: creaming of the butter & sugar, gradual adding of the egg whites, sifting & whisking of the dry ingredients, and alternating the wet & dry ingredients gently into the batter. I would say this is my go-to vanilla cake recipe, both for cake and cupcakes, because it’s simple, delicious, and, yep, quick!

Vanilla Bean Latte Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

I recently tweaked my Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe for a lighter, less-buttery, version, and I haven’t looked back (although, there are many ratios for SMB, and they all taste fabulous!). This, though, was the perfect, airy, not-too-sweet base for this Vanilla Bean Latte version, with a fluffiness reminiscent of the frothy milk that is happily perched on top of a latte. Delightful.

Vanilla Bean Latte Layer Cake

Yield: One 8-inch round, 3-layer cake


    For the Cake:
  • 1-1/2 cups (3 sticks)(341 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2-2/3 cups (540 g) granulated sugar
  • 9 (275 g) egg whites, at room temperature
  • 4-1/2 cups (570 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons (22 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (6 g) salt
  • 2 cups (480 ml) buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) vanilla bean paste or 1 vanilla bean, split & scraped
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • For the Buttercream:
  • 6 large egg whites (180 g)
  • 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups (3 sticks)(340 g) unsalted butter, softened but cool, cut into cubes
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1 vanilla bean, split & scraped or 1 tablespoon (15 ml) vanilla bean paste
  • 1 tablespoon (15 g) instant espresso powder (or to taste) dissolved into 1 teaspoon (5 ml) boiling water
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.5 g) cinnamon (or to taste)
  • Pinch of salt


    For the Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter three 8" x 2" round cake pans, line with parchment rounds, butter paper and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until lighter in color and slightly increased in volume, about 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add the egg whites gradually, mixing until fully incorporated.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Mix vanilla extract and vanilla paste (or contents of vanilla bean) into buttermilk. Alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk into creamed mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated or finish by hand gently.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. If possible, weigh the batter in each cake pan on a digital kitchen scale to ensure even layers. Smooth with small offset palette knife, and bake for about 30 minutes, rotating once after 20 minutes. Cake is done when toothpick or skewer comes clean. Try not to over-bake.
  5. Let pans cool on wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert cakes onto racks, gently, peeling away parchment rounds. Let cool completely.
  6. For the Buttercream:
  7. Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and sugar, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 160°F, or if you don't have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
  8. With whisk attachment of mixer, begin to whip until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (this can take up to 10 minutes or so). *Don't begin adding butter until the bottom of the bowl feels neutral, and not warm.
  9. Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add butter cubes, one at a time, until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth). *If mixture is too runny, refrigerate for about 15 minutes and continue mixing with paddle attachment until it comes together. Add espresso mixture, vanilla, cinnamon and salt, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined.
  10. Assembly of the Vanilla Bean Latte Layer Cake:
  11. Place cooled cake layer on cake pedestal, or cake board, face-up. Spread 1 cup of buttercream on top using a small offset palette knife, leaving narrow border along outside edge.
  12. Gently place 2nd cake layer on top, and be sure to center it with bottom layer. Apply another 1 cup of buttercream and spread as you did the first layer.
  13. Gently place final cake layer on top, face-down (so the clean bottom side is facing up). Apply a final layer of buttercream.
  14. Fill a pastry bag fitted with decorative tip (I used Ateco #887), and pipe desired designs on cake to trim and decorate. Sprinkle sliced cake servings with cinnamon, and garnish with espresso beans (optional).


*This cake is best served at room temperature, and keeps nicely in a cake-keeper for up to 2 days. Swiss Meringue Buttercream cakes are ideally refrigerated after day 2, but should always be served at room temperature, so that it comes back to its light and cloud-like texture; otherwise, it will taste and feel like pure butter!

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You may find these previous posts helpful when creating this cake:

1. 50 Tips for Baking Better Cakes

2. Swiss Meringue Buttercream Demystified

Good luck & enjoy!


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