Many holiday seasons have come and gone since I was a child but the one thing that has remained constant over time is the hours we spend baking; our tradition of spending time together in the kitchen creating cookies and bars and cakes for family and neighbors is an important ritual in the months leading up to the New Year.
And while only a few of the recipes have made their way from Christmas past to our current kitchen, still we merrily share them with our family and neighbors; the act of creating and giving is central to our celebration—Sarah Kieffer
Why Our Testers Loved This
It’s no surprise that our testers are calling this white Christmas cake the “best white cake” they’ve ever made. They can’t stop gushing about the sweet-tart cranberry filling, and decadent white chocolate buttercream frosting.
They’re calling this stunning holiday dessert “festive,” “beautiful,” and “sophisticated.” We have no doubt that you will, too.
What You’ll Need to Make This
- Crème fraîche–This helps to keep the cake moist and tender. Crème fraîche is available in the refrigerated section of many supermarkets, but if you can’t find it, sour cream works well in its place.
- White chocolate–Use good-quality white chocolate for the buttercream. Avoid white chocolate chips, as they don’t melt well.
- Cranberry jam–The tartness of cranberry jam works well against the sweet cake in this recipe, however, you can substitute another type of jam, such as raspberry, if you prefer. Alternatively, you could skip the jam altogether and use extra white chocolate buttercream between the layers.
How to Make This Recipe
- To make the soaking liquid, combine the water, 3/4 cup sugar, and salt, bring to a boil and simmer until reduced. Add the vanilla, then transfer the liquid to a container and toss in the cranberries. Soak for up to 24 hours, then drain and roll the cranberries in the remaining sugar.
- Heat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour three round cake pans, and line the bottoms with parchment.
- Whisk the liquid cake ingredients together. Beat the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together, then slowly beat in the butter. Slowly add the wet ingredients and beat until well combined.
- Divide the batter between the cake pans. Bake until golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack.
- Melt the white chocolate. Prepare a double boiler or bain marie and melt the white chocolate. Let cool slightly.
- To make the buttercream, beat the butter until pale and creamy. Add the corn syrup, followed by the confectioners’ sugar, beating between each addition. Stir in the cooled white chocolate, cream, and vanilla.
- Assemble the white Christmas cake. Top the first cake layer with cranberry jam, add the second cake and more jam, then top with the third cake. Frost the entire cake with buttercream, and finish with the sugared cranberries just before serving.
Because the egg whites aren’t being whipped for volume, store-bought egg whites will work here; just make sure they are 100 percent liquid egg whites.
White chocolate is made from cocoa butter but not all white chocolate is created equal, so use a brand you trust when baking with it. Choose something that comes in a bar or blocks, as chips don’t melt very well. White chocolate also melts more quickly than dark chocolate, so be sure to stir it more frequently than you would dark chocolate, especially when using the microwave to melt it down.
Yes, several of the components can be made in advance, and the assembled cake, without the cranberries on top, can be made up to 1 day before serving. The sugared cranberries can be made up to 2 days before serving, and the unfrosted, baked cakes can be made and refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months before using.
Yes. Add food coloring, preferably gel for the most vivid color, along with the cream and vanilla. Add more as needed, to get your desired color.
More Great White Cake Recipes
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If you make this recipe, or any dish on LC, consider leaving a review, a star rating, and your best photo in the comments below. I love hearing from you.–David
White Christmas Cake with White Chocolate Buttercream
For the sugared cranberries
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- Pinch table salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6 ounces fresh cranberries
For the cake
- 1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
- 1 scant cup egg whites (from 6 or 7 large eggs), at room temperature
- 1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces
For the white chocolate buttercream
- 8 ounces good white chocolate, chopped
- 3 sticks (12 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
- Pinch table salt
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 6 tablespoons cranberry jam
Make the sugared cranberries
- In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the water, 3/4 cup (150 g) of the granulated sugar, and the salt. Bring to a gentle boil and turn the heat down to medium; let simmer until the mixture is reduced slightly, about 5 minutes. Pour the vanilla into the sugar liquid and stir to combine.
- Pour the liquid into a medium-size container. Add the cranberries to the sugar liquid, cover and refrigerate, and let them soak for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.
- After the cranberries have soaked, place the remaining 1/2 cup (100 g) of granulated sugar in a bowl and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Drain the cranberries and roll them in the bowl of sugar to coat. Place the coated cranberries on the sheet pan and let them dry, at least 1 hour. Cranberries can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Make the cake
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Butter and flour three 8-by-2 inch (20-by-5 cm) round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the milk, egg whites, crème frâiche, and vanilla.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer running on low speed, add the butter one piece at a time, beating until the mixture resembles coarse sand, 3 to 4 minutes.
- With the mixer still running on low speed, slowly add a little more than half of the wet ingredients. Increase the speed to medium and beat until the ingredients are incorporated, about 30 seconds. Return the mixer to low speed and add the rest of the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined.
- Increase the speed to medium and beat for 20 seconds (the batter may still look a little bumpy). Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and use a spatula to mix the batter a few more times.
- Divvy the batter between the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Tap the pans gently on the counter, two times each, to help get rid of any bubbles.
- Bake, rotating the pans halfway through, until the cakes are golden brown and a wooden skewer or toothpick inserted into the centers come out with a faint bit of crumbs, or a finger gently pressed into the top leaves a slight indentation, 28 to 30 minutes.
- Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the rack, remove the parchment paper, and let cool completely. Once cool, the cakes can be frosted or wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight or for up to 1 week.
Make the white chocolate buttercream
- Pour 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water into a medium saucepan and bring it to a simmer over medium heat.
- In a heatproof bowl set over the simmering water, melt the white chocolate, being careful not to let the water touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir constantly until just melted then remove from the saucepan and let cool.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until light yellow and creamy, about 3 minutes.
- Add the corn syrup and salt and mix on medium speed until combined. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, then increase the speed to medium and beat until smooth and creamy, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Reduce the mixer speed to low, add the cooled white chocolate and beat until completely combined. Pour in the heavy cream and vanilla and mix until combined.
Assemble the cake
- Place one layer of cake on a turntable or serving plate. Use an offset spatula to spread the top evenly with 3 tablespoons of cranberry jam. Place the second layer on top and frost with another 3 tablespoons of the jam, then place the final layer on top and evenly coat the entire cake with the buttercream.
- The cake can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Let the cake come to room temperature and top with the cranberries just before serving.
- Ingredients–Use room temperature ingredients to ensure a smooth batter and evenly-textured cake.
- Extra cranberries–Make a double batch of sugared cranberries. They’re great for snacking, adding to charcuterie boards, or skewering and garnishing cranberry margaritas.
- Make ahead–The unfrosted cake layers can be made and refrigerated, well-wrapped in plastic, for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months. The sugared cranberries can be made and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance. The entire cake can be assembled (without the cranberries) up to 24 hours before serving.
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Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
All components of this white cranberry cake will be used again and again. These are strong words for me, but I believe this is the best white cake I’ve ever made.
The cake method of combining the dry ingredients in the mixer then adding in butter a tablespoon at a time to achieve a sandy texture versus the traditional method of creaming butter and sugar first is what drew me to this cake. It came together so quickly, and the finished product was a dense sturdy cake that was still moist.
And oh my, that white chocolate buttercream. It will be so good on most any flavor cake. I made this for an early Thanksgiving dinner, and everyone deemed it “phenomenal”. It looks indulgent but with the slightly tart cranberry jam and not too much frosting it was the perfect dessert with coffee after a big meal. I made the cake layers early and froze.
For those that don’t have the cranberry jam, or don’t like that idea; the buttercream recipe makes plenty to simply frost between layers as well. However, the jam sure made for a beautiful cake when sliced.
The sugared cranberries held well in the refrigerator (lasted 3 days here). I made a double batch. They are good to snack on (the vanilla in the soaking liquid is MONEY), look beautiful on a fall charcuterie board, or as a pretty drink garnish.
According to the dictionary, cranberries are reportedly to aid in digestion and so that was all I needed to bake this scrumptious white Christmas cake with cranberries and white chocolate buttercream.
I have not found a vanilla cake batter that used a crumb base prior to mixing in wet ingredients and I have to say, I am so sold. Sold on the whole three-tier stack of vanilla cake. These cakes were moist, simple to bake, and held up to jamming and icing without pulling my hair out on a crumb coat. It is a moist, pop rock-esque explosion of candy-coated cranberries soothed by the highly addictive frosting.
This is a cake that will appeal to anyone needing to bake in advance or even a few days in advance. The best part of this cake is that it feeds a crowd, provides a slice even to the more “savoury” eaters, and what a brilliant introduction to anyone’s Thanksgiving or Christmas dessert table.
This is a beautiful and festive layer cake. The flavors are classic and pristine, all while looking very sophisticated.
The recipe steps are written clearly, especially the step describing how the butter is mixed in piece by piece to the dry ingredients. This mixing method is more unusual and I had no concerns. I did use Dorrie Greenspan’s trick of covering my mixing bowl with a tea towel to keep the contents from flying out of the bowl, even at the mixer’s lowest speed. This was especially helpful when adding the wet ingredients at the 30 second bursts.
My room temperature butter might have been a bit too cold because my cakes were a little on the dense side but only slightly.
It took no time at all to prepare fresh cranberry jam. It did spread thinly between the layers so I added two tablespoons more than the suggested amount. I also added a thin layer of buttercream on top of the jam layer to give the filling a bit more heft.
The white chocolate buttercream frosting was effortless to make. It was a bit soft right after mixing so I put the bowl in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm it up.
The recipe did not suggest creating a crumb coat to seal in the jam filling but I am glad I took the time to do so. I spread a thin layer of frosting over the sides and top, sealing away any potential messiness or leaking jam. After 30 minutes in the refrigerator, the crumb coat of frosting presents a firm canvas for the final coat.
Next time I would make a half-a-recipe more of the frosting to make the final cover a little more luxurious.
The sugared cranberries were the ideal holiday decoration and they were delicious to eat. This is not a difficult cake to make but it did require two days to put it together. Those that sampled the cake, loved it.