Every girl needs a frilly pink birthday cake and this pink vanilla bean birthday cake delivers with a soft and tender cake and loads of sprinkles!

Pink Vanilla Bean Birthday Cake

For years I’ve been dreaming about finding a dense yellow cake recipe that could hold up to being stacked in layers as well as a thick layer of velvety frosting.  So many recipes I came across just didn’t fit the bill; either they were too fluffy negating the ability to even hold up to being frosted or they were flavorless and blah.

Pink Vanilla Bean Birthday Cake

So when I saw this cake posted way back in June, I filed it away in the back of my mind as a possibility for this year’s birthday cake.  The thing is, I couldn’t shake this cake.  Every time I thought about my upcoming birthday this whole summer, visions of this cake floated into the forefront of my mind.

Pink.  Sprinkles.  Vanilla beans.

It was practically the most basic cake that I wanted so desperately – nothing fancy, no swirls or drizzles or compounding flavors.  And I insisted on waiting until my birthday to make it.

Pink Vanilla Bean Birthday Cake

Believe me, there were many times where I almost threw in the towel…where this cake almost got made.  But I held strong and waited until last week.

And honestly?  I’m so glad I waited.  I made this cake, step-by-step, and feeling like it was a hot and stuffy August night in 1986 again, I had all the anticipation and excitement of the 8 year old me waiting for my candle-lit birthday cake to be brought in through the darkened room with drones of the [maybe not-so-purposefully] out of tune birthday song in the background.  Seriously, I was dancing with excitement to show Kyle this cake when he got home from work and had he OK’d eating cake before dinner (thank God for being an adult!), I think I may have burst.

Pink Vanilla Bean Birthday Cake

And it was everything I wished for. Dense, moist, tangy from the buttermilk, speckled with vanilla beans, with a smooth buttercream frosting that lent just the right amount of sweetness to the cake layers.

It was most definitely the prettiest cake I had ever made and I couldn’t be happier with how the towering three layers and frosting held up to being cut into such perfect slices.  Needless to say, I’ve found the yellow cake recipe I’ve been searching for all these years and I can see many birthdays in the future (mine and/or others) being brightened with this pink vanilla bean birthday cake.

More Birthday Cake Inspiration!!

Milk Bar Birthday Layer Cake
Milk Bar Birthday Layer Cake

fudgy chocolate peanut butter cake
Fudgy Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Yellow Butter Cake with Chocolate Frosting
Classic Yellow Butter Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Cannoli Cake
Cannoli Cake

Strawberry Vanilla Layer Cake
Strawberry Vanilla Layer Cake

Pink Vanilla Bean Birthday Cake

  • Prep Time: 25min (cake) + 20min (frosting + decorating)
  • Cook Time: 30min
  • Yield: 10-12 servings

Ingredients

For the vanilla bean cake:
3 sticks (1 ½ cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature (on counter approx 20 minutes)
2 2/3 cups granulated sugar
9 egg whites, at room temperature
4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 cups buttermilk
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the buttercream frosting:
3 ½ sticks (1 ¾ cups) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
3 ½ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
¼ cup heavy cream
1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
Ateco or Wilton color gel for dying

Instructions

  • 01

    To make the cake: Preheat oven to 350° F.  Butter three 8-inch round cake pans, line with parchment rounds, butter the rounds, and dust the pans and rounds with flour, tapping out the excess.

  • 02

    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, 3 to 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add the egg whites gradually, mixing until fully incorporated.

  • 03

    Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Mix vanilla extract and vanilla bean seeds 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.

  • 04

    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.

  • 05

    Bake for about 30 minutes, rotating once after 20 minutes. Cake is done when toothpick or skewer comes clean. Let pans cool on wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert cakes onto racks, gently, peeling away parchment rounds. Let cool completely.

  • 06

    To make the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip butter on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute.
    Add the confectioners’ sugar to the bowl and mix on medium-low speed just until incorporated.  Add in the salt.  Continue to beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 to 2 minutes.  Mix in the vanilla extract and heavy cream on low speed just until incorporated.  Increase the mixer speed and whip on high speed until light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl as needed, about 4 minutes.  Stir in the color gel to achieve your desired color.
    Frost and decorate the cake as desired.

cake adapted from Sweetapolita | frosting adapted from Sweetapolita via Annie’s Eats

we love to see what you make!

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@smellslikehomeblog
  • August 26, 2011 at 9:01 AM

    It’s absolutely stunning Tara. And a big Happy Birthday to you! 🙂

  • August 26, 2011 at 9:07 AM

    I too saw and saved this recipe when she first posted it, knowing it would come in very useful one day 🙂 Your cake has turned out SO beautifully it has reinforced my need to make this soon, maybe for my birthday as im an August babber also! That slice you have cut is just unreal-y perfect…im debating whether this is actually a cake made out of cake or not..haha Lovelllyyy post and your photos – wow! Happy belated Birthday 🙂

  • August 26, 2011 at 9:24 AM

    Everything about your cake is just perfect! Your pictures are beautiful, and it looks absolutely to die for. Hope you had a great birthday! 🙂

  • August 26, 2011 at 10:09 AM

    What a gorgeous cake–your pictures are beautiful!

  • August 26, 2011 at 11:18 AM

    Tara, it is so gorgeous!! So glad you had a good birthday!

  • August 26, 2011 at 11:37 AM

    That is a beautiful, beautiful cake. It makes me want to bake a layered cake…for no reason at all.

    Happy Birthday to you!

  • August 26, 2011 at 12:00 PM

    And who says timing isn’t everything! Happy birthday! Glad you spoiled yourself with this awesome cake. It was a lot of work, but I am sure eating one slice was worth all the effort. Stunning picture.

  • August 26, 2011 at 12:08 PM

    Just gorgeous!! I’ve had this one bookmarked for a while, too. After seeing your gorgeous pictures, what am I waiting for??

  • August 26, 2011 at 1:02 PM

    Tara, this is simply stunning! I’ve never wanted to eat my screen so much before. Happy Birthday!

  • August 26, 2011 at 1:12 PM

    These are my favorite photos you have ever taken, which is saying a lot. Absolutely gorgeous cake – wish I could have a piece! Happy birthday Tara 🙂

    • smellslikehome
      August 27, 2011 at 2:30 PM

      Aww thanks, Annie. That really means a lot. *blush* 🙂

  • August 26, 2011 at 1:16 PM

    This might just be the prettiest cake ever and such gorgeous photos! Happy birthday!!

  • August 26, 2011 at 5:36 PM

    Gorgeous cake! Happy birthday!

  • August 27, 2011 at 7:32 AM

    Your cake looks so pretty and I love the sprinkles. I have a pink birthday today and although I already made the cake I might try your frosting. I love that it uses the heavy cream, which I imagine makes the frosting a bit lighter and fluffier.

    • September 6, 2011 at 9:46 PM

      Becki: Your comment went to my spam folder but I just wanted to wish you a belated Happy Birthday! Hope it was a great one!!

  • August 27, 2011 at 12:40 PM

    Wow! Those layers are absolute perfection! You did an amazing job. Happy Birthday 🙂

  • Jade
    August 27, 2011 at 5:09 PM

    Happy birthday! Your cake is beautiful.

  • August 27, 2011 at 8:02 PM

    WOW this is a stunning and gorgeous cake. Your slice is absolute perfect- how did you do that with no crumbs or anything? It’s so so so beautiful!

  • August 27, 2011 at 11:00 PM

    Beautiful!!!!! I love yellow cake, and finding the perfect recipe is tough!

  • August 28, 2011 at 11:57 AM

    Your photo makes this cake look unreal and so absolutely lovely that it is truly too pretty to eat. And the recipe sounds quite delicious.

  • August 28, 2011 at 3:25 PM

    This cake looks so delicious… and tall! I love it. The sprinkle things look adorable too. I am definitely trying this one soon.

  • August 29, 2011 at 9:16 AM

    What a pretty, pretty, pretty cake!! And the ingredients sound extremely tasty. I think I may try this one. How fortunate we are to be able to bake our very own birthday cake, exactly like we like it!

  • August 29, 2011 at 9:36 AM

    Wow. Just looking at your photos shows that this lovely treat was worth the wait. Beautiful! And a very happy birthday to you!

  • August 29, 2011 at 10:39 AM

    WOW! What an absolutely gorgeous birthday cake! It’s super cute and your pictures are beautiful! 🙂

  • August 29, 2011 at 1:29 PM

    That is so pretty.

  • August 29, 2011 at 11:52 PM

    Now that’s a Birthday cake!!!! It looks fantastic. 🙂

  • August 30, 2011 at 7:35 AM

    what a cake!

  • August 30, 2011 at 2:32 PM

    How did you make the frosting pink? Guessing 1-2 drops red food coloring??

    • smellslikehome
      August 30, 2011 at 2:43 PM

      All Seasons Cuisine: I used pink food gel (Wilton) but you could definitely use red food coloring. Start with a small amount then work up to your desired color. Keep in mind that the color will deepen as it sits.

  • August 31, 2011 at 8:48 AM

    This cake is absolutely GORGEOUS Tara. In fact, feel free to make it for me at my next birthday. 🙂

  • August 31, 2011 at 3:29 PM

    Pretty isn’t the word! This cake looks perfect – absolutely perfect. I wouldn’t even want to stick my fork in it!

  • Jennifer Young
    September 3, 2011 at 12:04 AM

    Popping over from Amy’s Notebook post. This cake is absolutely gorgeous–great job!

  • September 3, 2011 at 9:35 PM

    Surfed on over from Pinterest! This is A-mazing! And I love your photos 🙂

  • September 6, 2011 at 7:03 PM

    Happy Birthday, Tara! Did you have to level your cake layers at all, or did you stack and frost them the way they came out of the oven?

    • September 6, 2011 at 9:43 PM

      Allie: Thanks! Yes, I did level off the tops of the cakes but I only needed to take a little bit off the top of each of them. I use a long serrated knife (it’s actually my favorite bagel knife) and eyeball the tops of each layer from eye level.

  • Janna
    September 9, 2011 at 1:41 PM

    Have you tried this recipe for cupcakes? I have been searching for an awesome vanilla cupcake recipe. Your cake is beautiful!

  • Janna
    September 9, 2011 at 6:54 PM

    Thanks so much! I am going to try both over the weekend! I’ll let you know how it goes :0) I am in search of awesome cupcake flavors for “push pop cakes”.

  • September 18, 2011 at 1:04 PM

    Simply stunning! Nice work, and happy very belated birthday!

  • Laura
    October 3, 2011 at 4:07 PM

    Wow that looks amazing! Do you think this would this work with 9″ pans?

    • October 3, 2011 at 4:28 PM

      Laura: Yes – 9″ pans will work but the cake won’t be as tall. You’ll also need to decrease the baking time by a few minutes.

  • Heather
    December 12, 2011 at 2:50 PM

    I made this cake for my daughter’s 17th birthday this last week. The cake took longer to bake than noted, but it’s probably just the difference in oven temps since they seem to vary greatly. I just kept my eye on it, was not an issue. The cake is very dense and has a wonderful flavor. The family wasn’t a big fan of the icing, but you could sub any of your own favorite buttercream icing in its place, just make sure you make enough. I used just 1 drop of red food coloring and got a beautiful pink coloring.

  • paula
    December 27, 2011 at 6:43 PM

    This cake is a disaster!! It is currently exploding in my oven. The batter has overflowed in all three 8″ pans, and blobs are burning in the bottom of the oven. Thank goodness it’s a self cleaning oven. My daughter’s 32nd b-day is today and she selected your recipe. I’m wondering if there should be 2 teaspoons instead of 2 tablespoons of baking powder.

    • December 27, 2011 at 9:43 PM

      Paula: I’m sorry the cake isn’t turning out for you. I made the recipe and posted it as it was written on Sweetopolita’s blog and the original indeed includes 2 tbsp baking powder so I can’t say what went wrong with your cake.

  • christine
    February 22, 2012 at 8:51 AM

    I am going to try this for my daughter’s first birthday, but I don’t have a stand mixer. Would a hand mixer work? Also, are you supposed to line the bottom and sides, or just the bottom with the parchment paper? And how does the flour stick to the parchment paper? Sorry for all of the questions. I don’t do a lot of baking!

    • February 22, 2012 at 9:38 AM

      Christine: No worries about your questions! Yes, a hand mixer will work – just be sure not to overbeat the mixture once all of the flour is added. Line only the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Here’s the trick: butter/grease the pan the stick the parchment paper round to the butter/grease, then butter/grease the top of the parchment paper and the sides of the pan, and then dust it with flour. Alternatively, a much easier method is to use PAM for Baking, which is what I swear by when baking – there’s no need to flour the pan after using this stuff. Let me know how it turns out!

  • March 8, 2012 at 10:14 AM

    i love this cake! i’m going to make it for my daughter’s second birthday. thank you!

  • Tara
    July 26, 2012 at 5:48 PM

    This cake caught my eye on Pinterest. I’m crisply making it tomorrow for a friends birthday. Problem is, none of the stores around me carried vanilla beans so now I’m at a loss as to what to do. Any suggestions? Should I add more extract? I was SO looking forward to the fresh vanilla bean flavor! Thanks!

    • July 26, 2012 at 7:07 PM

      Tara: Yes, you can add extra extract – maybe an extra 1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons.

  • August 23, 2012 at 10:19 AM

    This cake is just stunning!! Just as pretty as anything that I’ve seen on Sweetapolita! So this was posted last year…. around this time. When is your B-day???!!

  • August 23, 2012 at 10:32 PM

    This is absolutely breathtaking!!! The perfect way to celebrate a birthday!! I love the pink and all the sprinkles you used…very fun!!!

  • Christy
    October 25, 2012 at 4:22 AM

    I love to cook, but am not much of a baker. We live near Lake Tahoe and I have had a hard time ever since we moved to this elevation to get things to bake correctly. I’ll try to adjust this recipe for the altitude, but my question is:
    What did you use for the icing layers? Just a knife? Is there a secret such as working bottom to top or top to bottom? Please explain how you got the lines as they are. It is bequtiful! Thank you. I’m baking this for our daughter’s “Think Pink!” 15th bday tomorrow.

  • Jas
    January 18, 2013 at 11:50 AM

    I want to make this cake, but I want it to be smaller… Is it okay if i just cut the recipe in half and make it? Please help! (: Thanks.
    (your cake looks beautiful btw)

    • January 21, 2013 at 6:14 AM

      I don’t see why not. You’ll need to adjust the size or number of pans you use.

  • January 24, 2013 at 4:19 PM

    I think this is what I’ve been looking for! I want to make a cake for my daughter’s birthday next week and need one that will stand up to Blackberry Vanilla Curd filling. (http://sarahsjoys.com/2012/01/21/blackberry-vanilla-curd/) Do you think it will hold up?

    • January 24, 2013 at 7:04 PM

      The cake layers in this recipe are pretty hefty so I would be concerned about the curd just smooshing out the sides of the cake. There is a remedy for this though – you can pipe the outside of the top of each layer with the frosting you use then pour the curd in sort of a pool inside the confines of the frosting. Does that make sense? That way, the curd won’t smoosh out. Note that the curd will soak into the cake layers so you’ll end up with just a very thin layer of curd.

      If you want a lighter cake layer, try this recipe, omitting the lemon zest and adding 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean: http://smells-like-home.com/2012/05/lemon-cupcakes-with-fresh-raspberry-curd-filling/ It’s made with egg whites, thus yielding lighter layers as opposed to the dense layers in this recipe.

      Hope this helps!! Let me know if you have any other questions. 🙂

      • January 30, 2013 at 9:45 AM

        Thanks! Those look really similar to Lavender-Lemon Cupcakes I make with Lavender Lemon Curd filling! But the cupcake base I usually use calls for heavy cream, I don’t have any on hand and it is a MESS outside with snow right now. Trying this recipe out will save me a trip to the store. YAY!! 🙂

        • January 30, 2013 at 12:42 PM

          Awesome! Let me know how the cake turns out for you!

  • Kasie
    February 1, 2013 at 11:35 AM

    Hi,

    About how many cups will the whipped vanilla frosting make?

    Thanks,
    Kasie

    • February 3, 2013 at 10:17 AM

      I don’t really know, I’m sorry. It makes at least enough to fill and frost a 3-layer 8-inch cake.

  • Rebecca Fancher
    February 3, 2013 at 5:53 PM

    About how many people does this serve? My 3-year-old saw this photo and now wants this for her birthday! Thanks.

    • February 3, 2013 at 7:33 PM

      It should serve 10-12. It’s a pretty good sized cake.

  • Marcia
    July 13, 2013 at 4:50 PM

    So is the pan size 8 inch round? or 9 inch?

    • taraliptak
      July 15, 2013 at 11:18 AM

      Three 8-inch pans.

  • Dan
    July 14, 2013 at 10:39 PM

    I just made this recipe for my twin daughter’s first birthday. I made one recipe in a muffin pan to make small round two-layer cakes for each girl (and a bunch of extra for learning curve) and one recipe normally thereafter for the adults. This cake is fantastic, and delicious! I think it’s the best tasting cake I’ve ever made. Thank goodness for the extra cakes for practice; they were all eaten tonight.

    • taraliptak
      July 15, 2013 at 11:14 AM

      Thanks for coming back to let me know! I think it’s seriously so cool that you choose this recipe for the honored 1st birthday cake for your girls! I’m so humbled. 🙂

  • Lina
    August 23, 2013 at 8:30 AM

    I have been saving this recipe now for two years. I just got into baking and it looked way too complicated. Well, I decided to give it a go and it came out great. After two years of wanting to make this, I was really happy with the results. I only made two layers and I messed up on the baking powder (I didnt realize that it was tablespoons) but it still came out great. But it was more like a poundcake instead of a cake because of the mistake but still delish. Going to make it again for my birthday.

    Will this work for cupcakes?

    • taraliptak
      August 23, 2013 at 2:52 PM

      Great to hear you liked it and it seems like the mistake with the baking powder was a happy accident. Pound cake ALWAYS makes me happy! lol I think this recipe would work great for cupcakes too, though I’ve never tried it.

  • Meredith
    December 6, 2013 at 12:45 AM

    I found this cake on Pinterest and plan on making it for my daughters third birthday…I’m practicing tomorrow! Hope it turns out well because it looks delicious in pictures!!

    • taraliptak
      December 6, 2013 at 5:48 AM

      Thank you! I hope you love it!

  • taraliptak
    January 14, 2014 at 6:20 PM

    I don’t really know why it would have dried out like that; I don’t remember having that problem with it. So happy to hear that you loved it though!

  • taraliptak
    March 21, 2014 at 8:23 AM

    Have you checked your oven temperature with an oven thermometer?

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  • October 24, 2014 at 10:59 AM

    Thanks for catching this and I’m sorry your question slipped by me when you posted this. The frosting should be 3 1/2 sticks (1 3/4 cups) butter. I just fixed the recipe to reflect this. I hope the cake turned out great for you!

  • Dawn M.
    June 14, 2015 at 2:33 PM

    This is the best cake ever! I decided to make this for my friend’s and her husband’s 50th birthday party, and I was a little nervous because she is a chef. I followed the recipe exactly. I made the cakes on Friday and wrapped them in Saran Wrap overnight. I made the icing Saturday and I wasn’t sure it made enough to do a crumb coating, so I didn’t, but it iced beautifully without it. And then I did have some icing left at the end, so I probably could have done one after all. I just left it white, so it wouldn’t be too girl-y. It was a BIG hit! Everyone loved it; I even saw some people go back for more! It was so moist and so delicious without being overly sweet. This was the 1st time I’ve used vanilla beans so now I know how to do that! Thanks for a great recipe that I’ll surely make again and again.

    • June 18, 2015 at 1:37 PM

      So thrilled you and everyone at your party loved this cake! It’s definitely a big hit sort of cake and it’s so versatile to other fillings and frostings as well. Thanks so much for coming back to comment, Dawn! 🙂

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  • Victoria
    November 16, 2017 at 12:26 PM

    Will this cake hold up to being covered in fondant? Wondering if it’s dense enough?

    • Tara
      November 17, 2017 at 7:31 AM

      Yes, I think it should be ok with fondant; it’s a pretty sturdy cake.

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