The sun is finally shining high up here in the Pacific Northwest, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that spring is here to stay. I cannot think of a better way to celebrate spring and times of renewal than with a delightful layer cake. A slice of one of these rose, cardamom, and orange mini layer cakes is like a little slice of sunshine on every plate. With Easter and Mother’s Day just around the corner, now is the time to start turning these bright, light flavors into delectable little treats.
A charming layer cake is a perfect way to combine complementary flavors in each bite. I’ve personally been on a cardamom kick lately, and find that the spice pairs beautifully with citrus and subtle floral flavors. The buttery, velvety orange and cardamom cake make a great match with the zesty filling and silky, rose buttercream frosting.
Hesitant about making a whole layer cake to feed your crowd? These mini versions are a bit less intimidating for beginner bakers and are fairly simple to put together — you just bake a single layer cake and then cut mini-rounds using a 3-inch cookie cutter!
Position these mini cakes at each place setting or create a festive dessert bar for your Easter celebration or next spring brunch.
Rose, Orange, and Cardamom Mini Layer Cakes
For the cake:
3 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
Zest of one large orange
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
4 large eggs
2/3 cup whole milk
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
For the filling:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup cream cheese
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of half large orange
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
For the frosting:
6 large egg whites
2 cups granulated sugar
3 cups unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon rose extract (or to taste) or 1 tablespoon rose water (or to taste)
1-2 drops pink food coloring (optional)
To make the cake: Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Grease a 10x15-inch cake pan. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, salt, and cardamom in a mixing bowl.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed with the paddle attachment until smooth. Add in the sugar, and cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add in the orange zest and vanilla. Add in the eggs, one at a time.
Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
With the mixer on low, add in about 1/3 of the flour mixture. Continue to mix while streaming in the milk. Add in another 1/3 of the flour followed by the buttermilk and orange juice. Add in the remaining 1/3 of the flour until just combined. Turn mixer up to medium and mix for no longer than one minute to smooth out batter.
Pour batter into the prepared pan and smooth out with a spatula. Bake until the cake is firm, slightly domed, and a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean — about 20 to 22 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack before removing cake from the pan. Alternatively, keep cake in the pan until ready to assemble the mini cakes.
To make the filling: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth. With the mixer on low, carefully add in the remaining ingredients. Once all of the ingredients are added, carefully turn the mixer speed up to medium-high and mix until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). If filling appears too thick, add in a splash of milk. Mix until smooth.
To make the frosting: In the bowl of an electric mixer, add in the egg whites and sugar. Be sure that the bowl is clean and dry. Gently whisk to combine.
Fill a medium sauce pan with a couple inches of water and place over medium heat. Place the mixing bowl with the egg mixture on top of the pan to create a double-boiler. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the egg mixture is hot to the touch (about 155°F to 165°F on a candy thermometer).
Once hot, carefully transfer the bowl back to the stand mixer. With the whisk attachment, beat on high until the bowl of the mixer returns to room temperature. As you mix, the egg white mixture will significantly increase in volume. It should whip up to glossy, stiff peaks and resemble a thick meringue. This process should take about 10 minutes.
Once there is no longer any heat emitting from the meringue and the bowl is cool, stop the mixer and swap out the whisk for the paddle attachment. With the mixer on medium-low, add in the butter (a couple tablespoons at a time), vanilla, and rose. Turn mixer up to medium-high and mix until silky smooth yet not runny. If the buttercream looks slightly "curdled," just keep mixing. It should take about 5 minutes to finish mixing. Add in pink food coloring, if desired.
To assemble the cakes: Use a 3-inch round ring mold or cookie cutter to cut out mini layers from your sheet cake. You should be able to get about 12 circles —enough to make four 3-layer cakes. Use large cake "scraps" to piece together more layers if needed; use these as your middle layer.
Divide layers into four 3-layer cakes. Trim any humps or bumps off the top layers of the cakes.
Place the filling in a pastry bag fitted with a plain, round piping tip. Pipe an even layer of buttercream on the bottom layers of each cake. Top with the middle layer of cake and repeat. Place the top layers of each cake upside down, so that the flat bottoms are facing up.
Frost the cakes in a thin layer of the rose buttercream frosting to make a rough "crumb coat." This thin layer of frosting should completely cover the cakes, sealing in all of the crumbs and keeping them out of your final coat. Using a small off-set spatula should help control the frosting on these mini cakes. After the crumb coat, frost each cake with a smooth or rustic-looking finish of your choice.
Serve the cakes immediately, or cover them with a cake-keeper or over-turned bowl and store them, frosted but un-cut, at room temperature for 4 to 5 days. For more notes on storing cakes, see our post on How to Wrap, Store, and Keep Cake Fresh.
- This recipe should make four 3-layer mini cakes. Piece together cake "scraps" to create more layers and use them as your middle cake layer. Each cake should serve about 3 to 4 people.
- Stagger your circles when cutting out layers from the sheet cake to eliminate as much waste as possible. Try gently scoring the cake before cutting all of the way down to make sure you have enough pieces.
- If you don't have a 10 x 15 x 2 inch pan, try a 9 x 13 inch pan plus an 8 x 8 inch pan, or equivalent combination.
- If you are having trouble frosting the cakes and keeping the crumbs out, trying chilling the crumb-coated cakes for about 20 minutes first.
- Be sure that the mixing bowl is clean and dry before adding in the egg whites and sugar. Any traces of grease or water may cause your meringue to collapse. If the meringue does not increase in volume and whip up to stiff peaks, you unfortunately will need to start over.
- If your final buttercream is too runny, the butter may have been too soft. Try placing the bowl with buttercream into the refrigerator for about 20 minutes, and then re-mix.