classic birthday cake

Happy Birthday! A classic birthday cake is one of those recipes any good baker should have up his or her sleeve, to whip up whenever an occasion so presents itself. Over the spring and summer months, it seems like there are hundreds of birthdays being celebrated amongst my family and friends, and this cake is a tried and true winner. While this one in particular is a vanilla cake with raspberry filling and a Swiss meringue buttercream, you can customize it in various ways based on your heart's desire: make a chocolate frosting, switch up the filling, add nuts- you get the idea! I highly recommend checking out my wedding cake post for more specific details and instructions on baking, assembling, and decorating the perfect (or close enough!) layer cake! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do :)

Classic Vanilla Birthday Cake with Raspberry Compote Filling & Swiss Meringue Buttercream:


  • 4 cups cake flour

  • 2 tsp baking powder

  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened

  • 1 1/2 cup cane sugar

  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract

  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature

  • 2 cups buttermilk


  • 1 cup sugar

  • 4 large egg whites

  • 1 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed & softened

  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract


  • 2 cups fresh raspberries

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

  • 2 tbsp corn starch

  • 1/4 cup water

  • 2 tsp lemon juice

  • fresh raspberries, for serving

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray two 9" round cake pans with nonstick spray, line with parchment paper, and spray the parchment as well. Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In the base of a stand mixer fit with whisk attachment, beat butter and sugar at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs, beating well and scraping down the bowl to ensure they are fully incorporated. Reduce the speed to low, then mix in buttermilk until just combined. Don't be alarmed if the mixture looks curdled at this point. Add flour mixture until just incorporated, careful not to over-mix. Pour batter evenly among cake pans, and bake until golden, about 35-40 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes in the pan, then completely on a cooling rack. 

To prepare raspberry compote, cook raspberries, sugar, cornstarch, water, and lemon juice in a small saucepan until the berries start to break down, about 10 minutes. Lower the heat and simmer until the compote is thick, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container in the fridge (this can be made a week ahead of time). Makes 1 cup.

While cakes are baking, make the buttercream. Whisk egg whites and sugar together in a bowl over a double boiler until sugar is fully dissolved. Transfer mixture into the stand mixer (make sure it's clean & dry!) fit with paddle attachment and whip until it turns white glossy. Add the vanilla, then the butter and continue to whip until buttercream comes together. This may take a good 10-15 minutes, so don't worry if things look curdled or soupy at the start!

Once cakes have cooled, you may level and assemble them, adding filling between the two layers. Spread buttercream evenly around the outside, creating a pattern if desired, and finish with toppings if you choose! You may also make this a 3-layer cake by baking in 6" round cake pans, just make sure you adjust baking time accordingly. Check out my wedding cake post for more assembly and cake decorating instructions. Enjoy!

*Adapted from Best Birthday Cake and Swiss Meringue Buttercream by Smitten Kitchen.