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a slice of vintage birthday cake

The Distinguished Guest Birthday Cake

  • Author: Joy the Baker
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 28-35 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 8-inch cake, serves 8 or 12 1x
  • Category: cake, birthday
  • Method: baking


A cake from Martha Meade’s 1934 cookbook, 50 Cakes for 50 Occasions, updated just slightly to make a very fine birthday cake.



For the Cake:

  • 4 large egg whites, beaten until stiff
  • 2/3 cup (151 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • 2 1/4 cup (238 grams) cake flour, sifted
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean or vanilla bean paste
  • The tiniest splash of almond extract

For the Butterscotch Filling:

  • 1 cup (200 grams) lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 tablespoons (26 grams) cake flour
  • Splash of vanilla extract
  • Sprinkle of sea salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped roasted and salted almonds

For the Mocha Frosting:

  • 1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted
  • 5 tablespoons strong coffee, mostly cool
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8-inch round baking pans and set aside.
  2. First whip the eggs to stiff peaks. In a clean and dry bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment whip egg whites on medium speed until frothy, increasing the speed to medium-high until the egg whites form into still peaks. Scrape into a bowl and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with electric hand beaters cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add boiling water gradually and beat until well combined.
  4. In a medium bowl sift together flour, baking powder and salt.
  5. Add half of the dry ingredients to the creamed butter mixture on low speed. Beat in the milk followed by the remaining dry ingredients. Fold in the eggs whites in three parts, creating a light and airy batter.
  6. Divide between the prepared pans, spreading into an even layer. Bake for 28-35 minutes or until the cakes are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Allow cakes to cool in the pan for 15 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely. (Cake layers can be made days in advance, wrapped in plastic wrap and chilled in the refrigerator or freezer.)
  7. While the cake bakes, make the butterscotch filling. In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together brown sugar and milk. Allow to simmer and dissolve the sugar. In a small bowl whisk together melted butter and flour. Spoon the flour mixture into the simmering sugar mixture and whisk until smooth and thickened, about 2 minutes. Add a splash of vanilla and a sprinkle of salt. Remove from heat and add the chopped almonds. Spoon into a bow land cool to room temperature.
  8. To make the frosting in the bow of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or in a bowl with electric hand beaters beat butter around the bowl until softened. Add powdered sugar and cocoa powder and beat on low. Drizzle in coffee until the frosting is smooth and spreadable but still holds its shape.
  9. To frost the cake, spoon about 1/3 cup of chocolate frosting into a piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Trim the cooled cake layer if needed. Place it on a cake plate or cardboard cake rounds. Use the piping bag to pipe a chocolate frosting border around the edge of the cake layer. This will be the barrier to hold the butterscotch filling neatly in place. Spoon in butterscotch filling and spread evenly. Top with second cake layer and frost the top and sides of the cake until smooth.
  10. Decorate with sprinkles and candles. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before slicing.

Keywords: layer cake, birthday cake, white cake, caramel filling, chocolate frosting, mocha frosting,