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Enjoy the magic of this year's white cake!


Read the full recipe after the video.

Recipe Summary

30 mins
25 mins
1 hr
15 mins
2 hrs 10 mins

Oh, Christmas tree! Bedecked with a pile of presents and topped with a shiny star, this year's Southern Living White Cake captures the sweetness and sparkle of the season. If you are an eggnog drinker, then our Eggnog Layer Cake with Bourbon-Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting is for you.

For this year's December cover cake, we're leaning into the classic holiday flavor of eggnog to infuse merry cheer into this impressive dessert. In addition to incorporating eggnog in the batter, drizzling eggnog over the baked cake layers not only helps the cake stay moist, but also adds an extra boost of festive flavor. We're adding a little dose of spirit to this frosting—in the form of bourbon. A bit of bourbon complements the eggnog in this cake; you can omit it if you prefer.

The layers are baked in 6-inch pans for a taller dessert to show off the frosting tree. Standard 8-inch pans will also work with slightly amended directions (find these below). Since this is a tall cake, it's a little more difficult to frost. You can freeze the cake layers ahead of time or put your cake in the refrigerator to set the frosting between layers—this makes the cake layers less likely to slide around.


Cake Layers
For Decorating


Instructions Checklist
  • Prepare the Cake Layers: Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 4 (6-inch) round cake pans with baking spray. Line each pan bottom with a circle of parchment paper; coat parchment with baking spray. 

  • Beat sugar and butter with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium speed until mixture is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until combined.

  • Stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg in a separate bowl. Add flour mixture to sugar-butter mixture alternately with 1 cup of the eggnog in 3 additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat on low speed until blended after each addition, about 1 minute total. Beat in bourbon and vanilla extract until smooth. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans (1⅔ cups per pan). 

  • Bake on center rack in preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted in center of each layer comes out clean, 25 to 28 minutes. Cool in pans 15 minutes. Run an offset spatula around edges of each layer; remove from pans, and cool completely on a wire rack, about 45 minutes. Using a long serrated knife, trim rounded tops from each layer (they should be about 1¼ inches tall after trimming). Drizzle evenly with remaining 1 cup eggnog (¼ cup per layer). Let stand 15 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, prepare the Frosting: Beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low. Gradually beat in powdered sugar alternately with cream, beating until blended after each addition, about 2 minutes total. Scrape seeds from split vanilla bean pod using dull edge of a paring knife; add scraped vanilla seeds and bourbon to butter mixture (discard scraped vanilla bean pod). Beat on high speed until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

  • Place 1 Cake Layer, cut side up, on a platter; spread ⅔ cup Frosting over top. Top with a second layer, cut side up, and another ⅔ cup Frosting. Top with a third layer, cut side up, ⅔ cup Frosting, and then remaining layer, cut side down. Frost top and sides of cake with 2 ½ cups Frosting, reserving remaining ½ cup Frosting for tree decoration.

  • With a small paring knife or a wooden pick, draw an outline of a Christmas tree on side of assembled cake. Using an offset spatula, scoop teaspoonfuls of reserved ½ cup Frosting, and place on cake, 1 at a time, starting at the bottom of the tree outline. With a spatula, use a swooping motion to create a brushstroke-like branch with each dollop of Frosting, moving from the inside of the tree to the outside. Continue scooping and swooping with spatula, working from bottom to top of tree and from inside to outside, overlapping as needed, until tree is complete. Decorate tree as desired with assorted candy sprinkles, nonpareils, and sparkling sugar.

  • Place 1 Star Shortbread Cookie at the top of the tree, and place several Present Shortbread Cookies around the base of the cake.

One Cake, Multiple Ways

For 8-inch Pan: Divide batter among 3 (8-inch) round cake pans coated with baking spray and lined with parchment paper. Bake as directed until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 22 to 25 minutes. Poke hot cakes with a fork; drizzle evenly with remaining 1 cup eggnog (⅓ cup per layer). Cool in pans 20 minutes. Remove from pans, and place, soaked side up, on a wire rack. Let cool completely, about 1 hour. Spread Frosting between layers (1 cup per layer) and on top and sides of cake, reserving ½ cup Frosting for tree decoration.

For 13- x 9-inch Pan: Pour batter into a greased and floured 13- x 9-inch baking pan. Bake in preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes. Poke hot cake with a fork; drizzle evenly with remaining 1 cup eggnog. Cool cake in pan on wire rack, about 45 minutes before frosting.

For Bundt Pan: Spoon batter into a greased and floured 12-cup Bundt pan. Bake in preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted in cake comes out clean, about 55 minutes to 1 hour. Poke hot cake with a fork; drizzle evenly with remaining 1 cup eggnog. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack, and cool completely (about 2 hours). Dollop with frosting and garnish as desired.

For Cupcakes: Place 24 paper baking cups in 2 (12-cup) standard muffin pans; spoon batter into cups, filling each about three-fourths full (about ¼ cup batter in each). Bake in preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted in center of cupcakes comes out clean, 18 to 22 minutes. Remove from oven and poke hot cupcakes with a fork; drizzle evenly with remaining 1 cup eggnog, ½ Tbsp. per cupcake. (You will have about ¼ cup eggnog left over). Let cool completely in pans on wire racks, about 30 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pans and frost.