Ugly Sweater Cake

All in good taste.

ugly sweater cake
Photo: Photographer: Frederick Hardy II, Food Stylist: Margaret Dickey, Prop Stylist: Christina Daley
Active Time:
35 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs 5 mins

Not only is this Ugly Sweater Cake adorable, but it's also delicious! Sweet white chocolate icing gets a bit of tang from cream cheese in this tender cake that practically melts in your mouth. The red inside is a fun surprise when you cut into the festive decorations. We chose to add a red velvet emulsion instead of food coloring, as it gives this Ugly Sweater Cake beautiful color with an extra bonus of red velvet flavor. The red velvet emulsion also offers a deeper, more natural looking hue than bright food coloring. You can find it online or in specialty baking stores. To decorate your Ugly Sweater Cake, simply follow the basic sweater template and let the kids get as creative as they'd like with sprinkles and candy. To make cleanup easier, lay out newspaper on the kitchen table before the decorating party begins. Adults will love this Ugly Sweater Cake at the Christmas cocktail party, and kids will delight in making it their own canvas.



  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar

  • 1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened, divided, plus more for greasing baking pan

  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature

  • 2 ½ cups (about 10⅝ ounces) all-purpose flour, plus more for baking pan

  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 cup whole milk, at room temperature

  • 3 tablespoons water, at room temperature

  • 2 tablespoons red velvet bakery emulsion (such as LorAnn Oils), or red liquid food coloring

  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar


  • 1 (4-ounce) white chocolate baking bar (such as Ghirardelli), chopped

  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

  • ½ cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 2 cups (about 8 ounces) unsifted powdered sugar

  • Green food coloring gel

Additional Ingredients

  • Peppermint candies or other round candies

  • Festive candy sprinkles


  1. Prepare the Cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking pan with butter and dust with flour; set aside. Beat sugar and butter with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium speed until well combined, about 2 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until just combined after each addition, about 1 minute total. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl using a flexible spatula.

  2. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl. Stir together milk, water, red velvet bakery emulsion, and vinegar in a 2-cup measuring cup or a medium bowl. With stand mixer running on medium-low speed, add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with milk mixture, beating until just combined, about 1 minute. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cake cool in pan 10 minutes. Run an offset spatula around edges of pan, and remove cake. Transfer cake to a wire rack, and let cool completely, about 1 hour.

  3. Prepare the Frosting: Fill a medium saucepan with water to a depth of 1 inch; bring to a boil over medium-high. Reduce heat to low to maintain a gentle simmer. Place white chocolate in a medium-size heatproof bowl (bowl should be large enough to sit inside rim of saucepan but not touch the water below), and place bowl over simmering water. Cook, stirring often, until white chocolate is melted and only a few small lumps remain, about 3 minutes. Remove bowl from saucepan. Stir white chocolate constantly until fully melted. Let cool slightly, about 5 minutes.

  4. Beat cooled melted white chocolate, cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in a large bowl with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on low speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Reduce mixer speed to low, and gradually beat in powdered sugar until combined, about 3 minutes. Measure ⅓ cup frosting into a small bowl; stir in green food coloring until desired shade of green. Spoon green-dyed frosting into a piping bag fitted with a star tip (such as Ateco 822). Reserve remaining undyed frosting in large bowl.

  5. Place cake on a platter. Spread cake top and sides with an even, smooth layer of undyed white frosting. Arrange cake lengthwise in front of you (with 1 short edge facing you). Pipe green-dyed Frosting into a large "V" on the top third of the cake, with each top corner of the "V" meeting 1 top corner of the cake. Pipe a vertical line running lengthwise down the center of the cake starting at the bottom tip of the "V". Pipe 2 horizontal lines running crosswise across the cake, 1 line about halfway down and 1 line about three-quarters of the way down the length of the cake. Arrange peppermint candies along the lengthwise, vertical line to make buttons. Fill the different sections of the cake "sweater" with assorted sprinkles.

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