Dairy-free Vanilla Birthday Cake with Rose Ombre Frosting

Another year has flown by in the blink of an eye.


Vanilla Buttermilk Cake with Rose Ombre Frosting


Actually, the last five years have flown by in the blink of an eye. Yesterday, we celebrated Emma’s 5th birthday. How could it be five years already? What a wonderful young girl you’ve become, Emma!

She wows us often with her inquisitiveness, her kind heart and cheerful nature. There are so many things we love about our Emma. She brings her artistic creations home from school everyday and can hardly contain herself until she pulls them out of her backpack to show them off. She can get so entranced in the book she’s reading, she forgets everything else around her. When she’s at the park and she sees children playing, she’ll decide to go over and say hello so she can make some new friends. On Saturday mornings, she rushes out of bed to listen to “the funny guy” (aka Stuart McLean on the Vinyl Cafe) tell us a story while we eat our pancake breakfast together. I love that I’m still the last person she wants to hug before she goes to sleep.

It’s such a joy and privilege to be your mummy, sweetheart — I’m lucky to have you as my little girl.

Happy 5th Birthday!

Happy 5th birthday, dear Emma!

Dairy-Free Vanilla Birthday Cake with Rose Ombre Frosting

Dairy-free Vanilla Birthday Cake with Rose Ombre Frosting

adapted from Sweetapolita and I am Baker 
(creates 1 3-layer 8″ round cake; serves 16)

For the cake layers:
  • canola oil (for greasing)
  • 4 whole large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks (from large eggs)
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups rice milk
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 cups cake and pastry flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup vanilla sugar
  • 4 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup unrefined coconut oil, room temperature
For the frosting:
  • 12 cups icing sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable shortening, room temperature
  • 4 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp butter flavouring
  • 3/4 – 1 cup rice milk, cold
  • 4 tbsp beet juice
For assembling the cake:
  • 1 225ml jar of high-quality apricot jam

Lightly grease three 8″ round cake pans and line with parchment circles. Grease the parchment. Set two racks in the oven: one in the top third and the other in the bottom third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a small bowl, mix together the rice milk and lemon juice. Set aside for 5 minutes.

In medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract and 1/4 cup of the rice milk and lemon juice mixture until well combined. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars, baking powder and salt. Stir well with a fork or whisk for 30 seconds or so to add some air and ensure there are no lumps. Add the coconut oil and the remaining rice milk/lemon juice and mix until just combined.  Then, beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture in three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl and mixing until just incorporated.

Divide the batter across the three prepared pans. Bake the cake layers (two on one shelf and the third on the other shelf) for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Swap the cake pans about half way through the baking time.

Let the layers cool in the pans on a rack for 10 minutes.  Remove the layers from the pans, remove the parchment from the bottom of the cakes and let the layers cool completely, right side up, on racks.

While the layers cool, prepare the frosting by beating together the sugar, shortening, butter flavouring and vanilla until smooth.  Add the sugar one cup at a time and continue mixing, scraping down the sides of the bowl in between additions. Slowly add the rice milk until you reach your desired consistency.

Divide the icing into two bowls. In the first bowl, mix 1 tbsp of the beet juice until the colour is completely integrated into the frosting. Mix the remaining 3 tbsp of beet juice into the second bowl of frosting.

To assemble and frost the cake, place the bottom layer on to your work surface. Pipe a border around the perimeter of the top of the layer and fill it in with a few spoonfuls of apricot jam spread evenly. Place the next layer on top of the jam-covered layer and repeat the piping and jam. Top with the third layer and spread enough frosting over the top and sides to crumb coat the entire cake. This frosting doesn’t have to be perfect, it needs to be enough to cover the colour of the cake before piping the roses. Place the cake into the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to set.

Prepare an icing bag with a Wilton 1M tip and fill the bag with the lighter frosting. Starting at the bottom of the cake, pipe a rose by starting in the centre of where the rose will be and slowly creating a swirl around that centrepoint. Continue the swirl until the rose is the desired size. Repeat a single row of these roses around the outside of the cake.

Prepare an icing bag again with the Wilton 1M tip and this time, fill the bag with the darker frosting. Starting a second row, make another row of roses around the outside of the cake. Once that’s finished, repeat the process on the top of the cake, starting at the outside and making your way into the middle. Pipe some frosting to fill any gaps between roses.

Refrigerate until 15 minutes before serving.

Tips and Suggestions:

  • If dairy is not an issue for you, substitute skim milk for the rice milk or buttermilk for the rice milk and lemon juice and unsalted butter for the coconut oil, as Sweetapolita originally posted. I’ve made the cake both ways and it is fantastic with butter.
    • If you’re not avoiding dairy, take the butter flavouring out of the frosting and instead do 1/2 shortening and 1/2 butter. It’s spectacularly delicious and still makes beautiful roses.
  • I am Baker has a video tutorial of how to make the roses. I promise that after watching that video a few times and doing a few test roses, you’ll find this as easy to do as I do.
  • Don’t have cake and pastry flour on hand? Not a problem. Joy the Baker has a quick tutorial on how to make your own at home.
  • If you’re moving slowly on frosting the cake, keep the frosting covered and sealed tight. It dries out but can be revived with a few drops of rice milk and a good mix.
  • This cake keeps very well. Refrigerate it, covered well, to get at least a week if not a bit longer.


    • Thank you, Nancy! I was able to make the cake without cow’s milk or butter but kept the eggs so it’s dairy-free instead of vegan. Thankfully, we aren’t having to manage an egg-sensitivity in our circle of family and friends!

    • Elizabeth – thank you! Emma loved the cake and lucky girl, we made it a second time for another party for her. The decorations were actually easy to make and photographed beautifully when the candles were lit next to them. They are gum-paste stars mounted in floral wire and then painted with edible glitter. I was so pleased too with how they turned out. 🙂 Thanks for visiting!

  1. Julie

    what a beautiful cake!…it is so good to eat too, my daughter said….and it makes happy feeling when just looking..
    thanks Liz!..

  2. heather

    I need a dairy free cake for a bday this weekend. Plan to 1/2 it and make into cupcakes. I have a question about the coconut oil. Are you using it while solid or ‘melting’ it to a liquid?

    • Hi Heather — when using the coconut oil in this recipe, I use it at room temperature or slightly softer. We don’t have air conditioning in our house so when it’s warm, it’s really soft and it still works. I’ve updated the ingredients list to state that it’s at room temperature too. Hope the cupcakes are a hit for you!

  3. ro

    Hi, im looking to make this cake for a gender reveal party friday! I love tall cakes (6 layers) but was wondering if this recipe would need to be doubled? Maybe not the frosting since you said it makes a lot. Or should i make this amount but try and slice the layers in half and ice in between? So many questions. Sorry 🙂

    • Lots of good questions! The layers could easily be sliced in half and frosted in between. If you used only jam between the layers, it wouldn’t give too much lift though from the original three layer version. If you wanted dramatically tall, I’d make 1.5x or 2x the cake recipe and do the same with the frosting. The recipe makes lots of frosting but the roses also require lots!

      I’d love to see how your cake turns out — send some pics when you’re all done. Bet it’ll be gorgeous!

    • Thanks Aimee! It’s such a lovely (dairy-free) cake for a celebration. Plus, making all those roses is lots of practice on making roses for future cupcakes too 🙂

  4. Thanks for the lovely recipe! I was asked to make a dairy-free cake for a 30th birthday yesterday. It looked beautiful and everyone seemed to think it was delicious. I did alter the recipe just slightly – for the cake, I used half the amount of sugar, and for the icing, I used dairy-free margarine instead of vegetable shortening and butter flavour. I cut down the icing by half as well. It was still super sweet and there was enough icing to cover the whole cake. All in all, it was a hit!

    • Thank you for choosing this recipe for your cake. I think it’s a wonderful cake – I am honoured!

      It’s even better that the cake worked out for you and that you’ve wowed everyone with your cake prowess. 🙂

    • Thanks Victoria! I haven’t made that in awhile and was thinking it’s been too long! Fortunately there have been many icing roses more recently though 🙂

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