Photo: Leigh Beisch; Styling: Dan Becker
Total Time
2 Hours 15 Mins
Serves 16

For an elegant dessert, make this white cake with cranberry filling. The white chocolate curls on top are the perfect finishing touch.

How to Make It

Step 1

Preheat oven to 325°. Butter two 9-in. cake pans; set aside.

Step 2

Make cake: In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar together on low speed until light and fluffy. Add egg whites in 3 batches, scraping inside of bowl as needed. Beat in flour mixture in 5 batches, adding 1/4 cup water after each addition (you will begin and end with flour); make sure flour is completely blended each time before adding water. Pour batter into prepared pans, dividing evenly. Smooth tops with a spatula.

Step 3

Bake until center of cake feels firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool cakes completely in pans on a rack.

Step 4

Meanwhile, make cranberry filling: Combine 3 cups cranberries, the sugar, preserves, and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over high heat until cranberries pop and preserves melt, 5 to 10 minutes. Add remaining 3/4 cup cranberries, stir to combine, and remove from heat. Transfer to a small bowl and chill until ready to assemble cake.

Step 5

Make buttercream: Fill a 2-qt. pan with about 1 in. water and bring to a simmer over low heat. Put egg whites, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk to combine. Place bowl over hot water, making sure bottom of bowl isn't touching water, and heat whites, whisking constantly, until hot to the touch, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove pan and bowl from heat.

Step 6

Put bowl of warm whites on the mixer and whisk on high speed until tripled in volume and side of bowl is cool to the touch, about 10 minutes.

Step 7

Meanwhile, chop 4 oz. white chocolate, put in a medium metal mixing bowl, and set in same pan of warm water off the heat to melt slowly, stirring occasionally. Remove bowl from pan and let cool to room temperature.

Step 8

Reduce mixer speed to low and whisk butter into whites, about 1/4 cup at a time, until incorporated. Continue to whisk on low speed until smooth and fluffy, about 10 minutes (mixture may look grainy at some point but will come together).

Step 9

With a rubber spatula, gently fold melted chocolate into buttercream until completely combined.

Step 10

Assemble: Rub tops of both cakes gently with your hands to remove browned outer surface, then carefully invert cakes and rub undersides so that cakes are completely white. Place 1 cake layer on a cake stand or serving plate, top side up. Using a pastry brush, brush top with half the liqueur. Spread about 1 1/2 cups cranberry mixture over layer with a metal spatula, leaving a 1/2-in. empty border around edge. Place second cake layer on top, flattest side down, and brush with remaining liqueur. Spread top and sides of cake with a thin layer of buttercream to seal in crumbs and chill 30 minutes. Cover with remaining buttercream, starting with the sides and covering the top last.

Step 11

Use the palm of your hand to warm remaining chocolate. Shave smooth side of chocolate bar with a vegetable peeler to make thin curls; scatter curls over cake's top. Sift powdered sugar over cake. Serve with remaining cranberry mixture on the side.

Step 12

Make ahead: Baked cake layers can be wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature or in the fridge up to 2 days ahead. Cranberry filling can be made up to 2 days ahead and chilled.

Step 13


Chef's Notes

Bakers' tip: To make a pure white cake, use your fingers to rub off the browned surface of each layer before assembling.

Ratings & Reviews

amycat's Review

December 24, 2008
I am making this cake for the third time. The first time, I made the batter incorrectly, but my husband and daughter liked that cake best. I couldn't serve a mistake, so I made another one, which was very well received on Thanksgiving. Now I am making it for Christmas. To cut down on the fat content, I made seven minute frosting and it was delicious!

Winston1002's Review

December 23, 2008
OH Nooooooooo! Make sure you use 2 pans. I used professional cake pan and the cake fell, twice. The cake tastes great (even after it fell) I will try again using 2 pans instead of 1.

Sherylynn's Review

January 08, 2014
I made this cake for Christmas Dinner. The entire crew loved it including my friend who is a fabulous baker. Sister said it was her top 5 cakes EVER! I was able to find a cranberry relish and used that. Next time, I may do the cake layers ahead of time and brush them with the cherry liqueur to allow time to soak in, or switch up liqueurs. The white cake was subtle, soft, not a bold flavor, but the combination of the cake, filling, and white choc buttercream was divine. I noted that some thought the buttercream was too buttery or waxy. Part of that taste is the white choc. I did use 2 T less butter than the recipe based on these comments and could possibly have used even less. I used a block of excellent quality white chocolate, cutting off what I needed for the buttercream, and leaving it on the counter to soften. I was easily able to create the curls with a carrot peeler.

WillBaker's Review

December 26, 2011
Made this wonderful cake for Christmas dinner. Beautiful to look at and delicious as well. A couple of changes I will make next time include reducing the amount of jam by about 1/3 (1/2 cup) as much. The remaining liquid jam that you have left over is plenty for drizzling over the individual slices. Also, I used apricot jam as Jacques Pepin suggest when making pastry deserts as it helps to accentuate the flavors and not be overbearing with the taste of apricots. Finally, I used a traditional buttercream frosting as time was short and was not familiar with the recipe provided. Turned out great! I recommend making this cake in two stages (or over a two day period), one day for the cake and cranberry sauce as it does need to come to room temp or chill prior to assembly. For the white chocolate curls I microwaved the bar for about 30-45 seconds and then used a Titan to peal off the chocolate. Worked great. Easy and impressive cake, I will be making it again.

ProblemChild's Review

December 26, 2011
I just made this cake for the first time. I thought the flavor was alright - sweet and cakey - but the real flavor is in the filling. I followed the recipe pretty closely and had a lot of leftover filling and icing. I thought the filling was great (wound up mixing in some blueberry jelly when I ran out of cherry preserves). The icing was fluffy and easy to spread. I received a positive comment on the icing, but I thought it was a bit waxy and lacking flavor. I couldn't taste the white chocolate in it. The white chocolate shavings are tricky to make. You do want to use wide, flat bars as opposed to the block-shaped ones, and I found it helpful to have an extra bar because I ended up wasting a lot of it. I used a vegetable peeler and found that the bars have to be just slightly warmed, but not too much, and ended up happy with the result. Do leave yourself a lot of time to make this cake. I did it over a couple of days. Great presentation, lots of nice comments from friends.

PNWHottie's Review

December 07, 2011
There must be a typo in the instructions - this cake would have zero flavor if I hadn't followed one poster's suggestion to add flavor. I substituted 1/2 Cup Amaretto for half of the water. The frosting seemed a bit too much, esp based on some of the reviews, so I used another white chocolate buttercream recipe I had, which used about half the chocolate. Even my teen daughter, who loves white chocolate, thought it was too heavy/sweet. The cake itself was moist and dense and delicious. I can't imagine what the cake would have been like without the Amaretto, though. The light sweet almond taste was a perfect foil for the tart sweet filling. I skipped the chocolate shavings - too much work too late in the day. A simple vanilla buttercream would have been much better. I would make again with a different frosting.

JonnyeM's Review

April 29, 2011
I am making this for a Royal Wedding party. This is the fourth formal type event I have made this cake for. The changes I have made are adding 1/2c Creme De Cocoa and 1/2 c water to the cake instead of all water; adding 1/4c Kirsch to cranberries instead of water; making 2/3 amount of frosting but upping the white chocolate amount to 5 oz. and adding 2 tablespoons of Cr. De Cocoa. This cake looks and tastes beautiful, always makes a hit, and is worth the cost and time for special occasions.

Stinkyfish's Review

January 14, 2011
Delicious! Made it for Serbian Christmas; a show-stopper. Couldn't find fresh cranberries, so I used currants, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. I reduced the butter to 3/4lb and the frosting was fine and plenty. Used a cheese grater to make chocolate curls. Works great.

seagreen's Review

January 07, 2011
Made exactly as per recipe. Although it was a lot of work I would make this again! Takes longer than the specified time because some things take some time to cool before you can proceed. Buttercream frosting was wonderful and did not taste like butter; it had just a hint of chocolate. The small 1 oz squares of white chocolate are hard to cut curls from - use a bigger chunk of white chocolate if you can. The filling was delicious.

RhondainSR's Review

December 29, 2008
The cake was fairly simple to make and looked magnificent. The cranberry filling was great! After that it all went downhill. First, the butter cream frosting was so heavy that it tasted just like BUTTER. Another frosting could add something to this cake flavor. Second, the chocolate curls for the top were very difficult to make. Melting the chocolate in a double boiler, chilling it on a jelly roll pan and scraping it with a spatula before completely cooled to make the curls was the only way I could get them to work. Finally, the cake was not very flavorful. I expected so much more from such a beautiful cake. We enjoyed the look of it at Christmas Eve, but not the taste...because it lacked one!