Around the beginning of March, I made this stack-of-pancakes cake for my sister-in-law’s breakfast-themed graduation party.
“A graduation party, in March?” you ask. Yup, she did, in fact, celebrate her graduation party just in the knick of time, before ‘Rona came to town. PHEW. And, if you were wondering how a breakfast-themed party worked out, well, it was exceptionally delicious.
So, today I’ll share with you how to create your own version of this stack-of-pancakes cake – not to be confused with a pancake-cake or a cake made out of pancakes. How many times can I say “cake” in a sentence?! The limit does not exist.
Rather, on the inside, this is a delicious, layered orange cake, filled with summery blueberry compote and a light orange-cinnamon buttercream frosting. However, the outside is decorated with little rolls of fondant to expertly resemble a real stack of pancakes to any unsuspecting eyes.
Get ready to surprise your friends and family with some shock and amazement – grab your apron, and let’s get started.
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To begin your design, first, decide how large you want your cake to be. The recipe below creates a cake composed of two, 9-inch diameter layers, about 4 inches high, total. A cake this size serves about 24 people, depending, of course, upon the size of the cuts.
However, please note that the photos in this blog post show a graduation party cake, sized to serve around 70 people. To create a cake of this magnitude, I tripled the number of ingredients and baked the batter in a 16-inch diameter cake pan. After the first 16-inch cake fully cooled, I repeated the process a second time.
If you want to make a party cake this size, to triple the batter recipe, simply multiply each of the ingredient measurements by three. If you’d prefer, leave a comment below and I can email you the amounts, instead. Plus, that way, we can check each other’s math. 🙂
On the other hand, if you’d like to create a 9-inch diameter cake, but want it to be a bit taller and more whimsical, use the recipe below to create your first two cake layers. Then, HALF the recipe or repeat it again to create one or two more layers on top, respectively. This will give you an additional few inches on the cake. Remember, though, adjusting the cake recipe below may require more fondant than indicated in the directions.
First, make sure you have all of the equipment needed to complete the baking process. Feel free to click any of the links below to shop the exact items I use:
- Two 9-inch diameter cake pans with 2-inch high sides
- Fruit zester
- Flour sifter or sieve
- Hand beater or stand mixer
- Cake tester
- Cooling rack
- Small saucepan
Next, let’s get started with the recipe! If you’re not baking today, feel free to print out these directions or save this post on Pinterest using the link down at the bottom of this page!
Stack of Pancakes Cake
- 2½ cups cake flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 1¼ sticks unsalted butter, room temp
- 1½ cups sugar
- 3 tbsp frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1½ tsp orange peel, grated
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 eggs, large, room temp
- 1 cup whole milk, room temp
Blueberry Compote Filling
- 1 pint blueberries (or 2 half-pint baskets)
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp lemon juice, fresh squeezed
- ½ tsp cornstarch
Orange-Spiced Buttercream Frosting
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tbsp frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
- 1 tsp orange peel, grated
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat your oven to 350°.
- Thoroughly coat the inside of each pan with a layer of cold butter. I like to take a stick right out of the fridge and partially unroll the wrapping, leaving some wax paper for my hand to grip. Then, sprinkle in a tablespoon or two of flour, and shake the pan around until all of the butter is coated with flour. Flip the pan upside down, over your sink or garbage can, tapping the bottom to remove any excess.
- Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar for a few minutes, or until fluffy.
- To the beater bowl, add the orange concentrate and zest, vanilla, and cinnamon. Mix until combined.
- Then, beat each egg into the mixture, one at a time. Make sure your eggs have come to room temperature. Otherwise, you risk your batter separating, which creates a dense, oily cake.
- Finally, stir a little of the flour and milk into the bowl of wet ingredients. Gently mix by hand only until combined. Repeat this process 3 more times, until all of the flour and milk are combined into the batter.
- Pour your batter evenly into your two prepared pans.
- Place the cakes into the preheated oven, and set your timer for 32 minutes. Take care not to open the oven before the timer is done.
- When the timer is finished, check the cake for doneness by inserting the tester into the center of the cake. Moist crumbs are okay, but there should be no batter on the tester. If your cake isn't fully cooked just yet, add a few more minutes to the timer and test again.
- Once the cakes are finished baking, let them cool in their pans on top of a wire rack for ten minutes. Then, carefully flip each cake out to finish cooling. You may need to tap the bottom of the cake pan with a utensil, but the cake should glide out smoothly. Let the cakes cool completely before frosting and decorating.
- If you aren't filling or decorating your cake on the same day as baking, wrap each layer twice, individually, in plastic wrap. Store the cake layers in a cool spot (like a dark corner of your kitchen) for a day or two.
Blueberry Compote Filling
- Add the washed berries, sugar, and lemon juice into a small saucepan.
- Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
- Place your cornstarch in a small bowl. Scoop out about a tablespoon of liquid from the pan (it doesn't have to be exact) and add it to the cornstarch. Combine the mixture until smooth, and add it all back into the pan. Stir to combine.
- Let the compote continue to boil, stirring occasionally, gently mashing the blueberries with your spatula. After about ten minutes, your compote should have reduced in volume by at least half. Check for proper thickness by coating the back of a wooden spoon. If you can draw a line through the compote with your finger and it doesn't immediately fill itself back in, the texture is thick enough.
- The compote will thicken slightly as it cools. Transfer the mixture to a mason jar or tupperware container and let it cool, unlidded, at room temperature. Once the compote is cool enough, you can place it in the fridge to fully chill.
- Store your compote lidded, in the refrigerator, until ready to use. Because of the high sugar content, your compote can last for up to two weeks.
Orange-Spiced Buttercream Frosting
- To begin, beat your softened butter to mix the sticks together. You can do this with a hand mixer, but the whole process is definitely easier with a stand mixer.
- With your mixer on low, add to the butter one cup of powdered sugar. Beat until blended and scrape down the sides with a spatula. Continue this process until all of the powdered sugar is combined.
- Then, mix the orange juice concentrate, orange zest, cinnamon, and vanilla into the frosting. Taste the frosting, making adjustments if you would prefer more juice, zest, or vanilla.
- Store the buttercream covered, in the refrigerator, until about an hour before you're ready to use it. The frosting will harden in the fridge, so let it come to room temperature. You can give it one more quick whip with the beater to bring it back to its full, soft, creaminess. Once you frost and decorate your cake, this buttercream is perfectly shelf-stable, so you don't have to store it in the fridge again.
Grab Your Decorating Materials
Now that your cake, buttercream, and compote are prepared, it’s time to begin decorating!
Here are the materials I used to transform a regular cake into this clever work of art!
- 5 lbs of white vanilla fondant – I only use this one by Satin Ice – it’s naturally dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free, vegan, and it tastes great, too.
- Cake turn-table – this version by Kootek is the exact one I use for any cakes under 11″. I would recommend decorating the cake on the turntable on which you wish to display your cake because once the fondant is applied, moving the cake becomes pretty difficult. This turntable is plain white so it looks great displayed, too. Plus, guests love to get a full 360-degree view, so it’s nice to allow them the ability to them turn it.
- Food-safe paint brushes
- Americolor or Wilton food coloring gels in the following colors:
- Clear, food-grade alcohol, like vodka or white rum
- Vegetable Shortening
- Clear piping gel OR 1/2 cup corn syrup and 1/2 cup maple syrup, combined. This set of ingredients will form the “syrup” drip over top and down the sides of your cake. You have two options here to choose from:
- Use clear piping gel and tint it with your ivory food coloring gel until it resembles the color of maple syrup. Then, pipe it onto the top and over the sides of your cake. This is a great way to control exactly where the drips go. However, if you’re not careful, the drips can look a bit “gloppy,” as opposed to free-moving and glossy.
- Alternatively, mix equal parts corn syrup and maple syrup to create a thicker version of your favorite pancake topping. This option looks super realistic, because, well, it is basically syrup! However, the drips don’t hold their shape super well and do tend to continue spreading slightly. I used this option, and, as you can see in some of the photos, the syrup dripped off of the cake plate and onto the table. Not a huge deal, but it is something to consider. For this reason, I found it helpful to pour on the syrup for my photos at home and figure out exactly where the syrup needed to go. Then, I brought along some extra in a mason jar to pour on, at the party, right before guests arrived. That way, the “syrup” still looked fresh and thick.
- Circular and star piping tips, like the kind that come in this set
- Cacao or cocoa powder, whatever you normally keep on hand is fine
- Non-stick baking mat – this is important for rolling out fondant and protecting your workspace from potent food coloring stains
- Cake leveler (for cakes 10″ and under)
- Offset spatula
How To Decorate Your Stack-of-Pancakes Cake
This is where the real fun starts – transforming your cake layers into a big, yummy stack of pancakes! Check out my time-lapse video of decorating, and then peruse the written instructions for all the tips and tricks!
First, Stack Those Cakes
Use your cake leveler, or, if your cake is larger than 10 inches, a thin, smooth knife, to slice off any dome that may have formed on your cake layers. These are called cake scraps – and they’re the perfect treat for the hard-working baker to munch on while decorating. 🙂
Place your first cake bottom-side down on the turntable. Use a spatula to cover this first layer with some buttercream. Then, fill a ziplock or piping bag with the orange-spiced buttercream, and pipe a thick border around the edges. This will create a barrier or dam to ensure that no compote leaks through. You don’t have to use a piping tip or bag for this. Instead, you can just cut a large hole in the Ziplock bag.
Next, spoon some of that delicious compote onto the center of the first cake layer, filling it generously. However, just use some caution, and don’t overfill past the height of the barrier.
If you have three or more layers of cake, repeat these steps above.
Then, invert your last cake layer, so the part that came out of the pan is facing the sky, and place it gently on the rest of the cake. This way, you have a smooth top layer for decorating. Coat the entire outside surface of the cake with a good layer of buttercream, but don’t worry too much about making it perfect. Typically, with cake decorating, you crumb coat, chill, and coat again. But, today, we aren’t worried about how the buttercream looks. After all, we are about to completely cover it in little rolls of fondant.
Stack-Of-Pancake Cake Decorations – Blueberries and Butter
Grab a small handful of fondant, and carefully wrap the rest back up, making sure no air is able to get inside. Roll and knead the fondant in your hands until it is soft and pliable.
To create blueberries, dye your fondant with one drop of blue, one drop of violet, and a tiny bit of black food coloring, and knead it until the color is combined. It may seem too light, at first. However, the dyes are very potent, and once you add color, you cannot remove it. So go slowly, patiently adding drops of color until it is just right. Sometimes, I like to dip the tip of a toothpick into the color and spread it in the fondant, in case the drops come out too large.
Next, pinch off smaller, blueberry-sized rounds, rolling each ball into a berry-like shape. They don’t have to perfect. After all, when is fruit from nature perfectly round, or totally one, blended color? Sometimes it’s the little variations and imperfections that make something look flawlessly realistic.
Grab a bowl and toss in a half of a teaspoon or so of cocoa or cacao powder. Toss your fondant blueberries in the powder to give them that dusty, fresh-picked appearance. Then, using a star and circle piping tip, make little indentations on the top of each blueberry to resemble the stem area. Set the blueberries aside on some wax paper.
Pinch off another small palmful of white fondant, and knead again until pliable. Color this bit with just a tiny dab of buttercup yellow. This will form our perfectly pretty pats of butter. After the color is well-distributed, flatten and roll out the fondant until it is about a one-quarter to one-half inch thick. Then, use a knife to cut out two to four slight rectangles, resembling pats of butter.
Next, dip your finger in the vegetable shortening and rub the edges of the butter to soften them. Continue adding more shortening to the tops and sides, as well, until your butter looks shiny and smooth. At this point, even you will think it’s real butter! Place these pats next to the blueberries, careful not to dirty them with cocoa powder.
Now It’s Time To Stack Those Pancakes
Knead some fresh white fondant with just a dash of ivory food coloring until it’s soft and pliable. The color should resemble the lightest part of pancake dough, like that little bit that didn’t touch the pan and get all browned and buttery. Then, roll out a long snake-shaped tube.
If you are decorating a 9-inch cake, the circumference is just under 29 inches, so aim for that. (Hey, look: I’m a math nerd!) Cut the tube down the middle, however many times, if necessary, so that each tube is approximately 29 inches long by one-half to three-quarters of an inch wide. It doesn’t have to be exact, but that’s roughly the size you want to aim for.
Next, wrap one of these tubes around the bottom of the cake, securing it gently in the buttercream. Smooth the fondant together, where it meets, muddling the harsh line. Also, you want the cut side of the fondant facing the cake, if applicable, so that you have a soft, slightly uneven, natural edge showing around the outside. It may not look like it now, but this is actually your first layer of pancake.
Dip a small paintbrush into the ivory food coloring, and dab it in a drop of the clear alcohol to dilute it. The alcohol evaporates without compromising the integrity of the fondant, unlike water which would melt the sugar and make your fondant gummy. Paint the ivory food coloring on the top side of the fondant, leaving the very outer ring uncolored. This painted area should resemble that nicely browned portion of the pancake that was cooked on the griddle.
Repeat this process all the way up the cake, layering the tubes of fondant and painting each one as you go. Strive to keep all of the fondant tubes the same length so that you can have one seam at the back, instead of multiple messy seems all around your cake. Don’t stress out if it looks really messy at first. That’s normal. In fact, until the cake is done, it probably will not resemble a stack of pancakes. Just remember that everyone feels that way, and once you put on the finishing touches, it will be totally transformed. Plus, you will go back through at the end to touch up the “painting” work.
Once your cake is covered to the top in the fondant rings, knead out a large ball of fondant. This is going to form your showstopping top pancake. Roll this ball out gently, to flatten, until it is the same diameter as your cake layers. It may take a few tries to get it just right, and you may realize you need more or less fondant. If so, make the adjustments, and re-roll until you have a beautiful, voluptuous pancake layer.
Gently lay this “pancake” on top of your cake, and smooth it out to look natural. Then, using a thick, wide paintbrush, create your final ring of color. However, this time, paint the pancake in a circular pattern all the way to the center. Take some time with this layer, as it is the “crowning glory” of the cake. Feel free to vary the color a bit, to resemble a more realistic pancake.
Then, go back around and touch up any areas of the rings that may need a bit more color. Position your butter pats and blueberries on top, placed precisely where you want them to look the most natural. Then, slowly pour or pipe on your “syrup.”
Voila, You’ve Finished Your Stack-Of-Pancakes Cake!
Congratulations! Didn’t I tell you, it would come together all at once?! This cake is so cool, so delicious, and it looks JUST like an actual stack of pancakes.
Don’t forget to find me on Instagram so we can keep in touch, and be sure to tag me in any photos you post of your cake! I love to see your works of culinary art!
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Take care guys! Until next time…
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