Cakes Icing + Frosting

Almond Cake with Chocolate and Amaretto Buttercream

Almond Cake with Chocolate and Amaretto Buttercream | The Vanilla Bean Blog

About this Almond Layer Cake:

I’m celebrating this year with a fabulous cake, for both myself and my own Mother. I’m excited to share the one pictured above with you: an almond cake with chocolate and Amaretto buttercream. Andre Prost sent me several boxes of their imported Odense Almond Paste (from Odense, Denmark) to experiment with. It is made in a factory where only almonds are used so there is no risk of other nut allergies in this cake.

If you have never used almond paste, it is found in the baking section of the supermarket. I love almond paste in so many applications (paired with puff pastry, especially, and also in a Danish braid), but I had never used it in a straight up yellow cake.

I love the way it turned out; the almond cake is rich and full of almond flavor, without the need for extra almond extract.

Amaretto is an under-used liqueur in my cabinet, and it pairs nicely with the almond cake and thin layer of chocolate (side note: on the rare occasion I order a drink when I’m out on the town, I do always get an amaretto sour. I’ve also been informed that this is an old lady drink, but dang, it’s so good!).

Decorating a Cake with Flowers:

The flowers on this cake are inspired by the lovely Molly Yeh and her own fabulous cake. She has a lot of good links posted for making flowers, and here are a few more:

Cupcake Jemma has tons of great videos and tutorials.
Piping Peonies
More flowers

Almond Cake with Chocolate and Amaretto Buttercream | The Vanilla Bean Blog

About Mother’s Day:

I often forget about it; not about celebrating my own mother, of course, but about that fact that it is now a day for others to celebrate my contribution to their life. I am a Mom every day – I get two littles up for school each morning; guide them through dressing and eating and brushing teeth while cramming folders and lunch boxes into back packs. I wait at bus stops. I take breaks from working and baking to fold laundry, change pillow cases, pick up toys. I make dinner, I help with homework. I am a story teller, a song singer. I close my book at night when little feet quietly make their way into my room, needing hugs or more songs, or reassurance in the dark.

I am always listening, checking, double-checking, holding, awake while sleeping, hoping, helping.

But still, somehow, I forget I’m the Mom.

Because there is still 10-year old me inside, singing along to Amy Grant all afternoon and lost in Nancy Drew stories. Fifteen year old me is there, dreaming about boys and crying over journal entries. Twenty year old me is over-spiritualizing her life and trying not to bounce every check she writes.

Twenty-five year old me is married and can actually sleep through the night without being afraid. Thirty year old me is pregnant for the first time and finally seeing a therapist. And now there is almost 40 year old me, the woman trying to make sense of aging while still so aware of all the other, younger Sarahs lingering inside. Not Mom, then Mom, then both together, for the remaining miles of the journey.

Almond Cake with Chocolate and Amaretto Buttercream | The Vanilla Bean Blog

It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own

-Mary Oliver, from The Journey

Almond Cake with Chocolate and Amaretto Buttercream | The Vanilla Bean Blog
two hands hold a box of almond paste
Almond Cake with Chocolate and Amaretto Buttercream | The Vanilla Bean Blog
Almond Cake with Chocolate and Amaretto Buttercream | The Vanilla Bean Blog

Notes on Making This Almond Cake:

  • This recipe is based on both the Yellow Cake and the Swiss Meringue Buttercream from my book, The Vanilla Bean Baking Book (affiliate link).
  • I use 8 inch pans to bake these – you can use 9-inch cake pans here; just note they will bake a little bit quicker.
  • The cakes take a little longer to bake than normal because of the added almond paste. If you feel your cake tops are browning too quickly, you can place a piece of foil loosely over the tops. My cooked cakes were a little more golden brown than usual, but tasted fantastic.
almond layer cake decorated with buttercream frosting piped into flowers

Almond Cake with Chocolate, and Amaretto Buttercream

Servings: 10 servings
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Cooling Time: 45 minutes
This almond layer cake is rich and full of almond flavor, without the need for extra almond extract. Amaretto is an under-used liqueur in my cabinet, and it pairs nicely with the almond cake and thin layer of chocolate.
Sarah Kieffer
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate



  • 7 ounces Odense almond paste thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (297g)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (284g)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 pound 2 sticks; unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces (227g)

Amaretto Buttercream

  • 8 large egg whites
  • 2 ¼ cups granulated sugar (446g)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ pounds 6 sticks; unsalted butter, room temperature (678g)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur
  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted (to use after the cake is cooled) (85g)


For the cake

  • Adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter and flour two 8 by 2-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
  • Place the almond paste and sugar in a food processor. Pulse until the almond paste is finely ground and the mixture resembles sand.
  • In a medium bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk the eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, sour cream, and buttermilk.
  • In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the sugar and almond paste mixture, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt on low until combined. With the mixer running on low, add the butter one piece at a time, beating until the mixture resembles coarse sand. With the mixer still running on low, slowly add half the wet ingredients. Increase the speed to medium and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. with the mixer running on low, add the rest of the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 20 seconds (the batter may still look a little bumpy). Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and use a spatula to mix the batter a few more times.
  • Divide the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Tap the pans gently on the counter 2 times to help get rid of any bubbles. Bake 35 to 50 minutes (see note above), rotating the pans halfway through, until the cake are golden brown and a wooden skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the rack, remove the parchment paper, and let cool completely before frosting.

For the buttercream

  • Put about an inch of water in a medium saucepan and bring it to a gentle boil.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir the egg whites, sugar, and salt until combined. Put the bowl over the saucepan, being careful not to let the water touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir with a rubber spatula until the sugar is completely melted, and the mixture reaches a temperature of 160F, about 4 to 5 minutes. While you are stirring, be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl with the spatula—this will ensure no sugar grains are lurking on the sides and will help prevent the egg whites from cooking.
  • Remove the bowl from the heat and place it in the stand mixer fitted with a whisk. Whisk the mixture on medium-high until stiff, glossy peaks form, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • With the mixer running on low, add the butter, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition until incorporated and the buttercream is smooth. Add the amaretto and vanilla. Beat on low until combined.

To assemble the almond cake

  • Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut each layer of the cake in half horizontally, to make a total of four layers, and place the layers on the prepared baking sheets, cut sides down. Top three of the layers with a thin coating of chocolate (1 ounce on each piece), spreading it thin and evenly along the whole surface of each layer. Let the chocolate set before frosting the cake (you can put the layers in the freezer for 2 or 3 minutes to speed this up).
  • Put one cake layer, chocolate side up, on a turntable or serving plate and top with ¾ cup of buttercream. Repeat with two more chocolate-covered layers and then top with the remaining, chocolate-free layer. Frost the cake as desired.
  • Reply
    Wednesday, April 12, 2023 at 1:16 pm

    5 stars
    I am very late to this party, but wanted to leave a review because I liked this cake so, so much. I made it gluten free using measure for measure flour, and it is frankly indistinguishable from regular (I am not the gluten free person in my household so I have a good frame of reference). The cake is rich and soft and almost a poundcake-like texture, and is still good just about a week on. I had an issue with my buttercream breaking, but it was an error on my end (meringue still too warm when I started adding butter), and was resolved by spending a night in the fridge then beating it to bring it back together. Texture ended up perfect for piping. I will note that I used about twice the amaretto recommended to get the flavor I was looking for, and filled my layers with ganache instead of as written. But this cake is seriously a keeper.

  • Reply
    Alisha Ross
    Tuesday, April 20, 2021 at 3:53 am

    I’m still learning from you, but I’m trying to reach my goals. I absolutely enjoy reading all that is posted on your blog.Keep the stories coming

  • Reply
    Saturday, July 20, 2019 at 10:29 pm

    This cake is delicious! Could the better be used for cupcakes and if so would any changes need to be made.

    Thank you!

  • Reply
    Sunday, October 7, 2018 at 4:47 pm

    I would like to make a chocolate almond cake. Can the cake recipe be converted?

  • Reply
    Nanda Garber
    Saturday, May 12, 2018 at 4:56 pm

    This looks amazing! I’ve been making the loaf cakes from the Milk St Kitchen cookbook. This week was the Pistachio Cardamom cake for Teacher Appreciation week. It was delicious! Another olive oil cake that it easy and delicious. The French Spice cake was also delicious, next up is the Brown Butter Cardamom Banana Bread.

  • Reply
    Nanda Garber
    Saturday, May 12, 2018 at 4:54 pm

    This looks amazing! I’ve been making the loaf cakes from the Milk St Kitchen cookbook. This week was the Pistachio Cardamom cake for Teacher Appreciation week. It was delicious! Another olive oil cake that it easy and delicious. The French Spice cake was also delicious, next up is the Brown Butter Cardamom Banana Bread.

    Just want to let you know that this post never came through in my email. Last one I received was the chocolate olive oil cake. Not sure why…

  • Reply
    Friday, April 20, 2018 at 3:23 pm

    The cake part was great! I tried to make the icing twice, though, and both times it came out looking curdled at the very end.

  • Reply
    Hadi from Niche Beasts
    Friday, August 11, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    What an awesome and fun recipe! loved it 🙂

  • Reply
    Diego Lopes
    Monday, July 3, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    I know mother’s day is past, but my mom’s bday is coming up and I’m glad I found this post. Gonna make this cake for her!!

  • Reply
    Kate Wood
    Wednesday, June 28, 2017 at 8:58 am

    The other younger Sarahs lingering inside…

    This is beautiful. You articulated so many good things. Thank you for sharing!

  • Reply
    Sunday, June 18, 2017 at 10:56 am

    What a cute and fun recipe! I love it!

  • Reply
    Thursday, June 8, 2017 at 10:39 pm

    Hi! I just made the cake and it was beautiful. While I adored the sponge, I found the buttercream tasted more like butter than anything else. 6 sticks was just so much… I was wondering if reducing the amount of butter would work with the frosting recipe in the future?

  • Reply
    Friday, June 2, 2017 at 4:47 pm

    I want to try this gorgeous cake as a mother-daughter project when my daughter visits me in a couple of weeks. I’m an experienced baker but I’ve never tried this kind of decorating with icing. My question – is the buttercream recipe enough to frost the cake and make all the roses? Or should I make more? Any hints on how to get those lovely colors? I’ve borrowed a set of icing tips, have looked at the videos, and I’m ready to go!

  • Reply
    Wednesday, May 24, 2017 at 6:06 pm

    Enjoy the journey Mama, and the cake of course! Happy feasting.

  • Reply
    Saturday, May 20, 2017 at 6:06 pm


  • Reply
    Shikha @ Shikha la mode
    Saturday, May 20, 2017 at 1:42 am

    I realize I’m too late for the giveaway but I still learned about that almond paste, which I’ve been looking for!

  • Reply
    Victoria Z
    Friday, May 12, 2017 at 11:32 am

    Absolutely stunning cake!

  • Reply
    Wednesday, May 10, 2017 at 9:25 pm

    I just made this today, but as cupcakes. It did not work! The batter spilled way over the sides despite being filled less than 1/2 full. The middles rose then fell such that the center of the cakes were really shallow. The flavor was great, but these weren’t presentable. I’ll try again but as 8″ rounds. I had similar problems with the regular yellow cake recipe as cupcakes.

    I did make buttercream roses, they’re pretty and waiting for a cake to sit on!

    • Reply
      Thursday, May 11, 2017 at 8:43 am

      I’m so sorry the cupcakes didn’t turn out for you! There was an error in the recipe – the sugar was listed twice, so that might have been the problem. I had fixed the recipe last week, but I had some issues with my web host, and they somehow put the original version back up when my web page was redirected. I’m so sorry!!! I’ve fixed it again. So if you used 3 cups of sugar, that’s the problem. The 1 1/2 cups of sugar should be pulsed with the almond paste, and then mixed in with the other dry ingredients, but only 1 1/2 cups of sugar should be used total.

  • Reply
    Wednesday, May 10, 2017 at 8:59 pm


  • Reply
    Wednesday, May 10, 2017 at 4:40 pm

    What a beautiful cake! I’m currently working my way through the Smitten Kitchen cookbook.

  • Reply
    Wednesday, May 10, 2017 at 2:49 pm

    So eloquently put. Not a mom. Then a mom. This will be my first mother’s day since my kids moved out of the country. Strange and beautiful. My mom is dead but i know she would be proud that her two grandchildren have wandering feet like she did. Your cake and photos are nonpareil. Reading your writing always inspires. -Hanne

  • Reply
    Carolyn McFann
    Wednesday, May 10, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    I love almond anything so this would be a great prize for me! I use an old Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, also a Good Housekeeping Cookbook.

  • Reply
    Marcela Rice
    Wednesday, May 10, 2017 at 12:15 am

    I was at the library today and found your cookbook. The cover and title caught my eye and I checked the book out. I also learned about this blog and I am hooked. I’m so excited for all the recipes I’m going to try and exploring your blog.
    I’m sure your cookbook will be the next book I buy. Thank you for being outstanding!
    Anything almond is a favorite so almond paste should be a winner .

  • Reply
    Tuesday, May 9, 2017 at 7:37 pm

    This is a beautiful Mother’s Day cake- thanks for sharing! Also winning almond paste would be awesome 🙂

  • Reply
    Tuesday, May 9, 2017 at 10:28 am

    this looks beautiful and delicious

  • Reply
    Mimi Chau
    Tuesday, May 9, 2017 at 12:39 am

    One of the cookbooks I’m into right now is the Huckleberry cookbook by Zoe Nathan! The pictures are so beautiful!

  • Reply
    Kris O
    Monday, May 8, 2017 at 4:43 pm

    What a gorgeous cake

  • Reply
    Monday, May 8, 2017 at 3:34 pm

    I love this Mary Oliver poem, and can definitely relate to the versions of yourself through the years. I’m not a mother as yet, but love the way you described the process.

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5 from 1 vote

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