This cherry crisp layer cake is two desserts in one! Three layers of vanilla cake are filled with sweet cherries and gingery crisp and finished off with a cherry Swiss meringue buttercream.
Lately, I’ve been looking for cake flavor inspiration everywhere I go. For this cherry crisp layer cake, I was inspired by the amazing cherry rhubarb crisp I made a few weeks ago. As I was savoring second helpings, I wondered what a cherry crisp cake would be like.
I have been crazy about cherries this summer! One of my very favorite things about this time of year is all the yummy produce that is in season. But it always seems that the peak times for my favorite summer fruits come and go far too quickly. So I’m eager to take advantage of that time while I can, and I love finding recipes that let seasonal produce really shine.
On that note, I decided to keep the layers in this cherry crisp cake simple – three layers of a wonderfully moist, vanilla cake. That way, we can focus on the flavor of the sweet, juicy cherries and the gingery crisp topping. You’ll love the contrast of all the different textures!
This cake does have a lot of different components, but don’t be scared off – none of them are overly complicated. And the cherries and the crisp topping can easily be made ahead of time if you’d like. The cherries are simply heated over the stove with sugar and just a touch of lemon and ginger to help bring out their natural juices, which will be used to flavor the buttercream. The crisp topping is baked in the oven on its own so that it gets all golden and crumbly. And finally, the cake is frosted with a cherry Swiss meringue buttercream. It has a very subtle flavor, but I found it to be a lovely, light complement to the rest of the cake.
I made this cherry crisp layer cake for a summer BBQ with our friends. Beforehand, we were all texting about what dishes we would bring to share, and I offered up that I’d be happy to bring a cake. “Oh, nobody was unsure about that,” they responded, “but now at least we know for certain that there will be cake!” I’m officially becoming the cake lady, hah! The benefits (or hazards, depending on how you look at it) of being friends with a cake and baking blogger is I am bound to bring a layer cake everywhere I go.
We had a lovely evening with friends, talking until it was well past dark, sneaking just one more bite of cake, and then just one more. I hope you’ll enjoy this cherry crisp layer cake on a beautiful summery day with good company too. Happy baking!
Cherry Crisp Layer Cake
- 2 cups cake flour*
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 large egg white, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup whole milk, room temperature
- 2 cups cherries, pitted and halved
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 dash ginger
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1/4 cup flour
- 3 tablespoons old fashioned oats
- 1 tablespoon shredded coconut
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 dash cinnamon, generous
- 1 dash ginger, generous
- 2 tablespoons butter, cubed
Cherry Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- 2 large egg whites
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons juice reserved from cherry filling recipe
For Cake Layers
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare three 6" cake pans by lining the bottoms with parchment paper, then butter and flour each pan.
Whisk together cake flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium sized bowl. Set aside.
Cream butter, oil, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Reduce speed to medium-low and add eggs, then egg white one at a time. Mix until incorporated after each addition, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Add vanilla and mix until just combined.
With the mixer on medium-low speed, alternate adding 1/3 of flour mixture, then 1/2 of the milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat between each addition until incorporated. You will have 3 additions of flour and 2 additions of milk. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans. Smooth tops with a spatula and tap pans on counter to remove air bubbles.
Bake for 28-32 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of each cake comes out clean.
Remove cakes from oven and let cool in pans for 15 minutes. Remove cakes from pans and let cool completely on a wire rack.
For Cherry Filling
Combine all cherry filling ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat.
Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until fruit is soft and starts to break down.
Remove from heat and let cool completely.
Strain cherries through a mesh sieve, reserving juice for buttercream. Set aside.
For Crisp topping
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Set out a small baking sheet.
Combine flour, oats, coconut, sugars, cinnamon, and ginger in a medium mixing bowl.
Add butter cubes and, using your hands (or a pastry blender if you prefer), quickly work the butter into the mixture until distributed and clumps form.
Spread mixture out on baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, or until just golden brown.
Let cool completely. If desired, crumble into smaller pieces.
For Cherry Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Add egg whites and granulated sugar to the bowl of a double boiler.** Whisk to combine, then turn on heat to medium.
Whisking frequently, heat the mixture until sugar has dissolved and it registers about 160 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy thermometer. Mixture should feel smooth when rubbed between two fingers.
Pour mixture into bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high speed, using the whisk attachment, until stiff peaks form and the mixture has reached room temperature. This will take 8-10 minutes.
Once cooled, switch to the paddle attachment, then turn mixer to medium-low speed and add butter a tablespoon at a time, beating until incorporated. Then, add vanilla extract and mix just until incorporated.
With mixer on medium-low speed, add some of the juice reserved from the cherry filling one teaspoonful at a time. You want to add the juice gradually to make sure you don't add too much liquid. Your buttercream may be able to handle a little more, or a little less than called for. Beat on medium speed until smooth.
Assembling the Cake
Level your cake layers by using a sharp serrated knife to cut off the rounded domes.
Spread a small amount of buttercream on a cake board, then place bottom cake layer, cut side up, on top.
Pipe a dam of frosting around outer edge of cake layer using a large, round piping tip (this will help keep the filling from spilling out the sides).
Add a layer of cherries in the middle, and sprinkle crisp topping over it, pressing down gently if needed. You can spoon some of the cherry juice in too if you'd like. Then, spread a thin layer of frosting on top of the filling to help stack the next layer.
Stack the second layer of cake, and repeat steps 3 and 4 - pipe a dam of frosting around the edge and fill with the cherries and crisp topping. Add a little more frosting on top.
Stack the third layer, trimmed side down, so the bottom of the cake layer forms the top of the cake.
Frost with a light coat of buttercream to help seal in the crumbs (crumb coat), then chill the cake for about 20 minutes.
Remove from fridge and use remaining buttercream to frost the cake completely. Use an offset spatula or cake scraper to smooth the buttercream.
Decorate as desired. I used a large open star tip to pipe swirls onto the top of my cake, which I then topped with fresh cherries. I sprinkled the remaining crisp topping in the center.
*Make your own cake flour: remove 2 tablespoons per cup of flour and replace it with cornstarch. Sift flour and cornstarch together 4 or 5 times.
**You can also use the bowl of your stand mixer and place it on top of a small sauce pan with a couple inches of simmering water in the bottom. The water should not touch the bottom of the stand mixer.