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Cherry Blossom Dream Cake

I make this cake every year and it’s how I both welcome the spring season but also how I mark the decent of my favorite trees in DC. The idea came before buttermilk was a thing (the photo below is the first version of the cake from 2017).

Way back then, I had gotten the idea to make a cake that looked like a cherry blossom tree from the inside. I think it stemmed from making too many funfetti cakes in 2017, and focusing on how the sprinkles distributed within the batter. My idea was to combine a funfetti like cake with a marbled cake look – but the marbling would be very thin so that it would look like branches:

How to make Sam’s Cherry Blossom Cake

The very special part of this cake, the inside is breathtaking (I was amazed the first time it turned out, and am amazed every year lol) but also, crazy easy. You make a white cake batter, add pink sprinkles. Then (or before) make a chocolate batter, just a bit – this is going to be our ‘branches’.

The layering here is key: first some pink specked white batter then some chocolate squiggles. Then again – and repeat until the cake tin is about half full. When the cake bakes, the batter rises on the sides first and in the middle last so you’ll get some lift on the sides and sometimes, if you’re lucky you’ll get some swirling that kind of looks like trees (see above!).

Notes on making Sam’s Cherry Blossom Cake
The recipe below makes two 8” round cake layers. If you want to bake it in a sheet pan, use the quantities listed below and bake it in a 13×9 pan. Check for doneness at 25 minutes.

To decorate big petals like I did on the layer cake, use the back of an offset spatula to gently swipe buttercream onto the cake. To do the smaller ones like on my sheet pan version use a petal piping tip and draw an upside down tear drop.

For the sheet cake, I did something very similar, but made a water colored background (to emulate the tidal basin against which many of our trees grow) and drew a tree with simple petals on it (see end of post for photo). I think the idea of the tree is exquisite enough that you don’t have to fuss over making any part of your design perfect as it will still turn out beautiful.
To decorate with the ‘splatters’: mix two tablespoons of water with some pink food coloring. Dip a (clean, foodsafe) paintbrush in the water and flick it at the cake. I got the idea to do this for my 2022 cake from this gorgeous Funfetti Cake.
Check out my instagram highlights here for some other versions of this cake.

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Ingredients

For the Cake:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup maraschino cherry juice
1 cup finely chopped maraschino cherries
A few drops of pink or red food coloring (optional)

For the Frosting:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons maraschino cherry juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Pink or red food coloring (optional)

For Garnish:

Whole maraschino cherries with stems

Instructions:

Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, oil, and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in almond extract.
Alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the creamed mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Stir in maraschino cherry juice and chopped cherries. If desired, add a few drops of food coloring to reach the pink color.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Let cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

For the Frosting:

  1. In a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Gradually add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of the bowl often.
    Add maraschino cherry juice, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt. Beat in until well combined. If you want a pink color, add a bit of food coloring.
    Once the cakes are cool, place one layer on a serving plate. Spread frosting over the first layer, then top with the second layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting.
    Garnish the top of the cake with whole maraschino cherries just before serving.
    Serve the cake at room temperature for best flavor and texture. Enjoy your homemade Cherry Maraschino Cake!
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