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Christmas Lights Cake

I think we all appreciate a simple yet adorable cake design this time of year! That’s why I love this easy Christmas lights cake design.

This cake is made with my one bowl vanilla cake recipe and frosted with almond American buttercream.

I can’t quite put my finger on it, but whenever I eat something almond flavored it feels like a special occasion.

Whether it’s from eating almond flavored wedding cake, or the almond Christmas cookies I love to eat at Christmas time, an almond flavor just elevates a dessert in my mind.

And if the flavor doesn’t get across the festive spirit, the decoration will.

It’s as simple as piping some dark green lines around your cake and pressing some almond M&Ms beneath it! It doesn’t get much easier than that!

image of a christmas lights cake decorated with almond m & ms to look just like christmas lights

Step 1: Make the Ombre Green Cake Layers

Begin by making the cake layers! They need time to bake and cool, so I like to make these first.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line four 8″ pans or four 7″ pans with parchment rounds and non-stick baking spray.

Mix 3 cups all-purpose flour, 3 cups sugar, 2 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp salt together in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or hand mixer until fully combined.

Mix in 1 cup of unsalted butter slowly into the dry ingredients on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture looks crumbly.

Pour in 1 cup of egg whites and mix on low until just incorporated. Mix in 1 1/2 cups sour cream in two installments, on a low speed.

Add in 2 tsp of vanilla extract and mix at a low speed until incorporated.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then mix on a low speed for a few more seconds to make sure everything is properly mixed together.

If you want to color the layers in an ombre fashion, add a small squirt of green gel food coloring in the bowl and stir just until evenly colored. Scoop out about 2 1/2 cups or 440 grams of batter into one of the pans. Repeat 3 more times, creating increasingly deeper colored cake batter as you add in more gel food coloring.

Bake for 32-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.

Allow the pans to cool for 10 minutes, then run a small offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan.

Place cake layers into the freezer for 30 minutes to accelerate the cooling process. Once the layers are fully cooled, carefully flip the pans and remove the layers.

Step 2: Trim and Tort the Cake Layers

Once the layers have fully cooled, I sometimes like to trim the caramelized bits from the sides of the layers using a serrated knife. While these layers bake pretty flat, sometimes I’ll also trim the top of the layers too, to get my layers perfectly level.

To take this cake to the next level, I torted each cake layer by cutting it in half, horizontally. This allows you to take your four cake layers, and create 8!!

This step by no means is necessary, but I love the way it allows you to have an incredible frosting to cake ratio. It makes every bite have the perfect taste of cake and frosting.

If you’re making these in advance, wrap and freeze them at this point.

If you make these cake layers in advance and freeze them, let them thaw for about 20 minutes before making your cake. The cake layers should still be slightly cold to the touch, which will make it easier to assemble your cake.

Step 3: Make the Almond Buttercream Frosting

While the cake layers bake and cool, make the almond buttercream frosting. Beat the butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth.

Beat 2 cups of unsalted butter on a medium-high speed for 1-2 minutes with a paddle attachment, until smooth. It should become slightly lighter in color.

Mix in 1 tsp of vanilla extract, 1 tsp of almond extract, and 1 tsp salt on a low speed.

Slowly mix in 7 cups of powdered sugar on a low speed. Halfway through add in 1/3 cup of heavy cream to make the frosting easier to mix.

Continue to mix on low speed for a few minutes, until the desired consistency is reached. 

If the frosting is too thick, add in additional cream (1 Tbsp at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time).

Wait to color the frosting until we’ve filled and crumb coated the cake. Cover the frosting with plastic wrap to prevent crusting and set aside.

image of vanilla buttercream frosting in a large bowl

Step 4: Stack and Crumb Coat this Christmas Lights Cake

Then it’s finally time to assemble the cake!! Begin by adding a dab of frosting onto your cake board or cake plate. This will help keep your cake layers in place as you frost and stack the layers.

Use a large offset spatula to spread an even layer of frosting onto each cake layer. I’m a big fan of frosting, so I’m always generous with the amount I add between my layers.

image of ombre green cake layers that have been stacked with frosting and are ready to be crumb coated

Next, cover the cake in a thin layer of frosting to trap in any pesky crumbs!

Use a bench scraper to get the frosting nice and smooth, then pop your cake into the fridge or freezer to allow the crumb coat of frosting to chill and firm up.

image of a cake that's been crumb coated and is ready to be decorated for christmas

Step 5: Cover the Cake in a Second Layer of Frosting

While the cake chills, place 1/2 cup of the buttercream into a small bowl use green gel food coloring to color it a deep shade of green.

Place in a small piping bag and seal the top with a rubber band or clip. Cut a small hole (1/4 inch or 1/2 cm) in the tip of the bag and set aside.

Color the remaining frosting a light shade of green with a drop of green gel food coloring. I recommend using Americolor’s leaf green gel coloring, which I’ve found creates a really beautiful shade.

Cover the cake in a thick layer of light green frosting, then smooth with a bench scraper and small offset spatula.

Chill the cake again in the the fridge (20 minutes) or freezer (5 minutes) until the frosting is firm to the touch.

You can see an in-depth tutorial on how to get super smooth sides on your cake here.

image of a cake being frosted with light green colored buttercream frosting

Step 6: Decorate this Christmas Lights Cake with Almond M&Ms

Once the second layer of frosting is smooth, it’s time for the best part, decorating this cake!

Pipe squiggly lines around the cake to look like the wiring of a strand of Christmas lights.

image of dark green frosting being piped around a cake to make it look like it's decorated with Christmas lights

Pipe all the way around the cake and then pipe a squiggly circle on top of the cake.

Next, pipe some small circles beneath the line every couple inches to connect the almond M&M Christmas lights to piped strand.

Use a small spoon to scoop out a tiny bit of frosting beneath each piped dot, to create a little pocket to nestle each M&M in.

image of dark green frosting being piped around a cake to make it look like it's decorated with Christmas lights

This will help the M&Ms stay in place and reduces how far they stick off the side of the cake.

Carefully press each almond M&M into the frosting.

If you can, try to alternate colors in the same pattern around the cake. Then enjoy!

image of a christmas lights cake decorated with almond m & ms to look just like christmas lights

I love this cake design because it’s so simple! It’s also a great cake to make with kids or any guests you may have in town.

Substitutions and Swaps – Vanilla Cake Layers

This cake recipe uses quite a few ingredients and I know you might not have them all on hand. Or if you have food allergies or restrictions, I’ve got you covered.

Below are some swaps and substitutions that can be made in this cake recipe.

  • All Purpose Flour – This recipe turns out best with AP flour, but you can use a gluten free flour blend or cake flour if that’s all you have on hand.
  • Granulated Sugar – I do not recommend reducing the amount of sugar or changing the type of sugar, as it will change the texture of the cake layers.
  • Unsalted Butter – If you only have salted butter on hand, you can use it in place of the unsalted butter in this recipe. Just be sure to omit the salt that this cake recipe calls for. You can also use vegan butter in its place (and omit the salt)!
  • Egg whites – I use egg whites out of a carton to avoid wasting any yolks! You can also use 7 egg whites or 4 whole eggs if needed. Or if you have an egg allergy you can use flaxseed eggs or an egg replacer.
  • Sour Cream – You can also use full fat yogurt, buttermilk, whole milk, or an alternative yogurt or milk (almond, soy, oat) if you’re dairy free.
  • Vegetable Oil – You can use any flavorless oil in this recipe. Canola or even sunflower oil would work great!
  • Vanilla and Almond Extract – Either of these can be omitted if needed. You can also a different extract in place of the almond extract. Feel free to use peppermint, lemon, or even coconut extract.

Substitutions and Swaps – Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  • Unsalted Butter – If you only have salted butter on hand, you can use it in place of the unsalted butter. Just be sure to omit the salt that this frosting recipe calls for. You can also use vegan butter in its place (and omit the salt)!
  • Heavy Cream – Whole milk or alternative milk (soy, almond, oat) will work fine in this frosting recipe if that’s what you have on hand.
  • Vanilla Extract – Other extracts can also be used in place of the vanilla extract. Feel free to use coconut extracthazelnut extract, or even pistachio extract.
  • Gel food coloring – If you want to color this frosting, I recommend using gel food coloring! It creates vibrant colors without throwing off the consistency of the buttercream.
image of a christmas lights cake decorated with almond m & ms to look just like Christmas lights

Tips for Making the Best Christmas Lights Cake

  • Be sure to properly measure your flour (spoon into the cup measure, then level) or use a kitchen scale.
  • Make sure your ingredients are at room temperature to help them mix together better.
  • Don’t level your cake layers until they are completely cooled.
  • Make sure your buttercream is the right consistency. This will help give your cake proper structure and make it easier to decorate.
  • If your cake layers turn out less than perfect, read my cake troubleshooting guide to see where things might’ve gone awry.
  • Be sure to use heavy cream or heavy whipping cream! You need the high fat content to create the right consistency in this recipe. Milk cannot be used in place of the cream.

Making This Christmas Lights Cake in Advance and Storage Tips

  • Make your cake layers in advance and freeze themIt breaks the process up and makes it more approachable.
  • Make your frosting ahead of time too or save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.
  • A frosted cake can last in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to a month. The buttercream locks in all the moisture, keeping the cake fresh and delicious!
  • If you cut into the cake and have leftovers, use any remaining frosting to cover the cut section to keep it moist and store in the fridge for up to a week.
image of a christmas lights cake decorated with almond m & ms to look just like christmas lights

Share Your Creations with Me!

If you try this Christmas lights cake recipe, please let me know what you think!

Tag me @chelsweets and #chelsweets so that I can see your amazing creations.

Other Recipes You Might Like:

Yield: 24

Christmas Lights Cake

image of a christmas lights cake decorated with almond m & ms to look just like christmas lights

This Christmas lights cake is perfect for the holidays! It's a super easy cake design, all you need is your favorite cake recipe, some green buttercream and almond M&Ms!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 33 minutes
Additional Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 8 minutes

Ingredients

Vanilla Cake Recipe

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (375g)
  • 3 cups granulated sugar (600g)
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder (10g)
  • 1 tsp salt (6g)
  • 1 cup or 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature (226g)
  • 1 cup pasteurized egg whites from a carton or about 7 egg whites, room temperature (235ml)
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream, room temperature (380g)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (8ml)
  • gel food coloring (if desired)

Buttercream Frosting

  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature (454g)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (4ml)
  • 1 tsp almond extract (4ml)
  • 1 tsp salt (6 grams)
  • 7 cups or a 2 lb. bag powdered sugar (904g)
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream or whipping cream (80g)
  • green gel food coloring

Decorations

  • Small piping bag
  • 1 large bag of almond M&Ms

Recommend Tools

Instructions

Ombre Vanilla Cake Layers:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line four 8" pans or four 7" pans with parchment rounds and non-stick baking spray.
  2. Mix 3 cups all-purpose flour, 3 cups sugar, 2 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp salt together in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or hand mixer until fully combined.
  3. Mix in 1 cup of unsalted butter slowly into the dry ingredients on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture looks crumbly.
  4. Pour in 1 cup of egg whites and mix on low until just incorporated. Mix in 1 1/2 cups sour cream in two installments, on a low speed.
  5. Add in 2 tsp of vanilla extract and mix at a low speed until incorporated.
  6. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then mix on a low speed for a few more seconds to make sure everything is properly mixed together.
  7. If you want to color the layers in an ombre fashion, add a small squirt of green gel food coloring in the bowl and stir just until evenly colored. Scoop out about 2 1/2 cups or 440 grams of batter into one of the pans. Repeat 3 more times, creating increasingly deeper colored cake batter as you add in more gel food coloring.
  8. Bake for 32-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.
  9. Allow the pans to cool for 10 minutes, then run a small offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan.
  10. Place cake layers into the freezer for 30 minutes to accelerate the cooling process. Once the layers are fully cooled, carefully flip the pans and remove the layers.
  11. Use a serrated knife to level the tops of the layers before you plan to assemble your cake. If you're making these in advance, wrap and freeze them at this point.
  12. If you make these cake layers in advance and freeze them, let them thaw for about 20 minutes before making your cake. The cake layers should still be slightly cold to the touch, which will make it easier to assemble your cake.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:

  1. While the cake layers bake and cool, make the buttercream frosting.
  2. Beat 2 cups of unsalted butter on a medium-high speed for 1-2 minutes with a paddle attachment, until smooth. It should become slightly lighter in color.
  3. Mix in 1 tsp of vanilla extract, 1 tsp of almond extract, and 1 tsp salt on a low speed.
  4. Slowly mix in 7 cups of powdered sugar on a low speed. Halfway through add in 1/3 cup of heavy cream to make the frosting easier to mix.
  5. Continue to mix on low speed for a few minutes, until the desired consistency is reached. 
  6. If the frosting is too thick, add in additional cream (1 Tbsp at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time).
  7. Cover the frosting with plastic wrap to prevent crusting and set aside.

Assembling This Christmas Lights Cake:

  1. Stack and frost cake layers on a greaseproof cake board, using a dab of frosting to help stick the first cake layer to the board. Start with the darkest cake layer and work your way up to the lightest.
  2. Add an even layer of buttercream between each cake layer with a large offset spatula.
  3. Add a thin coat of frosting around the cake, fully covering the cake layers.
  4. Smooth using a bench scraper, then chill the cake in the fridge (20 minutes) or freezer (5 minutes) until the frosting is firm to the touch.
  5. Place 1/2 cup of the buttercream into a small bowl use green gel food coloring to color it a deep green. Place in a small piping bag and seal the top with a rubber band or clip. Cut a small hole (1/4 inch or 1/2 cm) in the tip of the bag and set aside.
  6. Color the remaining frosting a light shade of green with a drop of green gel food coloring. Cover the cake in a thick layer of light green frosting, then smooth with a bench scraper and small offset spatula. Chill the cake again in the the fridge (20 minutes) or freezer (5 minutes) until the frosting is firm to the touch.
  7. Pipe squiggly lines around the cake, to look like the wiring of a strand of Christmas lights. Pipe all the way around the cake, and then pipe a squiggly circle on top of the cake.
  8. Pipe small circles beneath the line every 2 inches, to connect the almond M&M Christmas lights to piped strand.
  9. Use a small spoon to scoop out a tiny bit of frosting beneath each piped dot. This helps create a little pocket to nestle each M&M in. It also helps the M&Ms stay in place and reduces how far they stick off the side of the cake.
  10. Carefully press each almond M&M into the frosting. If you can, try to alternate colors in the same pattern around the cake. Then enjoy!

Notes

Tips for Making the Best Christmas Lights Cake

  • Be sure to properly measure your flour (spoon into the cup measure, then level) or use a kitchen scale.
  • Make sure your ingredients are at room temperature to help them mix together better.
  • Don't level your cake layers until they are completely cooled.
  • Make sure your buttercream is the right consistency. This will help give your cake proper structure and make it easier to decorate.
  • If your cake layers turn out less than perfect, read my cake troubleshooting guide to see where things might've gone awry.
  • Be sure to use heavy cream or heavy whipping cream! You need the high fat content to create the right consistency in this recipe. Milk cannot be used in place of the cream.

Making This Christmas Lights Cake in Advance and Storage Tips

  • Make your cake layers in advance and freeze them. It breaks the process up and makes it more approachable.
  • Make your frosting ahead of time too or save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.
  • A frosted cake can last in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to a month. The buttercream locks in all the moisture, keeping the cake fresh and delicious!
  • If you cut into the cake and have leftovers, use any remaining frosting to cover the cut section to keep it moist and store in the fridge for up to a week.

Nutrition Information

Yield

24

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 595Total Fat 29gSaturated Fat 17gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 10gCholesterol 78mgSodium 290mgCarbohydrates 81gFiber 0gSugar 67gProtein 4g

30 Holiday Treats to Make with Your Teen | LP Tutoring

Thursday 3rd of December 2020

[…] Christmas Light Cake […]

Jami Fitzsimmons

Monday 23rd of March 2020

Chels Question- Why does this cake say "almond cake layers" ?? I dont see that you add any almond extract except in the buttercream and with the almond m&m's for the lights. Please let us know if you do add almond extract to the cake recipe as well :) Thank you

Chelsweets

Saturday 28th of March 2020

Hi Jami!

Originally I added almond extract into the cake layers, but decided I liked the taste better with almond extract just in the frosting. Sorry for the typo!! I've updated it now :)

You can add some into the cake layers if you love a strong almond flavor, or you follow the recipe and just add it to the frosting. Hope that helps, happy baking <3

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