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Gnome Cake

Christmas holds a lot of magic- from Santa and Flying Reindeer to the Grinch and beyond. This year I am shedding a small but mighty spotlight on the humble yet adorable Gnome with this gnome cake!

Gnomes are considered nature spirits that live underground or in secret hideaways in houses or barns. They come out to engage with humans in either helpful or mischievous ways.

image of an adorable gnome cake that's been made with buttercream and rice krispie treats

In some parts of the world, like Scandinavia, gnomes are associated with Christmas. There is a common tradition where homes will leave a bowl of porridge with a pat of butter on top for the gnomes on Christmas eve!

My gnome cake sticks to the traditional “look” while staying slightly mysterious. What do you think, naughty or nice?

Making this Gnome Cake: Step-by-Step Tutorial

Let’s walk through each step of this gnome cake together to make sure it turns out as amazing as possible!

Step 1: Bake the Vanilla Cake

Start by preheating your oven to 350°F / 175°C. Then prepare four 7″ pans (or four 6″ pans) and grease and line with parchment rounds and non-stick baking spray.

I always grease my pans but the parchment paper acts as an extra layer of protection for your cake layers.

Prepare your batter by first combining your dry ingredients. Once they are combined add in the butter and mix until incorporated.

Next, add in your egg white and mix until JUST combined, then add in the rest of your wet ingredients.

Divided the batter evenly between the greased pans and bake for 33-36 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.

Allow the cake to cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes, then run a small offset spatula around the perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan and flip the cake onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

Once the cake layer has cooled fully use a serrated knife to level the top of the cake layer.

image of a vanilla cake layer being leveled with a serrated knife before being stacked to make a layer cake

At this point, if you’re making the cake in advance, you can wrap and freeze them.

When you are ready to assemble make sure to give the layers 20 minutes to thaw.

Step 2: Make the Vanilla Buttercream

While the cake layers bake and cool, make the vanilla buttercream frosting with either an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer.

Start by creaming the butter, then add in the vanilla extract and salt.

Once combined slowly mix in the powdered sugar alternating with heavy cream as needed.

image of vanilla buttercream frosting in a large bowl

If you’re unsure how thick your frosting should be, you can learn what consistency you’re looking for in my frosting consistency post.

Divide the frosting, color it, and flavor as instructed, and then place in individual piping bags.

Cover the remaining uncolored buttercream with plastic wrap to prevent crusting, then set aside.

image of frosting bags that have been colored using gel food coloring and cocoa powder

Step 3: Assemble the Gnome Cake

Stack and frost cake layers on a 10-inch greaseproof cake board (use a dab of frosting to help stick the cake to the board).

image of vanilla cake layers being stacked with buttercream frosting to make a layer cake

Add an even layer of buttercream between each cake layer.

Once the cake layers are stacked, spread a thin coat of frosting around the cake as a crumb coat.

Smooth using a large offset spatula and bench scraper, then chill the cake in the fridge (30 minutes) or freezer (10 minutes) until the frosting is firm to the touch.

image of a vanilla cake being crumb coated with buttercream frosting using a bench scraper

Place the remaining buttercream into a small piping bag fitted with an open star piping tip (like a Wilton 1M).

Next, cover the side of the cake with the dark chocolate buttercream and smooth.

Use a small offset spatula or toothpick to outline a large triangle on the front of the cake.

This will help guide you as you pipe on the gnome’s beard!

Pipe white buttercream lines in the outlined area, starting at the top of the cake and piping down to the edge of the outline.

Use the tan-colored buttercream to pipe a large dollop at the top of the beard to look like the gnome’s nose, then chill the cake in the fridge.

image of a nose being piped onto a cake with buttercream to look like a gnome

Step 4: Make the Gnome’s Hat

Place 4 cups of mini marshmallows in a heatproof bowl and heat until melted and easy to stir.

Pour in 6 cups of Rice Krispies or puffed rice cereal and stir until the cereal is fully coated in melted marshmallows.

image of cake decorating rice krispie treats made to create the hat on a gnome cake

Shape into a tall cone. Make sure the base of the hat is the same size as the top of your cake.

Step 5: Decorate the Gnome Cake

Secure the hat to the top of the cake with some buttercream.

Spread an even layer of red buttercream over the Rice Krispies using a small offset spatula and an acetate sheet.

Use the remaining dark chocolate and tan frosting to pipe two arms on the sides of the cake, then gently press a mini candy cane into one of the hands and enjoy!

image of chelsey white of chelsweets adding a mini candy cane into the hand of an adorable gnome cake she made with vanilla cake layers, buttercream and rice krispies

Substitutions and Swaps – Vanilla Cake Layers

This gnome cake uses quite a few ingredients and I know you might not have all of them 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 5 egg whites or 3 whole eggs if needed. Or if you have an egg allergy you can use flaxseed eggs or an egg replacer.
  • Buttermilk – You can also use full fat yogurt, sour cream, 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 Extract – Other extracts can also be used in place of the vanilla extract. Feel free to use almond, lemon, or even coconut extract.
image of a bite of a slice of vanilla cake cut from a gnome cake

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 – Natural food coloring (like matcha powder) or liquid food coloring can be used if needed.

Tips for Making the Best Gnome Cake

  • Properly measure your flour (spoon into the cup measure, then level) or use a kitchen scale to measure your dry ingredients.
  • Ingredients at room temp mix together better. Be sure you set out any cold ingredients ahead of time.
  • Chill your cake layers in the freezer for about 20 minutes before assembling the cake. This makes it easier to stack and frost.
  • Make this gnome cake vegan or dairy free if needed! Use your favorite type of dairy free milk to replace the sour cream and heavy cream and use vegan butter sticks in place of the butter. For the eggs I recommend using an egg replacer like this.
  • 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.
image of flour being leveled in a measuring cup

Making This Gnome 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 it in the fridge for up to a week.

image of an adorable gnome cake that's been made with buttercream and rice krispie treats

Let Me Know What You Think!

If you try this Gnome cake recipe, I’d love to hear what you think of it! Let me know by leaving a rating below.

If you plan to share on social media, you can tag me @chelsweets and use #chelsweets so that I can see your amazing creations on social media.

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Yield: 24

Gnome Cake

image of an adorable gnome cake that's been made with buttercream and rice krispie treats

This gnome cake is just as adorable as it is delicious! It's made with tender vanilla cake layers, a rice krispie hat, and frosted with buttercream frosting.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 33 minutes
Additional Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 48 minutes

Ingredients

Vanilla Cake Layers

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (375g)
  • 3 cups granulated sugar (600g)
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder (10g)
  • 1 tsp fine table 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 Tbsp vegetable oil (28ml)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (8ml)
  • gel food coloring (if desired)

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  • 3 cups unsalted butter, room temperature (678g)
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract (12ml)
  • 1/2 tsp fine table salt (3g)
  • 11 cups powdered sugar (1375g)
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream or whipping cream (75ml)

Frosting Add-Ins

  • Red Gel Food Coloring
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips, melted and cooled (190g)
  • 1 Tbsp heavy cream or whipping cream (15ml)
  • 1/2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder

Rice Krispie Treats - Gnome's Hat

  • 4 cups mini marshmallows (200g)
  • 6 cups puffed rice cereal (90g)

Recommended Tools / Equipment

Instructions

Step 1: Make the Vanilla Cake Layers

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°F. Grease and line four 7" pans or four 6" 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 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 like moist sand.
  4. Pour in 1 cup of egg whites and mix on low until just incorporated.
  5. Mix in 1 1/2 cups sour cream, 2 Tbsp vegetable oil and 2 tsp of vanilla extract on a low speed.
  6. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then mix on a medium speed for about 15 more seconds to make sure everything is properly mixed together.
  7. If you want to color the layers, add a small squirt of gel food coloring in the bowl and stir until evenly colored.
  8. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans, then bake for 33-36 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.

Step 2: Make the Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  1. While the cake layers bake and cool, make the vanilla buttercream frosting.
  2. Beat 3 cups of butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment or hand mixer until smooth.
  3. Add in 1 Tbsp of vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp of salt and mix on a low speed.
  4. Slowly mix in 11 cups of powdered sugar on a low speed. Add 1/3 cup of heavy cream halfway through to make it easier to mix. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula.
  5. Once fully mixed and has reached the desired consistency, beat on low until for a couple extra minutes to make the frosting super smooth and to push any extra air out of the frosting.
  6. If the frosting is too thick, add in additional cream (1 Tablespoon at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (1/4 cup at a time).
  7. Scoop 2 cups of frosting in a separate bowl and color red with a generous squirt of red gel food coloring. Place in a large piping bag fit with a large round piping tip or snip a large opening at the base of the bag (about 3/4-inch). Seal the top of the bag with a rubber band or clip and set aside.
  8. Place 1 cup of frosting in a separate bowl and mix with 1 cup of dark chocolate chips that have been melted and cooled and 1 Tbsp of heavy cream. Mix together with a rubber spatula until fully combined. Place in a large piping bag fit with a large round piping tip or snip a large opening at the base of the bag (about 3/4-inch). Seal the top of the bag with a rubber band or clip and set aside.
  9. Place 1/2 cup of frosting in a small bowl and mix with 1/2 tsp of unsweetened baking cocoa powder. Mix together with a rubber spatula until fully combined and the frosting has become a nice skin-toned color. Place in a small piping bag fit with a large round piping tip or snip a large opening at the base of the bag (about 3/4-inch). Seal the top of the bag with a rubber band or clip and set aside.
  10. Cover the remaining uncolored buttercream with plastic wrap to prevent crusting, then set aside.

Step 3: Assemble the Cake Layers

  1. Stack and frost cake layers on a greaseproof cake board or flat plate using a dab of frosting to help stick the first cake layer to the board.
  2. Add an even layer of buttercream between each cake layer with a large offset spatula.
  3. Once the cake layers are stacked, spread a thin coat of frosting around the the cake to fully cover the cake layers. Smooth using a large offset spatula and bench scraper, then chill the cake in the fridge (30 minutes) or freezer (10 minutes) until the frosting is firm to the touch.
  4. Place the remaining buttercream into a small piping bag fit with an open star piping tip (like a Wilton 1M). Seal the top of the bag with a rubber band or clip and set aside.
  5. Next, cover the side of the cake with the dark chocolate buttercream. Smooth using a large offset spatula and bench scraper.
  6. Use a small offset spatula or toothpick to outline a large triangle on front of the cake. This will help guide you as you pipe on the gnome's beard!
  7. Pipe white buttercream lines in the outlined area, starting at the top of the cake and piping down to the edge of the outline.
  8. Use the tan colored buttercream to pipe a large dollop at the top of the beard to look like the gnome's nose, then chill the cake in the fridge.

Step 4: Make the Gnome's Hat

  1. Place 4 cups of mini marshmallows in a heatproof bowl and heat in the microwave for 45-60 seconds at full power. They should be melted at this point and easy to stir. If not, heat in additional 15 second intervals until they look fluffy and are fully melted.
  2. Pour in 6 cups of rice krispies or puffed rice cereal and stir until the cereal is fully coated in melted marshmallows.
  3. Grease your hands with cooking spray then shape a tall cone with the rice krispie mixture. Hold the hat above your cake as you make it to make sure the base of the hat is the same size as the top of your cake.

Step 5: Decorate This Gnome Cake

  1. Remove the cake from the fridge. Spread a dollop of buttercream on top of the cake, then press the hat into place on top.
  2. Spread an even layer of red buttercream over the rice krispies using a small offset spatula and an acetate sheet.
  3. Use the remaining dark chocolate and tan frosting to pipe two arms on the sides of the cake, then gently press a mini candy cane into one the hands and enjoy! If you make this cake in advance, store it in the fridge uncovered for up to a week.
  4. Let the cake sit at room temperature for 1-2 hours before serving to make it easier to cut.

Notes

Tips for Making the Best Gnome Cake

  • Properly measure your flour (spoon into the cup measure, then level) or use a kitchen scale to measure your dry ingredients.
  • Ingredients at room temp mix together better. Be sure you set out any cold ingredients ahead of time.
  • Chill your cake layers in the freezer for about 20 minutes before assembling the cake. This makes it easier to stack and frost.
  • Make this gnome cake vegan or dairy free if needed! Use your favorite type of dairy free milk to replace the sour cream and heavy cream, and use vegan butter sticks in place of the butter. For the eggs I recommend using an egg replacer like this.
  • 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 Gnome 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 800Total Fat 40gSaturated Fat 24gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 14gCholesterol 104mgSodium 278mgCarbohydrates 108gFiber 1gSugar 87gProtein 6g

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