Vanilla bean layer cake made from two luscious layers of vanilla bean pound cake and frosted in a sweet tart buttercream infused with balsamic syrup.
vanilla bean layer cake with balsamic buttercream

Because everyone wakes up in the morning wondering what would happen if they mixed salad dressing into their birthday cake!!!!!





In defense of my sanity, this so did not happen that way.

Rather, it was a case of “what happens when one refuses to actually make sure he/she has all the ingredients he/she needs before embarking on a layer cake expedition”.

“And then is too lazy to walk across the street to the nearest grocery store to purchase aforementioned missing ingredients”.

“And has a husband who is also too lazy to walk across the street to the nearest grocery store to purchase aforementioned missing ingredients”.

Not one of my most stellar food blogger moments, folks. By a long shot.


Anyway, so there I found myself late on a Saturday afternoon, pacing around my apartment with two gloriously decadent and oh so pound cake-like vanilla bean cake layers on my table and not even a tablespoon of the pomegranate molasses that the recipe instructed me to flavor my frosting with!



I’ll tell you – I must have thrown out my bottle when we moved in September, having way too much faith that my future self would actually remember that I had done such a thing and pick up a new bottle when I needed it. Pfffffttt. My past self was obviously on drugs.

So there I was pacing pacing pacing, trying to find something in my pantry that would mimic the thick sweet tart tangy syrupy flavor of pomegranate molasses, when it hit me.


Because that wouldn’t be weird in a cake at all.


And honestly you guys, it actually really wasn’t weird! At all!

I mean, sure, the.boy swore up and down that it tasted like salad dressing but that’s only because he knew what was in it. His family had no idea and happily dove in for seconds. Maybe thirds while I wasn’t looking. If anything, all you get is a hint of sweet tart fruitiness to break up the mega sweet sugary frosting coating your tongue.

It’s a good thing.

It also makes me wonder what else I should be putting in frosting that I’m not – mustard? Mayo? Pickled onions?!?

Or maybe we should just stick to things that have the word “syrup” in their name. Hmmm. Good call.


One thing you should definitely note is that you canNOT put straight up balsamic vinegar in this. First of all, it will almost certainly curdle your frosting.

Second of all, EWWWWWWW.

You can however (if you can’t find balsamic syrup), boil down about a cup of balsamic vinegar until it has all sorts of thick syrupy sweetness going on. Just make sure to let it cool before stirring it in.

OR, if you’re a recipe-following goody-two-shoes, you can just follow the original recipe instructions and use pomegranate molasses. But I truly advise you to live on the wild side with me.

It tastes good over here.

Vanilla Bean Layer Cake with Balsamic Buttercream
Vanilla bean layer cake made from two luscious layers of vanilla bean pound cake and frosted in a sweet tart buttercream infused with balsamic syrup.
Yield: 1 layer cake
For the cake
  • 4 cups cake flour
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1½ cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup full fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp vanilla bean paste
  • 2½ cups sugar
  • 1 lb unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 large eggs
For the buttercream
  • 16 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 7 cups confectioner's sugar
  • ¼ to ½ cup heavy cream
  • 3 tbsp balsamic syrup
  • red or pink food coloring gel
  1. To make the cake, heat oven to 350F. Grease two 9-inch cake pans with baking spray, line with parchment paper rounds, and grease again. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, Greek yogurt, and vanilla bean paste. Set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes on medium speed. Add the eggs to the butter one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. With the machine off, add a third of the flour. Mix on low until just incorporated. Add in half of the Greek yogurt mixture and beat on medium-low until just incorporated. Add another third of the flour and repeat, alternating with the Greek yogurt mixture, until all of the flour and liquids have been added.
  6. When all the ingredients appear to be almost combined, stop the mixer and use a spatula to stir the batter and incorporate any streaks of flour.
  7. Divide the batter equally among the two cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 20 minutes and remove from the pans to a wire rack to cool completely.
  8. While the cake cools, make the buttercream. To do this, combine the butter, 3 cups of confectioner's sugar, and ¼ cup heavy cream in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low until just incorporated. Beat on medium-high until creamy, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  9. Add the remaining confectioner's sugar in, 1 cup at a time, and mix on low until the frosting is thick but spreadable, beating for 1 minute after each addition.
  10. Add in the balsamic syrup. Raise the speed to medium-high and beat for 3-4 minutes, or until very light and fluffy. Add a drop of food coloring gel and mix into the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is uniformly colored. Add more coloring to reach desired shade.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 slice

 More luscious layer cakes!

sweet and salty cake

Sweet and Salty Cake

salted caramel ding dong cake

Salted Caramel Ding Dong Cake

coconut cake with silk meringue buttercream

Coconut Cake with Silk Meringue Buttercream

From Around the Web:

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Triple Layer Chocolate Matcha Cake from A Cozy Kitchen

Neapolitan Millionaire Cake from Life, Love & Sugar


vanilla bean layer cake with balsamic buttercream
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54 Responses to Vanilla Bean Layer Cake with Balsamic Buttercream

  1. Sune Moolman says:

    You will not believe this, but I have a pomegranate infused balsamic syrup in my fridge. BAZINGA! 🙂

  2. Kathryn says:

    I love balsamic with fruit so I can totally see this working. Best cake ever.

  3. debbie says:

    A beautiful layer cake regardless of whatever was used!!! Looks delicious too!

  4. How serendipitous! Such a great discovery 🙂 This looks so darn good.

  5. Beth says:

    Ha! Joanne, reading your blog always makes my day. Love, love, love this post!

  6. Oh you crack me up with this post. This cake! You are my hero!!!

  7. balsamic in a chocolate cake? So creative and definitely something I can get on board with. I do like balsamic and strawberries together.

  8. Heather says:

    I have definitely never heard of using balsamic in a cake before, and I wasn’t sure if I read the title right at first, but I’d give it a try. Then it had me thinking of throwing in some strawberries since balsamic is so good with strawberries.

  9. I totally love the idea of using balsamic syrup in the frosting. Your layer cake looks amazing.

  10. Meg says:

    Oh, I’m all over this! Totally unique and man, your cake is gorgeous!

  11. SallyBR says:

    Beautiful cake! Absolutely gorgeous!

  12. Pam says:

    I would never have thought to replace pomegranate molasses with balsamic syrup. You rock Joanne! The cake looks pretty and so delicious.

  13. Julia says:

    Ohmygah, I love you! This is the perfect display of using your resources wisely and I just love it! I’ve used balsamic in brownies before and thought the dang things turned out marvelously, so I bet your buttercream is outtacontrol delicious.

    Can I just take a moment and say your cakes are amazing? They are. You’re going to open a wedding cake business, right? You’d make a million dollars. Slash, I wish I lived closer to NYC so I could coerce you into making all my bday cakes 😉 Have a great weekend, lady!

  14. Zainab says:

    I want to live on the wild side of things. Like WHOA!! Balsamic frosting? Genius!! Do we have a nobel prize for food creations?

  15. Sues says:

    I’ve never even thought about this, but now I can’t even imagine how I’ve been living without it??? Such a fabulous idea!!

  16. Joanne all your cakes are amazing, but this one has to be my favorite, the photos are incredible, I can’t wait to try!

  17. You crack me up! This sounds delicious and so weird but in the best way 🙂

  18. sandra says:

    this is pure genius. I have often wondered what balsamic vinegar would be like in a pastry but you actually made it. I now have the push to actually make it happen – have not been baking so much of late but this calls for a special occasion. How is it you have so many opportunities for layer cake production?? I only wish.

  19. Agness says:

    Awwww!!! Perfect. How did you know I love the pink color?!?

  20. Judos to you for trying this out! I now need to have Balsamic in MY frosting! LOL! Great idea for a sub to pomegranate molasses!!

  21. You are hilariously creative, Joanne! I would have never, ever thought to use balsamic in frosting. But I can see how it would totally work. This is one of those must try recipes!!

  22. Those cake layers… omg they look heavenly. And I so need to try this buttercream!

  23. Eileen says:

    Interesting! I can’t say I am a frosting person, but I would absolutely give this a try — it’s so different and intriguing. Yay!

  24. Kelly says:

    Haha, love how you came up with balsamic frosting! You are so creative! It looks gorgeous! <3 it!

  25. This cake is gorgeous! I can’t get over that color. I want a dress made in that color! I can imagine how rich and delicious this cake must be. Well done!

  26. Joanne, I am IN LOVE. I am so in love with this cake, that I think I’m going to bake it this weekend. Love this.

    Kay of Pure & Complex

  27. Gosh you do good cake. I am drooling looking at all those! Adding balsamic syrup is genius – makes me think a layer of chopped fresh strawberries in the filling would work well.

  28. You make the prettiest cakes!!! the vanilla bean cake’s texture is flawless and looks delightful and that buttercream? SO cool and SO creative!

  29. Hotly Spiced says:

    Great improvisation. I think you did really well to come up with a replacement for pomegranate molasses! No, I wouldn’t add balsamic vinegar to a creamy mixture but I can see the sweeter and thicker balsamic syrup working quite well. The cake looks fantastic and it’s a very beautiful birthday cake and I would love to try your frosting xx

  30. Sarah says:

    Okay these photos are the definition of food porn. I am SO freaking hungry after looking at this post. Not going to like, the balsamic sounds a little funky, but I definitely am open to giving it a shot. If you’re making your own balsamic syrup, does it matter what type (quality) of balsamic you use?

  31. Sarah says:

    haha sorry my last post was suppose to say “not going to lie”, NOT “not going to like” i DO like!!

  32. Betty says:

    That was some creative thinking there! I’d go so far as to say it was a brilliant improvisation- Sounds absolutely marvelous. 🙂

  33. Trisha says:

    I actually really love balsamic syrup in sweet dishes, so this is not weird at all to me. That cake is gorgeous! I wish I had your frosting skills!

  34. Balsamic syrup is excellent in desserts so that was a good gamble Joanne 🙂

  35. Girlll, only you would have the moxie to try frosting a cake with balsamic syrup! And it looks spectacular!

  36. Balsamic buttercream…brilliant!! B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L cake Joanne. Pinned!

  37. I’m completely intrigued by balsamic buttercream. We have a precious bottle of balsamic that we bought in Bologna Italy that is like 100 years old and now you have me wanting to make frosting with it! 🙂

  38. Danguole says:

    I was on board with this as soon as I saw it! Strawberries, vanilla ice cream, and a drizzle of balsamic (maybe even a little olive oil too) are basically a perfect dessert.

    This cake, though. It looks damn LUSCIOUS, and I’m in awe of your piping skills.

  39. Foodiewife says:

    I have balsamic syrup on hand. I would never, in a million years, have thought of using this in frosting. But, now, I can see how it could work. I’m totally curious, too. So, I guess, I have to give this one a whirl. Signed– The Cake Lover

  40. Monica says:

    I think I could start a blog called “Curries and Cakes” to chronicle your recipes. They always look amazing!

  41. Kate says:

    Well balsamic is great with sweet sweet strawberries, so this doesn’t seem all that strange to me.

  42. balsamic syrup?! See, this is how brilliant recipes come to life!!! love it!

  43. Oh, what an interesting buttercream – Joanne – and it’s a really pretty colour.

  44. Reeni says:

    I love how you think! We should all make it this way and start a new trend. I want a taste!

  45. I can honestly say, I have never thought to put salad dressing in a cake. You have me there! But balsamic syrup is in its own category of delicious, so I say you worked it out ten fold. This is actually quite brilliant. And I want a slice!

  46. Sarah says:

    This cake looks BEAUTIFUL!!! And that balsamic syrup frosting sounds heavenly. And exotic. And fancy. And getinmybellynow delicious.

  47. You are so smart!! The cake is beautiful.

  48. June Burns says:

    Salad dressing in cake? Sounds good to me! Especially balsamic–I’ve seen that used in desserts before, and it usually sounds soooo good, I really ought to try it. This cake looks amazing 🙂

  49. grace says:

    your cake looks awesome–very moist and dense! you don’t have to sell me on the notion of balsamic as a dessert flavor–i’m all for it!

  50. Johanna GGG says:

    This balsamic frosting made me laugh and wish you had made it for a mayonnaise cake (you haven’t heard of them, right? they are great. I love kooky in a cake and this looks very stylish as well.

  51. Meghan Britz says:

    Will this crust?

    • joanne says:

      Pretty much all buttercream “crusts” if you leave it out for too long, so yeah if you leave it out for many hours that will probably happen, but it will still be tasty!

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