Danish Layer Cake Recipe (Dansk Lagekage)

Traditional Danish Layer Cake has creamy vanilla pudding and raspberry jam layered between homemade yellow cake. The whole thing is smothered in luscious buttercream frosting!

When I was growing up, I loved it when my mom made me Danish Layer Cake for my birthday.

Her side of the family is from a town called Racine, Wisconsin (home to Danish Bakery legend O&H), so Danish Layer Cakes were part of the fabric of her childhood.

She made things easy by starting with a boxed mix, but I’m returning this cake to it’s full glory with full-on from-scratch status.

Traditional Danish Layer Cake on a marble cake stand with a slice being lifted out.

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How to Make a Danish Layer Cake

Start by making a yellow cake batter and divide it between two (2) 8-inch round cake pans. You can use 9-inch pans but it won’t work as well. If you don’t believe me, just email me and I’ll send you photographic evidence.

When they are cool, you slice each lengthwise. You’ll have 4 layers of cake.

Then, you assemble in this order:

  • Cake
  • Pastry cream / pudding
  • Cake
  • Jam
  • Cake
  • Pastry cream / pudding
  • Cake

Traditional Danish Layer Cake on a marble cake stand with a slice on a blue plate with a fork.

Top the whole cake with luscious buttercream frosting. My mom used to use Cool Whip, but you just can’t compete with classic buttercream!

I’d love to say I’ll save you a slice. But I’d be lying.

Traditional Danish Layer Cake on a marble cake stand.

Traditional Danish Layer Cake on a marble cake stand with a slice being lifted out.

Danish Layer Cake Recipe (Dansk Lagekage)

This recipe has been updated to feature homemade pastry cream instead of instant vanilla pudding. Please see the recipe notes to substitute instant vanilla pudding (or cake mix or cool whip instead of buttercream frosting).
4.8 from 15 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, Danish
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 10 servings
Calories: 856kcal
Author: Meggan Hill

Ingredients

For the pastry cream:

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the yellow cake:

  • 1/2 cup whole milk at room temperature
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter cut into tablespoons and softened (2 sticks)

For the buttercream frosting:

  • 1 cup butter softened (2 sticks)
  • 4 to 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Pinch Salt optional

To assemble the cake:

  • 1 small jar seedless raspberry jam see notes
  • Fresh raspberries for garnish optional

Instructions

To make the pastry cream:

  • In a medium non-aluminum saucepan over medium heat, warm milk until tiny bubbles appear on the surface, about 6 to 8 minutes (about 180 degrees Farenheit / 82 degrees Celsius).
  • Meanwhile, In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar. Whisk in cornstarch and salt.
  • While whisking constantly, pour in half of the hot milk. Whisk in remaining hot milk and return to saucepan.
  • Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens to a firm consistency, about 5 to 8 minutes. Whisk in vanilla. Scrape in to a bowl.
  • Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly on to the surface of the pastry cream. Refrigerate until chilled, about 2 to 3 hours.

To make the cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 (8-inch) round cake pans, then line parchment paper. In a small bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, and vanilla. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of a standing mixer fit with the whisk attachment, beat together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. 
  • With the mixer on medium-low speed, beat the butter in to the flour mixture one piece at a time. Continue beating until the mixture resembles moist crumbs, 1 to 3 minutes total.
  • Add the milk mixture to the mixer and beat until light and fluffy, 1 to 3 minutes longer. Stir by hand with a rubber spatula to make sure the batter is fully combined.
  • Divide the batter evenly between both pans, gently tapping the pans on the counter to settle the batter. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out dry with a few crumbs attached, 20 to 25 minutes. Rotate the pans halfway through baking time.
  • Cool the cakes in the pans for 10 minutes. Run a small sharp knife around the inside of each pan to loosen, then flip the cakes on to a wire rack. Peel off the parchment paper, then flip the cakes right side up to cool completely, about 2 hours.

To make the frosting:

  • In a standing mixer fit with the paddle attachment, cream butter until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  • Reduce mixer speed to low. Add 4 cups powdered sugar, cream, vanilla, and salt (if using). Continue mixing 2 to 3 minutes longer. If the frosting seems too soft, add the remaining powdered sugar 2 tablespoons at a time.
  • Cover and refrigerate the frosting until assembling the cake, up to 1 week in advance.

To assemble the cake:

  • Cut each cooled cake in half lengthwise so there are four layers of cake total.
  • Arrange one cake layer on a serving platter. Top with half the pastry cream and a second cake layer. Top with raspberry jam followed by a third cake layer. Spread the remaining pastry cream and top with a final cake layer. 
  • Frost the cake with buttercream and garnish with fresh raspberries if desired. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Notes

  1. Sometimes seedless jam is hard to find. I found this brand at my local Target ($3.49 each). Raspberry jam with seeds in it may be substituted for the seedless jam.
  2. 1 yellow boxed cake mix, prepared according to package directions, may be substituted for the homemade yellow cake.
  3. 1 (16 ounce) tub frozen whipped topping, thawed, may be substituted for the buttercream frosting (that's how my mom always makes it). The traditional frosting for Danish Layer Cake is actually whipped cream.
  4. One (3.4 ounce) box instant vanilla pudding made with 2 cups cold milk (ignore package directions and use 2 cups cold milk) can be substituted for the pastry cream. While the cakes are baking and cooling, in a small bowl, whisk together pudding mix and milk. Chill at least 10 minutes.

Nutrition

Calories: 856kcal
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  1. Allan Hansen

    I also grew up in Racine and even worked at O & H Bakery for a few years in the early 70’s, although I never was more than a dishwasher. But I did get the opportunity over the years to sample their products and continue to frequent O & H when I’m in town. Although I love O & H Danish Layer cake (of course) I love the version my mother used to make even better. It was the only cake we ever had for birthday celebrations. Although my mom was not Danish my father was born and raised there and she told me she got the recipe from her in-laws in Denmark. Her cake was more of a sponge cake texture than a yellow cake, which is what O & H uses. So fast forward decades later and I got a notion to make a Danish Layer cake for a friend’s birthday. I have my mom’s recipe stashed somewhere, but can’t seem to find it at the moment. I’ll come across it someday but in the meantime it’s Google to the rescue. The various recipes that I have clicked on are all a little bit different, some have called for a sponge cake, some have not. My take is that it is both a matter of preference and perhaps skill as I perceive a sponge cake as being more difficult to make. As for my mother’s recipe being ‘authentic’ I suspect the cake itself was authentic to my danish relative’s preference, understanding that is a relatively small sample of Danes in the big picture of things. But my mother always used whipped cream, which I suspect was because we got our milk straight from the farm, unhomogenized, and therefore always had an over abundance of cream. The filling was whatever jam or jelly we had the most of as it was always homemade and the supply varied from year to year. The filling was always boxed vanilla pudding, as my busy mother with 4 growing boys didn’t have the inclination to make it from scratch. It always turned out divine. That said I think I might attempt custard, as I have made it in the distant past and seem to recall the only real trick was to constantly stir it so it didn’t burn.

    So finally a question! I happen to have my mother’s cake pans that she used to make this cake. They are 9 inch pans. They are also the only cake pans that I have. I don’t want to make the layers too thin. Is there any reason that I couldn’t scale up the cake recipe by 150% or 200% so that the pans are sufficiently filled?

    1. meggan

      Hi Allan, I love your story! I have never had the official O&H cake, I keep trying to order one but then I get to the part of paying $70 for it and not having enough people to share it with and thinking I’ll eat it all myself… plus paying so much for a cake… next time I’m in Wisconsin, I just need to get it then and share it with my family! Anyway, I think the lighter frosting from whipped cream would taste better. My mom never made custard from scratch either, and it’s only in the last month or so that I updated the recipe to include the from-scratch pastry cream/custard. I added it because readers were baffled that they would make all these different components from scratch but not the custard?? So I added the pastry cream which is really delicious anyway, no regrets there.

      To your question! I think you could scale up the recipe just fine, the baking time might just be a little longer. So watch that and don’t go by my baking times. Your idea is brilliant and I need to officially test it on my end so I can advise people who have 9-inch pans. Most people only have 9-inch pans. Thanks for the idea!! You’re great. I hope you have a wonderful week. -Meggan

  2. Hugo

    I thought I’d add some clarity and perhaps fun to your future bakes. My parents grew up in denmark and immigrated to a racine Wi many years ago. I’m making a traditional danish layer cake for my parents 65th wedding anniversary this weekend. The traditional cake uses custard instead of pudding and whipping cream instead of buttercream otherwise your recipe is pretty close. Bon appetit.

    1. meggan

      Hi Hugo, thank you for this! I really appreciate all your insights. I am going to update the cake recipe to include my pastry cream instead of pudding. It’s not custard, but it’s much closer. And why make everything from scratch except pudding? I also didn’t know about the whipped cream. O&H Bakery uses buttercream so that’s what I did too. Growing up, my mom (her mom was from Racine) always made it with cool whip which is closer in texture to whipped cream for sure. Thanks again!!! Great to hear from you. -Meggan

  3. Spencer Andreasen

    I am a 34 year old man with a wife who is what I consider to be an amazing chef and baker. The recent home isolation has brought with it a drive to take up the hobby of trying to attain to her capabilities.

    I am half-Danish – my father immigrated when he was a boy, and my Farmor used to make all kinds of Danish confectionary when I was growing up. This recipe caught my eye.

    This is literally the first cake I have ever made. It went shockingly well. I ended up using 9” pans which in retrospect create a much thinner cake to slice; I’m assuming this is more difficult. I would’ve preferred 8” and will use them next time.

    The icing is obscenely good; I only wish I had the skill to make it as smooth as what is shown in the image.

    The pudding was slightly more viscous than I expected, and so spreading without shifting the cakes was a challenge, especially after the jam layer. I wonder what a bespoke custard would do to the recipe??

    Thank-you for the inspiration!!4 stars

    1. Charles

      I’m going to make this for my mother-in-law’s birthday next week. When reading this, I thought I would substitute the pudding for Bird’s custard. Kinda in the middle between instant pudding and from-scratch pastry cream.

    2. meggan

      You know what is so silly, Spencer, is that I HAVE a pastry cream recipe on my site. I use it for fruit tarts. It 100% needs to replace the pudding layer. And I already knew that, I just forgot to do it. Why would someone make a cake and buttercream from scratch but not custard? So yes. I agree with you, and I’ll definitely fix that up. And I understand about the icing – I’m not the photographer for these recipes anymore, but the guy that is always does a ridiculously good job. I have a picture from when I attempted to make and photograph this cake a long time ago, and it’s just awful.

      In any case, I’ll take “shockingly well”! That’s great! It’s true, the 9-inch pans do make it trickier and you wouldn’t necessarily think so until you try it.

      If you need anything else let me know. I’ll get the pastry cream written in to this post. It really needs to be there.

      Take care – Meggan

  4. Tommy D

    Having been married to a Danish woman for 23 years (she was born and raised there and its where my 3 kids live today…) and having spent considerable time in Denmark as a local, I applaud your recipe. Its pretty darn authentic. The 2 8″ yellow cakes split in half are a rather standard technique in Denmark. And the buttercream is a must. Well done!
    I don’t need to bake this one to know it will come out awesome.
    Thank you.5 stars

  5. Kat

    Mine looks like a hot mess 🤣 but it tastes fabulous!5 stars

  6. Vic

    Hi, I’m wondering if a common substitute for the icing is whipped cream? My grandfather was Danish and made this all the time for my dad growing up and in turn my dad makes it for me and my sister. I want to know since I’m very far removed from any of the cultures I’m apart of ethnically and this is the only food my dad remembers eating growing up aside from traditional English dishes from his mother. It would mean I lot to me if you could get back to me!

    1. meggan

      Hi Vic, yes it definitely is. My mom (her mom was from Racine, WI where this cake is commonly made) always used whipped cream or even cool whip as the frosting. The reason the recipe has buttercream is because that is how the official bakery for this cake makes it. But it’s delicious with whipped cream. That’s my preference actually because it is lighter than buttercream which I prefer. Or maybe I like it better that way because that’s “how mom used to make it.” Nostalgia is king. :) Thank you! If you have any other questions just let me know. -Meggan

  7. c.

    You’ll make the cake from scratch, but not the pudding? Homemade pastry cream is divine, and you already have the necessary ingredients for it in your pantry.

    1. meggan

      Now that we have pastry cream on the blog, this is an obvious change I need to make to the recipe! I forgot about it. Thank you for letting me know, we’ll get it all fixed up! You’re absolutely right. This should be pastry cream instead of boxed pudding. Thanks! -Meggan

  8. Cheryl

    I am so happy I came across this recipe. Growing up in Door County WI we would visit my Aunt and Uncle in Kenosha every June to celebrate my cousin’s birthday and my Aunt would always get this amazing cake from a local bakery. This was the best cake I ever had my Aunt and Uncle have both passed away and I was just thinking about the good times and all the good memories I have of them. Then I remembered the cake I started searching the internet and Pinterest and I found your Recipe. My day was made, I don’t comment on recipes but I just had to. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe I will definitely be making this and saving the recipe.

  9. Dana

    I just made this for my son’s birthday and it tastes fantastic! I wasn’t sure how it would be with pudding since O&H uses custard and more layers. I cheat on the cake a little. I start with a mix and replace the water with milk, replace the oil with a doubled amount of melted butter, and add an extra egg. I frosted it with buttercream frosting I made. Thanks so much for putting this out here!5 stars

  10. Craig Kimball

    My Grandma would get these cakes every year from Racine and bring them for our birthdays. But, somehow, she had them add a layer of lemon filling as the top layer instead of 2 pudding layers. It is one of my favorite childhood memories.

  11. LoriS

    My cakes didn’t rise well.   Any thoughts? 

    1. Kayte

      I also had this problem the first time I made the recipe. The second time, I beat the batter twice as long (about 5-6 minutes) to incorporate more air and got a better rise. They took longer to bake than the recipe states, too.4 stars

    2. meggan

      Hi Kayte, I’m going to retest this since it sounds like it’s not quite right. I’m really sorry about that. Thanks for letting me know! -Meggan

  12. Jae

    WOW! Thanks I grew up in your Mom’s neighborhood too! My Grandma would get a Danish Layer cake from O&H every Christmas and they have really great bakeries in the “Danish Village!” As a kid I lived a few blocks from the Piggly-Wiggly, Lane’s Pharmacy, Benson’s bakery and Nelson’s Dime Store. I’m sure she will be surprised to hear those names, though I think some are still there!

    I’m going to try this except with four cakes, and mixing jam next to custard like the real deal.

  13. Shelley Pfeiffer

     I live just south of racing in Kenosha .  My family is from Sweden originally ,  and this was birthday cake as I knew it .  Then it became every special occasion cake .  Mom ordered it from a bakery in Waukegan which is about 45 minutes south of racing into Illinois .  The difference was however she would have it made with strawberry preserves,  and whip cream frosting .  If seven minute frosting is the frosting I think it is that would probably be good too but for me it’s never the same without the whip cream frosting .  Thank you for the recipe I’m flying to the south for my birthday this weekend and having a hard time trying to find one .5 stars

  14. Jim

    I owe my life to Danish Layer cake at O & H! Growing up in Racine, this was a staple at every birthday. In fact it was usually just called “birthday cake”. I don’t recall ever having a birthday cake be anything other than Danish Layer. In the 50s and 60s my Grandmother worked at O & H on Durand Ave and my Dad would often go there after school from Horlick High. There was a pretty high school student from neighboring St. Catherine’s who also worked there part-time. Over time my Dad would just go there to see the pretty part-time worker. Soon they married and that’s how my Dad (Al) and Mom (Sue) met. Enjoying Danish Layer cake at O & H in Racine.
    So flash forward to 2019! and I wanted to impress my 18 yr old on her birthday and came across your recipe for Danish Layer. She has grown up cooking and baking and only bakes from scratch. I was a little nervous to not use a box cake mix, but everything turned out great! Thanks for recipe and the memories…. now if you could try your hand at making homemade Kringle….5 stars

    1. Meggan

      Wow, thanks for sharing Jim! What an amazing story- falling in love over danish layer cake! I love hearing stories like this from readers, it makes me continue to love what I do every day! I do have a post for kringle- please give it a try! It doesn’t disappoint! :D -Meggan

      https://www.culinaryhill.com/racine-danish-kringle/

  15. Mary

    My sister inlaw & I had attended a Danish Christmas bazaar. And had the opportunity to try Danish open face sandwiches and the Danish Layer cake with whipped cream. The food was absolutely delicious. This cake plan on making for Christmas dessert, Thank You for posting the recipe.

    1. meggan

      Hi Mary, can you tell me anything about the Danish open-face sandwiches? They sound so good! Thank you! I hope you like this cake recipe. -Meggan

  16. Denise

    Best cake ever but I have trouble with the layers sliding !! What can I do ??

    1. meggan

      Hi Denise, I’m sorry you’re having trouble with that!! Here are some ideas. 1. Make sure the cake layers are completely cool. If they are still warm, the frosting might melt and make everything more slippery. 2. Trim the top off each layer so it’s completely flat. A long serrated knife works really well for that. 3. Make sure you are spreading the frosting evenly. This sounds obvious, but I figured I might as well point it out, just in case. I hope some of this helps you, and feel free to report back if your layers are sliding less! Good luck. Thanks Denise. -Meggan

  17. Kimberly Rivers

    What happened with the 9 inch pan??

  18. Ruth

    Hi can you send me  a picture of what happened with the 9 inch pan?

  19. Stephen

    My family is from Racine and Danish Layer is my absolute favorite. Funny thing is that all of the family recipe books say to make a sponge cake which didn’t make sense with the texture. Your recipe makes more sense. Thanks. I’ll have to try to recreate but I doubt the frosting will come out as delicious as O&H.5 stars

  20. Oh my goodness. I am from Racine, WI and now live in Oregon. We had this cake for every single birthday! Can’t wait to try your recipe! :) Thanks for sharing!

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