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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 (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).
4.82 from 49 votes
Cook Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr
Servings 12 servings
Course Dessert
Cuisine American, Danish
Calories 770

Ingredients 

For the pastry cream:

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 granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter cut into tablespoons and softened (2 sticks)

For the buttercream frosting:

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 Fahrenheit/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: 770kcalCarbohydrates: 101gProtein: 8gFat: 38gSaturated Fat: 23gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 253mgSodium: 455mgPotassium: 135mgFiber: 1gSugar: 84gVitamin A: 1321IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 134mgIron: 1mg
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Meggan Hill is the Executive Chef and CEO of Culinary Hill, a popular digital publication in the food space. She loves to combine her Midwestern food memories with her culinary school education to create her own delicious take on modern family fare. Millions of readers visit Culinary Hill each month for meticulously-tested recipes as well as skills and tricks for ingredient prep, cooking ahead, menu planning, and entertaining. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the iCUE Culinary Arts program at College of the Canyons.

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Comments

  1. I am also free Racine… making this for a friends birthday. She’s never heard of this type of cake and she claims to be a cake aficionado . This will blow her mind!

  2. I am seriously giggling like a mad woman right now! Who ARE you people?? 🤣🤣 I was yearning to make a Danish Layer Cake and here I am. And guess what? I bet you already know! I’m from Racine too! Anyways, I trust this recipe and can’t wait to try it!5 stars

  3. Thank you for a wonderful recipe. My sister-in-law gets the Danish Layer Cake from O&H every year for Easter and we all LOVE it (it is an expensive cake, but it is huge too). This year, I tried to bake your recipe for her birthday. It tasted excellent.
    I had some difficulty with the cake coming out very dense and pretty flat. I think I overmixed the batter. It was about 85 degrees and I brought everything to around 67 degrees before starting. When adding the butter to the flour (I have never done it that way before. I always creamed the butter and sugar and then added eggs and then flour, etc when baking a cake), it turned crumbly as according to the recipe. I turned away to get the milk mixture and when I looked back, the flour mixture and butter was creamed already (instead of just crumbly). When I added the milk mixture and mixed for a very short time, everything seemed to start melting. So I stopped and put it in the pans as quickly as possible. I will try it again, because it surely tasted fantastic. Thanks again!5 stars

  4. I’ve made this cake 2x this week…there is not enough batter to cut the layers in half…maybe I should have doubled the recipe?…any thoughts?2 stars

    1. Hi Karin, sorry about your cakes! I would double-check to make sure your cake pans are 8-inch pans. 9-inch pans do not work for this recipe. I hope this helps! – Meggan

  5. I was looking for a recipe for Danish Layer Cake that I thought I would make for the Christmas holidays and came upon your site. It was like going to a class reunion: There were so many people who posted who either currently live, or formerly lived there, or had relatives in Racine, WI, that I just had to throw my hat in the ring! I grew up in Racine, graduated from Horlick HS, worked at S. C. Johnson (Johnson Wax). and lived in the Danish enclave of West Racine (Kringleville) for a while. In the debate as to which Danish bakery is the best, O&H wins hands down every time! And in terms of butter cream vs. whipped cream, it’s whipped cream all day! Now, I’m off to bake your Danish Layer Cake…with whipped cream, of course! (P.S. Danish kringles are oval, not straight, rectangular pastry.)

  6. In regards to the “Danish Layer Cake” I am half Dane, my Dad is 100%. The recipe that came from Denmark on both his Mother’s and Father’s side is a bit different. When you make for a Dane especially those who remember it at Holidays and Special Occasions, this was what the cake was make out of. Bake in two 8 inch round cake pans; often some recipes call for two 9 inch round cake pans. To make this easier let’s go with a good quality white cake mix. Mix according to directions. Let cool as recipe above then turn pans out to release the cakes ( see above) instead of custard like pudding for one of the fillings use Lemon Curd (I make my own but it is sold in most stores). For the raspberry filling yes preserved work great. I cook down my berries and make my own. For the frosting, I make a Lemon Butter Cream cheese frosting ( using juice from a lemon and some rind.
    After cake is frosted sprinkle fresh raspberries on top. You can the add finely grated lemon peel.
    You can look in the store but this is easy to make take half inch strips of lemon rind don’t get any of the white on them. Mix one table spoon fresh lemon juice and one tablespoon of candy sugar. Basically the thicker sugar. If you will, you can buy that right. In the baking aisle it looks like sea salt but it’s not and mix those all together. Put parchment on a baking sheet. Arrange your lemon peels on the parchment space them so they’re not touching and put them in a 200° oven for 1 hour, then turn the oven off and leave them overnight. You will then have candy lemon peel and they are quite delicious. You can put that on top of the cake with the raspberries instead of the grated lemon peel. This is all. Just a suggestion but from a dane that has had many Danish dishes that came from Denmark. This is how they truly love it in Denmark. ( I have actually given away a few of the old family Danish secrets so if you use them think of my dad who’s going to be 93 years old and doing great. Thank you)

  7. In preparation for my birthday in May, my six year old son asked me what kind of cake is my favorite. I told him that my favorite cake is a Danish layer. I am originally from Racine, Wisconsin, and I have fond memories of those O&H Danish layer cakes! I looked for a recipe, and yours is the first I saw. I was so pleased to see your reference to Racine. After living in many states, we have settled in Chicago, Illinois, so we are close enough to get an O&H cake, but I have never made my own, and I think it’s time! This year, I’ll have a homemade Danish layer birthday cake!

  8. I am gonna combine your recipe with one I found in The art of Danish Cooking given to me by my mother in law from Saeby Denmark. I’m actually making it for her birthday this week. I’m keeping my fingers crossed as I am not the best baker.

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