Pink Peony Cake

peony cake

There’s something about the combination of peonies, cakes and garden parties that I find irresistible. Perhaps they’re appealing because we’ve spent the better part of the last two weeks broiling in the sun without a breath of wind stirring. Or, perhaps I like them because their elegance and simplicity conjures up romantic ideas of summertime in days gone by.

Sweeping lawns, hammocks, lemonade, ocean breezes, time with loved ones, a stack of great books and slice pink peony cake is my idea of heaven. We don’t happen to have the sweeping lawn or the ocean breeze but thankfully a short drive in New England takes us to places like here and here.

plated rose

rose and cake collage



pink roses up close

Summer is flying by and I’m still compiling my summer reading list from our own library, our town library and our local book shop. I’m hopelessly a non-fiction reader and this definitely conflicts with the mental relaxation that’s supposed to accompany lazy summer days.

Churchill by Paul Johnson, Silent Spring by Rachel Carson and a listen to Historic Conversations with Jacqueline Kennedy will start next week and undoubtedly something heavy and historic will follow. I have to make room for some non-fiction, hopefully a classic novel and maybe something lighter or retro.


garden collage

peony side by side

rose close-up

For all the time we spend on the internet, it seems wise to periodically tune out of the digital world and sit back in a big wicker chair with a glass of something cold and icy and a beautifully bound, thoughtfully written old book.

piece of cake

peony top

cake knife

I mustn’t forget the cake. It’s a classic white cake, tinted to match the garden flowers with a big peony on top. The cake is simple to make and makes a perfect addition to your next summer feast. It’s also a perfect dessert to curl up with in your cozy chair or hammock while flipping through the pages of your favorite novel. What are you reading this summer? Any favorites or recommendations? Here’s to a wonderful summer full of friends, lazy days and pink peony cake.

peony cake slice

eating cake

Pink Peony Cake

Pink Cake  (adapted from Sweetapolita)

150 g or 5 egg whites, room temperature
180 ml (3/4 c whole milk)
9 g (2 1/4 tsp) vanilla extract
315 g (2 3/4 c) cake flour, sifted
350 g (1 3/4 c) sugar
19.5 g (1 tbs plus 1 tsp) baking powder
pinch of salt
170 g (12 tbs) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into cubes
pink food coloring

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).

Butter and flour four 6.5 inch wide by 4 inch high spring form pans.

In a small bowl mix the egg whites, 1/4 c milk and vanilla. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients on low speed.

Add the butter and the remaining 1/2 c of milk and mix on low speed until moistened. Increase to medium speed for 90 seconds.

Scrape the sides of the bowl. Add the egg mixture in thirds, beating about 15 seconds after each addition.

Divide the batter into 4 bowls, and color each batter a different shade of pink. Do not over mix when blending because you do not want a tough cake.

Bake each cake 20-30 minutes (depending upon your oven) or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack. After 15 minutes remove the spring form pans and cool completely.

Using a serrated knife, carefully slice off the tough skin on the top and sides of each cake, being careful to maintain its shape. I do this so I don’t have tough bites of cake.

Slice each cake horizontally. Brush off the crumbs completely. You should have 8 slices of cake total (two of each shade of pink). Stack the slices so that you have two cakes, 4 layers each, of graduated colors. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Vanilla Frosting (you will be making 2 batches over 2 days)

375 g (26 tbs. butter), slightly softened
220 g (2 c) powdered sugar, sifted
45 ml (3 tbs) milk
5 ml (3 tbs) vanilla extract

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium speed.

Add remaining ingredients and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 6 minutes.


Remove unfrosted cake stacks from the refrigerator. Starting with the bottom layer, brush off the crumbs with a pastry brush. Add a large dollop of frosting and carefully spread over the top of the surface layer with a long straight spatula similar to this. Place the next layer of cake on top and repeat. Repeat again for the third layer and place the fourth layer on top. Do this for each cake, taking care not to get crumbs in the frosting. (Wipe your knife on paper towels frequently to keep it clean).

Now frost the entire outside surface of each cake with frosting. The goal here is to use the edge of the spatula to have a relatively thin, smooth layer of frosting that’s not full of crumbs. A few crumbs are ok but if you have too many, you won’t be able to cover them later. This is the crumb layer. It will be easier to do this if you have a turntable for the cake or if you place the cake on an upside down plate fitted over the base of a round bowl (this will allow you to turn the bowl and thereby turning the cake).

Once both cakes are frosted, place them in the refrigerator overnight until the frosting is cold and hard.

Make the frosting again. Remove the cakes from the refrigerator and frost each cake with a thick layer. Top each cake with a pink peony.

Bon appetit!

Fresh New England

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  1. This is such a beautiful post. My favorite flowers are peonies. I heart LOVE the cake. You’ve reminded me to pick up a few books at the library this week. But I’m fiction person. I love me a good trashy novel!

  2. Beautiful cake!
    I’m partial to fiction, non fiction often feels too serious for my leisurely reading time. I’ve already gone through a few books this summer, I’ll have to start a second list!

  3. Beautiful cake!
    I’m partial to fiction, non fiction often feels too serious for my leisurely reading time. I’ve already gone through a few books this summer, I’ll have to start a second list!

  4. The peony cake is amazing. I love your photography and your writing. This is just the reminder I needed to start a summer reading list before it’s too late.

  5. Gorgeous! Gorgeous! I like your idea for frosting a cake without a turntable, clever! This is the first year that I had peonies in my garden. Breathtaking when they are in bloom but the biggest impact is how much you miss them when they have wilted away. For this summer, I decided to pick up a bunch of my old math books to test the strength of my memory. It may be softer than this cake but still working.

  6. I adore peonies, they take a close second in my heart only to lilacs:)

    I was hoping you had figured out some magical way to incorporate their scent into a cake, but maybe it’s for the best that they remain perched on top. It looks so pretty.

    Rather than literature, I’ve been “reading” my garden every day, perceiving the subtle (and drastic) changes and watching it grow. I love summer so so much.

  7. Absolutely stunning. I adore Peonies and have 6 of them under my front room window, Each blooms on its own schedule and my most precious one if from my grandmother – and she had it from her grandmother, so it has been in our family for over 100 years. The same flower on my Great Great Grandmother’s table. That is a gardening story I adore.
    I love this creativity and have often placed flowers on top of cakes in the summer – but never the peony. Must have not had an event when they are blooming. I am going to make one, next year!

  8. It wouldn’t be summer without a good book and a lazy afternoon at the beach.
    Beautiful cake! I love peonies and sadly they do not grow here. So they remain a lovely treat from the florist.


  9. Thank you for this recipe. My mother’s birthday is coming up and I think the cake will be perfect for her party! As far as books are concerned, I’m reading 50 Shades of Grey this summer.

  10. Really, El, how cute is that cake?! I adore peonies anyway..the way they droop in a big glass bowl. Your hydrangeas are gorgeous too. I do miss having a home with gardens, but there are advantages to condos in Florida too. For one…we were cooler than you were!!
    Summer reading? I like non-fiction too, but not exclusively. I go to NPR for a nice summer reading list. Have about 12 on my Kindle to get to.

  11. What a wondrous post! I am enamored of the stunning peony cake and the gentle reminder that the season of summer is all to short.

  12. I don’t know how the cake tastes but I do know how it looks, absolutely beautiful! Lovely soft, summery images to match. I hope you are enjoying the sweetness of July, El.

  13. Sharon- the cake is good. Think of it as a classic American cake. Perfect for birthdays. I eliminated a whole cup of sugar from the frosting though b/c it was too sweet for us. We like it much better this way.

  14. Beautiful cake! Makes me want to use flowers to decorate next time. Right now I’m reading Fortytude, by Sarah Brokaw. It’s very informative and inspiring. A great read!

  15. What a beautiful, feminine cake! I love peonies and wish I still had those beautiful flowers blooming and the cooler temperatures of spring. This would be gorgeous for a bridal shower!

    A very busy summer for me this year. I haven’t even picked up a book yet 🙁

  16. I just wanted to reach out and take a piece of that glorious cake… what a wonderful thing you have made. The colors are insanely beautiful. I am jonesing over cake right now!!!

  17. What luscious blooms, El! 🙂 It all looks so fresh and beautiful that I can’t imagine the sweltering heat you’re experiencing. I too have been taking time to hunker down with good books. It does me no end of good to turn off the computer and get my brain ticking as I feel real paper. Lovely. 🙂

  18. Oh! Such a delicate and elegant cake El…love it! If was sure a treat for my eyes.
    Thanks for this nice post and hope you are having a wonderful week 🙂

  19. Ah, Newport! I loved it and the amazing mansions we visited last Fall– speaking of which I’m reading a novel called The American Heiress written about one of those families. I am most definitely not a nonfiction reader 🙂

    The cake is so beautiful — I love little cakes. As for the gorgeous peonies, thanks for sharing. They can’t grow here.

  20. My mother’s birthday is coming up and I think she’ll love this cake. How does it taste? Beautiful photos by the way.

  21. Besides summer, does that ever scream baby or bridal shower! Love it! Peonies were made to go on the top of that cake. Hope you’ve gotten some of that reading done!

  22. Wow pink peonies are my all time favourite flower. I have a small plant in my garden that I hold my breath for hoping this isn’t the year that I’ve somehow managed to kill it (I really don’t have green fingers!)

    This cake is beautiful! The pink effect (I guess the buzz word lately is “ombre”) is so delicate it really reflects the sumptuous but fragile pinks in the flower. It’s wonderful with the fluffy frosting on top. I love it, and that is why I’m glad I’ve stumbled across your blog. And I’m following 🙂

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