seven layer cake recipe easy seven layer cake recipe jewish seven layer cake
Photo credit Sheri Silver

Seven Layer Cake Recipe

An easy version of this classic Jewish bakery dessert to make at home.

It’s always a challenge to develop a recipe that doesn’t have a clear-cut history. Everyone has “their version,” and wouldn’t think of making it any other way. Seven-layer cake is such a recipe!

It’s unclear how the cake became a staple of North American Jewish bakeries; it seems to be one of those desserts that was always “just around,” a standard part of any Shabbat, shiva or Yom Kippur break fast. There are pareve (non-dairy) versions, and Passover variations made with almond flour, or sheets of matzah in place of sponge cake. But it does have strong ties to Hungarian dobos torte (named after the Hungarian baker credited with its creation) and Polish seven sisters cake (aka “ciasto stefanka,” referring to the cake’s seven layers). 

The cake’s shape and filling can vary. It can be round or rectangular, with fillings ranging from coffee buttercream to chocolate buttercream to a chocolate ganache.

And then there’s the question of how many layers the cake should have. One would assume seven, right? But in the case of the dobos torte, there are only six. The seventh layer is covered with caramel, cut into decorative shapes and used as a garnish for the top of the cake.

The recipe I’m sharing today is based on a very strong and fond memory of my Grandma Fay’s cake  — one of my very favorites that she used to make. If you search online Jewish bakeries for “Seven Layer Cake,” the results most closely resemble my grandma’s cake.

Sadly, I do not have her recipe, but I vividly recall a yellow sponge cake, layered with coffee buttercream and covered with chocolate ganache. It was most definitely a rectangular shape, and she sometimes gilded the lily with a garnish of slivered almonds.

Many recipes I researched required multiple baking pans to achieve all those layers. To make things more accessible for the home baker, I decided to bake a large single layer cake in a sheet pan (which most people have on hand), and then cut the cake into eight layers. You’ll have one left over, which is not the worst problem to have.

Is this cake a part of your family’s celebrations? What is your memory of it?

Notes:

We chose a half sheet pan for this recipe, because that is a standard-sized baking sheet that most people have in their kitchen. The dimensions can range in size from 11 – 13” wide to 17 – 18” long. As the cake cools it will shrink slightly, and once the edges are trimmed you will have 8 rectangular layers (4 across by 2 down). You only need 7 layers for this cake so you will have an extra layer for snacking.

Room temperature eggs are important for this cake because the eggs are providing all of the leavening — there is no baking powder or baking soda. Cold eggs will not whip up with as much volume, so take the eggs out and let them sit at room temperature until there is no more chill on them.

While you can use a hand mixer, it will typically not be as powerful as a stand mixer. If you are not getting the volume you hoped for in the cake, this could be the culprit. That said, if that is what you have available, just be sure that those eggs are at room temperature and you are cranking the speed up as high as it will go.

Once assembled, the cake will keep in the fridge for up to one week, and in the freezer for up to two months. 

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seven layer cake recipe
Photo credit Sheri Silver

Seven Layer Cake

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4.7 from 3 reviews

An easy version of this classic Jewish bakery dessert to make at home.

  • Total Time: 0 hours
  • Yield: Serves 810 1x

Ingredients

Scale

For the cake:

  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

For the coffee buttercream:

  • 1 ½ tsp brewed coffee
  • 1 ½ tsp espresso powder
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar

For the ganache:

  • 8 oz chocolate chips or chopped bitter or semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Instructions

  1. Start by making the cake: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spray a half sheet pan (about 11×17”) with nonstick cooking spray, line the bottom with parchment paper and spray the parchment paper. Coat the sides and bottom with flour, tapping out any excess.
  2. Place the eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk the eggs on medium until they are broken up, then add the vanilla. With the mixer still running, add the granulated sugar. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat till the mixture is thick and pale. 
  3. Using a rubber spatula, fold in half the flour and all of the kosher salt. Add the melted butter and fold again. Finish with the remaining flour. Pour the batter into your prepared pan and use an angled spatula to spread evenly.
  4. Bake for 8-10 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. The cake is done when light golden brown and springs back when lightly touched. Place on a wire rack and cool completely in the pan.
  5. While the cake is cooling, make the coffee buttercream: Whisk the coffee and espresso powder in a small bowl until the espresso powder is fully dissolved. Set aside.
  6. Beat the butter and confectioner’s sugar on low until the ingredients are completely incorporated, then raise the speed to medium-high and beat till light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides, add the coffee mixture and beat again till fully incorporated. Transfer the buttercream to a bowl.
  7. To assemble the cake, generously dust the top of the cake (still in the pan) with confectioner’s sugar. Use a small knife to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of the cake and place a cutting board on top of the parchment paper. Holding the pan and board together, flip over so the board is now on the bottom. Gently remove the pan from the cake and peel off the parchment paper.
  8. Using a large sharp knife and a pressing (versus a slicing motion), trim the edges of the cake. Once trimmed, cut the cake into 8 pieces – 2 rows lengthwise and 4 widthwise, for a total of 8 rectangles. For the seven layer cake you’ll set one of the pieces aside and either eat separately or discard.
  9. Place one of the layers onto a parchment-lined work surface and top with about 1/3 cup of the buttercream. Use a small angled spatula to spread evenly. Continue layering with the remaining six layers, and top with all of the buttercream that remains in the bowl. Use your spatula to spread a thin layer of buttercream on the sides of the cake, and level the top as evenly as possible. Place in the fridge to set, 2 hours or up to overnight.
  10. Make the ganache: Place the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan till small bubbles appear around the edges. Immediately pour over the chopped chocolate and leave undisturbed for 3 minutes. Whisk till the ganache is smooth and emulsified. Let cool till no longer hot but still pourable.
  11. Use a large wide knife or spatula to carefully transfer the chilled cake to a wire rack set over a parchment lined baking sheet. Pour the ganache slowly over the top of the cake, using a small angled spatula to spread it over the sides. Scoop any ganache from the parchment paper and return to the bowl. Return to the fridge to set for 2 hours or up to overnight. At this point you can serve the cake or pour another layer of ganache over, for a thicker icing. The ganache may have thickened by this point; to make it pourable again place the bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring constantly. Once the ganache is smooth and glossy again remove it from the heat and proceed with the second coat. Return to the fridge to set.
  12. Transfer the cake to a plate or board, cut into slices and serve.
  • Author: Sheri Silver
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes + 4 hours setting time (or overnight)
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Ashkenazi

19 comments

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  • Cherie Feinberg

    I haven’t made the cake yet but I think there were instructions left out. I’m assuming the cake should be sliced horizontally to make the layers. why is one of the eight pieces left out?

    • The Nosher

      Once trimmed, cut the cake into 8 pieces – 2 rows lengthwise and 4 widthwise, for a total of 8 rectangles. For the seven layer cake you’ll set one of the pieces aside and either eat separately or discard.

  • Cindy

    Sounds like a delicious and beautiful cake!

    But… Reading steps 2 and 3, I’m missing how and when to combine the eggs/sugar with the flour to create the batter. Please clarify.

    • Shannon Sarna

      In step 3 you will add the flour to the egg mixture that’s in the mixer and proceed as instructed!

  • Penny

    Question regarding how the 11×17 sheet cake should be cut…. can you tell me the final dimension to the cake? Cutting the cake in half lengthwise, then in quarters across the short sides would give me 8 – 4¼ x 5 Squares, not the anticipated rectangle; or should the batter be divided between 2 – 11×17 pans?

    • Shannon Sarna

      You bake the cake in one pan. Once the edges are trimmed the individual layers will be more rectangular!

    • Shannon Sarna

      As there are no leaveners in this recipe, all of the volume comes from the eggs. A good hand mixer can work; crank it up to the highest speed once the ingredients are incorporated and keep beating till thick and pale!

  • Diane Lynn Gale

    I just made this and the positives first: the taste was PERFECT from my growing up for each part. The negatives: I measured exactly per instructions and the quantity was way more than I needed of buttercream and the layers were easily 1/2 inch of what I remember and as the picture. I used an 11 x 17 half sheet pan…what went wrong? I’ve got a tower of 7 layer ! Was I supposed to make it in two pans?

  • Diane Lynn Gale

    Just checked back to see if you commented, and I see all the ingredient amounts were changed to 1/3 of what was posted originally! Would have loved to have heard back from you instead of seeing it changed w/o saying anything. Rachel? Shannon?

    • The Nosher

      Hi Diane, is it possible you opted to “Scale up” the recipe the first time, perhaps by mistake? (The option to scale the recipe 2x or 3x is on the upper right hand side of the recipe box, opposite the ingredients.) We have not changed the amounts. Rachel at The Nosher.

    • Diane

      Rachel , it was totally my error and you were absolutely correct that I changed the proportions, my apologies. The good news is that with the leftover buttercream I made another cake that was perfect! Please forgive me!!!!!!!!! This recipe is fantastic.






  • Sarah goad

    My layers came out like a custard consistency. Not spongy at all Unsure what I’m doing wrong but I remade it and it came out exactly the same way. Any suggestions?

    • Shannon Sarna

      Sponge cakes can be a notorious challenge and we know that the author took great care to make sure the instructions were as precise as possible so I would start by making sure you followed every item to a T. Some baking projects can be more forgiving than others, and this is one that requires exact precision to turn out successful. For example, if a hand mixer was used and not enough volume was created, or a drop of yolk got into the egg whites and they didn’t beat up quite enough, or if the oven temperature wasn’t accurate – any of these factors could impact the result of the cake. We hope this helps.

  • Andy

    Noticed in last comment about egg WHITEs. Should we separate the yolks and only use egg white? The recipe just says add the eggs.

    Great site btw.






  • Gina

    I made this cake as a birthday gift for my oldest brother. Our background is Hungarian so this was a staple in our home for special occasions. Here was his reaction: “OMG. You did an amazing job. I counted the layers and there are definitely seven. The chocolate is so rich. Side by side next to XXXXX Bake Shop’s seven layer, the professional version pales in comparison!!  This is a treasure. I love that you took the time to bake this for me (us). Love you Sis. Big Brother.” Thank you for this wonderful recipe. I’m so happy I found it.






    • The Nosher

      Hi Rebecca, this will affect the density of the cake.

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