How We Make: Snow Cake

My family observes two winter traditions that I recommend wholeheartedly and reservation-free to every other family. The first is Snow Cake. The second is chocolate in your shoes on St Nicholas day. But just the first for now.

On the first proper snowfall of the year, we bake a white cake with white icing. Decorated with chocolate chips arranged in the shape of snowmen. Sometimes, by request, sprinkles. Whatever feels most like a celebration of winter to you. Some people go all out with rainbow sprinkles, and I respect that.

Snow Cake is not made the first time you see the first flakes (though, you do you). But the first time fluffy white snow coats the ground. Think of it like this: if the world looks like it has been freshly iced, it is time to make snow cake.

There is only one real peril to snow cake, and that is once they know about this tradition, some of your friends may turn into snow-cake-snow-watch monsters. Every year I get texts along with photographs from various friends asking if this counts as snow cake weather and if so am I making snow cake today and if so can they have some. Emails showing weather forecasts, text messages that are just “SNOW CAKE!”, texts and DMs asking for clarifications on the rules…

This is not an actual problem of course. And I am delighted to add a dash of extra joy to the first magical snowfall. I love all my snow cake monster friends.

In recent years, my cravings for sugar have dialed way back. So I don’t always want to have a full-on cake kicking around the house (when we lived in Toronto with a half dozen immediate neighbours, it was less of an issue). We happen to be a family of 2, and a family of 1 is a family too. So there is the snow cake option below, which can be made up as either a cake or more giveaway-friendly cupcakes. Or, new this year, I followed this recipe for a single-vanilla cupcake. For if you want that hit of snowcake without having to dig yourself out from beneath an entire cake. I doubled the single-cupcake recipe to make two cupcakes, one for me and one for Neil. One iced with juniper berry icing the other with pine sugar. Perfect.

Snow Cake


  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (though I have made it with other flours as well)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup buttermilk, or any milk mixed with ½ tbsp of lemon juice or white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup softened butter (or shortening)
  • 1 cup boiling water


  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Grease and flour (or line with parchment) a 9×13 inch pan. Or two 9″ round pans if you would like to make a layer cake. I believe I’ve gotten away with two 8″ round pans as well in the past. And square pans. I have popped this recipe into all different sized pans depending on what was handy, and so far so good.
  3. Mix the buttermilk (or milk mixed with lemon juice) with the baking soda.
  4. In a large bowl, cream together butter, sugar, egg yolks, egg, and vanilla.
  5. Combine the buttermilk/baking soda mix with your butter mixture.
  6. Mix together the sugar, flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl.
  7. Combine your wet and dry ingredients.
  8. Add the boiling water, and mix well.
  9. Pour batter into your pan(s). Bake at 350F for ~35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  10. Wait until completely cool and then ice with white icing. Butter Icing recipe included below.

Adapted from Aunt Bert’s White Cake Recipe.

Butter Icing


  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 3 cups icing sugar
  • 4 tbsp+ cream or evaporated milk or milk or alternative milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Mocha variation, for other uses: Add 3 tsp of cocoa and substitute strong coffee for cream.


  1. Cream together all ingredients. Depending on how dry your icing sugar is, you may need to add additional milk. I start with less icing sugar, closer to 2 cups, and then add more as needed to make a good spreadable icing.