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Circus Animal Cookie Cake With Almond White Chocolate Buttercream Recipe

Excerpted from ‘I’ll Bring the Cake: Recipes for Every Season and Every Occasion’

pink and white cake with pink and white animal cookies on outside on cake stand

Mandy Merriman


Circus animal cookies are such a delight. This cake, with a strong almond and white chocolate flavor throughout and pink and white exterior, tastes and looks like them. The rainbow nonpareils are a must. And good news: They are everywhere in the grocery store. They will probably be everywhere in your kitchen, too, if you don’t put a cookie sheet under the cake when you’re adding them on.



Almond Swirl Cake

  • 1 cup buttermilk (room temperature)
  • 1/3 cup sour cream (room temperature)
  • 4 egg whites (room temperature)
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons clear vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 box white cake mix
  • Pink gel coloring

White Chocolate Buttercream

  • ½ cup white chocolate chips
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 7 to 8 cups powdered sugar
  • Pink gel coloring

For Decorating

  • 10 to 12 frosted circus animal cookies
  • Rainbow nonpareils
  • Stripe cake comb
  • Piping bag
  • Wilton 6B piping tip



For the Almond Swirl Cake

Preheat the oven to 325°F, then prep three 6-inch round cake pans with a swipe of shortening and dusting of flour to prevent sticking. In a large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, egg whites, oil, vanilla and almond extract until thoroughly combined. Sift in the cake mix and whisk until just combined. Do not overmix. Divide the batter evenly into two bowls, then tint half the batter pink with one or two drops of the gel coloring. Alternating between the pink and white cake batters, split the batter evenly among the prepared pans. With a toothpick, swirl the batter in a figure-eight pattern to create a marbled effect. Bake for 27 to 30 minutes, until the center is baked through. Let the cakes cool in the pan for a minute before flipping them out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Wrap and freeze the cakes before assembly.

For the White Chocolate Buttercream

In a microwave-safe bowl, stir together the white chocolate and ¼ cup of the heavy cream. Heat for 30 seconds and then stir until smooth. Let cool slightly. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the white chocolate ganache, remaining ¼ cup cream, the vanilla, almond extract and salt and beat until combined, then scrape down the sides with a spatula. With the mixer on low speed, add the powdered sugar about ½ cup at a time. The buttercream will be thick. Add a little more heavy cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, to thin it out if needed, and then flip the mixer to high speed and beat until the buttercream is lighter in color and texture, about 2 minutes. Transfer half of the buttercream to a separate bowl and tint it with the gel coloring.

To Assemble

Place a cardboard cake round on a cake turntable. Dot a little bit of buttercream in the center of the round and spread it out with an angled icing spatula. Place the first chilled cake layer in the center. Add a layer of pink buttercream. Place the next cake layer on top, then repeat, making sure to line the layers up evenly. After adding the top cake layer, crumb coat the cake by spreading a thin layer of buttercream around the entire cake. Freeze for 2 minutes to set. Using a wooden spoon, beat out any air bubbles in the remaining buttercreams. Finish frosting the cake as desired or follow the decorating instructions below.

To Decorate the Cake

Spread a final layer of white buttercream around the entire cake, using a stripe cake comb to make clean indents on the side of the cake. The crisper the indents, the cleaner the stripe will be later on. Freeze for at least 10 minutes so that the buttercream is very firm. Transfer the pink buttercream to a piping bag, cut off the top, and pipe it into the stripe indents. Immediately scrape the sides of the cake with a flat cake scraper. Apply a little bit of pressure and scrape until the clean stripes start to show through. Place the cake on a cookie sheet, and place the cookie sheet on a turntable. Press the frosted animal cookies and nonpareils around the sides of the cake. Transfer the remaining pink buttercream to a piping bag fitted with a Wilton 6B tip. Pipe a shell border along the top rim of the cake. Sprinkle the top of the cake with more nonpareils.

Bake With Mandy

Two more recipes from I’ll Bring the Cake for AARP members to try:

Blueberry Shortbread Crumble Cake

With a fresh blueberry cake baked right onto a shortbread crust, a fresh blueberry filling, blueberry buttercream and a shortbread crumble on top, you might already be headed out the door to find as many blueberries as you can.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Stripes of thick whipped peanut butter and cocoa buttercreams envelop this chocolate cake.


Read About Mandy Merrimans cookbook, I’ll Bring the Cake.

book with words i'll bring the cake on cover and picture of light pink cake with blueberry designs on it


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