“Happy Birthday, Jesus” Cake

by Sara Crooks

I would venture to say that most of us are continually looking for ways to reinforce for our families and ourselves WHO we celebrate during this crazy and chaotic season. We search for ways, big and small, to free ourselves of the commercialism that entices us and the busyness that often engulfs us.

Over the last couple of years, a Happy Birthday, Jesus cake — placed center stage at Christmas dinner — has been a new tradition for our family. Each year, we light the candle and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus. Although simple and sweet, it reminds us of our Rescuer — the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes.

This year, however, my son’s first grade teacher introduced me to an idea for a birthday cake for Jesus (that the mom of a former student shared with her) which takes this concept to a new level: by using different colored cake layers, each with its own meaning, the gospel message is perfectly illustrated.

With a base of white buttermilk cake and classic vanilla buttercream icing, this year’s Happy Birthday, Jesus cake will be more than just a cake. Not only will it be delicious, but most importantly, the butter, sugar and flour will serve as an effective and unexpected tool for sharing the most incredible news we will ever receive Jesus was born so we could be delivered from the power and penalty of our sin. Praise Him!


Happy Birthday, Jesus Cake:


The cake has three layers each representing something different.


The bottom layer is black, which represents the sin that is in our lives.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23

The middle layer is red, representing the blood that Jesus shed on our behalf. God sent His only Son, Jesus, to be our Savior. Jesus died on the cross for our sins so that those who believe can live in heaven with Him for eternity.

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.John 3:16

The top layer is green, representing the new life we have in Christ. As we grow, we become more like Him.

Therefore is anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here.2 Corinthians 5:17

The cake is covered with white icing to remind us of His cleansing. When we accept Him as our Savior and confess our sin to Him, He forgives us and cleanses us white as snow.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to purify us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:9

There is a single candle on the cake to represent that He the Light of the world. We are to be lights for Him and shine brightly to the dark world by being an example of His love and pointing others to Christ.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father who is in heaven.Matthew 5:16



1 cup (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/3 cups sugar
3 large egg whites
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup buttermilk
Black, red, and green gel food coloring (available at craft stores)

Place one baking rack one-third from the bottom of the oven and the second two-thirds from the bottom. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In order to ensure that the cakes release from the cake pans properly, don’t skip this step! Prepare 3 9″ round cake pans using the following method: on parchment paper, trace around the bottom of each cake pan with a pencil. Repeat 3 times, so that you end up with 3 circles of parchment. Cut the traced circles out of parchment. Butter each pan (bottom and sides) and then place the parchment inside each cake pan and butter the parchment round. Dust pans heavily with flour and then shake out the excess.

*You can also use 8 or 6 pans if you want a smaller cake. Your cake will be taller. If using 6 pans, you will have a little batter leftover. These pictures are of a 6 cake.

Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (you can use a handheld mixer as well), beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl on medium speed about 2 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg whites and vanilla and beat on medium speed for about 1 minute. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Add about one-third of the flour mixture to the batter and beat on medium speed until incorporated. Add about half of the buttermilk and beat on medium speed until incorporated. Continue adding dry and wet ingredients alternately, scraping the bowl down and beating until incorporated after each addition. End with the dry ingredients. The batter will be thick and glossy.

Spoon the batter evenly into three separate bowls. You will have about 3 cups of batter per bowl. Tint each bowl of batter a separate color — black, red, and green. You can make each layer as dark or as light as you wish.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans. Stagger the cake layers on the oven racks so that no layer is directly over another. Set two layers on one rack and the third on the other. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out (at least mostly) clean and the tops are flat and browned. Monitor the layers carefully for doneness; each one may be done at a different time.

Set the cake pans on racks to cool for 10 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the racks and cool completely before frosting. At this point, the cakes may be placed in gallon size freezer zipper bags and frozen for up to three weeks.



2 cups unsalted butter (4 sticks or 1 pound), softened slightly (not melted!)
6-8 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar, SIFTED
1 tsp table salt
1 – 2 tbls. vanilla extract
up to 1 cup heavy cream

Beat butter for a few minutes with a mixer with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Turn off mixer. Gradually add 6 cups of powdered sugar and turn your mixer on the lowest speed until the sugar has been incorporated with the butter. Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and 1 cup of cream and beat for 3 minutes. If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add remaining sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add remaining cream 2 tablespoons at a time.



*If layers are frozen, you can ice the cake frozen. In fact, icing the cake while the layers are frozen helps keeps crumbs out of the icing. It will thaw by the time you are ready to serve it.

Place a cake layer on a serving platter or cake stand. Cover with a thick layer of frosting. Add the second layer and spread with another thick layer of frosting. Add the third layer and cover the entire cake with an even layer of frosting.

*Cake recipe adapted from Rebecca Rather.

{Sara Crooks is a native Oklahoman who is passionate about cooking, baking and design. She teaches the Cooking Skill Session in the updated Called to be a Keeper DVDs. Sara has been married to Michael for eleven years and has a son (7) and twin daughters (4).}


  1. I LOVE doing this! This has been a part of our family for 14+ years. I use cake mixes which makes two cakes so I always had one to use with our family and their cousins and my nieces and nephews. I also had another to use at school or at another planned event to expose as many children to the cake and story as possible.

    This is a great way to make the most of the opportunity at school. Since most schools expose the children to all the different ways to celebrate this time of year it was an open door for us to ask to share what our family does at Christmas. I loved taking a nativity and the cake and explaining the whole story and celebration of the birth of Christ. This year I will be taking the cake to share with my great nieces and nephew since they are 2-4 years old.

    If you want to use mixes then use chocolate for the bottom layer, strawberry (with a little red food coloring) for the middle layer and a white cake mix for the top layer. I add pistachio pudding mix while mixing the cake and a little green food coloring). I then either buy the canned icing or make my own. I may have to try Sara’s recipe this year though!!! Thanks for sharing Sara!

  2. Wonderful idea! I would encourage women whose children are to old for this activity to find some children who are not, whether they be neighborhood children, nieces and nephews, or a Sunday school class at church.

Leave a Reply