My ube velvet cake is super moist and has a vibrant purple crumb. The beautiful nutty flavor comes from ube paste and extract and complements the tanginess of buttermilk in my recipe.
I developed this recipe after many requests from fellow bakers. Before attempting this cake, I taste-tested various ube-flavored desserts I purchased from local bakeries in my area. There were cheesecakes, flans (omg, these were so good), chiffon cakes, and ube-flavored frostings and sweet bread to ensure I got the flavor balance correct. It’s a fantastic flavor and the most beautiful naturally derived purple color I’ve ever put into a cake.
I’ll show you how to make an 8-inch 3-layer cake with condensed milk frosting in this recipe. My technique for this cake is universal for multiple cake pan sizes. Read below to get an idea of how the cake batter comes together and bakes. If you need another size or want cupcakes or mini cakes, feel free to use my Cakeculator to pick your own frosting and size to create an ube cake.
Ube is a tuber or a large part of the underground root structure of some plants. A common type of tuber is potatoes. Ube is a species of yam that is bright purple and is thought to originate from the islands of Southeast Asia. It’s an essential crop for the Philippines, where it is used in many traditional dishes.
Ube has beautiful earthy and nutty flavors like sweet potatoes or taro. It can sometimes be hard to source in the US, but well-stocked Asian markets usually carry some products, including ube jams or frozen shredded ube.
Cake flour is a type of finely milled and lower protein content flour, and it produces a more delicate crumb and softer crumb framework for a cake. You can use all-purpose flour, but it will create a coarser crumb, so I highly suggest sourcing some cake flour for the softest cake.
Baking powder is the leavening agent for this cake. It creates rise by expanding our air pockets by creaming the sugar and fats together.
Salt is a flavoring agent. I use unsalted butter in 99% of my baking recipes, and this is because salted butter contains varying amounts of salt. By separating the two ingredients, we can prevent an overly salty dessert.
Buttermilk in this cake provides moisture and acidity. It’s not overly sour but has a very subtle dairy flavor that works quite well with sweet cakes. If you’ve ever had an overwhelming sweet dessert, you can offset the taste by offering an acidic ingredient. Buttermilk does this exceptionally well in cakes.
Ube jam or ube halaya is a sweetened paste made from ube yams. You can make your own or buy it prepared in jars, and I buy mine in jars since it’s hard to find fresh ube.
Ube extract is a concentrated liquid flavoring agent that tastes very strongly of ube. I buy mine from my local Asian grocery, but you can also get it online.
Brown sugar brings a molasses-rich sweetness to this cake. I love the smoky flavor paired with the nuttiness of ube, but you can swap it out for white sugar. It will make the cake just the tiniest bit drier since brown sugar is a moisture contributor for cakes, but it will still be amazingly delicious.
Unsalted butter is one of the fat ingredients and brings flavor and moisture.
Oil is the other, and it makes the cake incredibly moist. Almost all my cakes use a combo of butter and oil - I’ve perfected the ratio to give the perfect balance of flavor and moisture in my cakes.
Egg yolks and whole eggs are both used in this recipe to bring moisture and structure.
The earthy and nutty flavor goes really well with any sweet frosting. So far, I’ve tried the condensed milk frosting recipe you see in this post and my quick cream cheese frosting, vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream, and whipped cream frostings.
(This is a visual tutorial for making the ube cake layers. The condensed milk buttercream recipe is listed in the recipe card below, but if you need a visual tutorial on the buttercream, I have a whole post here.)
Step 1. Prepare the dry and wet ingredients.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt (1a). In a measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk, ube jam, and ube extract (1b).
Step 2. Cream the fats + sugar; add in eggs.
In a mixing bowl, cream together butter, brown sugar, and oil until it looks like this (2a). Mix in the eggs (2b).
Step 3. Alternate dry + wet ingredients.
Add flour (3a) and ube-buttermilk (3b) to the butter-sugar mixture.
I like to add the last bit of flour by hand (3c). Check out the beautiful color of the batter!
Step 4. Bake and trim tops.
Bake at 350F for about 35 minutes. When they are done, a toothpick will come out clean, and their tops will be nice and browned (4a). Once the cakes are cooled (yet slightly warm), remove them from the pans, trim them to tops if you want (4b), then wrap them in plastic wrap until ready to use. The tops are for snacking ;) (4c). You can keep your cakes on the counter and room temp like this for up to a day, and they will remain fresh tasting and moist.
Step 5. Assemble the cake.
Once ready to assemble the cake, take your frosting and frost between each cake layer (5a). I will have a recipe for the condensed milk version below, but if you need detailed photo instructions, you can check out this post. Stack your cakes (5b).
Apply a crumb coat and final coat of frosting over the entirety of the cake (5c-d).
Pipe designs with your leftover frosting if you like (5e).
*For the ultimate velvety crumb, look for cake flour with lower protein content. I use King Arthur’s unbleached cake flour, as it’s always available at my local Target.
**I purchase my ube jam, and the brand they have at my market is the “Pinoy Fiesta” brand, which is a little bit thick. Feel free to sub your homemade ube halaya, and keep an eye on the texture of my batter (I show you in the video) to ensure it’s similar so you’ll get a cake texture like mine.
***I love brown sugar in this cake! The molasses flavor, I think, enhances the earthy and nuttiness of ube, but feel free to sub out white sugar if you prefer. You can use the same amount (weight or volume).
*Take the butter out of the fridge before using it to warm up slightly. You don’t want the butter to be super soft, but give a little when you push it like a ripe avocado. This ensures you’ll be able to whip it up to the right texture and pull in the condensed milk to make the frosting.
**There are many brands of sweetened condensed milk with different flavors and colors. Look at this article from Serious Eats here if you want to learn about the differences. In my recipe here, I’ve used the Eagle Brand.
Also, this buttercream has a high capacity for condensed milk, so if it’s not sweet enough, you can add more in step 2. Start with just a tablespoon, mix it, and taste again. Remember that the more condensed milk you add, the softer the frosting.