Ube cake is a staple in any Filipino celebration. Light and fluffy ube cake layers frosted with the most luxurious ube buttercream. It doesn’t only look stunning, it’s mouthwateringly good too! Read on and find out why this recipe is a reader favorite and consistently has a 5-star rating.
(Looking for an easy, simple ube cake recipe? Try this ube chiffon cake — light and airy, packed with ube flavor, no frosting needed.)
Ube (purple yam in English) is not unique to the Philippines but is definitely a national favorite. It’s made into all sorts of treats like:
- Ube cupcakes with whipped ube frosting
- Ube cheesecake with a coconut cookie crust
- Belgian-stye ube waffles
- Soft and fluffy ube crinkles
- Creamy ube ice cream (no machine needed)
- And, my personal favorite, ube jam (or ube halaya)
Back in 2016 when I first shared this recipe, I admitted that it was very challenging for me to describe exactly what ube tastes like.
And I have the same problem today!
Ube tastes so unique and doesn’t taste similar to anything so it’s something you really need to taste for yourself.
Happily, ube has become so much more popular and mainstream since then so a lot more people have had it. Read more about it at Food & Wine and Real Simple.
Let me just say this — if a whole nation can be obsessed with ube, won’t you want to see what the fuss is about? This Filipino ube cake is a great place to start.
Why you’ll love this recipe
I love baking cakes for Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, birthdays, and other celebrations and ube is by far the most requested one.
Which means this recipe has been tried and tested many, many times and has not failed me once.
Best of all, I’ve been told it reminds them of the Red Ribbon and the Goldilocks cakes of our childhood, if not better! I love making it, hope you do, too.
- Uses real ube. Unlike other recipes that use ube powder or just ube extract, this recipe uses ube jam or ube halaya.
- Frosted with Swiss meringue buttercream. It’s also frosted with Swiss meringue buttercream (SMBC). If you haven’t worked with SMBC before, you will love it! It’s smooth, creamy and a joy to pipe and decorate with.
- Easily customized. I fill may cake layers with ube jam or frosting but you can certainly use macapuno and make this an ube macapuno cake. You can also opt to sprinkle the top with cheese.
- Can be made ahead. You can make the cake and the buttercream ahead of time so you don’t need to rush right before company (see FAQs).
- Looks stunning every time. And when your loved ones do arrive, this cake will blow them away however you decide to decorate it. With it’s vibrant purple color and fluffy layers, it’s a hit every time.
What you’ll need
You’ll need mostly pantry staples like butter, sugar, milk and baking powder. Some things to remember:
- Cake flour — I use cake flour in this recipe for that light and tender texture. You can use all-purpose flour in a pinch but note that it’s not a 1:1 substitution and I can’t guarantee that you’ll get the same result. What I would recommend is to make your own. It’s easier than you think!
- Ube extract — you can find ube extract in Asian supermarkets and on Amazon. I don’t recommend skipping this ingredient because it is what gives the cake that vibrant purple hue and that pop of ube flavor.
- Ube jam — I make my own ube jam but you can certainly buy your favorite jar from the store. What’s important is that you use ube jam that you enjoy eating on its own.
- Cream of tartar — this recipe has a meringue component and the cream of tartar helps us achieve egg whites that are stable, billowy and glossy. I haven’t personally tried it but other readers have said they’ve used vinegar or lemon juice to achieve the same effect.
As far as baking tools go, you’ll need 3 8-inch round baking pans (see FAQs for pan alternatives). I also use either an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer.
A candy thermometer comes in handy when making the buttercream but I’ll show you what to do if you don’t have one.
How to make
There are two components to this recipe: the cake and the frosting.
Preheat your oven to 350F. Line the bottom of 3 8-inch round baking pans with parchment paper and set aside (see alternative pan sizes in FAQs).
(1) In a large bowl, sift cake flour, baking powder and salt.
(2) Set aside.
(3) In a smaller bowl, combine ube extract, vegetable oil and milk.
(4) Set aside.
(5) In another large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat egg yolks while gradually adding ⅓ cup sugar about a teaspoon at a time.
(6) Beat until the mixture is light yellow (about 7 minutes on medium-high speed).
(7) Add ube jam.
(8) Beat until smooth and no big lumps remain. (Optional: if you want your cake to be a more vibrant purple, you can add gel food color at this stage and give the batter a stir until the color is evenly distributed).
(9) Fold a third of your flour mixture into your egg mixture just until combined.
(10) Then add half of your milk mixture, another third of your flour, the rest of your milk and finally the rest of your flour, folding each addition just until combined. Be careful not to overwork the batter.
(11) Turn your attention to your egg whites.
(12) Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment (or your handheld electric mixer) – making sure that the beaters are clean, dry and grease-free – beat egg whites on medium-high speed until they start to get foamy.
(13) Add cream of tartar.
(14) Beat until very frothy.
(15) Gradually add ¾ cup sugar about a heaping teaspoon at a time into the egg whites.
(16) And continue to beat until you reach stiff peaks (about 15 minutes).
(17) Take about 1 cup of the meringue and add into the cake batter.
(18) Gently fold to lighten the mixture.
(19) Transfer the rest of your meringue into the batter.
(20) And fold until evenly blended.
Transfer the cake batter to prepared pans and bake for 20 mins or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with minimal dry crumbs.
Put the pans upside down on a cooling rack and cool completely.
Ube Swiss meringue buttercream
While your cakes are cooling, you can work on your frosting.
(1) Put egg whites, sugar and a pinch of salt in the bowl of your stand mixer (should be heatproof) and set that over a pan of simmering water. If you own a candy thermometer, clip that onto your bowl too.
(2) Constantly whisk your mixture until the temperature reaches 140F (see FAQs). While whisking, swipe the sides of your bowl with your whisk once in a while to make sure no sugar crystals form.
(3) Take the bowl out of the heat and directly into your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
(4) Whisk on medium-high speed until you reach stiff peaks, the mixture is smooth and fluffy, and the bottom of your bowl is not hot to the touch anymore.
(5) With the mixer on medium-low speed, start to gradually add the 2 cups butter, small parts at a time, mixing well after each addition. Again, remember to scrape the bottom and sides of your bowl.
(6) Once you’ve added all the butter, add vanilla extract and stir.
(7) Switch to the paddle attachment, add ube extract a little a time and stir. Taste and add until you get the ube flavor your like (I usually add 3 teaspoons).
(8) Whip on medium-low speed until your buttercream becomes smooth, glossy and creamy.
Assembly and decoration
Once your cakes are completely cool, you’re ready to assemble!
Trim the tops of your cake if they are uneven using a serrated knife or a cake leveller.
The important thing is the tops are level and your two cakes are of equal height (you can eyeball this but a ruler is very handy).
Take one cake and place on a platter or cake turntable smooth side down (trimmed side up).
Using a piping bag fitted with your favorite large tip (or just cut one corner of large Ziploc bag), pipe a border around the cake to act as a dam so your filling doesn’t ooze out later.
Fill the center with ube halaya or ube frosting (or macapuno). You’ll want the height of the filling equal to the height of your dam so your cake doesn’t sag in the middle.
Repeat for the second layer then top with the third layer and decorate as desired.
Easier than you thought, right? Here are more baking tips for the best ube cake every time.
How to ensure a moist cake
This cake is soft, moist and fluffy with an equally light frosting. To ensure moist cake layers every time:
- Use cake flour as much as possible.
- Don’t over mix the batter. This would result to too much gluten and a very dense cake.
- Use room temperature ingredients. They will be easier to incorporate and will help you avoid overworking the batter.
- Don’t over bake the cake. Ensure you’re baking at the right temperature (an oven thermometer would be great here) and once your tester comes out with minimal dry crumbs, take the cakes out. We’re not looking for a tester that comes out perfectly clean.
- If you’re not assembling the cake immediately, wrap each layer (allowed to cool completely) in plastic wrap then aluminum foil and store in the fridge. This seals in the moisture and prevents air from drying them out.
Tips on working with egg whites / meringue
I get lots of questions about meringue-based cakes sinking in the middle or egg whites not stabilizing into stiff peaks. Here are some things I learned over the years:
- Low, steady speed. When making meringue, don’t go higher than medium speed (using my KitchenAid stand mixer, I stay on speed 3). It takes longer to get stiff peaks but this results to a more stable meringue that won’t deflate after baking.
- Add sugar gradually. It also helps to add the sugar gradually (I do about a teaspoon at a time).
- Cream of tartar. I also always use cream of tartar to help stabilize the mixture.
- Fold gently. Lastly, you’ll want to fold the meringue gently into the cake batter so as not to deflate all that wonderful volume you created.
Swiss meringue buttercream troubleshooting guide
Making SMBC is more involved than other kinds of frosting but it’s very rewarding. And once you get the hang of it, I’m sure it will become your favorite kind of frosting too!
|Grainy||You might not have heated the mixture enough to dissolve the sugar||Make sure to dissolve the sugar completely. A great way to tell if you’ve done this step right is by carefully dipping your finger into the sugar mixture — if you don’t feel any grains of sugar anymore when you rub a small amount of mixture between your fingers, you’re good.|
|Curdled||Not whipped enough||Don’t give up! Just continue whipping and you will end up with lovely frosting before you know it.|
|Runny||Sugar mixture didn’t cool down enough before the butter was added or butter got too soft and warm||A simple solution would be to put your bowl with the buttercream and the whisk in the fridge for half an hour or so, or until you see the edges just beginning to harden and set. Then just continue whipping.|
|Looks greasy||Same as above||Same as above|
Tips on cake decoration and assembly
Decorating cakes is my favorite part of making them. It’s fun and you can make your cake as simple or as out-of-this-world as you want.
There are no rules, but here are a few ideas:
- Crumb coat. A crumb coat is a thin layer of frosting applied to a layer cake before the final coat of frosting. The cake is then refrigerated for at least an hour. This helps keep crumbs stay in place before the final frosting is applied. I usually crumb coat a dark cake if the frosting is a light one, so that the crumbs don’t show on the outside.
- Sharp edges. I’m not a great froster and almost never get sharp edges on my cakes lol but my blogging friend Veena gives lot of tips on how she gets sharp edges on her buttercream cakes.
- Using different sized tips. The way I compensate for my imperfect edges is by piping lots of different flowers, stars, swirls and dots on my cakes. I use different kinds and sizes of tips. Here are some beginner piping techniques.
- Chill to set. Once your perfect cake is all done and pretty, chill it in the fridge to set before serving.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with ube, it’s the Filipino word for purple yam.
Ube is common in Asian cooking and has been a staple in Filipino cuisine for generations. It’s most often used in making desserts.
A lot of people mistake it for taro, Okinawan sweet potato and purple sweet potato but they’re all different kinds of vegetables and have different flavor profiles as well
Your best bet on finding fresh ube, ube jam and ube extract is an Asian supermarket.
Ube jam and ube extract are available on Amazon as well.
Three 8-inch round pans can hold approximately 18 cups of batter (source).
This means alternative pans you can use include:
– 4 6-inch round pans (16 cups)
– 3 9-inch round pans (24 cups)
– 2 9-inch square pans (20 cups)
Note that using different pans would change the baking times so check on your cake regularly. And whatever pan you use, only fill each one ¾ full.
No candy thermometer? No problem.
If the egg white mixture feels warm and if you don’t feel any grains of sugar anymore when you rub a small amount between your fingers — you’re good.
Another frosting you can use here is whipped cream cheese frosting, the same kind I use in my ube cake roll recipe.
I see other ube cake recipes use coconut-based frosting but I personally don’t recommend that because I find that the coconut milk or coconut cream tends to overpower the delicate ube flavor.
You can make the cake layers up to 3 days ahead. Wrap each one (allowed to cool completely) in plastic wrap then aluminum foil and store in the fridge.
For the buttercream, you can make it up to 5 days before you plan on using it. Just keep it in an airtight container in the fridge.
You’ll need to bring it back to room temperature then re-whip prior to using so it gets back that lovely smooth and glossy texture.
SMBC also freezes very well.
Placed in a freezer-safe container, it lasts up to 3 months. Just bring down into the fridge the night before, allow to come back to room temperature then re-whip.
Good as new.
Philippine cake recipes
Looking for more cake recipes from the Philippines? Check these out:
Did you make this beloved Filipino cake? I’d love to hear all about it! Leave a comment or a star rating below. You can also tag me on Instagram or Facebook. I’d love to see your creations!
You can also find me on Pinterest, Twitter and YouTube.
Related: Must Try Filipino Desserts
The Best Ube Cake
For the Ube Cake Batter:
- 2 ½ cups sifted cake flour
- 2 ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tsp ube extract see notes
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- ½ cup milk room temperature
- 8 pcs egg yolks from large eggs room temperature
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar see notes
- 3.5 oz ube jam (about ½ cup) room temperature, see notes
- purple gel food colour optional
For the Meringue:
- 8 pcs egg whites from large eggs room temperature
- 1 tsp cream of tartar
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
For the Ube Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
- 5 pcs egg whites from large eggs
- 1 cup granulated sugar + 2 tablespoons
- pinch salt
- 2 cups unsalted butter cut into parts, room temperature
- 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ube extract to taste
For the Ube Cake:
- Preheat your oven to 350F. Line the bottom of 3 8-inch round baking pans with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a large bowl, sift cake flour, baking powder and salt.
- In a smaller bowl, combine ube extract, vegetable oil and milk. Set aside.
- In another large bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat egg yolks while gradually adding ⅓ cup sugar (about a teaspoon at a time) until the mixture is light yellow (about 7 minutes on medium-high speed).
- Add ube jam and beat until smooth and no big lumps remain. If you want your cake to be a vibrant purple, you can add gel food colour at this stage (optional) and give the batter a stir until the colour is evenly distributed.
- Fold a third of your flour mixture into your egg mixture just until combined. Then add half of your milk mixture, another third of your flour, the rest of your milk and finally the rest of your flour, folding each addition just until combined. Be careful not to overwork the batter.
- Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment (or your handheld electric mixer – making sure that the beaters are clean, dry and grease-free), beat the egg whites on medium speed until they start to get foamy.
- Then add cream of tartar and beat until very frothy.
- Gradually add ¾ cup sugar (about a heaping teaspoon at a time) into egg whites until you reach stiff peaks.
- Take about a cup of the meringue and fold it into your cake batter to lighten it.
- Then fold the rest of your meringue into the batter until evenly blended.
- Transfer the cake batter to prepared pans and bake for 20 mins or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out with minimal crumbs.
- Put the pans upside down on a cooling rack and cool completely.
For the Ube Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
- Once your buttercream has come together, start adding ¼ teaspoon ube extract at a time until you get the flavour you desire (I usually put 3 teaspoons total).
- Whip until the flavour is fully incorporated and the buttercream is evenly coloured.
- Trim the tops of your cakes if they are uneven. Trim the sides too to get rid of the brown edges so you’re left with a vibrant purple cake.
- Fill and decorate with frosting as desired.
- You can find ube extract in Asian supermarkets and at Amazon (linked above).
- You may need to adjust the sugar content depending on the kind of ube jam you find. Ube jam can be found in Asian supermarkets as well. I make my own, check out my ube jam recipe here.
- See the post for step-by-step photos, baking tips, FAQs and a Swiss meringue troubleshooting guide.
Nutritional information are estimates only.
(Cake recipe adapted from My Sweet Ambitions).
I don’t know what I did wrong but did 1x batter into 2 9inch circle pans, was expecting cake to rise. Followed recipe exactly but something went wrong. I was hoping it would’ve turned out better considering how much time and effort me extra steps this recipe is compared to others.
Hi Brigitte, looks like it’s time to check if your baking powder is still active. Pour 1/4 cup boiling water over 1/2 tsp baking powder and if it bubbles or foams, it’s still good. If not, you’ll need to replace.
Hello po! Should I let the cakes cool down while still in the pans before inverting them on a cooling rack? Or should I immediately invert them while they’re still hot/warm and remove them from the pans before placing them on a cooling rack?
Hi Abby, I usually put them upside down on the cooling rack while still warm and in the pan.
i really like the look of this, i have a type of purple yam or sweet potato powder for use as a vegan type coffee but it doesn’t quite pack the punch i was hoping for so I’m going to try this in my recipe!
In terms of what it tastes like; have you ever had pink wafer biscuits? i tried ube ice cream (blue seal) in okinawa, japan and it was a close match for me although, i’m not sure if pink wafer biscuits actually contain sweet potato despite my being convinced by the taste…
Hi Owen, unfortunately I’m not familiar with pink wafer biscuits.
I have a question! I made the cake and I looooove the texture, it’s perfect for the 2 tier wedding cake that I want to make! However, the strength of the ube flavor isn’t strong enough for my liking. Can I add more jam and/or extract to strengthen the flavor without ruining the batter consistency??
Thank you for your help!
Hi Brooke, I’d add extract more than than jam just to ensure I don’t mess with the batter ratios. You can also add more extract to your buttercream. Just be careful not to add too much extract though because it tends to leave a bitter aftertaste when you put too much. Oh, another idea would be to fill with jam instead of buttercream! I think that would be delicious too.
Hi. I wanted to make a 2 layer quarter sheet cake (9×13). Will this recipe be enough for a 2 layer quarter sheet or should I double the recipe? And bake it longer or shorter time? Thanks
Hi Mahelle, this recipe makes about 16 cups of batter. A 9×13 inch pan holds about 14 cups (when filled all the way). So yes, you may need to double the recipe for a 2 layer sheet cake. I haven’t done it personally but baking time shouldn’t differ significantly, just check at the halfway point to see how much longer you need to go. Enjoy!
This recipe was my first recipe on your site.. and everyone raved about the cake! Love it! Definitely a keeper! Thank you ! I will be trying more of your recipes !
Hi Jen! Glad to hear the ube cake was a hit. Happy baking!
Hi Jolina,I tried this recipe everyone loved it. Can I use more than 1 teaspoon ube extract at same time use ube food coloring during my swiss meringue buttercream? Just to come up more purple color.
Thank you for sharing this recipe. Much appreciated.
Hi Gilyn, glad you liked it! You can flavour your buttercream however you like 🙂 Just be sure to add a little extract and/or food colour at time so you can easily control the flavour and the colour. And I’d suggest using gel food colour vs. liquid. Enjoy!
I made just the sponge part of the cake today and it turned out great. Very soft and pillowy. I divided the recipe in half and made in a 9 inch round pan, took 30 mins. I have never had ube before and the flavour is a very mild flavor.
Hi Manu, glad to hear it turned out great. Enjoy! 🙂
i am going to try this recipe today
can i use this recipe to make cupcakes? i like the lightness of the chiffon.
Hi Fen, I have an ube cupcake recipe you might want to try: https://theunlikelybaker.com/ube-cupcakes-recipe-video/
Hi, is it possible to not use ube extract in the cake? i cant find it anywhere
Hi Victoria, if your jam is flavourful enough, you might be able to get away with not using extract for the cake. However, I’m not sure how strong of an ube flavour you’ll get. Also, you will definitely need ube extract to flavour your swiss meringue buttercream. Unless you opt for other complementary flavours for the frosting, like coconut, if ube extract is not an option.
I live in the UK and I found it on Ebay. Expensive though.
Hi, can I use 2 10” cake tins instead of 3 8 “ tins?
Hi Anna, I think you can. 3 8×2-inch round pans hold about 18 cups of batter while 2 10×2-inch round pans can hold about 20. So your cake will be wider but thinner. Just watch your baking time.
If i will substitute ube jam for ube powder how many cups do I need?? Tnk u
Hi Ana, this recipe doesn’t use ube powder. You’ll need 1/2 cup ube jam.
Can i use 2 9×2 cake pan instead of 8”? Will it affect baking time? I do not have 8”
Hi Maria, baking time will always change when you change pan sizes so best to check at the halfway point. Also, note that you will have excess batter if you’re only using 2 instead of 3 pans.
Hiya! I don’t have ube halaya. Just the ube extract. Is the measurement the same?
Hi Meghan, some readers opt for ube powder. Check the comments to see how they used it.