Delicious and Easy Dolly Varden Cake Recipe

Are you in the mood for a sweet, nostalgic treat that will bring back memories of childhood birthday parties? Look no further than the classic Dolly Varden Cake. Named after the eponymous Dickens character, this cake is a beloved favorite of Australians and beyond. The famous recipe was first published in the Women’s Weekly in 1971, and has been a staple of Australian kitchens ever since.

Don’t let the elaborate cake design intimidate you – while the finished product is visually stunning, it’s surprisingly simple to make. The cake features layers of fluffy vanilla sponge cake with hints of coconut and walnuts, studded with candied citron and currents. A touch of ground cardamom and nutmeg add depth to the flavors. And to top it all off, adorn your cake with an array of maraschino cherries for a pop of color and sweetness.

Whether you’re whipping up a special birthday treat for your child or simply craving a slice of something sweet, this classic Dolly Varden Cake is sure to hit the spot. So put on your apron and grab your mixing bowl – it’s time to make some delicious memories.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Dolly Varden Cake
Dolly Varden Cake

Picture this: It’s your child’s birthday, and you’re dreading the thought of another plain old cake. But what if I told you that there is a cake out there fit for a fairytale princess? The Dolly Varden Cake. Trust me, once you taste this magical masterpiece, you’ll never want to go back to a basic, boring cake again.

But why should you choose the Dolly Varden Cake? Let me break it down for you. Firstly, its unique combination of flavors is out of this world. When you take a bite, you’ll be transported to a tropical paradise with the subtle taste of coconut, mixed with just the right amount of maraschino cherries and currants. And don’t forget about the hint of nutmeg and cardamom that takes it to the next level.

But what sets the Dolly Varden Cake apart from other cakes is its beautiful design. It’s named after a Dickens character and loved by Australian women – need I say more? This classic has been around for generations because it’s stunning to look at and even better to taste. Imagine serving up a cake worthy of Elsa, Cinderella or Barbie herself. You can even experiment with different colors based on the party theme!

And last but not least, this recipe is simple enough to recreate at home without breaking the bank. You don’t need Wilton-level baking skills or pricey ingredients – just a little bit of patience and creativity.

So why not make your child’s birthday (or any occasion) extra special with a Dolly Varden Cake? It’s sure to leave an impression on everyone who tries it and become a staple in your family’s recipe book for years to come.

Ingredient List

 A slice of sunshine on a plate: the Dolly Varden Cake.
A slice of sunshine on a plate: the Dolly Varden Cake.

Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make this classic Dolly Varden cake recipe:

Cake Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup maraschino cherry juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup currants
  • 3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons citron, finely chopped
  • 1 cup shredded coconut

Icing Ingredients:

  • 1 pound confectioners’ icing sugar
  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter, softened
  • Maraschino cherries for decoration

The Recipe How-To

 A whimsical twist on a classic vanilla cake.
A whimsical twist on a classic vanilla cake.

Now comes the fun part, making the Dolly Varden Cake! Make sure you preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C) and grease your Dolly Varden cake pan. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to make this beautiful cake:


  • 1 18-25 ounce (500-700 gram packet) butter cake mix
  • 3 cups (375 grams) cake flour
  • 1 ½ cups (300 grams) sugar
  • 2 sticks (225 grams) butter or margarine
  • 1 cup (250 mL) milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • Pinch of grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 pound (225 grams) citron, currants, chopped walnuts, and chopped maraschino cherries

Step 1: Preparing the Cake Batter

Mix the cake mix, flour, and sugar in a large bowl. Cube your butter/margarine and toss it in with the dry ingredients. Using an electric mixer or spoon, beat until you achieve a crumbly, sand-like texture.

While mixing, add in the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. Then pour in the milk and continue beating until the mixture is smooth.

Step 2: Adding the Dry Ingredients

Add in all of your dry ingredients: baking powder, ground cardamom, and nutmeg. Again, mix everything together until no lumps remain.

Step 3: Incorporating the Mix-In’s

Fold in your mix-in’s of choice: citron, currants, chopped up walnuts, and maraschino cherries. Make sure everything is evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Step 4: Baking

Pour the batter into a greased Dolly Varden cake pan until it is about two-thirds full. Bake for about an hour until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let cool before removing from the pan.

Decorating Tips

Once cooled, decorate as desired with icing or fondant for special celebrations such as children’s birthdays or themed parties.

There are countless ways to decorate this classic Dolly Varden style cake. A simple but elegant option is to dust it with icing sugar or pipe frosting petals along the tiers using buttercream icing.


Slice into this beauty and enjoy with ice cream or alongside a cup of tea or coffee. You can store any leftovers in an airtight container in a cool place for up to three days.

This recipe never gets old, thanks to its versatility when it comes to different toppings and decorations!

Substitutions and Variations

 Picture-perfect layers of colorful cake weaved in delicious harmony.
Picture-perfect layers of colorful cake weaved in delicious harmony.

Now that you have the classic Dolly Varden Cake recipe in your baking arsenal, it’s time to take things to the next level with some fun substitutions and creative variations. Let me tell you, the options are endless!


First up, let’s talk about possible ingredient swaps. While the original recipe packs a lot of flavor with citron, coconut, walnuts, and maraschino cherries, feel free to mix things up if you prefer a different taste. For instance, you could replace some of the fruits and nuts with chocolate chips or dried cranberries. Instead of milk, try using buttermilk or yogurt to tenderize the crumb even more. In case you don’t have butter on hand or are looking for a vegan option, margarine or coconut oil works just fine.


If a classic Dolly Varden cake doesn’t quite cut it for your occasion, go ahead and jazz up the presentation or flavors with these variants:

– Themed cakes: This type of variation is popular for children’s birthday parties or bridal showers. You can easily transform your Dolly Varden cake into Elsa’s ice castle from Frozen or Cinderella’s ballgown with some creative frosting techniques and decorations.

– Mini-cakes or cupcakes: Instead of making one large cake, why not bake individual portions for each guest? Mini-Dolly-Vardens are perfect for a tea party, baby shower, or wedding favors.

– Tiered cakes: Take your cake making skills to new heights with a tiered design. You can stack multiple layers of cake on top of each other separated by layers of frosting in between.

– Pineapple Dolly Varden: Fancy tropical flavors? Then try swapping out the cherry and citron ingredients for pineapple chunks instead! The result is an extra moist cake that is perfect for hot summer days.

With these suggestions in mind, go ahead and experiment to find your perfect match!

Serving and Pairing

 Soft and velvety cake topped with fluffy frosting and a pop of color.
Soft and velvety cake topped with fluffy frosting and a pop of color.

Welcome to the serving and pairing section, where I will guide you on how to present your Dolly Varden cake in the most unique and appetizing way possible. This classic cake is perfect for a cozy evening get-together or an extravagant birthday celebration. The possibilities are endless!

To start with, we can try different types of icing. You could use a vanilla buttercream frosting or go for a cream cheese frosting if you like it tangy. You could also use a chocolate ganache or try something fun like strawberry frosting.

If you want to take it up a notch, you can decorate the cake using figurines. You can create beautiful princess-inspired cakes like Elsa or Cinderella, or decorate the cake with simple designs like baby dolls, fairies, or even Barbie. To make this process easier, use miniature toys as cake toppers which can be found at baking supply stores or online.

Another way to serve your cake is by pairing it with ice cream. Any flavor works well when it comes to Dolly Varden cake, but I find that coconut ice cream pairs well with it, enhancing its tropical flavor.

Want to serve a tiered cake? No problem! This recipe works perfectly for making a mini-tiered Dolly Varden cake. Layer cakes always leave a lasting impression on guests.

You can take this cake to the next level by presenting it on a themed platter. For example, if you’re throwing a party inspired by the ocean, use seashell-shaped plates or cups with blue floral designs.

Whether you’re hosting a fancy soiree or just having some family over for tea, this Dolly Varden cake recipe is sure to impress your guests!

Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating

 This cake is a showstopper and sure to impress your guests.
This cake is a showstopper and sure to impress your guests.

Making the Dolly Varden Cake in advance is a strategic move that can save you a lot of time and effort on the day of its presentation. Wrap the cooled cake in plastic, then refrigerate or freeze it until ready to assemble or serve. Moreover, if you have leftover cake, it makes for a great breakfast or snack on-the-go, as it stays moist for days.

To reheat slices of Dolly Varden Cake, wrap them in aluminum foil and heat them in a preheated oven at 350°F for 10 to 15 minutes until warmed through. Alternatively, you may microwave individual portions on high power for approximately 30 seconds.

The cake’s toppings and frosting may require special attention when it comes to storage. If you have frosted the cake, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. Be sure to bring the cake back to room temperature before slicing and serving.

Additionally, if you are making this cake for an event outside of your home or need to transport it, plan ahead by preparing the components separately and assembling them once you arrive at your destination. It will help prevent any mishaps and ensure that your cake remains looking its best.

Remember that storing or reheating the Dolly Varden Cake is all about consistency; you want to maintain its moistness while preserving its integrity. Taking small steps like covering it well, heating it briefly but thoroughly, and storing it correctly can keep your cake fresh and delicious for longer periods.

Tips for Perfect Results

 A rainbow cake that will brighten up any occasion.
A rainbow cake that will brighten up any occasion.

You are now ready to make a delectable dolly varden cake that will be the talk of the town. Here are some tips to consider when making this classic cake recipe:

First and foremost, always measure your ingredients correctly. Too much or too little of an ingredient can adversely affect your outcome. Secondly, be sure to follow the recipe instructions as closely as possible.

While you may be tempted to omit some ingredients, don’t! Every ingredient in this recipe plays an essential role in achieving the desired result, so ensure you have all of them.

Another crucial tip is to preheat your oven for at least fifteen minutes before you begin baking. This step will enable your oven to reach the desired temperature and not negatively affect your baking time.

Do not overbeat your batter as this will result in a dry and tough cake. Beat only until the ingredients are well combined and no more.

If you find that the top of your cake is browning too quickly while still undercooked inside, cover it up with aluminum foil for the remaining baking duration.

When baking multiple layers or tiers, ensure all layers are the same size for a uniform look. Also, let each layer cool completely before stacking them on each other.

It is crucial to keep any leftovers refrigerated for freshness and longevity. When reheating, wrap up the slices in aluminum foil to prevent them from drying out.

Lastly, experiment with different toppings such as whipped cream, ice cream or even chocolate frosting. You can also add some pineapples or shredded coconut for some twist depending on what you fancy.

Follow these tips, and soon you’ll be making a perfect Dolly Varden Cake that is sure to delight everyone who has a sweet tooth!


Now that we’ve covered the key aspects of the Dolly Varden Cake recipe, it’s time to answer some frequently asked questions. Whether you’re a beginner or experienced baker, there may be doubts that arise when undertaking a new recipe or trying a variation of an old one. These FAQs are designed to help clear up any lingering confusion around preparing this dessert, so you can achieve optimal, mouth-watering results every time.

How many cake mixes for a dolly varden tin?

For those who don’t have the time or resources to make a butter cake from scratch or don’t have access to the specialty Dolly Varden cake tins, there’s an alternative option available. A 175 gram packet of pre-made butter cake mix can be used instead. However, for those who are up for a fun challenge, making the cake from scratch can be a rewarding experience. As for the cake tins, they can typically be found at cake decorating supply stores or some kitchenware shops.

Why is it called a Dolly Varden cake?

The cake I am going to introduce to you has a unique name that was inspired by a character in Charles Dickens’ historical novel, Barnaby Rudge. This character gained popularity during the 19th century amidst anti-Catholic riots in London that were portrayed in the novel.

What ingredient makes cakes fluffy?

When it comes to baking, leavening agents are crucial for achieving the desired texture and rise of baked goods. They are the magical ingredients that make cakes fluffy, breads airy, and cookies soft. Leavening agents can be classified into two types: chemical and biological. Chemical leaveners such as baking soda and baking powder use chemical reactions to produce gases that help the batter rise. On the other hand, biological leaveners like yeast use live microorganisms to break down the sugars in the dough and create carbon dioxide bubbles, which give the dough its rise.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, the Dolly Varden Cake is an indulgent and delicious cake that is perfect for special occasions like birthdays, weddings or any other celebration. This recipe, with its blend of ingredients and unique flavor profile, will leave you wanting more. With a bit of patience and attention to detail, you can make this classic cake at home that will be the highlight of any party.

Remember to use fresh ingredients when making your Dolly Varden Cake and follow the recipe instructions closely. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different variations of the recipe to find your perfect version of this classic cake. With these tips and tricks, you can create a beautiful, moist and flavorful cake that everyone will love.

So what are you waiting for? Grab your apron and head to the kitchen! The Dolly Varden Cake is waiting for you to make it your own. Share it with family and friends or surprise them with a treat when they least expect it. The possibilities are endless when it comes to this delightful cake.

With this classic and time-tested recipe, you’ll be able to make a beautiful cake full of flavor and flair that is sure to delight anyone who tastes it. So go ahead and make the Dolly Varden Cake recipe today – you won’t regret it!

Dolly Varden Cake

Dolly Varden Cake Recipe

Named for Dolly Varden, a character known for her colorful costume in the novel Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens, this cake is a riot of lively flavors. You might want to do the baking the day before and assemble later. When I made this cake, I found that four layers was almost too much and feel like a two-layer cake (one layer of each) is more practical for everyday. Wrapped tightly in aluminum foil, the extra layers freeze nicely for future use. Dried cherries would be an excellent sub for the maraschino cherries, if desired.
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Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: < 60 Mins, Dessert, For Large Groups, Fruit, Kid-Friendly, Oven
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Calories: 194.7kcal


  • 1 (18 1/4 ounce) box white cake mix
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 2/3 cup butter (not spread or tub product) or 2/3 cup stick margarine, softened (not spread or tub product)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup maraschino cherry, chopped
  • 1 (18 1/4 ounce) box spice cake mix
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1/4 cup currants (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons citron, chopped
  • coconut, toasted (for garnish)
  • maraschino cherry (for garnish)
  • white cake frosting (either your own recipe or store bought)


  • Preheat oven to 350°F and grease and flour four 9-inch cake pans.
  • Prepare the batter of the white cake mix, using 3 egg whites, 1/3 cup softened butter, and 1 cup water (if your cake mix calls for slightly different ingredients, please follow the directions for best success).
  • Chop maraschino cherries and drain well on paper toweling.
  • Fold into white cake batter.
  • Pour into 2 greased and floured 9-inch cake pans.
  • Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until done when tested with a toothpick.
  • Let cool briefly in cake pans, then turn out onto cooling rack to complete cooling.
  • Place contents of spice cake mix in bowl. Stir in nutmeg and cardamom.
  • Add remaining eggs, butter, and water (if your cake mix calls for slightly different ingredients, please follow the directions for best success).
  • Fold in walnuts, currants and citron; mix well.
  • Pour prepared cake pans.
  • Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until done when tested.
  • Let cool briefly in pans, then turn out onto cooling rack to complete cooling.
  • When cakes are cool, prepare your favorite fluffy white frosting, making more than enough for just one cake.
  • Put cake together, alternating white and spice layers, with frosting between layers and on top and sides.
  • Sprinkle toasted coconut on top and garnish with whole maraschino cherries.

Your Own Notes


Serving: 62g | Calories: 194.7kcal | Carbohydrates: 25.1g | Protein: 2.7g | Fat: 9.5g | Saturated Fat: 3.5g | Cholesterol: 30mg | Sodium: 253.7mg | Fiber: 0.6g | Sugar: 16.5g

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