When it comes to celebrating birthdays, it’s all about the creativity and taste that takes the cake! Whether there’s a timeless favorite that your friends and family already expect (but if we’re being honest, could maybe benefit from a modern update), or you’re really just in the mood for something new this time around, these top 20 best birthday cakes will have everyone swooning for a piece!
And the Most Popular Cake Recipe Goes To…
Top Birthday Cake Flavors
Everyone tends to lean towards one direction more than another when it comes to cake flavors. People opt either towards chocolate or the sophistication that vanilla-fruit inspired flavors bring to the party. Battling it out on the list of the most popular cake flavors are a dream team of:
- Chocolate (Milk or Devils-food)
- Marble (Fudgy)
- White Chocolate Coconut/Chip
- Red Velvet
- Angel food
- Vanilla (White or Yellow); and
After you’ve decided on a base flavor for your celebration, consider blowing everyone’s taste buds with a modern spin by surprising them throughout each cake layer, concealed within the icing, and fun, bold, new decoration choices that are now trending.
How to Calculate Birthday Cake Size
Figuring out how much cake you’ll need for a party is a simple calculation. Go with 2 x 2 inches per slice, per person. You can just multiply the width, by length, by height to come up with the size of cake you’ll ideally want to serve.
If your cake is for a more formal affair or will be served as dessert to round out a meal service, smaller slices are usually in order. Go with 1 inch by 2 inches per guest. Example (1x2x4) will give you the serving size of 8 guests.
Here’s where the real fun comes in! Getting creative with cake recipes by taking inspiration from the overall party theme will give countless options for enticing cake designs. Consider relevant time era colors, accessories, (lights, moving toppers, playful candles) and multi-textured icings.
The Icing on the Cake
Modern cake recipes are as gorgeous as they are delicious. Have you checked out mirror glazed cakes? How about multi-faceted buttercream swirls and current trends on beautiful fondant masterpieces? Take a quick peek online and you’ll see endless images of cakes that are virtually too pretty to eat.
The best news? You can DIY these cake designs until your heart’s content with everyday kitchen tools and simple ingredients you probably already keep on hand (more on finishing touches alongside our top recipes below).
First Things First: When it Comes to Cake
Elevating a Basic Box or Standard Cake Recipe
Did you know that you can turn any box cake mix into a bakery-textured masterpiece by easily swapping out a couple of ingredients? Simply:
- Add an extra egg
- Use whole milk instead of water; and
- Use melted butter versus oil
Voila! You’re on your way to making one of the best birthday cakes your friends and family have ever tasted, guaranteed! You’ll be blushing with pride and won’t believe how easy it really was to bake.
Planning it All Out
Thinking of going a bit outside the cake box? Just remember that planning out the details of a birthday cake involves 3 things above all else:
- Who’s the cake really for?
- How many servings are needed; and
- What’s the party’s overall theme?
This is where creativity comes in. Does the person you’re celebrating even like cake? If not, that’s okay! Options like molded ice cream desserts, gluten-free options, plant-based sweets, and even cheesecakes, and pies are completely suitable. Plan your birthday cake for the guest of honor, that’s the whole point after all.
Guests won’t mind (nor notice) that they’re enjoying a healthier option to boot. Focus on the beauty of the birthday cake dessert and remember that we always eat with our eyes first.
Birthday Cake Recipes: From Easy to Advanced
Legendary Birthday Cake Recipes
One Bowl Chocolate Cake
The best one bowl chocolate cake combines 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 1/4 cup cocoa, 1 teaspoon baking soda, a 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and salt, 1 egg, 1 cup oil (remember you can use melted butter for bakery style texture), 1/2 cup milk, and 1/2 cup hot water. That’s it! You end up with a lush, rich cake that will satisfy even the biggest chocoholics.
A creamy white chocolate version uses the same recipe with melted white chocolate instead of cocoa powder. Add coconut, marshmallow cream or flavored chips at your discretion. For the best of both worlds (chocolate and vanilla) divide the batter in half before adding flavors and marble them together.
Cheesecakes are quite simple, to make a creamy version, combine a product like “dream whip” found in the baking section of your grocery store with an 8 oz package of cream cheese and 1/3 cup sugar. Put the mixture into a graham cracker crust and top with your favorite fruit (cherry pie filling is to die for).
Red Velvet & German Chocolate
While both rich with cocoa, a red velvet cake includes buttermilk and vinegar. If you don’t keep buttermilk on hand, you can make it by adding a generous squirt of lemon juice or white vinegar to a cup of milk and allowing it to sit for a couple of minutes.
Carrot and Citrus Flavored Cakes
These birthday cake flavors tend to be a little more advanced because of the sheer number of ingredients they require. Mouthwatering carrot cake, for example, can take on everything from plump, golden currents to zesty hints of ginger surrounded by luscious pastry creams and a variety of tantalizing nuts.
Angel Food and Sponge Cakes
The reason these cakes get a rap for being a whole new level of difficulty is just due to the nature of the technique. Never you fear, as long as you perform each step and place your batter into a cold oven to start with you can’t fail!
Best Gluten-Free Birthday Cake Flavors
Whether you’re going simply classic, or full-tiered layer flavor-blast birthday cake mode, the best gluten-free options are truly affordable to buy and just as easy to bake yourself:
- Vanilla Sponge
- Chocolate Fudge
- Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate
- Vanilla Almond
- Strawberries and Cream; and
- Pumpkin Hazelnut
Gluten-free recipes essentially exchange flour with ingredients like soy, tapioca, and brown rice flours.
Plant-Based Birthday Cakes
Plant-based (vegan) cakes are delicious and use whole-food ingredients instead of animal products like eggs, butter, and honey. Popular Flavors include:
- Double Chocolate
- Oatmeal Lemon
- Chocolate Raspberry; and
- Cherry or Chocolate Covered Cherry
What makes a birthday cake recipe legendary is part love, part ingenuity. Birthday cakes are special. Historically, the tradition of a round birthday cake is used to symbolize the moon. We use them along with lighting candles to celebrate birthdays and give the guest of honor a way to send their wishes to the heavens above.