MATT TAYLOR-GROSS
Techniques

Our 26 Best Homemade Birthday Cakes

Looking for a few good birthday-cake ideas? Whether you’re celebrating someone’s fourth or 44th year on this planet, our best birthday cake recipes—for adults and kids alike—have all the flavors covered!

By SAVEUR Editors


Published on May 13, 2020

We don’t care how old you are—everybody, including full-fledged adults, deserves a fun birthday cake to celebrate the survival of another year. All the better if it’s a homemade birthday cake, piled high with fluffy buttercream frosting and crowned with one, two, three, or 63 candles.

The following recipe compendium spans all the usual birthday-cake flavors, from chocolate and strawberry to red velvet and classic white. But this is Saveur you’re reading, people, so you can expect more than the traditional American options. Among our best birthday-cake recipes: a gooey chocolate Swedish kladdkaka and a coconut-laden Danish drommekage.

Beyond just layers and icing, we’ve also included such out-of-the-box confections as a stack of delicate crèpes and a flaming baked Alaska. Got a problem with gluten? That’s not a problem with this teff-fueled carrot cake and flourless chocolate cake.

Go ahead, make a wish. Then realize it with a forkful of sugar-fueled heaven.

White Mountain Layer Cake with Marshmallow Buttercream

Forget everything you know about "white cake," this recipe's a game changer: rich and velvety to the point of creaminess, heady with vanilla, and almost as fluffy as angel's food cake. The secret is virgin coconut oil, which amplifies the aroma of butter and vanilla while creaming up lighter (and whiter) than butter alone. I top it all off with silky Marshmallow Buttercream, for a cake that's beguilingly complex despite its apparent simplicity. Get the recipe for White Mountain Layer Cake with Marshmallow Buttercream

Strawberry Cake

Strawberry cake topped with strawberry cream cheese frosting is a favorite soul food dessert; this delicious version comes from Bertha's Kitchen in North Charleston. Get the recipe for Strawberry Cake »

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New Orleans Doberge Cake

This version of the classic NOLA dessert combines a rich buttermilk cake with both lemon curd and chocolate fillings, surrounded by a vanilla German buttercream and ganache. Get the recipe for New Orleans Doberge Cake »

Swedish “Gooey” Chocolate Cake (Kladdkaka)

Chef Magnus Nilsson's wife likes to serve this beloved Swedish cake, similar to a fudgy American brownie, chilled, but it's just as good piping hot from the pan with a scoop of ice cream. Melting the butter in this recipe first and then stirring it with the other ingredients helps ensure that as little air as possible gets incorporated into the batter. The result: a gooey, more moist cake. Get the recipe for Swedish "Gooey" Chocolate Cake »

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Strawberry Lemon Cake

At New York's Milk Bar, Christina Tosi makes this towering cake every spring, when sweet and tiny tristar strawberries are in season. This is by no means an everyday cake, but it's worth the work that you'll put in, and worthy of a special occasion. Get the recipe for Strawberry Lemon Cake »

Lemon Curd Layer Cake with White Chocolate Buttercream

Silken white chocolate buttercream frosts a tender yellow cake layered with rich lemon curd in this recipe from the restaurant Rye KC in Leawood, Kansas. Get the recipe for Lemon Curd Layer Cake with White Chocolate Buttercream »

Heaven and Hell Cake

This rich, multilayered dessert of angel food and devil's food cake, peanut butter mousse, and milk chocolate ganache should be frozen before icing is added and refrigerated before it's sliced. Get the recipe for Heaven and Hell Cake »

Danish Dream Cake (Drømmekage)

This delightfully basic white sponge cake, encrusted with a coconut and brown sugar topping, is a dream to make and eat. Get the recipe for Danish Dream Cake (Drømmekage) »

Chocolate Cake with Fudge Icing

This decadent chocolate cake is taken over the top with a rich fudge icing. Get the recipe for Chocolate Cake with Fudge Icing »

Pecan Cream Cake

Packed with coconut and pecans and covered in cream cheese frosting, this cake is a specialty of Georgia home cook Cile Ellis. Get the recipe for Pecan Cream Cake »

Thomas Keller’s Coconut Cake

Thick Italian meringue is sandwiched between moist layers of cake, which is topped off with sweetened shredded coconut in this recipe from chef Thomas Keller. Get the recipe for Thomas Keller's Coconut Cake »

Yellow Cake with Fudge Icing

The key to making this cake's rich icing is to stir it vigorously once it has cooled to the proper temperature. Get the recipe for Yellow Cake with Fudge Icing »

Rose’s Famous Caramel Cake

This buttery cake slathered with rich caramel icing has earned local fame on Chicago's South Side—it's one of our favorites to make for special occasions. Get the recipe for Rose's Famous Caramel Cake »

German Chocolate Cake

This decadent triple-layer dessert takes its name from German's Sweet Chocolate, a product that's not German at all: the versatile baking chocolate was created by an American baker named Samuel German in 1852. Get the recipe for German Chocolate Cake »

Red Velvet Cake

Though cream cheese frosting is typically used nowadays on red velvet cake, classic whipped cream frosting makes for a more balanced sweetness. Get the recipe for Red Velvet Cake »

Lane Cake

Filled with a boozy custard studded with raisins, pecans and coconut, this recipe for vanilla layer cake is based on one in Emma Rylander Lane's Some Good Things to Eat (self-published, 1898). Get the recipe for Lane Cake »

Very Moist Chocolate Layer Cake

Adapted from Robbin Gourley's Cakewalk (Doubleday, 1994), this time-tested recipe for moist chocolate layer cake has a velvety crumb and rich chocolate icing—the perfect birthday treat for your favorite chocolate-lover. Get the recipe for Very Moist Chocolate Layer Cake »

Black Forest Cake

This classic, German, cherry-filled chocolate cake, a masterpiece of cherry brandy-soaked pastry engineering, improves the longer it sits. Get the recipe for Black Forest Cake »

Spiced Carrot Layer Cake

Orange juice and zest, cinnamon, and ginger add verve and depth to this sumptuous cake. Get the recipe for Spiced Carrot Layer Cake »

The Best Flourless Chocolate Cake

The oldest and most popular dessert at San Francisco's legendary Zuni Café, this gluten-free chocolate cake boasts a fine, tender crumb and bold chocolate flavor. Get the recipe for The Best Flourless Chocolate Cake »

Teff Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Alice Waters called this masterpiece "the platonic ideal of a birthday cake." Get the recipe for Teff Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting »

Whole Wheat Mille Crêpe Cake

Layer nutty whole wheat crêpes with delicate honey whipped cream for a light but impressive dessert. Get the recipe for Whole Wheat Mille Crêpe Cake »

Semolina-Coconut Cake with Orange and Rose Waters

This elegant cake is soaked in a fragrant lemon syrup, perfumed by flower waters. The garnish is candied rose petals sprinkled with toasted coconut. Get the recipe for Semolina-Coconut Cake with Orange and Rose Waters »

Baked Alaska

With three colorful layers of ice cream domed atop a fudgy, flourless chocolate cake, our version of this retro dessert is a project perfect for celebrations. (Especially if you make your own ice cream: We used our homemade Pistachio Gelato and Raspberry Ice Cream.) You can vary the assembly as you like—layering the ice cream in any pattern or thickness, or flambéing the meringue topping or not. But whatever you choose, give yourself a day or two in advance to prepare. Get the recipe for Baked Alaska »

Classic Smith Island Cake

This impressive layer cake consists of 10 thin cake layers sandwiches with an old-fashioned chocolate fudge icing. Get the recipe for Classic Smith Island Cake »

Rainbow Baked Alaska

Five different flavors of sorbet are encased in meringue in this towering cake. Get the recipe for Rainbow Baked Alaska »

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