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 Matt Taylor-Gross
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 » Farideh Sadeghin
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 » Ryan Liebe | Food Styling Mariana Velasquez
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 » Magnus Nilsson
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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 » Matt Taylor-Gross
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 » Matt Taylor-Gross
Danish Dream Cake (Drømmekage)
Chocolate Cake with Fudge Icing
Pecan Cream Cake
Thomas Keller’s Coconut Cake
Yellow Cake with Fudge Icing
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 » André Baranowski
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 » Todd Coleman
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 » Todd Coleman
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 » Todd Coleman
Spiced Carrot Layer Cake
The Best Flourless Chocolate Cake
Teff Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Whole Wheat Mille Crêpe Cake
Semolina-Coconut Cake with Orange and Rose Waters
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 » Matt Taylor-Gross
Classic Smith Island Cake
Rainbow Baked Alaska