New This Month

"Who's Counting?" Birthday Cake


Transform sheet cakes from basic to impressive with simple stencils, some straightforward cutting skills, and colorful candies. If your birthday girl or boy prefers chocolate, make a double batch of the Number-Themed Mini Birthday Cupcakes; bake for about 20 minutes.

  • Prep:
  • Total Time:
  • Yield: Makes two 12-by-17-inch cakes (enough for 2 numbers)

Source: Martha Stewart Living, January 2011


  • For the cakes:
  • 4 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for baking sheets and parchment
  • 9 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising), plus more for parchment
  • 1/4 cup baking powder
  • Salt
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 4 1/2 cups sugar
  • 14 large egg whites, room temperature
  • For Decorating:
  • Quick Swiss Meringue Buttercream
  • 2 pounds multicolored candy-coated chocolates


  1. Make the cakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 12-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheets. Line with parchment. Butter parchment, and dust with flour, tapping out excess. Sift flour, baking powder, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt into a bowl.

  2. Combine milk and vanilla. Beat butter with a mixer on medium speed until very smooth. With machine running, gradually add sugar, and beat until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

  3. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with milk mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Beat until just combined; do not overmix.

  4. Beat egg whites in a clean mixer bowl on medium speed until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes. Gently fold egg whites into batter in 3 additions.

  5. Transfer batter to baking sheets, smoothing tops with an offset spatula. Bake until tops spring back when pressed with a finger and a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cool in sheets on wire racks for 15 minutes. Loosen edges of cakes with a small metal spatula or paring knife; invert onto racks. Discard parchment. To prevent splitting, reinvert cakes, top side up. Let cool completely.

  6. Decorate the cakes: Place "20" stencil (or another number) onto 1 cake, setting numbers side by side. Secure with toothpicks. Cut around each stencil using a paring knife. Remove scraps. Repeat with remaining cake.

  7. Spread 2 cups buttercream onto the "2," and spread 2 cups buttercream onto the "0." Top each number with remaining matching cake number, and frost tops and sides of each with remaining buttercream. Cover each cake with rows of candies.

Cook's Notes

Make ahead: Unfrosted cakes can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Reviews Add a comment

  • Steffy Watson
    11 JAN, 2013
    Nice idea Martha.
  • Julia Matifas
    11 AUG, 2012
    Impressive looking but takes way to long. Took me 12 hours, 4 of those were spent bedazzling the cake with the m&ms. Does not keep well in the fridge, the colors bled and lost their vibrantness. Kinda costly too. I skipped the Swiss meringue buttercream and went with a different but equally delcious buttercream. I would rate this recipe a 3
  • Julia Matifas
    11 AUG, 2012
    Impressive looking but takes wayyyyyyyyy to long. Took me 12 hours, 4 of those hours were spent putting the m&ms on. Also once you add the cost of each ingredient (14 egg whites!) it gets pretty costly. Does not fridgerate well, the m&ms began to bled and run and lost there vibrant color. I would give this recipe a 3. This recipe would be made Easter if you had a single digit number.
  • cwiduch
    18 APR, 2012
    It is a lovely cake and I got a lot of compliments, but the "custom color" m & ms are very pricey, and also putting those 2 lbs of m&ms on in a pattern is much more time-consuming that it seems like it would be (took me 4 hrs with help from hub). Those insides are tricky. Also, I used two box mixes and I'm really glad I did - worked well. I don't think I will make again though. The m&ms were too much - I noticed everyone was trying to pick them off. Too sweet.
  • klmoore23
    18 MAR, 2012
    Just made this cake and got rave reviews! However after reading some other comments, I just used a cake mix and it worked great. Be prepared to spend big bucks on the candies! It takes several!
  • craftycat102782
    5 AUG, 2011
    This cake comes out great but be careful the batter will not fit in your standard mixing bowl. I had to transfer it to a larger bowl and do it manually. my advice would be to split the recipe in half and do it twice.
  • pinayrican
    16 FEB, 2011
    I just made this cake last night for my mom's 50th birthday. It was really difficult to get the M
  • lissabeth82
    7 FEB, 2011
    I used the template but with Paula Deen's chocolate cake with cheesecake filling recipe... TONS of work but SOOOO good!!!!
  • Dragonness
    6 FEB, 2011
    It's very tricky to put the MnMs on the inside of the number. The result was very impressive looking but rather dry and tasteless. It was big enough to serve more than 20 adults and kids, but many people just tried it and didn't eat it. I made a strawberry sauce to give it more flavour, but it was still not enough. Also, now I have 12 unused eggyolks.
  • Dragonness
    6 FEB, 2011
    Contd: It's very tricky to put the M