The Best Birthday Cakes to Make for Your Family's Next Celebration


Get out the candles! These birthday cake recipes will take any party to the next level.

01 of 17
raspberry and chocolate hazelnut crepe cake
Ryan Liebe

Is there a more universally appealing moment of anticipation than just before a birthday cake appears before you? The lights are suddenly turned down low, and out of the corner of your eye you spy candles being lit. Soon, everyone is gathered around the table and breaks into what is surely one of the world's most recognizable songs. Before you know it, the song is over, the candles blown out, and it's time to dig into the iconic dessert that symbolizes the passage of another year.

The only variable to this experience is the cake itself. What type will it be? There are those who want the same birthday cake every year, maybe the one their mom made when they were growing up. For them, it's not a birthday without their favorite cake. Others like to mix it up, trying out new flavors, shapes, and ingredients each year to keep things more interesting. If you—or a member of your family—falls into this camp, the birthday-worthy Raspberry and Chocolate-Hazelnut Crepe Cake that you see right here is worth trying. It doesn't require any oven time and can be made ahead.

Whichever category you fall into, we've rounded up our favorite birthday cake recipes for. you to choose from. A few are absolute showstoppers, requiring the baker's full-on attention for several hours. Others are simpler, more straightforward, and just as delicious as their more heavily embellished counterparts. There are layer cakes with all kinds of fillings and frostings, but also sheet cake and ice cream cake, too. All were developed to be as memorable as the very best birthday celebrations—sweet, tender, and made to honor someone very special. What could be better than that?

02 of 17

Ombré Strawberry Cake

strawberry cake sliced with rose
Mike Krautter

Like the rose of the same name, this layer cake is a real American beauty, with five layers of the prettiest shades of pink, from pale and powdery to hot and bright. The intensity of the shade depends on the amount of deep pink gel-paste food color you use, from a drop or two to a whole bunch. The baked cakes are layered from darkest to lightest, then frosted with pink Swiss meringue buttercream using a large petal tip to resemble a rose.

03 of 17

Tropical-Sorbet-and-Meringue Stack Cake

tropical-sorbet-and-meringue stack cake sliced
Con Poulos

Here's a cool confection that's perfect for a crowd. Layers of meringue (which are naturally gluten-free) are formed on parchment-lined baking sheets (no cake pans required), then baked and sandwiched with store-bought fruit sorbet. For the most impactful appearance, choose sorbets in a variety of bright but complementary colors (we used mango, blood orange, and blueberry passion fruit). Once assembled, the cake can be frozen up to two days ahead of serving, and garnished with toasted coconut at the last minute.

04 of 17

Hummingbird Carrot Cake

Hummingbird Carrot Cake Recipe
Chris Simpson

Some say this beautiful, rich, and creamy layer cake comes from the American South (a recipe for Hummingbird Cake appeared in Southern Living magazine in the late 1970s), while others claim it came from Jamaica. Wherever it originated, we can all agree that it's among the most beloved layer cakes, filled as it is with coconut, pineapple, and nuts and generously covered with rich cream cheese frosting. Our inspired riff includes shredded carrots to the batter, and saves the chopped nuts for the outside, along with candied carrot curls.

05 of 17

Sprinkle Cake

Bryan Gardner

At some point in recent years, sprinkles made their way from the outside of the cake straight into the batter, and the whole world seems happy about it. What took so long? Having sprinkles throughout the cake sure makes things a lot more festive and fun.

06 of 17

Coffee Feather Cake

Coffee Feather Cake
Lennart Weibull

For the latte lover in your life, consider this ultimate celebration of coffee in cake form. Coffee flavors each of the three cake layers, as well as billowy whipped cream that covers them all. Even the chocolate embellishments, in gradient shades of cream and brown, are meant to suggest café au lait.

07 of 17

Meyer-Lemon and Coconut Layer Cake

meyer lemon coconut cake
Johnny Miller

Lemon and coconut are a match made in cake heaven, each bringing out the very best in the other. For this birthday beauty, coconut flavors the two seven-inch cakes that are split to make four layers which are then sandwiched with a coconut-lemon curd and covered with buttercream frosting, again flavored with coconut. The brightness of the lemon throughout (and in the candied Meyer lemon slices on top) keeps the whole thing from being too coconut-heavy.

08 of 17

Naked-Fruit Chiffon Cake

Naked-Fruit Chiffon Cake
Lennart Weibull

The fruit that adorns this light-as-air chiffon cake—blackberries, Seckel pears, figs, plums, and Concord grapes—evoke a gorgeous still life painting.

09 of 17

Banana-Split Ice Cream Cake

banana split ice cream sheet cake
Alpha Smoot

What's more fun than cake and ice cream? An ice cream cake, of course. This one celebrates the ice cream parlor classic, complete with sliced bananas and a few cherries on top.

10 of 17

Citrus Cornmeal Cake with Wine-Roasted Strawberries

citrus cornmeal cake
The Ingalls

Not all birthday cakes have to look as sweet as they taste. This minimal beauty is perfect for adults who don't favor sugary, buttery icings and sprinkles, and prefer their berries roasted with wine—the better to bring out their deep, complex flavors.

11 of 17

Chocolate Angel Food Cake with Double Chocolate Frosting

chocolate angel food cake martha bakes meringue
Mike Krautter

Angel food cake meets devil's food in this delicious study in contrasts. A touch of espresso powder in the cake batter helps bring out the best in the four types of chocolate used throughout.

12 of 17

Chocolate Sprinkle Sheet Cake

chocolate sprinkle sheet cake recipe
Con Poulos

Sheet cakes are a delightful alternative to layered round cake for birthday celebrations. They can be easier to tote along to a party and easier to slice into when serving.

13 of 17

Maple Cake

Con Poulos

This cake looks simple, and it is. It comes together quickly and bakes in a rectangular pan. There are no layers to split and sandwich with filling or icing. What's not simple is the taste, with pure maple syrup used to flavor the cake batter and the frosting. It's perfectly delicious all on its own, but if you want to dress it up for a party, try topping it with candied walnuts and serving a scoop of maple walnut ice cream on the side.

14 of 17

Banana Cake with Cream-Cheese Frosting

banana cake sliced on a table with a pink table cloth
Bryan Gardner

Cream cheese frosting is the classic choice for carrot, red velvet, and hummingbird cakes, but it's also the key to a delicious banana layer cake. The two make a luscious pair. The only embellishment this layered cake needs before the birthday candles is an ounce of dark chocolate grated over the top.

15 of 17

Buttermilk Plum Cake

buttermilk plum cake outdoors on table

Maybe you prefer your birthday dessert on the not-too-sweet side. If so, consider this buttermilk and fruit cake, made with whole wheat pastry flour, sweetened with much less sugar than your average cake, and flavored with finely grated lemon zest and sliced plums.

16 of 17

Cuatro Leches Cake

cuatro leches cake martha bakes
Mike Krautter

You've probably had tres leches cake. Its name comes from the fact that it's soaked in milk in three forms: evaporated, sweetened condensed, and regular milk. This one features milk powder in the batter, for a fourth variety, hence the name. If you count the whipped cream on top, you might even call it "cinco leches!"

17 of 17

Apple Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

three layer apple cake on cake stand
Mike Krautter

Apples and spice and everything nice! This autumnal extravaganza features Granny Smith apples peeled and grated into the cake batter, with dried apple chips adorning the creamy icing.

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