Nothing marks a special occasion quite like a cake. And while you can't have a birthday or a wedding without one, the baked good doesn't have to be relegated to once or twice a year. In fact, we're here to tell you that you can have cake anytime you please.
From celebration cakes to snacking cakes, layers to Bundts, there is a wide world of cakes out there. Dip your toes in with our comprehensive guide covering bake times, pans, storage, decorating, recipes, and everything in between. It's time to have your cake and eat it, too.
While you don't necessarily need all of the fancy tools that pastry chefs use at bakeries, there is some essential hardware for making cakes:
- Cake pans: First things first! To make a cake, you're going to need a pan (or two or three).
- Specialty cake pans: While many cakes are baked in round, square, or rectangular pans, some cakes call for a Bundt pan, jelly roll pan (like Swiss rolls cakes), loaf pan, or springform pan.
- Mixer: Some easy cakes can be mixed by hand, but most require a stand mixer or a hand mixer.
- Mixing bowl: One thing is certain, you're going to need a mixing bowl (and sometimes multiple for mixing the dry and wet ingredients separately).
- Baking supplies: Handy tools like a kitchen scale, whisk, bench scraper, and cooling rack will make your baking experience go smoothly.
- Decorating supplies: To make your cake look extra special, invest in a pastry bag and decorating kit.
- Cake stand: Display your creation in all its glory on a cake stand.
If you're new to baking cakes, the process can seem a bit daunting. Since there's chemistry involved, baking is less forgiving than cooking, and a single misstep can lead to a flat cake or off flavors. To ensure your end result is a top-notch cake, start by familiarizing yourself with the science behind cake ingredients.
We've rounded up cake resources that will answer all of your burning questions and give you a solid foundation of knowledge. You'll be stacking layers and rolling fondant in no time.
- Cake Baking Times By Pan: Bake times can vary greatly depending on the size and type of pan you use. Adjust the timing as needed using this guide.
- Baking With Bundt Pans: With their nooks and crevices that create lovely patterns, bundt pans can notoriously cause cakes to stick. Learn some tips and tricks for a perfect bundt cake every time.
- 4 Things to Use Instead of a Springform Pan: Don't despair if a cake recipe calls for a springform pan and you don't have one handy. Use one of these makeshift solutions.
- How to Frost a Cake: A step-by-step guide from a top pastry chef that walks you through the process for creating a beautiful finish on your frosted cake.
- Frosting Types: Familiarize yourself with types of frostings and learn the difference between frosting and fondant.
- Common Fondant Problems: Avoid common issues with fondant, like cracks or sweating, using these clever tips.
- How Many People Will Your Cake Feed: How many slices or servings you can expect from different types and sizes of cakes.
- How to Store Cake: The best way to store all kinds of cakes and how long they'll last. Some cakes (especially unfrosted ones) are good candidates for freezing, too.
7 Baking Substitutions You Need to Know
If you're celebrating a special day, like a birthday, wedding, shower, and the like, it's time to pull out all of the stops and make a show-stopping cake. Layer cakes are always a good choice for feeding a crowd and wowing them at the same time, and visually stunning creations like Swiss roll cakes are sure to make everyone ooh and ahh.
- Unicorn Cake
- Funfetti Waffle Birthday Cake
- Copycat Strawberry Crunch Cake
- Keto Birthday Cake
- S'mores Cake
Wedding and Celebration Cakes
Impressive Layer Cakes
Sometimes the only occasion you need to make a cake is... none at all! Whether you want something sweet to serve visitors, need a dessert for a potluck or another informal gathering, or just have a sweet tooth to satisfy, these cakes will do the trick with minimal hassle.
Single Layer and Sheet Cakes
- Devil's Food Snacking Cake with Marshmallow Frosting
- Texas Sheet Cake
- Ooey Gooey Butter Cake
- Hot Milk Cake
- Honey Bun Cake
- Peanut Butter Cake With Chocolate Frosting
- Old Fashioned Blood Orange Sheet Cake
Copycat Mochi Cake
Dump and Poke Cakes
Bundt and Tube Cakes
- Best Chocolate Bundt Cake
- Key Lime Pound Cake
- Red Velvet Bundt Cake
- Easy Fresh Blueberry Cake
- Chocolate Angel Food Cake
Cake Mix Cakes
No matter the season, there's a cake for that. Light and airy cakes that use seasonal fruit reign supreme in spring and summer, while richer, spiced cakes are the ideal way to end a fall or winter time meal.
- Fresh Strawberry Cake
- Gluten-Free Carrot Cake
- Lemon Angel Food Cake
- Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Cake
- Zucchini Carrot Cake
- Coconut Cake With Fluffy Coconut Icing
- Ice Cream Cake
- Classic Baked Alaska
- Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream Cake
- Key Lime Cake
- Biscoff Cheesecake Ice Box Cake
- American Flag Cake
- Apple Streusel Bundt Cake
- Pumpkin Crunch Cake
- Spiced Apple Oat Cake
- Flourless Chocolate Meringue Cake
- Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake
- Snowball Cake
- Buttermilk Spice Cake
- Flourless Chocolate Torte
- Valentine's Cake
- Chocolate Candy Cane Cake
- Yule Log
Frosting, Icing, and Ganche
Some cakes are pretty and flavorful enough all on their own, but many improve with the addition of a swirl of frosting. Decorating a cake can be a fun, creative experience, and the possibilities are endless. Most begin with frosting or icing of some kind, which adds flavor, creamy texture, and moisture to cakes:
- Frosting: The term frosting is usually reserved for butter or shortening-based mixtures that are fluffy and creamy (this includes all kinds of buttercreams). Frosting is easy to spread on a cake and in between layers, and can often be piped to create designs and writing.
- Icing: Icing tends to be thinner and is drizzled or poured over cakes for an extra bit of sweetness. It's often made of powdered sugar and can include other flavorings like extracts and juice.
- Glaze: In the case of cakes, the terms icing and glaze are often used interchangeably. A mirror glaze is a mixture that is poured over a cake and sets up with a shiny finish.
- Ganache: A mixture of melted chocolate and heavy cream, ganache is thin and can be used to cover the top of a cake or poured over the whole thing. It will set up as it cools, and adds a rich chocolatey flavor to whatever it touches.
- Fondant: The sugar-based paste can be rolled out and used to cover cakes, giving them a smooth finish. Food coloring can be added to fondant and it can be made from scratch or bought pre-made.
Frostings and Buttercreams
- Buttercream Frosting
- Fluffy Boiled Frosting
- Italian Buttercream
- Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- Vegan Buttercream Frosting
- Cream Cheese Frosting
- Brown Sugar Frosting
- Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
- French Chantilly Cream (Crème Chantilly)