45 Decadent Cake Recipes From Scratch
We're huge fans of a box cake mix, but if you've got the time to pay a little extra attention, there's nothing like a homemade cake from scratch. We've rounded up our best from-scratch cake recipes and covered all the bases, from vanilla cake to holiday-worthy carrot cake, cakes dressed up like unicorns, and even cakes inspired by our favorite cocktails. No matter how simple or complex you go, these cake recipes from scratch guarantee a memorable treat.
One-Pot Chocolate Cake
Coconut Cream Cake
Look for packaged coconut shavings in your grocer's natural foods section.
Confetti Flower Cake
It may be hard to believe that this stunning layer cake could taste as delightful as it looks, but trust us on this one… it’s well worth cutting into. We create an all-natural “fun-fetti” look for this Confetti Flower Cake with edible flower petals flecked throughout the moist and delicate vanilla layers. Covered in a light, fluffy strawberry frosting (and a few more garnishing edible flowers for good measure), this wow-worthy confetti cake is the perfect centerpiece for your next special occasion—be it a birthday party or a wedding shower.
Chocolate Fudge Sheet Cake With Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting
The addition of cinnamon adds a kick of “something special” to this rich chocolate sheet cake, but if you prefer, you can reduce the amount or leave the cinnamon out all together; you will simply have a delightful, classic chocolate cake on your hands. Once topped off with a decadent chocolate-cream cheese frosting, this cake is ready to please at virtually any event you bring it to.
Orange-Carrot Cake with Classic Cream Cheese Frosting
Add some citrusy zing to traditional carrot cake by adding orange zest and orange juice to the batter before baking. For an extra punch of flavor, try adding some zest to the homemade cream cheese icing as well.
Butter Pecan Layer Cake with Browned Butter Frosting
Nutty Browned Butter Frosting meets tender pecan cake in this showstopping three-layer dessert. When browning the butter for the frosting, pour the butter into a bowl as soon as it turns golden brown, or it will continue to cook and get too dark.
Aperol Spritz Cake
The delicate blance of sweet, bitter and citrus that makes the cocktail so refreshing also makes for an unusual citrus cake.
Basic Pound Cake
So comforting and delicious, with a perfectly crusty bottom. Keep things classic or get adventurous with your glaze.
There comes a certain point every summer when the amount of zucchini you seem to constantly have on hand far outweighs you desire for zucchini. You’ve grilled it, you’ve shaved it into a raw summer salad, you’ve sautéed it, folded it into pasta, stuffed it, and zoodled it—at this point, when it feels like you’ve exhausted all appetizing zucchini options, it’s high time you enter dessert territory and make a zucchini cake. Luckily, we’ve crafted the perfect, no-fuss recipe for a classic, vanilla zucchini cake for just that purpose. Though flecked with specks of pale green, you’d never guess vegetables were hiding in this incredibly tender sheet cake. The recipe calls for 3 cups of the grated green veggie, which is roughly one large or two smaller zucchini—no need to peel them, just be sure to wash the zucchini thoroughly before grating. Because zucchini is serving as the primary source of moisture for this cake (as you’ll notice, you do not add milk, buttermilk, sour cream, etc. to the batter), there’s no need to squeeze the liquid from the grated zucchini, as some recipes for zucchini baked goods may advise. A small amount of corn starch paired with the all-purpose flour makes the cake’s crumb exceptionally soft and airy. Topped with a decadent brown butter-pecan frosting, this veggie-loaded cake feels special enough to serve as the centerpiece dessert for any occasion.
Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting
Celebrate a child's first birthday by making a smash cake and a cake the rest of the group can enjoy-- all from one recipe! By dividing the cake batter between two pans, this recipe allows you to make an individual cake for baby and a larger one for adults to enjoy.
Strawberries-and-Cream Sheet Cake
Trust us: This simple and swoon-worthy sheet cake will be a keeper in your recipe box. File it under "Springtime Crowd-pleaser."
Rainbow Sprinkle Cake
"Baking and icing a cake from scratch can be daunting. But you don't have to do it all in one day," says Rosie Daykin, the cheerful and talented owner of Butter Baked Goods, in Vancouver. Bake the cakes first and let them cool; the next day, make the frosting and assemble the cake. To frost more evenly and efficiently, use a sturdy rotating cake stand. Also very helpful: a round cardboard cake board to build the cake on--"it makes frosting, moving, and slicing the cake so much easier"--and a large offset spatula. You can find all these in kitchenware shops and online.
Texas Sheet Cake
Classic Birthday Cake
For a festive occasion, few treats can match the celebratory spirit of a classic birthday cake—and this easy-to-follow formula is the only one you’ll ever need. Our birthday cake recipe yields two dense layers of buttery, vanilla-forward white cake wrapped in classically rich buttercream frosting. For the signature, picture perfect birthday cake look, don’t forget to garnish your frosted cake with rainbow sprinkles. You can also stir a handful of colored sprinkles right into the cake batter to create a funfetti effect.
Eggnog Spice Cake with Bourbon Custard Filling and Eggnog Buttercream
This towering four-layer cake is creamy and slightly boozy. Use a Microplane grater to create the finest dusting of nutmeg on top.
Potato flour serves as the backbone for this delightfully simple Swedish classic. Though gluten-free, sandkaka is similar in texture to a dense, buttery pound cake and, thanks to the starchiness of the potato flour, will retain its moisture for days.
Coca Cola Chocolate Cake
Coca-Cola cake was a favorite at family reunions during the 1950s. It resembles Mississippi mud cake, a chocolate sheet cake studded with marshmallows that are sprinkled on the top before baking or immediately after while the cake is still hot. In Mama’s Tea Cakes: 101 Delicious Soul Food Desserts, chef and author Wilbert Jones stirred the marshmallows into the batter before putting his version of the cake in the oven. If that wasn’t decadent enough, in 1997, the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain used twice the cocoa, intensifying the taste. Their rendition was called Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola Cake. —Toni Tipton-Martin
Coconut-Macadamia Nut Pound Cake
Lightly toasting the macadamia nuts brings out their rich, buttery flavor.
Tahini-Blueberry Sheet Cake With Strawberry Buttercream
Perfect for a graduation party or summer cookout, this impressive dessert offers the ease and crowd-friendly factor that we associate with a sheet cake, as well as a delightful twist of creativity and surprising vibrancy with the incorporation of tahini and fresh berries. If you have a jar of the trendy sesame seed paste hanging out in your pantry, trust us—it’s high time to go beyond hummus and welcome it into your dessert life. Tahini lends a delicious toasty quality to the tender cake while fresh blueberries dotted throughout the batter balance this nutty depth with their bright, juicy sweetness. A simple strawberry buttercream ties everything together and makes for a low-effort, eye-catching presentation.
Best Carrot Cake
Truly our best-ever carrot cake recipe, make this classic favorite for a crowd and you might not have any leftovers to bring home. For more flavor, try toasting the nuts and coconut before adding them to the batter. It's important to cool the cakes completely before frosting, otherwise the frosting will just melt right off. To expediate the cooling process, you can put the cakes on their wire racks in the freezer (don't worry, it's not cheating), checking until they're thoroughly cool. This is a cake you can bake for any occasion. We recommend this cake anytime from Easter to Christmas.
This colorful unicorn-inspired layer cake is the pinnacle of cuteness—perfect for a birthday party or for anyone who’s just super into the current unicorn craze. While this cake is fantastically wow-worthy, and does take some time and loving dedication to construct, you don’t need to be a pastry chef to pull it off. In fact, creating this mythical masterpiece really is totally achievable for a home baker—just follow the instructions and don’t be afraid to have a little fun with it! You’ll be amazed what you can achieve with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting, some colorful candy, and a little bit of fondant.
Hot Toddy Cake
Incorporating black tea into the batter imbues this incredibly tender, cocktail-inspired cake with moisture and a gentle tea flavor. Brushing the brown-sugary spice cake with a rich whiskey syrup puts the bundt’s cozy factor over the top. And finally, finishing the cake with a zippy fresh lemon and ginger glaze delivers that perfect, sunny touch of brightness needed for a balanced cocktail. It’s all the soothing warmth of a steamy hot toddy, baked into an eye-catching bundt cake—what more could you ask for?
When my mother talks about this fudgy dessert, her eyes glaze over. The cake was sold at the Lowry Motor Court restaurant in Greenville, Mississippi. Mama said they displayed it by the register under a glass dome, and each perfectly square slice was neatly wrapped in wax paper.
Brown Velvet Cake
This decadently moist chocolate cake is similar to red velvet, but skips using an entire bottle of red food dye. Crumbling the cake trimmings for garnish is an easy and elegant way to decorate. Spread the crumbs out on a baking sheet and let them dry out for a while to make them easier to apply to your frosted cake.
Snowy Vanilla Cake with Cream Cheese Buttercream
The Big White Cake has been a tradition at Southern Living since 1995. Each year, our readers (as well as the staff) eagerly anticipate the December issue, anxious to bake and enjoy this show-stopping dessert. This year’s fabulous cake really raises the bar; not only is it incredibly delicious, but the eye-catching Cake Ball Ornaments make it almost too pretty to eat. Cake flour, egg whites, and a generous amount of vanilla extract make these layers light, tender, and aromatic. Save time by baking the cake layers in advance; freeze them until you are ready to assemble the cake. We’ve topped this year’s white cake with Cream Cheese Buttercream. You can easily manipulate the frosting into fun petals (shown here) or a more traditional smooth finish. Don’t forget the show-stopping Cake Ball Ornaments when finally displaying your cake.
You know how some cocktails are so good they're basically dessert? This mudslide cake takes that even further, making the classic dessert cocktail into an actual dessert. The inclusion of both Irish and coffee liqueurs give the cake depth of flavor, and the chocolate glaze and cherries give a nod to the traditional mudslide garnishes. Eat it with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream. No straw required.
Halloween desserts definitely call for having a little extra fun in the kitchen. This kinda-cute, kinda-creepy Graveyard Cake is easy to make, fun to decorate (so recruit the kids’ help), and is sure to be a perfectly spooky centerpiece for any Halloween dessert table. Black icing transforms store-bought cookies into perfectly-sized miniature headstones for the chocolate-frosted graveyard cake. And once you’ve placed your headstones, crumble chocolate wafer cookies around each to create “dirt.” Just be sure to make each "gravesite" the serving size you want to ensure easy slicing. Disperse a few candle “lanterns” throughout the chocolaty graveyard and you have the perfect cake for a Halloween birthday party. The classic chocolate cake recipe here is decadent and moist standby, but if you’re in a pinch for time, feel free to use your favorite boxed cake mix instead. Obviously, it’s all about the decorating on for this Halloween-inspired treat.
Fresh Strawberry Sheet Cake
This simple, fresh strawberry cake is the perfect springtime dessert. Besides being wonderfully easy to slice and serve for a crowd, sheet cakes (like this pink beauty) are great for entertaining because they require no special cake frosting skills to look impressive.
Chocolate Marble Sheet Cake
7UP Bundt Cake
Baked goods made with soft drinks can be traced back to the 1930s and 1940s, according to food expert Lynne Olver. On her website, Food Timeline, she cited early recipes like Ginger Ale Icebox Cake and Raisin Cake Made With Pepsi-Cola. Soda has popped up in all sorts of recipes, with 7UP cake being one of the most famous. The effervescence of 7UP produces a lighter crumb in pound cakes made from scratch and gives packaged cake mix a mild lemon flavor. —Toni Tipton-Martin
Sea Salt-Caramel Cake
While these tender cake layers taste divine, it’s the caramel frosting that really wows. It’s outrageously rich—and doesn’t require the use of a candy thermometer. Top the frosted cake with a sprinkle of flaky sea salt for a fancy finish.
If you've never known the glory of a mayonnaise cake, you're in for a treat! The staple ingredient yields an ultra-moist crumb and keeps the sugar from taking over your taste buds.
Ultimate Coconut Cake
"Ultimate" is no exaggeration here—this cake features coconut flour, coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut cream, coconut sugar, coconut extract, and (of course) flaked coconut. Given this cake's incredibly moist layers, intense coconut flavor, and lighter-than-air filling, our test kitchen chefs fought over the leftovers.
Time to oust your box cake mix, and embrace your inner baker with this basic yellow cake formula. This easy recipe will raise your cake-crafting confidence to new heights the first time you try it. As the name suggests, the numbers represent the measurements of the ingredients in the cake. Just remember what number matches with which ingredient, and you can easily memorize this recipe to whip up anytime you please. The buttery yellow cake is moist and has a perfectly dense crumb. Consider the 1-2-3-4 Cake a blank canvas; have fun adding layers of your buttercream frosting, whipped cream with fruit, or your own favorite frosting. One key to keep in mind when making this cake is that you really do need to have your butter softened and, ideally, your eggs at room temperature. Mixing these ingredients in when cold makes them more difficult to incorporate and can yield a “broken” batter. When baking the cake, be sure to use a light baking pan to help prevent over-browning. If you see that the top of your cake is brown, but the center is still wet, make a foil tent over the cake to keep it from getting darker.
This decadent chocolate sheet cake is a prime choice for a Kentucky Derby viewing party—or any party, for that matter. The richness of this moist, buttermilk chocolate cake is intensified by utilizing the molasses notes of brown sugar (in addition to granulated sugar) and adding a generous sprinkling of chocolate chips in the batter. And then, you top the cake with an insanely delicious bourbon buttercream, candied walnuts, and a chocolate drizzle. Yeah, it's some kind of wonderful.
Fudge Butter Cake
Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Buttercream Frosting
This vibrant pink layer cake is pure strawberry-on-strawberry goodness, with fresh strawberries going into the cake batter and frosting. One thing to note about the buttercream frosting—it is absolutely bursting with berry flavor, but is easily over-mixed. If you find you've broken your emulsion when whipping this frosting up, no worries. You can simply mix in a little more powdered sugar to restore it. That said, we love how purely strawberry-forward the flavor of this frosting is, so we'd advise being very light-handed when adding extra powdered sugar, as it will dilute the berry flavor. In our opinion, it's better to have a slightly broken frosting that tastes like strawberries than a perfectly pristine frosting that tastes like sugar.
Million Dollar Pound Cake
This recipe is from Odette Williams' Simple Cake, a compendium of approachable, delicious cakes for celebrating every day. Per Williams, this cake is "A not-too-sweet chocolate cake, topped with silky Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream, sprinkled with a little sea salt crunch: This is the cake you bake to help you or a loved one get across the finish line."
Elderflower Pound Cake with Lemon-Elderflower Glaze
This delightfully floral pound cake is a super fun and elegant twist on the classic 7-Up pound cake—not to mention, a most delicious introduction to elderflower if you’re not familiar with its flavor. Easy to whip up and incredibly impressive, this elderflower dessert is a fantastic option for your next dinner party. The floral notes from the elderflower liqueur and tonic water, as well as the lemony tart glaze, perfectly balance the pound cake’s richness. You can find elderflower tonic water at grocery stores such as Whole Foods and Fresh Market, but you can also order it online if you have trouble tracking it down locally. You will have leftover tonic—but don’t worry, that’s just a perfect excuse to make yourself an elderflower gin and tonic to enjoy while your cake bakes. While the flower flavor in this fabulous cake certainly shines, it isn’t at all overbearing.
Red Velvet Cake with Coconut-Cream Cheese Frosting
This cake bakes best in four pans. If you need additional pans, use 8-inch aluminum foil disposable pans. Just be sure to place them on a baking sheet for stability.
Banana Pudding Cake
One of our testers called this "the ultimate banana pudding in cake form." Tender laters of cake, creamy vanilla custard, and bananas come together to create a mouthwatering dessert. Warning: There won't be leftovers.
When the Hummingbird Cake was first submitted to Southern Living in 1978 by Mrs. L.H. Wiggins of Greensboro, North Carolina, we had no idea the cake would become our most popular and beloved Southern cake recipe ever. Without a doubt, the cake is a beauty with its three moist layers topped with cream cheese frosting and pecans; but it’s the taste that really keeps us coming back. There are a few rules for success in this recipe that make it truly stand out. First, vegetable oil is used instead of butter to get the moist, quick-bread-like texture of the layers. The original recipe, as printed below, calls for 1 1/2 cups of oil. Over the years we reprinted the recipe several times and, in keeping with cooking trends of the time, altered the amount of oil and sodium called for in the ingredient list. The quality of the finished product was never altered, however. Second, you need a can of crushed pineapple in its juices (such as Publix Crushed Pineapple in Pineapple Juice), which you will NOT drain. The juices add so much flavor to the cake batter and keeps it incredibly moist. Lastly, always take the time the toast your pecans. It’s a game-changer. Forty years may have passed since we discovered this Southern gem, but we keep making it year after year!