40 Essential (and Delicious) Cake Recipes

Coca Cola Bundt Cake with Amarena Cherries
Photo: Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Micah Morton / Prop Styling by Christine Keely

There's something so special about baking a cake from scratch. (There's a reason a few of our most popular recipes of all time are cakes, after all.) Whether you need a baking project or have something to celebrate, there's a cake recipe calling, from Chocolate Party Cake with Dark Chocolate Ganache and Homemade Sprinkles to Vegan Peach-Almond Upside-Down Cake. Serving a snow-white Coconut Cake or the gently spiced Maria Cookie Icebox Cake you've crafted is a truly wonderful way to share dessert, celebrate an occasion, or simply have a solo moment of delight. These cakes go from classic essentials (think carrot cake and strawberry shortcake) to over-the-top aspirational recipes to grow your repertoire. Gather your cake pans and ingredients and discover Food & Wine's best cake recipes.

01 of 40

Buttermilk Bundt Cake with Lemon Glaze

Buttermilk Bundt Cake with Lemon Glaze

© Con Poulos

Every baker needs a go-to bundt cake recipe. This is the ultimate buttermilk bundt cake, nicely browned on the outside, with a soft, tender crumb.

02 of 40

Mom's Classic Chocolate Cake

Mom’s Chocolate Cake
© Greg DuPree

This chocolate cake is on our list of the 40 Best Ever F&W Recipes, and for good reason. The semisweet, creamy frosting hits just the right balance, but longtime F&W test kitchen supervisor Marcia Kiesel said, "the original was served right out of the pan, no frosting at all, and that's my favorite way to eat it."

03 of 40

Classic Carrot Cake with Fluffy Cream Cheese Frosting

Classic Carrot Cake with Fluffy Cream Cheese Frosting
Tina Rupp

A classic carrot cake is a crowd-pleaser and can work in traditional layers, in a loaf pan, or even as cupcakes. Pastry chef Jodi Elliot prepares the ultimate version of the 1970s favorite: moist and not too sweet.

04 of 40

Jacques Pépin's Favorite Pound Cake

Jacques Pépin's Favorite Pound Cake
© Edward Pond

The French call pound cake quatre-quarts ("four-fourths") because it is made with equal parts flour, sugar, eggs, and butter. Chef Jacques Pépin's mother, aunt, and cousin all have their versions. He likes to fold in candied citrus peels to make a French fruit cake; he also loves plain slices dipped in espresso.

05 of 40

Basque Cheesecake

Basque Cheesecake Recipe
Cedric Angeles

2020 F&W Best New Chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph bakes a perfectly creamy cheesecake, without a water bath and with no risk of a cracked or sunken top, by incorporating whipped cream cheese with heavy cream in the batter. To make the cake properly, you're going to have to burn it. The more caramelized it gets, the sweeter and creamier the batter becomes, intensifying the flavor. 

06 of 40

Maria Cookie Icebox Cake

Maria Cookies Icebox Cake
Farrah Skeiky

Toasty, slightly sweet Maria cookies were an after-school snack staple for pastry chef Paola Velez while growing up in the Bronx. Here, she transforms those beloved cookies into an icebox cake, layered with a sweetly spiced cream filling, topped with luscious dulce de leche, and festooned with strawberries and flowers.

07 of 40

Double-Chocolate Bundt Cake with Ganache Glaze

Double-Chocolate Bundt Cake with Ganache Glaze

© Quentin Bacon

Many bundt cakes are dense and buttery, but this one is surprisingly light and incredibly moist under its silky chocolate glaze. Strong-brewed coffee in the batter intensifies the chocolate flavor while balancing the sweetness.

08 of 40

Maple-Bourbon Banana Pudding Cake

Maple-Bourbon Banana Pudding Cake
Fredrika Stjärne

This cake is as good as a holiday dessert as it is for Sunday brunch. As it bakes, it develops a sweet, rich sauce at the bottom of the dish.

09 of 40

Crunchy Milk Chocolate-Peanut Butter Layer Cake

Crunchy Milk Chocolate—Peanut Butter Layer Cake
© Tina Rupp

The genius of this layer cake is its extraordinarily crunchy filling, made with almonds, salted peanuts, creamy peanut butter, chocolate, and Rice Krispies. The silky milk chocolate ganache frosting is the finishing touch.

10 of 40

Tres Leches Cake with Strawberries

Tres Leches Cake with Strawberries

Quentin Bacon

Many versions of this dessert, made by soaking sponge cake in condensed milk, evaporated milk, and cream, are too sweet and wet. This one from chef Soledad Correa is perfect, with just a hint of cinnamon. 

11 of 40

German Chocolate Cake

German Chocolate Cake
© Amy Neunsinger

Sam German created the mild, dark baking chocolate called Baker's German's Sweet Chocolate in 1852; in the late 1950s, a Dallas newspaper published a recipe for German's Chocolate Cake. The dessert took the South by storm and has been a staple ever since. This super-indulgent version features layers of light chocolate cake and a sweet coconut-pecan frosting.

12 of 40

Nutella-Swirl Pound Cake

Nutella-Swirl Pound Cake
© Alexandra Grablewski. Cake Keeper Cakes

This pound cake is made especially rich by swirling in the chocolate-hazelnut spread Nutella. Serve it with coffee ice cream for an extra-special treat. 

13 of 40

Plum Upside-Down Cake

Plum Upside-Down Cake
© Nicole Franzen

This pretty cake is moist and buttery, with plenty of sweet and tangy caramelized plums on top. It's great for a festive dessert or weekend treat.

14 of 40

Molten Chocolate Cakes

Molten Chocolate Cakes

© Lucy Schaeffer

Just about every restaurant in the U.S. offers a version of this creation from chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. But his supremely rich and chocolaty original is in a class by itself. It might seem complex, but this recipe is actually quite easy to make and ready in under an hour.

15 of 40

Coconut Chiffon Bundt Cake with Coconut Frosting

Coconut Chiffon Bundt Cake with Coconut Frosting

© Petrina Tinslay

Joanne Chang is an expert on all kinds of desserts, from elegant French to homespun American like this classic coconut cake.

16 of 40

Triple-Cheese Cheesecake with Amaretti Crust

Triple-Cheese Cheesecake with Amaretti Crust
Johnny Miller

This killer cheesecake has a light, creamy texture and fantastic crunchy crust made from honey graham crackers and amaretti cookies. Bonus: It's a no-bake recipe.

17 of 40

Best-Ever Birthday Cake

best-ever birthday cake
Greg Dupree

Celebrate any day with a big slice of this super-fun sprinkle cake. Sour cream adds a perfect tangy balance to the easy chocolate frosting — and gives this kid-at-heart cake a delicious grown-up twist. The key to a tender crumb is to cream the sugar and butter longer than you think — at least five minutes — to incorporate plenty of air into the batter. We love a mixture of sprinkles to top the cake for an extra-festive look.

18 of 40

Carrot and Orange Cake with Sour Cream Glaze

Carrot Cake Recipe
Antonis Achilleos

This carrot cake from cookbook author Nik Sharma is something special. "Chopped pieces of dried apricots and candied orange peels give each slice of cake a spot of unexpected fruit sweetness, while the pistachios add texture to the soft cake," he says. "Serve it with a cup of warm tea or coffee to complete the experience." 

19 of 40

Red Velvet Cake


Abby Hocking / Food & Wine

This towering cake is made with deep red cake layers and lots of cream cheese frosting. Unsweetened cocoa powder and red food coloring give the cake its signature hue.

20 of 40

Strawberry-Honey Cake with Sour Whipped Cream

Strawberry-Honey Cake with Sour Whipped Cream
© Eva Kolenko

This floral, honey-inflected strawberry cake from chef Eli Dahlin is his springy take on a sticky toffee pudding. The more holes you poke in the cake, the more the honey syrup will penetrate every last bite.

21 of 40

Vanilla-Scented Cornmeal Cake with Olive Oil Buttercream

Cornmeal Cake with Olive Oil Buttercream
Sam Aguirre-Kelly

Pastry chef Bronwen Wyatt's rich, elegant cake is perfect for just about any celebration you may have coming your way. You can simply spread the buttercream frosting to cover it, swirling for a little flair, or follow Wyatt's decorating tips by using a pastry bag to form ruffles and squiggles with the buttercream. Top the cake with edible decorations of your choice, such as flowers, fruits, and herbs.

22 of 40

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
© Tina Rupp

Pastry chef Kristin Ferguson prepares this deliciously fruity pineapple upside-down cake in individual ring molds and pairs the mini cakes with homemade buttermilk ice cream.

23 of 40

Double Chocolate Layer Cake

Double-Chocolate Layer Cake
Quentin Bacon

"This is the most fabulous chocolate cake that I've ever made," Ina Garten declared when F&W ran her recipe in 2007. The buttermilk keeps the cake moist and light, and the bit of coffee in the cake and frosting keeps the sweetness in check.

24 of 40

Strawberry Shortcake for a Crowd

Strawberry Shortcake
Jen Causey

"It doesn't get much easier than strawberry shortcake, but this family-style version I created definitely makes it foolproof," food writer Ben Mims says. "Instead of punching out all those small cakes, the dough is pressed into a pan and baked as one giant cake, which is much quicker and less stress-inducing, especially when you want an effortless dessert for a weeknight that truly takes no time at all."

25 of 40

Coconut Cake

Coconut Cake
© Karen Mordechai

This dainty dessert was in vogue in the 1920s for ladies' gatherings. Traditionally made with marshmallow frosting, the cake was famously served to President Truman during a trip to Florida in the 1950s.

26 of 40

King Cake with Caramel Crunch

Mardi Gras King Cake
Oriana Koren

"A traditional part of Mardi Gras for the last 300 years in New Orleans (and beyond), these cakes are more like brioche than 'cake' as we know it," pastry chef and cookbook author Kelly Fields says. "The yeast-raised dough is braided, sometimes around various fillings, formed into a ring, and baked. Afterwards, it's topped with green, purple, and gold sugar to represent faith, justice, and power, respectively, a nod to the 'three kings.' A token of some sort, be it a bean or plastic baby, is stuffed randomly inside, and tradition states that whoever gets the slice of king cake with the token has to host the next party!"

27 of 40

Banana–Chocolate Chip Snack Cake with Salted Peanut Butter Frosting

Banana–Chocolate Chip Snack Cake with Salted Peanut Butter Frosting
Antonis Achilleos

"The fruity banana batter is bolstered by browned butter for caramel-like richness that's echoed by the butterscotch notes of brown sugar," F&W Cooks contributor Ann Taylor Pittman says. "Chocolate chips make an appearance, too, and even though their role is small, it's impactful — especially if you frost and cut the cake before it's completely cool and the chocolate is still a little gooey."

28 of 40

Vegan Peach-Almond Upside-Down Cake

Peach Almond Upside Down Cake
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Heather Claire Spollen

Juicy peaches and nutty almond meal pair up in this summery, vegan take on a classic upside-down cake. The almond meal adds a soft texture to the cake and helps it hold together as the peaches soften and sweeten during baking.

29 of 40

Cocoa Cola Bundt Cake

Coca Cola Bundt Cake with Amarena Cherries
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Micah Morton / Prop Styling by Christine Keely

Traditional Coca-Cola cake, a staple of the American South, usually comes in the form of a chocolate sheet cake that's doused in a gooey glaze. In her modern-day version, cookbook author Vallery Lomas flips tradition on its head by making a cola-flavored cake with cola-flavored icing. She adds warming spices into the cake, like cinnamon and nutmeg, along with a dash of both orange and lemon zest, deepening the cake's chocolatey, cola-y flavor. 

30 of 40

Baked Alaska

Baked Alaska
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

Baked Alaska, the meringue-topped and torched layered ice cream cake, is a classic restaurant dessert, often served tableside with a fiery effect. Bring the sweet treat home with this simple step-by-step method that takes advantage of creamy (and customizable) store-bought ice creams and sorbets; an easy, buttery pound cake; and just enough time in the freezer between layers to ensure success.

31 of 40

Honigkuchen (Gluten-Free Honey Cake)

Honey Cake Recipe
Victor Protasio

Inspired by German cake recipes from a 13th-century cookbook, chef Alex Hrabovsky and his wife, Reana, developed this gluten-free version using almond and gluten-free flours. With its malty, molasses notes, buckwheat honey gives this cake its signature flavor.

32 of 40

Chocolate Party Cake with Dark Chocolate Ganache and Homemade Sprinkles

Photo by Antonis Achilleos / Prop Styling by Christina Daley / Food Styling by Ali Ramee

Rich, chocolaty, and so very festive, this cake is worthy of a party. Ganache has many applications in pastry, and here chef Paola Velez uses it to make the silky-smooth frosting to top her chocolate cake. If you're making the sprinkles from scratch, remember to start one day ahead so they can dry overnight.

33 of 40

Lemon Chiffon Cake with Blueberry-Coriander Buttercream

Lemon chiffon cake with blueberry coriander buttercream
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Audrey Davis

Pastry chef Sasha Piligian channels summer vibes to make this epic layer cake. She starts with two flavor-packed components — a tart-sweet Meyer lemon curd for the filling, and a coriander-spiced blueberry jam to flavor and tint her fluffy Swiss meringue buttercream frosting. The addition of beaten egg whites to the batter keeps the lemon chiffon cake layers light and airy. For a final flourish, she embellishes the frosted cake with edible flower petals, mint leaves, pools of glistening jam, fresh berries, and sliced citrus.

34 of 40

Strawberry Icebox Cake with Maple-Ginger Cream

Strawberry Icebox Cake
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Melissa Gray / Prop Styling by Heather Chadduck Hillegas

If you love strawberry shortcake, this inspired icebox dessert is for you. Buttery, rich shortbread cookies make an easy base for the cake, layered with plenty of sliced strawberries and a creamy filling with hints of spicy fresh ginger and sweet maple syrup. A topping of strawberries macerated in maple syrup adds a final burst of berry flavor.

35 of 40

Lemon Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Lemon Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

Layers of delicate flavors from lemon, honey, and extra-virgin olive oi­l — which helps keep the cake moist and imparts mild fruitiness — come together in this one-bowl batter. Stacked with a fluffy and rich lemon–cream cheese frosting, this easy layer cake is a keeper. Be sure the butter and cream cheese are softened for the smoothest frosting.

36 of 40

Chocolate Blackout Cake

Best Chocolate Desserts: Chocolate Blackout Cake

© Ryan Liebe

This one is for chocolate lovers. Pastry star Gale Gand layers her phenomenal, high-rising cake with an intensely chocolaty custard and coats it with cake crumbs.

37 of 40

Bûche de Noël with Mascarpone Cream and Dark Chocolate Ganache

Buche de Noel
Photo by Antonis Achilleos / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Kay Clarke

Bûche de Noël is the ultimate winter celebration cake, and this one is a cut above the rest. Mascarpone stabilizes the whipped cream filling so that it can be chilled overnight without weeping. Slivered toasted almonds stirred into the ganache frosting give it a “tree bark” look and add contrasting texture to the silky filling and tender cake. Meringue mushrooms add an extra wow factor; these can be made a few days ahead. 

38 of 40

Double-Decker Meringue Cake with Summer Berries

Double Decker Meringue Cake with Summer Berries Recipe
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

The meringue topping expands as this stunning cake bakes, so be careful not to spread it all the way to the edges of the cake batter — this will make it easier to remove the cake from the pan. Top with whatever berries are in season at your market, or use your favorite sliced stone fruit.

39 of 40

Bananas Foster Cheesecake

Bananas Foster Cheesecake
Bananas Foster Cheesecake.

Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Ali Ramee / Prop Styling by Christina Daley

Creamy bananas and spiced rum-brown sugar caramel come together for both the filling and the topping in this cheesecake mashup. The cinnamon-scented buttery crust doubles down on nutty flavor by using both pecan sandies and pecans. The cheesecake is made extra silky with the addition of sour cream, but the real flavor magic happens thanks to vanilla and more spiced rum.

40 of 40

Breton Butter Cake

Breton Butter Cake
© Greg DuPree

Known as kouign amann, this classic cake from Brittany is made with bread dough and butter and has a caramelized sugar top. This easy version, prepared with store-bought bread dough or pizza dough, has been adapted from Home Baking.

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