Birthday Cakes 365: Our Favorite Cake Recipes for the New Year

Happy Birthday everyone! كل عام و أنت بخير to Susan, ᎤᎵᎮᎵᏍᏗ ᏂᏣᏕᏘᏯ to Gwen. Felice anniversariu to wonderful PJ and Alles Gute zum Geburtstag to Frank as well.

Nawa’y pagpalain ka ng Diyos ng marami pang kaarawan to my fellow bakers everywhere.

With the coming of a new year we have new chances to make the most of every day and see exciting new possibilities for our favorite days of the year, too. I know I have a Pinterest page crammed with ideas for next Thanksgiving already, and a host of images saved for picnic season, too. I have gift ideas tagged; and vacation plans bookmarked, saved, and filed. This new year won’t catch me napping, that’s for sure.

I’ve even started to think about birthdays, though we are just 31 days into 2015. In those 31 days, I’ve wished at least 5 people Penblwydd Hapus and Chúc mừng sinh nhật, and we’re well on our way to more in February. My lovely sister-in-law is a Valentine’s Day baby and my KAFBFF Yvette was born on February 29. I think she’ll technically be Sweet 16 in the next leap year. Party time!

While I’m getting my house in order, I’m going to put together my ultimate list of birthday cake recipes so I can be prepared at the drop of a pointy party hat to plan a superb shindig for the next special date on the calendar.

Let’s check out some favorites to get us going.


It’s not surprising that a deep, dark chocolate cake is first up on the list of decadent birthday cakes. Our Favorite Fudge Birthday Cake isn’t called Favorite for nothin’, it’s truly a wonderful cake. Standing four layers tall with three layers of fudgy filling PLUS ganache icing, it’s perfect for treating yourself on special occasions.

This is probably the darkest, richest fudge cake recipe we offer. If you’re looking for something milder, check out our Self-Rising Chocolate Cake. It’s pictured in the main photo at the top of the blog, and it makes an outstanding triple-layer cake.

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Don’t worry if gluten is off the table for you or your birthday buddies, our Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake is just as good to the last crumb, and just flies off the table when we share it in the test kitchen.

Of course, once you have your chocolate cake made, you can begin the icing debate. Chocolate on chocolate, or vanilla on chocolate? Me, I’ll take either as long as you don’t mix them. Well, even then I probably couldn’t resist this cake!


You don’t need to be entering your golden years to appreciate a good golden yellow cake. Our recipe for Golden Vanilla Cake has been a customer favorite for years.

Moist, tender, and with rich butter flavor, it outshines pale boxed mixes. It reminds me of the cakes my husband’s friend, Mrs. Weber, used to make back when we were children. Mixed by hand, never made more than a few hours before serving, classic cake baking at its best.


Need a cake in a hurry but still want to show off your skills as a scratch baker? Our King Arthur Flour’s Original Cake-Pan Cake is a surefire winner. You mix it right in the cake pan and serve it straight from the pan, too.

Another big bonus for this cake is that it’s egg-free and can even be made with water instead of milk as the liquid to make it dairy-free. It can be a real lifesaver for those in-a-pinch special occasions when you can’t get to the grocery store.

(Right now, I’m asking myself why-oh-why did I sit down to write this blog without having a piece of cake first? I need caaaake!)


I know this particular cake doesn’t come to mind for most people when they think of birthday cake, but I just had to include it. You see, this was often my birthday cake when I was a little girl. I’m not sure when I learned that Tomato Soup Cake actually had tomato soup in it, but I don’t think I ever cared. I just love the rich cinnamon-clove scent of the cake paired with the sweet burst of raisins.

Originally known as Mystery Cake, this wartime recipe made the most of slim butter and sugar rations and makes a delightfully different birthday cake for that spicy someone in your life. If you happen to be in Vermont in October, I’m happy to volunteer!

I hope this blog has given you some ideas for great cakes to use for your festive occasions this year. Mazl-tov tsu dayn geboyrn tog to you, my good friends, and many happy returns of the day.

Oh dear, did I miss your favorite? Write in and tell us in the comments. After all, it IS the one day of the year it’s all about YOU!

MaryJane Robbins

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour’s baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...


    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Although lemon cake did not make it into this blog post, that doesn’t mean that is is not a favorite of some of us here at King Arthur Flour. We have a few riffs on the classic lemon cake if citrus is what you are looking for in your dessert; for my lemon-loving friend, I am going to make the Lemonade Cake when she returns from her long trip (nothing says welcome home like lemon buttercream) and you can find the recipe here: If you are looking for something lighter, we have a Lemon Cloud Cake that resembles an angel food cake: Don’t worry Panko, we did not forget the lemon lovers out there! –Kye@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It does feel like you can gain weight just looking at some of these cakes, Bee! And since the test kitchen is right next door, we’re often sampling too! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining! Barb@KAF

  1. al

    growing up with a mother of Norwegian descent, I always had a whipped cream cake for my birthday which I believe is still the traditional birthday cake of Norway. I’ve made yellow and white cakes with a whipped cream frosting and want to know if that is all there is to it or is there something more?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      I am not familiar with Norway’s traditional birthday cake. I did a quick internet search and found that the filling is a custard made of yolks, butter, cornstarch and half and half while the topping is straight whipped cream. Strawberries were also represented. Yum! You will have to make this al! Elisabeth@KAF

    2. waikikirie

      Hi Al……I am of Norwegian heritage on my Dad’s side (3rd generation). So funny, I was just thinking of my grandmother and some of the things she said and made wondering how much was “just Grandma” and how much was Norwegian tradition. I have my Grandmother’s recipe for Norwegian gold cake. Delish. Not familiar with the whipped cake. Would you be willing to swap recipes if you find it? This might be something that my Uncle had growing up (Dad passed away so I can’t ask him). Would like to make it for him if it brings back memories……Thanks……

  2. Alene Wendrow

    We are having 50 people over for my husband’s “Medicare” birthday, 65! Drinks, drink accompaniments, buffet dinner. I adore baking. What might I do for a birthday cake to feed a lot of people and still be divine? Any ideas? I’m not a sheet cake fan, but that might be the only way. Help!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Not many folks have 10″ pans but if you do then 2 10″ cakes that are 3 layers or 2 generous layers high should cover it! I would choose a chocolate option and a lemon option. Or if you want to go the sheet pan route any recipe yielding 2 9″ rounds will fit nicely in a 9×13. We have a great recipe called Choco Buzz. It is actually a layer cake because the 9×13 is cut in half to make 2 layers. The yield is 18. Good luck! Elisabeth@KAF

  3. Sally Whiteneck

    I find that I always get the cake I want when I bake it for myself! I have done this since I became an adult many years ago and do not begrudge the fact that I have to bake my own birthday cake because I know that my special cake will be my current favorite. Over the years, they have ranged from white cake with chocolate frosting to chocolate angel food to coconut cake.
    Today is not my birthday, but I plan to make the Original Cake Pan Cake with a few high altitude adjustments later today. That is the cake that my husband’s mother always made for his birthday (although she called it Wacky Cake)–she even sent a boxful of the ingredients to my brother-in-law for his birthday when he was stationed on a ship off the shores of Viet Nam in the late 1960’s. The ship’s cook made it for him!

  4. AnaCruz5

    Thanks for the great blog, your timing is excellent. My son’s 11th birthday is today! I may just have to try baking up one of these yummy-looking recipes.

    While I’m sharing I have to mention my favorite, although it isn’t a cake at all. My birthday is a little later in the spring, during fresh strawberry season, and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE strawberry shortcake to celebrate with. For me, even chocolate can’t beat a warm, fresh biscuit smothered with sugary red berries, drowning in heavy cream. MMMMM…

  5. Arlene Turner

    My mother died at the age of 95 in 2006. We kids grew up during WW2, tomato soup cake was always in the house. I believe it was my mom’s favorite or it was just the easiest to make during the rationing years. where are you hiding the recipe? Thanks for the memory. Arlene

  6. Penny

    I made a birthday cake this week for my 12 year old granddaughter. A nice golden yellow cake with chocolate cream frosting decorated with her name and flowers, all the good stuff. I put it in my cake carrier before putting any candles on it. On the way out the door the cake carrier opened up and the lovely cake turned over onto the carpet! OH NO!!! Well, I managed to flip it back over and put it back in the carrier, very smooshed looking but otherwise okay. I took it to the party and told the girls they all had to pretend to be blind while Stephanie blew out the candles! They thought it was delicious and “really really beautiful, Grama!” That was love talking I know. Better luck next year!!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      What they don’t know won’t hurt them, right! That is a great story Penny. Carry the carrier from the bottom next time? Elisabeth@KAF

  7. Jaytee

    That favorite fudge birthday cake?
    When all the major labels reformulated and down-sized their cake mixes (yuck) it became my GO TO recipe.
    The recipe I use to make my own cake mixes that is.
    Just sift all the dry ingredients into a ziplock bag, seal and shake.
    Store in the freezer until you need to make a cake.

    Empty the contents of the bag into your mixing bowl with the wet ingredients and mix on medium.

    Tastes a lot better than any mix in a box. 🙂

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for your great tips, Jaytee! I admire your organization and ability to plan ahead! Barb@KAF

  8. BeckyJ

    I made Root Beer Float Cake a few years ago for my daughter’s birthday after seeing the recipe in The Baking Sheet. I used root beer soda syrup from Williams Sonoma, and Edy’s Slow Churned French Vanilla for the ffilling. It was huge hit. It’s now our family’s special celebration cake, and whenever we’re invited somewhere, friends always ask me to bring it. Best cake ever.

    1. MaryJane Robbins, post author

      That cake is definitely on my list to try this year, hopefully in March so I can enjoy it again and again over the whole summer. Glad you now have a special cake Becky, and thanks for reminding us of this great recipe. ~ MJ

  9. Carolyn

    I don’t know if this was ever used as a birthday cake in my family but my mother had a recipe for Cocktail Cake whose main ingredient was a can of fruit cocktail, drained of course. I have made it for fellow employees and dubbed it Mystery Cake and challenged them to name the mystery ingredient. One person knew immediately what it was because she grew up with it.
    After I was married my birthday cake was always the leftover from my husband’s cake. His birthday was the day before mime! (When my kids got to be teenagers they complained that 2 birthdays and Christmas within one week was unfair. I kind of had to agree!!)


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