What kind of birthday cake would you like?
October 15, 2019 3:34 PM   Subscribe

I volunteered to make the cake for a friend's birthday. I seldom make cakes and am looking for inspiration. What types of cake and icing would you want? I'm a fair baker, prefer not to get terribly exotic ingredients, but otherwise, anything goes.
posted by theora55 to Food & Drink (43 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
For birthday cake specifically, traditional yellow cake with chocolate frosting. And sprinkles! And you need ice cream to go with it.
posted by Weeping_angel at 3:35 PM on October 15, 2019 [12 favorites]

My favourite is chocolate cake with strawberry icing.
posted by jeather at 3:36 PM on October 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

I always request a regular chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. I want it to look like a homemade birthday cake.
posted by kimberussell at 3:38 PM on October 15, 2019

My favorite is chocolate cake, vanilla frosting, and ice cream, preferably vanilla with fudge swirls.
posted by FencingGal at 3:44 PM on October 15, 2019

Coconut layer cake with lemon curd filling.
posted by suelac at 3:47 PM on October 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

For me, chocolate cake, as chocolatey as you can get it, made with butter not oil, with dark chocolate ganache frosting.

The kind of cake that mere mortals take a few bites of and say my goodness this is so rich, I couldn't possibly. Well, I could. I will eat all the cake that you cannot.

This is my favorite cake. And quite possibly favorite food.
posted by phunniemee at 3:56 PM on October 15, 2019 [13 favorites]

I always asked my mother to make Blitz Torte, except that we made it with just whipped cream for the filling. Unless you like making pastry cream or custard, there's no real need for anything more complicated than good, fresh, lightly sweetened whipped cream.

My very favorite cake to bake is really any of the Joy of Cooking white layer cakes - the one where you beat the egg whites separately and fold them in is probably the best.

Williamsburg cake is also a good, old-fashioned cakey-tasting cake.
posted by Frowner at 3:58 PM on October 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Boston Cream Pie? A layer of yellow or white cake split horizontally, filled with what the GBBO would call creme pat, and topped with chocolate glaze. That was what my ex wanted for his birthday, and while I'll say rude things about him generally, that was a good cake.
posted by LizardBreath at 4:02 PM on October 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

For me personally, a simple chocolate sponge, a lot of chocolate, only moderately sweet, with freshly whipped cream with a hint of vanilla and some strawberries or raspberries.

For other people, the same chocolate sponge with vanilla cream or frosting in the middle and topped with a chocolate glaze and assorted sweets - I mean a great big colourful pile of smarties, fruit gums, mini marshmallows etc. on top, hold normal candles, sparklers all the way.
posted by koahiatamadl at 4:05 PM on October 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

I’ve had many cakes but one of my favorite birthday cakes is the kitchy Americana Famous Chocolate Wafer Cake*

*maybe not technically a cake, your ontology may vary
posted by SaltySalticid at 4:10 PM on October 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

My Mom always made my Dad a Boston Cream Pie for his birthday. I swear, they used to have a mix for it, but I cannot find it anywhere. I've done this Martha Stewart version before, and it's so good.

I use the no fuss pastry cream recipe from Martha Stewart's channel, Everyday Food, featuring Thomas Joseph, who is a favorite of mine. I've never had to strain it, and it comes out perfect every time. I also use it to fill cream puffs, for fruit tarts, etc.

My son, on the other hand, loves the Better Homes and Gardens Cheesecake Supreme. I've done it the original way, and also varied it by using chocolate graham crackers in the crust with ground hazelnuts, then drizzling the crust with caramel sauce & baking it for 10 minutes first. Then I take the base cheesecake and separate it into 2 halves, and put melted chocolate into one half, and some almond extract, then swirl, and top each slice with a Toffifay candy on the thick end upon serving. A little more caramel and chopped hazelnuts wouldn't be amiss on top, as well as some melted chocolate. Canned cherry pie filling is lovely on the plain cheesecake.

Sometimes I'll add sour cream to the cheesecake recipe, and have also successfully left out the eggs (for folks who can't have them) and just used sour cream instead of the milk. It has to be made either very early that day, or a day ahead, so it can cool off and set up in the fridge, however.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:11 PM on October 15, 2019 [4 favorites]

a friend of mine made me a salted caramel cake and it was amazing. i am not sure what recipe he used but there are quite a few out there.
posted by koroshiya at 4:13 PM on October 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Strawberry and cream cake for me. I’m normally a chocolate cake kinda lass, but for birthdays there is something special about fresh strawberries and sweet cream!
posted by lydhre at 4:30 PM on October 15, 2019

I made this chocolate cake plus peanut butter frosting the other day and was very happy with it. And I'd like some more.

I am also always up for a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting - that's my go-to birthday cake request.
posted by hydra77 at 4:33 PM on October 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Milk Bar birthday cake looks like A Project, but it looks amazing.

Less involved ideas:

Dark chocolate cake, mint buttercream, chocolate ganache (ganache makes anything sound fancy)

Chai-flavored cake with apple caramel topping

Yellow sheet cake with pink frosting for nostalgia
posted by sugarbomb at 4:33 PM on October 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

To me, "birthday" says classic yellow with vanilla or chocolate frosting or chocolate with chocolate frosting. However! Often for my birthday, I'd request a lemon cake (which was basically a yellow cake with lemon -- so not a lemon pound cake or anything else) with lemon buttercream frosting.
posted by darksong at 4:34 PM on October 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

I generally request things like Tres Leches Cake or Tiramisu for my birthday, but if you said you'd make a Birthday Cake (not a cake for a birthday) I understand that to mean a traditional white or yellow cake with buttercream and sprinkles.
posted by arcticwoman at 4:39 PM on October 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

My preferred version of a birthday cake is any kind of yellow pound cake recipe with lots of eggs (from scratch), cut into three horizontal layers. Top the first cake bottom with vanilla pudding mixed with plain whipped cream (1/3 whipped cream, 2/3 vanilla pudding). Add the second cake slice, top with mashed strawberries or raspberries (add sugar if needed to the fruit before filling). Add the top of the cake back, then add a layer of stiff-whipped cream to cover the cake completely. Decorate with remainder of fruit, dust lightly with powdered sugar.

It's best to assemble right before eating it, but you can make the filled cake and cover with aluminum foil for an hour or two without it getting too soggy. So delicious!
posted by gemmy at 4:50 PM on October 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Geode cakes!!! They are so very gorgeous. But other than that, my preferred cake is cheesecake.
posted by Jacen at 4:54 PM on October 15, 2019

Honestly, I think the best thing to do - if this isn't a surprise - is to ask the birthday guy/girl what they want in terms of flavor and icing.

Then you're set - just do what they ask, and just go a little fancy with the decorating.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:06 PM on October 15, 2019 [4 favorites]

One year, I went all out for Dr. Advicepig’s cake. The next year, I asked her with plenty of lead time, what kind of cake would she want this year? Sheepishly, she replied she wanted a cake from a box mix and a tub of frosting. I took her to the grocery and had her pick out the exact one she wanted. So I guess, I’d favor checking in with the birthday friend.
posted by advicepig at 6:22 PM on October 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

If you know of any unusual flavors or snacks they really like, there are recipes out there for everyyyything. I make Mrs Molerats a surprise cake flavor every year, and this is how we have ended up with animal cracker cake, grape soda cake, bubble gum cake, etc....

Homemade buttercream frosting is not really hard and is a million times better.
posted by nakedmolerats at 6:42 PM on October 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

I like all kinds of cake for other occasions, but for me nothing says !!BIRTHDAY!! like yellow cake with fluffy white buttercream frosting.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:28 PM on October 15, 2019

I made buttercream frosting recently, and it was really nice. My two comments are:

1) if using a hand mixer you really have to beat it for a long time, longer than you expect. It expands a bunch, it’s much better if you do, and it was much better that I have made in the past.

2) this natural food dye worked really well!
posted by vunder at 9:07 PM on October 15, 2019

It just needs to have layers and frosting. No layers? Frosting on the outside only? Not birthday cake.

Hummingbird cake is super easy. Ignore any instructions about sifting or separating wet and dry ingredients. Just dump everything into a blender, blitz for a few moments, pour into a pan, done. (Well, you also need to make the cream cheese frosting).
posted by some little punk in a rocket at 9:17 PM on October 15, 2019

I really like Pistachio Pudding Cake, it's yellow cake mix and Pistachio pudding mix. Make in a tube pan, and instead of the pistachio pudding icing, use a nice light ganache.

You're call, but I don't add nuts and I sift out the few nuts in the mix.
posted by Marky at 9:55 PM on October 15, 2019

I also came to say Milk Bar's Birthday Cake.
posted by quince at 10:16 PM on October 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

A tall, layered carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and walnuts down the side. Optionally with cute pastel-colored frosting carrots on top. :-)
posted by aws17576 at 10:24 PM on October 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

When I was a kid, I used to request my mother to make me this Mandarin Orange Poke Cake. So tangy and refreshing, and pretty with the oranges on top. You could even add a fresh mint leaf with each orange to make it look fancier.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:13 AM on October 16, 2019

German chocolate cake with coconut pecan frosting.
posted by TrishaU at 2:21 AM on October 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

If I am revelling in nostalgia, I want a shaped cake from the Australian Women's Weekly Birthday cake book. (Wikipedia link) . Probably it will be the "simplicity chocolate cake" recipe from The Nursing Mother's cook book (circa 80s also.)
posted by freethefeet at 3:47 AM on October 16, 2019

You have to be a pretty good baker to bake a yellow or chocolate cake that's better than a cake made from a boxed mix. I wouldn't try. OTOH, the grocery store frosting/icing may be good enough, but it's not so wonderful that you can't do better from scratch.

I think the classic American layer cake is more appropriate that a sheet cake. A proper spreader is easier to use than a knife.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:36 AM on October 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

I was given a slice of caramel brownie cheesecake on my birthday a couple of weeks ago and 10/10 would eat again.
posted by wellred at 5:11 AM on October 16, 2019

I love half and half vanilla and chocolate cake with strawberry in between and whipped icing vs. buttercream. I find buttercream to be way too sweet.
posted by Sara_NOT_Sarah at 6:31 AM on October 16, 2019

It sounds like you want to make it from scratch but for the boxed varieties the best birthday cake is two layers, spice cake with milk chocolate frosting.
posted by Glinn at 7:51 AM on October 16, 2019

Birthday guy will be having several celebrations, and states a preference for Cake! I love cake! There will be ice cream.
posted by theora55 at 8:43 AM on October 16, 2019

I have made the sheet cake version of the Milk Bar birthday cake and it was a lot of work, but possibly the best cake and certainly the most "birthday cake" I have ever eaten. Her frosting, in particular, is amazing.
posted by tangosnail at 9:52 AM on October 16, 2019

I'm really craving pancakes now, so I would probably lose my mind if presented with a pancake cake, but otherwise since pomegranates are in season, this cake seems quite solid imo
posted by speakeasy at 10:16 AM on October 16, 2019

Birthday guy will be having several celebrations, and states a preference for Cake! I love cake!

This clears up a LOT of confusion and resolves only one true answer.

Two layer cake, one chocolate layer one funfetti layer, chocolate frosting in the middle, with funfetti frosting.
posted by phunniemee at 11:16 AM on October 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

This is my favorite-ever birthday cake: Orange Crunch Cake from the Bubble Room on Captiva Island, FL.
posted by zoetrope at 12:40 PM on October 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you want to home make a Funfetti cake, the blog The Pancake Princess did a bake off of different versions, including the Momofuku/Milk Bar cake mentioned by many here. (The results may surprise you!)
posted by vunder at 2:31 PM on October 16, 2019

German chocolate is by far my favorite as well.
posted by Quack at 1:30 PM on October 17, 2019

There is no wrong answer for cake. They are all good cakes, Brent. Birthday fellow was taken ill and celebrating was postponed. Since Maine has moved into icy cold weather, the celebration may involve gingerbread with lemon glaze and whipped cream.

Because of this ask.me, I had to make yellow cake cupcakes. Yellow cake batter is the food of the gods, in case you have ever wondered.
posted by theora55 at 7:20 PM on November 15, 2019

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