Easy Birthday Cake: 9 Simple Ideas in 3 Categories (+ Recipes)
Nearly everyone who’s ever had a birthday loves birthday cake. Don’t despair if you’re not a baker. You don’t have to make the latest Pinterst-style special effects cake to really make someone’s day. Below we’re covering the best birthday cakes you can make, all with one easy to follow basic recipe.
Did you know that birthday cakes originated in Germany during the Middle Ages? Back then they were more like bread and were primarily served to children.
If that’s the type of cake you usually produce by accident, you’ll want our easy birthday cake recipe below. Using our top tips, you’ll craft a simple yet scrumptious birthday cake for any occasion in no time.
Easy Birthday Cake for Him
If the special man in your life is like most men, he’ll want cake for his birthday. Below are some of the simplest and quickest birthday cake creations you can make for him.
These use our easy cake and frosting recipes at the bottom of the page. They range from boozy to striking, yet they’re all really simple to make. Below you’ll find the best birthday cakes for men.
Boozy Birthday Cake with Whisky
One simple way to make an unusual birthday cake for men is simply adding his favorite alcohol. Whisky is a popular choice for many and goes well with our vanilla sponge recipe below. To infuse your cake, carefully cut a small layer of sponge off the top of the cake.
Pour two to three shotglasses of your favorite tipple evenly across the sponge and replace the layer. This will infuse the cake and create a moist, boozy finish. You can also add 1-3 tablespoons of whisky to our frosting recipe to flavor this as well.
Sporty Cake in the Shape of a Ball
A simple yet effective birthday cake for him is the ever popular ball-shaped cake. You can get half-ball cake molds in most bakery stores or from online sellers. Get a pentagon or hexagon-shaped cookie cutter and some white and black colored frosting, and you can easily make a soccer ball.
You can use the same cake tin for basketballs, tennis balls, baseballs, and more. Best of all these cakes look really impressive yet need no special skills at all.
Black and Gold James Bond Cake
As you’ll know by now you can color frosting in any shade you want. Some black food coloring makes for some impressive and unusual icing.
Alternatively, you can use very dark chocolate powder, which also imparts a delicious flavor. Get some edible gold powder and make a homemade stencil, and you’ve got yourself a James Bond cake.
The stencil can be printed on normal paper. Simply cut out the areas you want to see on your cake. Press the stencil onto the cake, dust the powder over, and gently peel. How do you take your cake, Mr Bond?
Easy Birthday Cake for Her
If you’re looking for a simple birthday cake for the special lady in your life, you’re in luck. Below are some of the easiest yet most striking birthday cakes you can whip up at home. All of these use our basic recipe at the bottom of this page, including the delicious buttercream frosting.
Pink Strawberry Cake
The arguably easiest cake you can make for your mother, wife, or girlfriend: A beautiful pink-frosted cake with fresh berries on top. To make this easy yet delicious cake, follow our simple cake and frosting recipes below. Add some pink food coloring to the frosting mix.
If you like you can also put a little in the cake batter before baking. Frost the entire cake as well as between two layers, and add strawberry pieces between the layers and on top of the cake. This cake is great with raspberries as well, and it looks beautiful and summery.
Pastel-Colored Cake with Flowers
Another simple yet effective cake option for her is a floral, pastel-colored cake. Make our simple frosting recipe below and divide it into at least three separate bowls, one large, one medium, and one small.
Add the food coloring of your choice to the bowls. A little lavender or pink food coloring looks great in the base mix.
Use this to frost your cake. Next, add the color of your choice to your medium bowl, for the flowers. Add some green to the smallest bowl, for any decorative foliage or little leaves.
Using a flat flower-piping nozzle, pipe petals onto your cake. You can easily craft roses or daisies in this fashion and even slightly messier florals look great.
Pretty ‘Dress’ Cake with Frosting
A really clever-looking yet easy cake is the popular ‘dress’ cake. You’ve probably seen these in the shape of dolls with cake ‘dresses’ underneath. The grown-up version is classier and more subtle, but still very effective. Simply cover your cake with our frosting-mix below, but set aside a little for the dress.
Add some food coloring of your choice to the remaining frosting, and pipe a triangle going towards the centre of the cake, a little like a pizza slice. Then pipe a little ‘top’ above it.
Decorate the belt portion of the dress if a few sprinkles or some different-colored icing, if you like. This also makes a great engagement cake.
Easy Birthday Cake for Kids
Kids all have one thing in common: They love cake, especially on their birthdays. Below are some of the simplest cakes you can create at home, even if you need to bake them with little helpers.
From colorful to Pinterest-worthy, these cakes can be made by even novice bakers, and all use our basic recipe at the bottom of the page.
Rainbow Cake with Sprinkles or Smarties
Hands-down the simplest birthday cake ever: The rainbow cake. Simply make our cake recipe below — add some rainbow sprinkles to the batter if you like. Frost the cake using our delicious vanilla buttercream recipe.
Then sprinkle rainbow sprinkles on top or cover in rows or circles of different-colored smarties. It’s a fun, bright cake your kids will love, yet so easy to make. Even the least experienced baker will do just fine with this.
De-Constructed Digger Cake
The ultimate cake for when your cake failed. Add a bit of chocolate powder to our cake batter recipe below. Once it’s baked, crumble a little bit of the top of the cake and make piles of ‘dirt’ by its side.
Place clean toy diggers on the cake for an easy construction site cake. What’s great about this cake idea is that it’s also fun to make together with the kids. Younger siblings can get involved and help make the birthday boy or girl’s day.
Pinterst-Worthy Ice-Cream Cone Cake
This one is really very easy, but looks fantastic. Start by baking our simple cake recipe below. Add food coloring of your choice to the buttercream frosting recipe as you make it. Next, coat the entire cake in frosting, but reserve a ‘ball’ of it.
Place the ball of frosting in the center of your cake — this is the ice cream. Add an upside down cone for an ‘ice cream falling onto the cake’ effect, and cover with some multi-colored sprinkles. Done.
Simple Birthday Cake Decorations
If you’re a novice baker you’ll want plenty of cake decorations. Cake decor has so many benefits: It can convey who the cake is for, a special theme, or cover up little mishaps. If your pipework isn’t perfect or your icing turns out a little lumpy, these decorations are your friend.
Smarties, Sprinkles and Fruit
The easiest is sometimes the best. Colorful smarties and sprinkles can go a long way, especially when it comes to covering small flaws in your frosting. Similarly fruit is both delicious and gives a popular rustic look to cakes, even when your pipework is mediocre at best.
A flat flower-piping nozzle is very easy to use and can produce really pretty effects. You can use it to pipe simple roses or daisies, ribbons, and even stars.
You can make the simple ‘dress’ cake above, and write calligraphy messages or names. Best of all a fun piping nozzle gives you lots of room for experimenting with colorful frosting as well.
When all else fails, grab some plastic decorations and clean them. This is particularly effective for children’s birthday cakes, but can make for a fun effect on adult ones too. Superhero figurines, animals, and vehicles are all great options. Just remember to clean them before you pop them on a cake.
Alternatives to a Simple Birthday Cake
Cake isn’t everyone’s favorite, we understand. Below are some of our top suggestions for alternatives to a big cake. Whether you’re looking for something that’s a little easier to share or even a healthier alternative, these tips have got you covered. They’re fun ways to get creative too.
One easy alternative to the two 9” cake tins you can make with our recipe below is cupcakes. Our simple cake recipe makes 24 delicious cupcakes, which you can also frost with our tasty buttercream icing recipe. For a very easy birthday treat, divide the frosting into two bowls.
Add a different shade of food coloring to each and alternate each cupcake with different-colored frosting. Use matching cupcake cases or cases with cute patterns for an elegant yet simple finish.
Not everyone loves cake, in which case cookies are a great alternative. Simply whip up a batch of your favorite chocolate chip cookies. Stack them for a cute birthday cake alternative that looks just as presentable.
For those who aren’t fans of cake but love pretty much all other baked treats, you could also whip up a variety of desserts. Try making a platter of chocolate cookies, brownies, and blondies.
Birthday Cake… Made of Other Foods
If you love birthday cake but not the calories, try this: Stack thick slices of watermelon with slivers of orange and apple in between as the ‘frosting.’ Then decorate the ‘cake’ with berries, kiwi slices or grapes.
It’s a lovely refreshing treat that even younger kids will enjoy. And if you don’t mind the calories but also don’t want the sweet cake, make the entire thing of cheese. Cheese wedding cakes have long been a ‘thing’, and cheese birthday cakes are just as good.
Tips and Substitutions
If you’re new to baking birthday cakes, you may be hoping for some extra tips and tricks to get it just right. Below are some of our top tips that will allow you to check when your cake is just done, yet still moist, cut it into perfect layers, and even substitute ingredients the birthday boy or girl is allergic to.
Another Way to Check Your Cake Is Ready
Poke a wooden skewer into the cake once the initial 30 minutes baking time are up. If it comes out clean and without any gooey bits of dough attached to it, the cake is ready.
Alternative Ingredients for Allergy-Sufferers
If you can’t have dairy, you can substitute the milk and cream in the recipes below with oat or almond milk. Coconut cream is an excellent alternative for heavy cream though it is more solid and will result in a less malleable buttercream.
Vegans may also replace the eggs with aquafaba, which is made of chickpea water, mashed banana, or yogurt. Those with a gluten intolerance can substitute the flour with a gluten free self-raising flour of their choice.
Create Layers Using String or Dental Floss
If you don’t have multiple cake tins but want a layered birthday cake, use string or (new) dental floss. Wrap it equally around the entire cake and tightly pull across. This will slice the cake evenly with minimal mess.
Basic Recipe for the Best Simple Birthday Cake
Here is a recipe for the cake batter:
- 2 ¼ cups self-raising flour
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- ½ cup salted butter
- 2 tsps vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups whole milk
- 3 medium eggs
And this is how you do it:
- Preheat your oven to 350F and prep two 9” cake tins or one 9”x13” pan with butter or cooking oil.
- Cream the butter and sugar using a mixer until it looks pale and fluffy.
- In a second bowl, mix the eggs, milk, and vanilla extract.
- Gradually mix the egg mixture with the flour and buttercream until everything is fully combined and smooth.
- Pour the cake mixture into your cake tins and bake for 30-35 minutes. The center should be a soft brown and be springy when gently pressed.
Let the cake cool to room temperature before frosting and decorating.
Simple Buttercream Frosting
A Recipe for a Simple Buttercream Frosting:
- 1 cup salted butter
- 1 tbsp heavy cream
- 3 ½ cups powdered sugar
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
And this is how you make the cake:
- Using a mixer, whip the softened, not melted, butter for about a minute until it’s creamy.
- Sift in the powdered sugar to avoid any lumps. Do so gradually, re-whipping the mixture repeatedly until everything is mixed in.
- Add the vanilla extract and heavy cream and mix again until you get a fluffy yet smooth consistency.
You may add up to 3 tablespoons of cream to make the frosting thinner. You can also add food coloring or other extracts such as almond of orange at this point.