Baking a cake is not a routine, it’s an event. You never prepare one because you have to; it’s something you embark on because there’s a special occasion to celebrate, or because you want to show someone they’re worth the effort of homemade. (Sometimes, that someone is yourself.) Even novice bakers can find a cake that works for them in this list: our recipes are accessible, inventive, and designed for maximum indulgence. Read on for our best cake recipes.
Cafe Con Leche Ribbon Cake
Behold, our greatest achievement assembled from a year’s worth of baking failures. This cake began life as monkey bread, but eventually morphed into something much richer; it’s a buttery yeast dough rolled into balls, coated in espresso and cocoa powder, and drenched in a light milk caramel both before and after baking. It’s a unique cake that hits the spot like nothing else, and because of the way it’s assembled, each one comes out a little different. Get the recipe for Cafe Con Leche Ribbon Cake here.
Homemade Jos Louis Cakes
Ever had a Jos Louis cake? They’re little round sponge cakes filled with vanilla cream and dipped in chocolate, sort of like Canada’s answer to a Ding Dong, but better. It’s sweet without being too sweet, and it has thin, moist red velvet cake layers. This recipe for a homemade version replicates all the best parts of a Jos Louis cake and gives you the option of eating the cakes room temperature or frozen. Get the recipe for Homemade Jos Louis Cakes here.
Baltimore Peach Cake
When produce is already perfect, you should do as little as possible to it. The moment peach season arrives, we encourage you to drop everything and make a Baltimore Peach Cake, a gift from the German immigrants that called Baltimore home over a century ago. The base, a puffy, simple yeasted dough, is covered with thick slices of fresh peaches and almost nothing else. Garnish with a little whipped cream, maybe, but otherwise, let the fruit do the work. Get the recipe for Baltimore Peach Cake here.
Bee Sting Cake
According to culinary lore, bee sting cake earned its name from a baker who made one and got stung by a bee that was attracted to the cake’s honey topping. We sincerely doubt this will happen to you, however. This stunning dessert is surprisingly simple to make (seriously!), consisting of a not-really-sweet yeast dough that’s enriched with butter and eggs like brioche. It’s baked with a topping of almonds tossed in honey and butter, then split in two and filled with vanilla bean custard. Make this recipe today and eat it tomorrow morning. Get the recipe for Bee Sting Cake here.
If you’re looking for a baking project you can do with the whole family, Wacky Cake is the recipe you need. It requires no specialized tools, no chopping, and uses few dishes for easy cleanup. Beyond that, though, it’s also a great cake for satisfying your chocolate craving when you’ve got very few ingredients on hand: it’s an egg-free, dairy-free treat that still comes out of the oven tasting rich and moist. While Wacky Cake tastes great on its own, you can top it with some buttercream frosting if you want to give yourself (or the kids) even more of a project. Get the recipe for Wacky Cake here.
Apple Cake With Chocolate Chunks
Not every cake needs an occasion. Sometimes, the reason to bake a cake can be as simple as wondering what you’re going to do with the apples you bought and don’t feel like snacking on. This apple cake is a defensible breakfast choice, the perfect companion to an afternoon cup of tea or coffee, and still totally dessert-worthy. Even better, it’s quick to throw together and made mostly of standard pantry ingredients. This is the most important part: it has bittersweet chocolate chunks in it, which create surprising pockets of bitter creaminess that offset and balance the sweetness of the apple. Get the recipe for Apple Cake here.
Instant Pot Cheesecake
Cheesecake is a great recipe for novice dessert makers. You don’t need to cream butter and sugar as needed in a cake, or worry over pastry crust. You just mix up an easy batter and pat a butter-crumb mixture into the bottom of your pan. The advantages of making cheesecake in an Instant Pot are plentiful: a lighter, mousse-like texture; drastically reduced cooking time; and consistent cooking temperature without the hot spots of a traditional oven bake. The crust won’t be quite as crispy in the Instant Pot, but you’ll have delicious, not-too-dense cheesecake in 30 minutes, so why not try it out? Get the recipe for Instant Pot Cheesecake here.
Caramelized Banana Upside-Down Cake
This cake is drenched in brown sugar caramelized bananas, but you could argue it’s also a good source of potassium and vitamin B6. It will vary in appearance and taste depending on how ripe your bananas are. If your bananas are yellow, your cake will be fluffier and sturdier, since the bananas contain starch, and will have a good, clean banana flavor. If your bananas are very brown, your cake will be denser, flatter, and gooier, because most of the bananas starches have converted into sugars as it ripened, and it will taste much sweeter. Both types of bananas, and all the spotty ones that fall in between, will make a spectacular cake, so use what you’ve got. Get the recipe for Caramelized Banana Upside-Down Cake here.
Peeled Carrot Cake
Sometimes the best recipes come to you by accident. This cake arose from a half-baked (sorry) decision to peel carrot ribbons rather than use grated carrots, resulting in a fun new dessert. It’s got delicate veins of carroty moisture that create a whimsical aesthetic, which is something that most carrot cake decidedly lacks. Most importantly, it’s a nice reminder that mistakes happen. And sometimes, if you’re lucky, those mistakes taste delicious. Get the recipe for Peeled Carrot Cake here.
Fruit Soda Dump Cake
Let us unite processed and homemade desserts under the holy banner of dump cake. You can make this thing in five minutes, and the prep couldn’t be easier: chopping up fruit is the hardest part, and that’s only if you opt for a fruit that needs chopping. Then you just dump a box of cake mix on top, with some added Sprite. The results won’t be a showstopper, but you won’t find a more concentrated cure for your sweet tooth anywhere. Have fun mixing and matching different box cake mixes and sodas, and find comfort in the familiar artificial flavorings you were raised on. Get the recipe for Fruit Soda Dump Cake here.