Cake Recipes

From luscious chocolate cakes to light angel food cakes and multi-tiered birthday cakes, it’s a wide, delicious world of cake out there. Even if it’s just a slab of simple, buttery pound cake enjoyed with a cup of coffee, there is something celebratory about eating a slice of cake. The flip side is that cakes tend to require more effort to bake than a tray of brownies or cookies, but that’s no reason to worry. Our Food & Wine guide to cake includes tips from professional bakers (like starting with room temperature ingredients) to help you make an amazing dessert. We’ve also shared our best layer cakes, so you’ll never wonder how to celebrate another birthday—plus bundt cakes, upside-down cakes, icebox cakes and more.

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Gingerbread-Spiced Chocolate-Whiskey Cake

This is not your grandmother’s frugally seasoned, well-mannered spice cake. With its undercurrent of strong coffee and a healthy splash of whiskey, this luscious, deeply spiced cake has the all swagger of Cowboy George, our neighbor and partner in crime during our days living on a ranch in the Texas countryside. Back then, I used to leave baked goods in George’s pick-up truck as small thank yous for his help in, say, loading the horse trailer for a trip to the vet, or rounding up goats after they’d escaped. Of all the treats I made, this cake best represents George’s spirit animal. The double dose of chocolate (cocoa powder plus chips) is enhanced by a concerto of gingerbread spices—cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves, plus black pepper, which tilt this fragrant cake from delicate to audacious with their lingering warmth. I’ve made dozens of variations of this recipe over the years, because it’s simple to whisk together, everyone loves it, and leftovers put a song in your heart at breakfast (pass the coffee; don’t judge). I find that larger discs of chocolate sink to the bottom and create a fudgy base. There are worse things in life than a fudgy base, but I prefer using mini chips that remain suspended in the batter and dissolve during baking to create an exceptionally moist, ultra-rich texture. For an even deeper chocolate flavor, swap in 1/2 cup cocoa noir or black cocoa (the kind used to make Oreos)—one whiff and you’ll be transported to elementary school. When it comes to serving, my favorite finish is the easiest—a dusting of cocoa powder. But no one will complain if you serve fat wedges partnered with clouds of lightly sweetened whipped cream. And need I suggest a nip of your favorite single-barrel bourbon on the side? Cowboy George (and more than likely your grandmother) would approve.
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Apple-Rum Spice Cake

A tender chiffon cake pairs well with the light and billowy frosting, seasoned with spicy-fresh ginger juice. Warm spices and a shot of rum add a kick to the apple compote that makes this a centerpiece dessert for the adult table.
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Flambéed Candied Chestnut Cake

This rich cake is delicious served with a dollop of crème fraîche or, as they serve it at The Beatrice Inn in New York City, with a scoop of white truffle ice cream and shaved white truffles.
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Banana Snacking Cake

A snacking cake—a simple dessert meant to be eaten unadorned—may seem like an odd between-meals treat, but this version, perfectly balanced between sweet and savory, fits in just right. Made from a simple, five-ingredient batter, this cake gets its bright acidity from extra-virgin olive oil and an earthy sweetness from maple syrup. Chopped bananas play well with both, making the cake a slightly more virtuous answer to all those overly sweet, dense banana loaves on bakery counters. Eat this cake as-is for breakfast. For a snack in the afternoon, though, a simple dusting of powdered sugar over the top dresses it up nicely for dessert with a scoop of ice cream.
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Banana–Chocolate Chip Snack Cake with Salted Peanut Butter Frosting

As with all good movie or TV franchises, snack cake deserves a sequel. If my first snack cake recipe (Carrot-Almond Snack Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting) didn’t catch your fancy, maybe this one will. The story line is the same—8-x-8 format, whisk-together batter, thick layer of yummy frosting over tall, moist cake—but the cast is completely different. You can think of these cakes as the True Detective of recipes (just seasons 1 and 3, please). What’s new in snack cake #2 is the incredible chemistry of the two main players, which work in sync quite beautifully: peanut butter and banana. (Well, there’s chocolate, too, but it’s in a supporting role). The fruity banana batter is bolstered by browned butter for caramel-like richness that’s echoed by the butterscotch notes of brown sugar. 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. And here’s the real twist—this snack cake is completely whole-grain—but not in an obnoxious, hit-you-over-the-head sort of way. Whole-wheat pastry flour has a fine texture and mild flavor that blends seamlessly into baked goods like this. Though its flavor is milder than the earnest wheatiness of standard whole wheat, there is still some nutty nuance to it. And that’s great, because it intensifies the richness of all the good flavors in this cake (the browned butter, brown sugar, and peanut butter), instead of diluting them the way that white flour would. As for the salted peanut butter frosting, well, be still my heart! Peanut butter behaves quite similarly to butter here, beating to a fluffy consistency that gives the frosting a smooth, creamy, buttercream-like texture. And the decision to add a good hit of salt? It makes the peanut butter taste more peanut buttery, as if you’d concentrated the flavor of four times as much as you actually use. And it’s a delicious way to cap off snack cake #2—because a good sequel needs to stand up to the original and make you want even more.
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More Cake

Strawberry Shortcake for a Crowd

Strawberry shortcake always reminds me of weekends growing up in Mississippi. Back then, my grandmother would stuff her shortcakes with fruit from her garden—blackberries, strawberries, even pitted muscadines, a tough-skinned Southern grape—and lots of whipped cream (or, to be honest, Cool Whip). But the base was always a single buttery, delicious biscuit. But what's better than individual biscuits stuffed with strawberries and whipped cream? Well, if you're asking me, it's a version that still delivers a gorgeous dessert and serves the same amount of people but is much simpler to make. It doesn't get much easier than strawberry shortcake, but this family-style version I created definitely makes it foolproof. 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. Traditional shortcake dough is dry and crumbly like a scone, but here I return to my Southern upbringing to make the shortcake more of the buttery, buttermilk-tangy biscuit that I remember from growing up, complete with crispy edges and fluffy insides, all of which makes it richer and more indulgent. The giant biscuit-cake is then split and stuffed with a pile of fresh strawberries and fluffy whipped cream, kind of like a rustic version of British Victoria sponge, only much more tender and delightfully messy. Cut it into wedges and serve up a strawberry shortcake that is modern not only in looks, but also in how easy it is on the cook. It's the type of dessert that invites the eater to dig in with wild abandon and keep the pinkies down as much as possible. My grandma would approve.
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I Made Pound Cake with 3 Different Types of Butter—This One Was the Best

Does American Butter, European Butter, or Amish Butter make the best pound cake? I put on my stretchiest pants and dug in to find out the answer.
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Tortuga Rum Cake

Clear Flour Bread in Brookline, Massachusetts, makes this spectacular rum-soaked cake with almond flour, which gives the cake its moist, delicate crumb and lovely aroma. Be sure to pour the rum syrup over the cake while the cake is still warm so the syrup is fully absorbed. Slideshow: More Cake Recipes