Grandma’s 25 Favorite Birthday Cake Recipes

One-Bowl Chocolate Cake
PHOTO: ANTONIS ACHILLEOS; PROP STYLIST: CALEB CLARKE; FOOD STYLIST: EMILY NABORS HALL

Our grandparents taught us that the most memorable way to celebrate someone on their birthday (besides showering them with warm wishes) is to bake them a cake. While there are certain desserts that are associated with specific holidays and occasions (pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, bunny cake on Easter, peach cobbler for 4th of July), anything really goes when it comes to birthday celebrations. As each year rolls around, some family members make requests that can range from “I’d love your famous red velvet cake” to “anything with peanut butter, please.” Others are more nostalgic and look forward to the same type of cake they’ve been enjoying since they were young kids. And then there are those who just want to be surprised – after all, if it’s made-from-scratch it’s bound to be delicious. Whether you’re celebrating someone turning 1 or 100, we have more than two dozen recipes that are sure to dazzle and delight.

01of 25

Classic Birthday Cake

Classic Birthday Cake
MICAH A. LEAL

Hooray for homemade sheet cake that doesn’t disappoint. This recipe features the flavor and spirit of confetti cake and is finished with vanilla frosting and rainbow sprinkles.

02of 25

Pink Champagne Cake

pink champagne cake
ANTONIS ACHILLEOS; FOOD STYLING: ALI RAMEE; PROP STYLING: CHRISTINE KELLY

Pretty in pink. Say cheers to a two-layer dessert that looks impressive but actually starts with boxed cake mix.

03of 25

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake
MICAH A. LEAL

Not everything needs to be a fancy layer cake. (And who doesn’t love a cookie cake?) This recipe is a little bit salty and a little bit sweet, and will remind us all of home.

04of 25

1234 Cake

1234 Cake
VICTOR PROTASIO, FOOD STYLIST: EMILY NABORS HALL, PROP STYLIST: KATHLEEN VARNER

Always a go-to celebration cake, this simple recipe is just as it name implies: as easy as 1234. Plus, it includes ingredients you likely have in your pantry, which means you can pull it together without a ton of time.

05of 25

Chocolate Poke Cake

Chocolate Poke Cake
STACY ALLEN, PROP STYLIST: CALEB CLARKE, FOOD STYLIST: JEN RILEY

Break out the 9×13 pan because this is the dream dessert for a chocolate lover. Our simple recipe is rich and fudgy and topped with fluffy whipped cream and chocolate chips.

06of 25

Tres Leches Cake

Tres Leches
CAITLIN BENSEL; FOOD STYLING: TORIE COX

Ready to impress? For the person who likes a little something more than vanilla or chocolate, this popular Latin American dessert is made with a light, airy sponge cake that is saturated with three different types of milk. Perfect idea for an unforgettable day.

07of 25

One-Bowl Chocolate Cake

One-Bowl Chocolate Cake
ANTONIS ACHILLEOS; PROP STYLIST: CALEB CLARKE; FOOD STYLIST: EMILY NABORS HALL

Say hello to the easiest chocolate dessert. The best part is that you can make this moist decadent cake in one bowl.

08of 25

Hummingbird Cake

Hummingbird Cake
SOUTHERN LIVING

For someone who wants a classic celebration, you can’t go wrong with this iconic Southern cake.

09of 25

Peanut Butter Cake

Peanut Butter Cake - Southern Living
CAITLIN BENSEL; FOOD STYLING: EMILY NABORS HALL

Peanut butter lovers, rejoice! This cake is made with creamy frosting and crunchy peanuts, and will be a recipe worth holding onto for years to come.

10of 25

Cookies And Cream Cake

cookies and cream cake
ANTONIS ACHILLEOS; FOOD STYLING: ALI RAMEE; PROP STYLING: CHRISTINE KELLY

Whip up this decadent dessert for the one who always requests a scoop (or pint!) of the rich and creamy ice cream flavor.

11of 25

Eclair Cake

Eclair Cake
MOLLY BOLTON/SOUTHERN LIVING

Surprise that special someone with a cake inspired by the traditional pastry. This cake combines graham crackers, vanilla pudding, and chocolate ganache for an out-of-this-world treat.

12of 25

Red Velvet Cake With White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting

Red Velvet Cake with White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting
ANTONIS ACHILLEOS; FOOD STYLING: EMILY NABORS HALL; PROP STYLING: MARY CLAYTON CARL JONES

There are cakes that shine. And then there are cakes that steal the birthday show. Enter this classic red velvet cake with extra rich and creamy cream cheese frosting.

13of 25

Moravian Sugar Cake

Southern Living Moravian Sugar Cake sliced on plates to serve
CAITLIN BENSEL; FOOD STYLIST: TORIE COX

No one says every cake must start with a box of cake mix. Cue the Moravian Sugar Cake, a North Carolina specialty that’s made with mashed potatoes and topped with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon.

14of 25

Cheerwine Bundt Cake

Southern Living Cheerwine Cake sliced on a cake plate to serve
JESSICA FURNISS

Why make something typical when you can bake something extra fun? This showstopper puts a regional spin on everyone’s favorite Bundt.

15of 25

Red Velvet Mug Cakes

Southern Living Red Velvet Mug Cakes in the mug ready to serve
CAITLIN BENSEL; FOOD STYLIST: TORIE COX

For the person who loves the flavor of red velvet, but would prefer a simple, single-serving. Trust us, this mini is quite delightful.

16of 25

Jimmy Carter Dessert

Jimmy Carter Dessert - Southern Living
CAITLIN BENSEL; FOOD STYLIST: TORIE COX

Well, if it’s fit for a president…. then we assume this will make anyone extra happy on their birthday. This layered dessert is crunchy, creamy, chocolaty, and full of peanut flavor. 

17of 25

Old-Fashioned Caramel Cake

Old-Fashioned Caramel Cake Southern Living
COURTNEY WEST

Rich, buttery, and beyond decadent, this old-fashioned caramel cake is actually easy to make and wows at every gathering.

18of 25

Million Dollar Cake

Southern Living Million Dollar Cake on a cake plate ready to serve
JEN CAUSEY, FOOD STYLIST: CHELSEA ZIMMER, PROP STYLIST: JULIA BAYLESS

Let’s be honest, is there any better compliment than baking a cake for someone that tastes like a million bucks? This light and fluffy cake comes together easily with boxed cake mix and instant pudding, and has a tropical twist.

19of 25

Key Lime Cheesecake

key lime cheesecake
PHOTOGRAPHER: ANTONIS ACHILLEOS, PROP STYLIST:CHRISTINE KEELY FOOD STYLIST: CHELSEA ZIMMER

Two classics– Key Lime and cheesecake– come together in one unforgettable dessert. If you are looking for something a bit different than the typical birthday cake, this recipe is perfect anytime.

20of 25

Chocolate Mayonnaise Sheet Cake

chocolate mayonnaise sheet cake
CAITLIN BENSEL; FOOD STYLIST: TORIE COX

Hosting a crowd? Transform the all-time favorite into a sheet cake so there’s plenty to go around.

21of 25

Banana Coconut Cobbler

Southern Living Banana Coconut Cobbler in the pan with a serving scooped out and topped with ice cream
CAITLIN BENSEL; FOOD STYLIST: TORIE COX

A flavorful twist on the classic banana cobbler. This recipe is flavored with cardamom, coconut milk, lime, and will be a tasty surprise.

22of 25

Ambrosia Cupcakes

Ambrosia Cupcakes
ANTONIS ACHILLEOS; PROP STYLING: GIULIETTA PINNA; FOOD STYLING: ALI RAMEE

Made with love for the Southerner who always requests Aunt Betty’s famous ambrosia at every family affair.

23of 25

Jell-O Pie

Jell-O Pie
FRED HARDY, FOOD STYLIST: MARGARET MONROE DICKEY, PROP STYLIST: CALEB CLARKE

Welcome an old-fashioned favorite to the birthday festivities. Luscious lemon-flavored gelatin crumbles elevate this creamy no-bake pie.

24of 25

Lemon Lush

Two slices of Lemon Lush dessert on plates with forks with a glass of lemonade and a napkin.
VICTOR PROTASIO; FOOD STYLIST: RUTH BLACKBURN, PROP STYLIST: LYDIA PURSELL

Citrus fans will be over-the-moon digging into this homemade treat. This dessert comes together with cookie crust, cream cheese filling, lemon pudding, and whipped cream.

25of 25

Best Carrot Cake

Best Carrot Cake on a white plate with orange splatter
CAITLIN BENSEL; FOOD STYLIST: TORIE COX

There are people who like carrot cake, and then there are people who really like carrot cake. Whip up this dessert for their special day and plan on not having a crumb left in sight.