Hungarian dobosh torte recipe

The Spruce / Cara Cormack

How to Make a Cake

We breakdown all the cake occasions, your must-have tools, and decorating tips

Nothing marks a special occasion quite like a cake. And while you can't have a birthday or a wedding without one, the baked good doesn't have to be relegated to once or twice a year. In fact, we're here to tell you that you can have cake anytime you please.

From celebration cakes to snacking cakes, layers to Bundts, there is a wide world of cakes out there. Dip your toes in with our comprehensive guide covering bake times, pans, storage, decorating, recipes, and everything in between. It's time to have your cake and eat it, too.

Equipment Checklist

While you don't necessarily need all of the fancy tools that pastry chefs use at bakeries, there is some essential hardware for making cakes:

Egg white mixture with sugar, lemon zest and lemon extract in a stand mixer

The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

The Basics

If you're new to baking cakes, the process can seem a bit daunting. Since there's chemistry involved, baking is less forgiving than cooking, and a single misstep can lead to a flat cake or off flavors. To ensure your end result is a top-notch cake, start by familiarizing yourself with the science behind cake ingredients.

Cake layer with white frosting

The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

Key lime pound cake

The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

We've rounded up cake resources that will answer all of your burning questions and give you a solid foundation of knowledge. You'll be stacking layers and rolling fondant in no time.

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Gluten Free Chocolate Cake slices on plates

The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

Fancy Cakes

If you're celebrating a special day, like a birthday, wedding, shower, and the like, it's time to pull out all of the stops and make a show-stopping cake. Layer cakes are always a good choice for feeding a crowd and wowing them at the same time, and visually stunning creations like Swiss roll cakes are sure to make everyone ooh and ahh.

Chocoflan on a platter

The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

Guava Swiss Roll (Brazo Gitano)

The Spruce / Cara Cormack

Birthday Cakes

Wedding and Celebration Cakes

Impressive Layer Cakes

Swiss Rolls

Sourdough Coffee Cake

The Spruce / Cara Cormack

Everyday Cakes

Sometimes the only occasion you need to make a cake is... none at all! Whether you want something sweet to serve visitors, need a dessert for a potluck or another informal gathering, or just have a sweet tooth to satisfy, these cakes will do the trick with minimal hassle.

Southern Coconut Poke Cake slices on plates

The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

Old Fashioned Blood Orange Sheet Cake sliced in a sheet pan

The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

Single Layer and Sheet Cakes

Snacking Cakes

2:58

Copycat Mochi Cake

Dump and Poke Cakes

Bundt and Tube Cakes

Cake Mix Cakes

Apple Streusel Bundt Cake

The Spruce / Cara Cormack

Seasonal Cakes

No matter the season, there's a cake for that. Light and airy cakes that use seasonal fruit reign supreme in spring and summer, while richer, spiced cakes are the ideal way to end a fall or winter time meal.

Biscoff Icebox Cheesecake on platter with slices

The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

Classic Yule Log on a platter

The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

Spring Cakes

Summer Cakes

Fall Cakes

Winter Cakes

Buttercream Frosting in a bowl with a spatula, and cupcakes on a cooling rack

The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

Frosting, Icing, and Ganche

Some cakes are pretty and flavorful enough all on their own, but many improve with the addition of a swirl of frosting. Decorating a cake can be a fun, creative experience, and the possibilities are endless. Most begin with frosting or icing of some kind, which adds flavor, creamy texture, and moisture to cakes:

  • Frosting: The term frosting is usually reserved for butter or shortening-based mixtures that are fluffy and creamy (this includes all kinds of buttercreams). Frosting is easy to spread on a cake and in between layers, and can often be piped to create designs and writing.
  • Icing: Icing tends to be thinner and is drizzled or poured over cakes for an extra bit of sweetness. It's often made of powdered sugar and can include other flavorings like extracts and juice.
  • Glaze: In the case of cakes, the terms icing and glaze are often used interchangeably. A mirror glaze is a mixture that is poured over a cake and sets up with a shiny finish.
  • Ganache: A mixture of melted chocolate and heavy cream, ganache is thin and can be used to cover the top of a cake or poured over the whole thing. It will set up as it cools, and adds a rich chocolatey flavor to whatever it touches.
  • Fondant: The sugar-based paste can be rolled out and used to cover cakes, giving them a smooth finish. Food coloring can be added to fondant and it can be made from scratch or bought pre-made.
Easy chocolate glaze

The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

Macerated Strawberries (Fresh Strawberry Sauce)

The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

Frostings and Buttercreams

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Icings, Ganaches, and Glazes

Fondant

If You're Short on Time

There's no shame in taking a shortcut now and then. These cake mixes are almost as good as homemade!

If You Just Don't Have the Time

When you're schedule is packed and you need a slice of cake (we understand!), it's time to have a cake delivered.