20 Birthday Dessert Ideas That Are Even Better Than Cake

Brownies, cookies and pie, oh my

birthday dessert ideas: triptych image of banana cheesecake, chocolate pudding and strawberry iced cookies
Christine Han/Christopher Testani/Katherine Gillen

Nothing says “birthday” like a slice of yellow cake gilded in chocolate buttercream…unless you don’t really like cake. We hear you—these 20 birthday dessert ideas stray from the typical layered, frosted confection, but we promise they’re just as impressive and celebratory. From homemade mint-chip ice cream and gooey skillet brownies to effortless tie-dye cookies, whether for a kid or an adult, we have a treat to mark the occasion.

77 Easy, Fun Things to Bake When You’re Bored and Craving Something Sweet

1. Banana Pudding Cheesecake

  • Time Commitment: 2 hours, 30 minutes
  • Why I Love It: special occasion–worthy, crowd-pleaser, beginner-friendly

People go bonkers for banana pudding (and that includes us). This cheesecake version has all the nostalgic flavors —Nilla wafers, vanilla pudding, bananas—just in a different form. Bonus: It doesn’t require a water bath either.

2. Instant Pot Deep Dark Chocolate Pudding

  • Time Commitment: 3 hours (includes chilling time)
  • Why I Love It: Instant Pot recipe, make ahead, kid-friendly, gluten free

A true set-it-and-forget-it, from-scratch pudding is one of life’s little gifts we’ll gladly accept. Cooking this one on low pressure in your Instant Pot yields a looser, creamier pudding, while high pressure produces a soufflé-meets-mousse texture.

3. Atlantic Beach Pie

  • Time Commitment: 50 minutes (plus chilling time)
  • Why I Love It: beginner-friendly, <10 ingredients, crowd-pleaser

Refreshingly tart, this pie also happens to be foolproof and ideal for beginner bakers. The filling tastes like a cross between key lime and lemon meringue pie, and the saltine crust adds just the right balance of salty flavor.

4. Confetti Crust Hand Pies

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour, 40 minutes
  • Why I Love It: kid-friendly, crowd-pleaser

For a rainbow sprinkle effect sans cake, look no further than these single-serve hand pies. You’ll make your own crust, but save time by using store-bought jam as the filling. The recipe is easily doubled, and you can swap the raspberry for any flavor of jam you like.

5. Mini Key Lime Pies

  • Time Commitment: 40 minutes (plus chilling time)
  • Why I Love It: <10 ingredients, beginner-friendly, crowd-pleaser

These cuties come together in a muffin tin and are quicker to bake and chill than the original full-size recipe, which means they’re in your mouth in less time too. How’s that for a birthday present? Use regular limes or bottled key lime juice to save time.

6. Strawberry Half-Moon Cookies

  • Time Commitment: 50 minutes
  • Why I Love It: kid-friendly, crowd-pleaser

There a fruity take on the classic chocolate and vanilla treat (also known as a black and white or half-and-half cookie), and they get their dreamy blush color and sweet-tart from powdered freeze-dried berries instead of dye. Ingenious, no?

7. No-Churn Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

  • Time Commitment: 5 hours (includes freezing time)
  • Why I Love It: beginner-friendly, kid-friendly, crowd-pleaser, gluten free

This fresh mint ice cream is a cinch to churn up at home, no special equipment needed. If you can make whipped cream and you have a mixer (hand or stand), you’re already halfway there.

8. Blueberry, Blackberry and Raspberry Soufflés

  • Time Commitment: 55 minutes
  • Why I Love It: special occasion–worthy, <10 ingredients, crowd-pleaser, gluten free

For a pinkies-out, fancy-pants adult birthday dessert, try your hand at a batch of berry soufflés. They sound intimidating to make, but if you’re gentle throughout the process, you won’t have an Audrey-Hepburn-in-Sabrina mishap.

9. Mini Strawberry Ice Cream Pies

  • Time Commitment: 40 minutes
  • Why I Love It: kid-friendly, beginner-friendly, <10 ingredients

With a pint of store-bought vanilla ice cream, you can easily throw these pies together on a weeknight. Roasting the fruit will concentrate its flavor, even if it’s out of season.

10. Dulce de Leche Skillet Brownie

  • Time Commitment: 2 hours, 30 minutes
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, kid-friendly, special occasion–worthy

If you’d choose a cakey brownie over fudgy, you might want to avert your eyes. This skillet number is ooey, gooey and dense, just the way fudgy brownie people like them. A swirl of homemade dulce de leche—made from sweetened condensed milk and nothing else—gilds the lily.

11. Nutty Chocolate Ganache Tart

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour, 40 minutes
  • Why I Love It: special occasion–worthy, <10 ingredients

For a sophisticated birthday dessert idea, try this elegant, gluten-free treat. It’s so silky and decadent, it’s hard to believe it only requires six ingredients to come together.

12. Grapefruit Meringue Stacks

  • Time Commitment: 3 hours
  • Why I Love It: special occasion–worthy, gluten free

These light-as-air towers look like a confection out of a whimsical Wes Anderson movie, so naturally, we think they’re birthday-friendly. The sweetness of the meringue cookies offsets the tartness of the filling. (And if you wanted to use store-bought, we wouldn’t tell.)

13. Frozen Chocolate Souffle

  • Time Commitment: 3 hours, 30 minutes
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, gluten free, <10 ingredients

Really don’t want your soufflés to fall flat? Easy, just freeze them instead of baking them. These ramekins are rich yet light, like mousse and chocolate ice cream combined.

14. Strawberry Delight Ice Cream Pie

  • Time Commitment: 3 hours, 35 minutes (includes chilling time)
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, kid-friendly, make ahead, <10 ingredients

Think of this one as a modern riff on the vintage Jell-O and pretzel based strawberry “delight” your grandma used to lovingly dish up. Sticking with tradition, it calls for less than ten ingredients and minimal baking, because some things never go out of style.

15. Upside-Down Mini Lemon Meringue Pies

  • Time Commitment: 4 hours
  • Why I Love It: make ahead, crowd-pleaser

If your idea of a birthday dessert is the mouth-puckering flavor of a lemon pie, but with zero effort, you’re in luck. Assembled in cups (or any small vessel), these babies eliminate the need for fussing with a crust. Even better, all the components can be made ahead.

16. Peanut Butter and Jelly Blondies

  • Time Commitment: 40 minutes
  • Why I Love It: kid-friendly, crowd-pleaser, beginner-friendly

Ever wondered what would happen if a brownie and a PB&J sandwich had a really delicious baby? You’re looking at it. Pipe the jam topping with a piping bag (or resealable bag) for the most swirly-spectacular effect.

17. Strawberry Galette with Whipped Cream

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour, 45 minutes
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, beginner-friendly

This party-ready freeform pie has a few tricks up its sleeve: The crust is seasoned with rosemary for a savory twist, and the fruit is macerated in vinegar to amplify its naturally sweet-tart flavor. Serve it with whipped cream on the patio, if you’re lucky enough to be a summer baby.

18. Giant Peanut Butter Cup

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour, 5 minutes
  • Why I Love It: kid-friendly, crowd-pleaser, gluten free, <10 ingredients

Not all candies are created equal, and we’re paying homage to one of the GOATs with this giant PB cup. When slicing into it, let it come to room temperature for about ten minutes and run your knife under hot water to avoid cracking. (Even if it cracks, it’ll still taste amazing.)

19. Chocolate-Stuffed Brownie Bites

  • Time Commitment: 35 minutes
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, kid-friendly, beginner-friendly

These brownie bites made in a mini muffin tin are everything a kid (or kid at heart) ever hoped for. Chewy at the edges, fudgy in the center and impossibly easy to bake, you may not want to save these for a birthday.

20. Tie-Dye Sugar Cookies

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why I Love It: beginner-friendly, kid-friendly, crowd-pleaser

These tie-dye sugar cookies require no special skills—in fact, a kid could make them. It’s all in the swirl-and-dip method. Let the iced cookies set overnight and you can even pack them into a school lunch.


Senior Food Editor

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...