Maybe it’s because it looks impressive, or because it takes some effort to bake, but nothing says “special occasion” quite like cake. And with so many things to celebrate (birthdays! weddings! Wednesdays!), you’ll want to know which sweet treat to make. Here, a guide to all the types of cake you should have in your recipe box.
16 Types of Cake All Bakers (and Sweet Tooths) Should Know
1. Yellow Cake
Also called yellow butter cake, yellow cake is the quintessential vanilla-flavored cake that’s beloved for layered birthday cakes and casual snacking cakes alike. It gets its golden color primarily from egg yolks in the batter (as you’ll find out, many cakes only use egg whites), as well as butter. It’s rich, dense and an excellent cake for beginner bakes since there’s no need to separate eggs or worry about a meringue.
Try it: Glazed Blueberry Cake
2. White Cake
White cake is another type of vanilla cake, but unlike yellow cake, it relies solely on egg whites for structure and lift and shortening instead of butter for fat. This lends a lighter color and a finer, less tender crumb since there’s less fat in the batter. It’s the classic choice for wedding cake and confetti-style cake.
Try it: The Ultimate White Cake
3. Pound Cake
Traditionally, pound cake was made with a pound each of flour, butter, eggs and sugar. Modern recipes vary, but all will yield a very dense, buttery cake that’s easy to make and versatile enough to go with any toppings, from a dusting of powdered sugar to fresh berries to chocolate glaze.
Try it: Tagalog-Inspired Pound Cake
4. Sponge Cake
Many cakes—Genoise, angel, chiffon—fall into the realm of sponge cake, which is basically a cake made with egg whites, flour and sugar that classically relies on air for leavening. The most basic version doesn’t contain fat, but variations will add it for moisture. Favored for its versatility, sponge cake is tender and bouncy and will soak up the flavors of anything it’s paired with (like fruit or coffee).
Try it: Strawberry Sponge Cake
5. Chiffon Cake
Chiffon cake combines the airiness of angel food cake with the richness and tender texture from eggs yolks and oil. It’s made by combining fluffy meringue with the flour and fat, and can be flavored with everything from citrus to chocolate.
Try it: Pumpkin Chiffon Cake
6. Angel Food Cake
Light and airy, angel food cake gets its name because it tastes like biting into a heavenly cloud. It’s actually a type of sponge cake, and it gets its light-as-air texture from a combination of whipped egg whites and flour (and no butter). It’s usually baked in a straight-sided tube pan, but any pan that’s neither nonstick nor greased will do the trick.
Try it: Angel Food Cake
7. Devil’s Food Cake
Behold, the counterpart to angel food cake. Devil’s food is a sinfully rich (heh) chocolate cake that can be flavored with either unsweetened baking chocolate or cocoa powder. It’s often made with boiling water as the main liquid instead of milk, and the chocolate level is intense.
8. Red Velvet Cake
Whereas devil’s food is deep and rich, red velvet cake is a mild chocolate confection. It usually contains just a few tablespoons of cocoa powder for flavor, and the bright red coloring is thanks to copious amounts of food dye. As for frosting, the most common flavor is cream cheese—yum.
Try it: Red Velvet Cake
Shortcake is closer in style to an American biscuit than a cake, and though some folks think the name refers to its low height, it’s actually a reference to the method of baking (in old English, to “short” something meant to crisp it up with the addition of fat). In any case, the dessert is lightly sweet, crumbly, buttery and a natural pair for fresh fruit and whipped cream.
Try it: Citrus Shortcake
10. Olive Oil Cake
It’s kind of self-explanatory, but olive oil cake is made with—you guessed it—olive oil. This takes the place of butter, and as a result, adds a nuanced, fruity flavor and keeps the cake moist and fresh. Just make sure you’re using high-quality oil, since it’s a main ingredient in the cake. It’s usually served simply, with fresh fruit and a dollop of whipped cream.
Try it: Orange Flower Olive Oil Cake
11. Flourless Cake
We know what you’re thinking: How can anyone make a cake without flour? And why would you? In the case of flourless chocolate cake (the most common kind), the batter is an aerated, egg-based custard that’s baked into a dense, sliceable dessert. It’s incredible fudgy and naturally gluten-free—what’s not to love?
12. Upside-down Cake
We love frosting, but sometimes decorating a cake is too much effort. Enter the upside-down cake, which practically decorates itself. It’s made by layering sliced fresh fruit, butter and sugar in the bottom of a cake pan, then topping it with batter. When it comes out of the pan, the pretty topping is revealed.
Try it: Ombré Citrus Upside-Down Cake
We know what you’re picturing— sad, dry bricks of fruit cake—and we want you to forget it. At its best, this holiday dessert is boozy, rich and packed with nuts and dried fruit (hence the name). Depending on the recipe, it can be glazed, iced and soaked in spirits.
Try it: The Best Damn Fruitcake Ever
14. Icebox Cake
No need to turn on the oven for this treat: Icebox cake comes together in the refrigerator. It’s made by assembling layers of crispy cookies and fluffy whipped cream, which set and meld together in the fridge to yield what you would swear are slices of cake. Even better, it can be made with any combination of flavors.
Try it: Pumpkin Spice Icebox Cake
15. Carrot Cake
You wouldn’t think that vegetables could make a great cake ingredient, but carrot cake is moist, sweet and popular for that exact reason. It’s usually spiced, can include nuts or raisins, and is most often topped with silky cream cheese frosting.
Is it cake, or is it pie? It depends on who you ask—some people say the inclusion of eggs for leavening make this rich dessert a type of cake. Any way you spin it, we know it’s delicious. There are baked and unbaked versions, and they come in a variety of regional styles, but they all contain some type of fresh cheese (like cream cheese, mascarpone or ricotta).