Confetti Birthday Cake

published Feb 21, 2024
Funfetti Cake Recipe

This delicious homemade cake easily transforms any occasion into a celebration.

Serves12 to 16

MakesMakes 1 (3-layer) cake

Prep1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes

Cook25 minutes to 30 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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head on shot of a slice of the funfetti cake, with vanilla frosting and topped with rainbow sprinkles.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Rachel Perlmutter

I am a deeply nostalgic person. However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that my adult palate doesn’t always enjoy the things that my younger palate enjoyed, like the boxed cake mix that was once my holy grail when I first started baking. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not knocking using boxed mix (there’s definitely a time and a place for it and I’m still desperate to try Dolly Parton’s line of mixes), but it just isn’t my jam anymore. 

That’s where this cake comes in. This homemade take on Funfetti cake has all the nostalgia of the boxed version — it’s flecked with rainbow sprinkles and laced with vanilla and almond extract for that certain je ne sais quoi — but my homemade version yields a cake that’s far more impressive. It surpasses anything that comes from a mix.

I’m not going to lie, though — it was tough to get the texture just right. A lot of passes were too dense and almost gummy, and the sides were either crispy or way too firm. But after a lot of testing (11 times, to be exact!) and talking to my pastry chef friends, I came up with a tried-and-true method for a tender, moist, perfectly plush crumb that’s layered high with fluffy buttercream. Finished with a flourish of sprinkles, this cake easily transforms any occasion into a celebration. 

Key Ingredients in Homemade Funfetti Cake

This cake has a lot of the usual suspects, but a special handful of ingredients takes this cake to the next level.

  • Egg whites: Help create the cake’s plush, soft, light-colored crumb. 
  • Sour cream: Provides extra fat to keep the cake moist and tender, while balancing out the egg whites (which can toughen baked goods — think: the slight marshmallow-y chew of an angel food cake).
  • Neutral oil: In combination with butter, contributes to the cake’s loftiness as well as ensures that the cake stays moist over the course of a few days. 
  • Cornstarch: Limits some of the gluten development, contributing to the cake’s soft interior as well as absorbs some of the free water in the other ingredients, minimizing potential toughness. 
  • Almond extract: A small amount (although optional and can be omitted completely) helps to further bring out the vanilla as well as provide a flavor that is often noted as reminiscent of boxed mixes. 
  • Rainbow sprinkles: While I highly encourage decorating with any sprinkles you see fit, stick to rainbow sprinkles in the style of “jimmies” (the kind you get on ice cream) for the cake batter, as they yield the best contained bursts of color throughout the cake and don’t bleed into the batter. 
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Rachel Perlmutter

How to Make Homemade Funfetti Cake

Layered cakes can be intimidating, but breaking it down into different parts can make it more approachable. While this cake isn’t as quick to put together as a boxed mix, several thoughtful techniques help to create a plush, moist, impressive cake worthy of that extra bit of prep time. 

  1. Make the cake. Whip room-temperature egg whites with some sugar (this helps stabilize the meringue, meaning it can sit off to the side while you prepare the rest of the batter). Beat the softened butter, oil, and rest of the sugar until lightened. Then, alternate adding the flour and milk mixture to the butter mixture. Fold in the meringue, then the rainbow sprinkles. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean. 
  2. Make the buttercream while the cakes cool. Beat softened butter, vanilla and almond extract, and salt together until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and mix to incorporate, followed by whole milk, and beat everything together until fluffy, smooth, and super-spreadable.
  3. Assemble the cake. Trim the tops of the cakes as needed to create even layers. Stack the cake, spreading some of the buttercream between each layer of cake. Crumb coat the cake with a thin layer of buttercream and chill until just set. (Don’t let the crumb-coated cake chill too long, as a too-cold surface can make the buttercream firm up slightly as it’s spread onto the cake.) Frost the cake with the rest of the buttercream and finish with a flourish of rainbow sprinkles.

Storage and Make-Ahead Tips

I love making layered cakes, but I don’t always have the time to make it all the way through at once. Luckily, this cake can easily be broken down into a more manageable schedule. Here’s how.

  • The entire cake can be assembled or made in full (from baking the cake all the way through assembling) the day before serving. Store it uncut and covered in a cake carrier or stand with a cloche at (cool) room temperature or in the refrigerator. If the cake has been refrigerated, allow it to come back to room temperature before serving. 
  • The cake layers can be baked the day before assembling. Allow the cake layers to cool completely, then tightly wrap in plastic wrap, and store at room temperature until ready to assemble. (Wrapping the cakes in plastic wrap before assembling can also soften the cake edges if they took on too much caramelization.) 
  • Avoid making the buttercream in advance. During development, I found it was much easier to make the buttercream once you’re ready to assemble and decorate rather than make it ahead of time and bring it back to the ideal temperature and texture. 

The cut cake can be stored with a piece of plastic wrap pressed against the cut sides and covered for up to 1 day at room temperature or 1 week in the refrigerator. Let the cake come to room temperature before serving.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Rachel Perlmutter

If You’re Making Homemade Funfetti Cake, a Few Tips

  • Caramelization on the cake is OK. Caramelization on the sides or top edge is common in white and yellow cakes. If you find the cake got a little too caramelized (this can happen for a number of reasons, like spikes in oven temperature) don’t be afraid to trim off the edge when leveling the cakes. Bonus: The scraps make for a great snack!
  • Try for a sweeter frosting. If you like a sweeter frosting, feel free to adjust the buttercream with more powdered sugar. 
  • Aim for the perfect swoop-y frosting texture. Use the buttercream right as it’s finished mixing and don’t let the crumb-coated cake chill too long, as a too-cold surface can make the buttercream firm up slightly. 

Funfetti Cake Recipe

This delicious homemade cake easily transforms any occasion into a celebration.

Prep time 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes

Cook time 25 minutes to 30 minutes

Makes Makes 1 (3-layer) cake

Serves 12 to 16

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 6

    large egg whites

  • 1

    stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter

  • 1/2 cup

    sour cream

  • 1/2 cup

    whole or 2% milk

  • Cooking spray

  • 2 3/4 cup

    all-purpose flour, plus more for the pans

  • 3 tablespoons

    cornstarch

  • 2 teaspoons

    baking powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    baking soda

  • 3 1/2 teaspoons

    vanilla extract

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    almond extract (optional)

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 2 cups

    granulated sugar, divided

  • 1/2 cup

    neutral oil, such as canola or vegetable

  • 2/3 cup

    rainbow sprinkles, preferably cylinder sprinkles or jimmies

For the buttercream:

  • 5

    sticks (1 1/4 pounds) unsalted butter

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    vanilla extract

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    almond extract (optional)

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 pound

    powdered sugar (4 cups)

  • 1/3 cup

    whole or 2% milk

  • Rainbow sprinkles, for decorating

Instructions

  1. Place 6 large egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer). Place 6 sticks unsalted butter (1 1/2 pounds — this is for both the cake and the buttercream) on the counter. Place 1/2 cup sour cream and 1/2 cup whole or 2% milk in a glass measuring cup or small bowl. Let everything sit at room temperature until the butter is softened.

Make the cake:

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly coat 3 (8-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray. Line the bottom of each pan with a parchment paper round. Lightly dust the sides of each pan with all-purpose flour and tap out the excess.

  2. Place 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, 3 tablespoons cornstarch, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Add 3 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 3/4 teaspoon almond extract if using, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt to the sour cream and milk and whisk until combined.

  3. Fit the whisk attachment onto the mixer, turn on to medium-low speed, and very slowly stream in 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar. Increase the speed to medium and beat until the egg whites are very foamy and opaque, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until medium-stiff peaks form, 2 to 3 1/2 minutes. The meringue should look glossy and smooth and mostly hold a peak with the tip falling over slightly. Transfer the meringue to another bowl.

  4. Add 1 stick of the butter, the remaining 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, and 1/2 cup neutral oil to the now-empty stand mixer bowl (no need to clean out). Beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed, scraping down the bowl with a flexible spatula as needed, until well-combined and very lightened in color (practically white), 1 to 2 1/2 minutes.

  5. Add half of the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined, about 15 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the milk mixture and beat on low speed until just incorporated, about 15 seconds. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined, about 15 seconds more. A few dry spots around the side of the bowl are OK. The batter will be thick and lumpy. Do not beat until smooth.

  6. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Add half of the meringue and fold together with a flexible spatula until almost fully combined and the batter is loosened. Add the remaining meringue and fold until a few streaks of meringue are left.

  7. Add 2/3 cup rainbow sprinkles and fold just until the sprinkles are evenly distributed and no streaks of meringue remain. Do not overmix. Divide the batter between the prepared pans (about 2 1/2 cups or 515 grams each) and gently smooth out the batter into the pans with the spatula.

  8. Bake until the cakes are light golden to golden-brown around the edges, and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Place the cakes on a wire rack. Run a small offset spatula or paring knife around each cake, and let cool in their pans for 10 minutes. Flip each cake out and remove the parchment paper. Flip to be right side up and let cool completely on the rack before making the frosting. Meanwhile, wash and dry the mixing bowl and paddle attachment.

Make the buttercream:

  1. Place the remaining 5 sticks softened unsalted butter, 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 1/4 teaspoon almond extract if using, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt in the mixing bowl. Beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed until incorporated and the butter is smooth and creamy, about 1 minute.

  2. Add 1 cup powdered sugar (sift it if lumpy), and beat on low speed until combined, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add 1/3 cup whole or 2% milk, increase the speed to medium, and beat until lightened in color, fluffy, and smooth, about 5 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the buttercream is very spreadable and slightly more voluminous, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes more.

Assemble the cake:

  1. Using a serrated knife, trim the tops of each cake to create a flat surface. Place a cake board or a serving platter on a decorating turntable if you have one. Place a dollop of buttercream on the middle of the board or platter and top with one of the cake layers. Place 1 cup of the buttercream on the cake and spread into an even layer with an offset spatula or butter knife, going all the way to the edges.

  2. Top with the second layer of cake and repeat spreading the same amount of buttercream. Top with the last cake layer with the flattest side facing up. Spread and smooth a very thin layer of the buttercream over the top and sides of the cake (this is called the crumb coat). You should be able to see the cake through the crumb coat. Refrigerate the cake until the crumb coat is just set, 10 to 15 minutes.

  3. Frost the entire cake with the remaining buttercream. Decorate with more rainbow sprinkles as desired.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The cake layers can be baked up to 1 day ahead. Let cool completely, then tightly wrap each layer individually in plastic wrap and store at room temperature.

Alternatively, the entire cake can be made from start to finish up to 1 day before serving. The whole cake can be stored on a cake stand with a cloche or in a covered cake carrier. Store at room temperature or refrigerate and let come to room temperature before serving. If refrigerating the whole cake, it can be left uncovered, but be mindful of any odors in your fridge.

Storage: The cut cake can be stored with a piece of plastic wrap or aluminum foil pressed against the cut sides and covered for up to 1 day at room temperature or 1 week in the refrigerator. Let the cake come to room temperature before serving.