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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk; Headshots: Getty Images
Recipe Review

I Tried 4 Famous Funfetti Cake Recipes and the Winner Is Absolutely Flawless

published Oct 8, 2021
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Nothing screams celebration quite like a Funfetti cake. I’ll take white cake speckled with technicolored sprinkles over plain yellow cake any day! Plus, there’s the nostalgia factor: one bite of the colorful cake and I’m immediately transported back to my childhood.

While the Funfetti cakes I ate as a kid all came from a box, there are now hundreds of recipes for homemade Funfetti cake. I was curious to know: Does from-scratch beat store-bought? And if so, which recipe is the best? To find out, I baked the original Funfetti box cake alongside three of the most popular from-scratch recipes in an epic side-by-side taste test.

The four recipes differed greatly in their approaches. A few called for buttermilk, one called for shortening, and some called for oil. Some recipes relied on pure vanilla extract alone, while others used clear vanilla extract and almond extract to mimic the beloved Funfetti flavor. The frostings varied, too: I made two classic buttercreams, one Swiss meringue buttercream, and finished the boxed cake with frosting from the tub. At the end of the day I ate a lot of cake, and I found one Funfetti recipe that reigned supreme.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Meet Our 4 Funfetti Cake Contenders

For the purpose of this test I decided any white cake with sprinkles could be considered Funfetti, which meant recipes labeled “sprinkle cakes” were fair game. From there, I looked at the most-searched-for recipes, and narrowed the list down to four recipes that each took a unique approach.

The first — and most obvious choice — was the Pillsbury boxed cake mix, aka the original Funfetti! While I followed the recipe printed on the side of the box, you can also find it online — just note that the online version calls for a whipped cream frosting, and I kept mine classic and used a tub of Funfetti frosting.

The second came from cookbook author and Food Network host Molly Yeh, aka the queen of sprinkles. Her recipe looked pretty straightforward (no whipping egg whites!), and was the only one to call for imitation vanilla extract. Plus, her cake was on the cover of her debut cookbook, so I had high hopes for it.

Next up was Martha Stewart, who described her picture-perfect three-layer sprinkle cake as “the ultimate birthday cake.” It was definitely the most labor-intensive of the bunch, requiring multiple mixing bowls and a fancy Swiss meringue buttercream. Would it be worth the effort?

The final recipe came from Sally’s Baking Addiction. In addition to being one of the most popular sprinkle cake recipes on the internet, it also won the Pancake Princess’ sprinkle cake bake-off. In terms of effort required, it fell somewhere in the middle. I couldn’t wait to give it a try.

How I Tested the Cake Recipes

All of the cakes were baked on the same day, in the same oven, and compared in a side-by-side taste test. I paired each cake with the recommend frosting. I also had some friends taste the cakes to see what they thought. At the end of the day, we all picked the same recipe as our favorite — and a Funfetti cake winner was crowned.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

1. The Surprisingly Disappointing Cake: Pillsbury Funfetti Layer Cake

I loved this cake as a kid, and I was eager to see how it would hold up. Unfortunately, Adult Me wasn’t a fan. The cake was marshy and damp — almost to the point of having a slightly undercooked texture — even though I baked it longer than instructed in the directions. It was also very sweet. With that said, it was of course the easiest of the bunch, and would work just fine if you need a Funfetti cake ASAP.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

2. The High-Effort Cake: Martha Stewart’s Sprinkle Cake

This was a high-effort cake that wasn’t really worth the fuss. Yes, it was tasty and looked beautiful, but it was no better than any of the other cakes I tested that didn’t require so much work! Between whipping egg whites for both the cake and the frosting and dirtying four bowls for the batter alone, this cake would have had to beat out the other ones by a mile to be worth it.

With that said, I really enjoyed the flavor of the cake, and although it verged on being dry, it had a nice light crumb. The buttercream was by far the best part of the recipe, and helped add some moisture. If you’re up for a big baking project, this may be the cake for you, but this wasn’t the winner for me.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

3. The Close Second: Sally’s Baking Addiction’s Funfetti Layer Cake

This cake was seriously delicious. It had a nice light texture but was still super moist. The vanilla flavor was bold without being overpowering, and the cake was sweet without being cloying. I loved how easy the frosting was to make and appreciated how smoothly it went onto the cake.

My only critique is that you have to whip the egg whites in a separate bowl, so it’s a bit tedious, but that’s the only negative I can think of. The winning recipe doesn’t require you to whip the egg whites and the cake still came out light and fluffy, so I had to knock a point off of this one.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

4. The Clear Winner: Molly Yeh’s Sprinkle Cake

This recipe was everything I wanted — and more. It was fluffy, moist, perfectly white with flecks of colorful sprinkles throughout, and, most importantly, delicious. The addition of clear vanilla extract along with almond extract gave the cake that nostalgic Funfetti flavor I grew up with. It didn’t taste like vanilla cake — it tasted like Funfetti cake. Molly truly nailed it with this one. If you’re searching for the Funfetti cake of your dreams, this is the perfect recipe.

Do you have a favorite Funfetti cake recipe? Let us know in the comments!