Recipe Review

This Is, Hands-Down, the Very Best Birthday Cake Recipe

published Jan 14, 2021
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

King Arthur Baking Company has a recipe for practically every baked good imaginable — from cinnamon rolls to pizza crust — and they never fail to impress. So when it came time to select contenders for our birthday cake showdown, I knew I had to include theirs — especially when I learned it was their 2019 recipe of the year!

The recipe is a classic yellow cake made with a combination of vegetable oil and butter that gets flavored with a hint of almond extract. It’s frosted in a homemade chocolate frosting made with cocoa powder and two whole sticks of butter. It looked delicious, and I was eager to give it a try.

Get the recipe: King Arthur Baking’s Classic Birthday Cake

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

How to Make King Arthur’s Classic Birthday Cake

You’ll start by combining flour, salt, and baking soda in a bowl. Using an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat together eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, and almond extract until light in color. Add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined.

Heat milk in a saucepan, then add the butter. Stir to melt the butter into the milk, then slowly add the warm milk mixture to the cake batter while mixing on low speed. Mix until completely smooth. Divide the cake batter between two prepared cake pans and bake until golden. Let cool.

As the cakes are baking, make the frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine cocoa powder, confectioners’ sugar, and salt. Stir in hot water and vanilla extract and stir to combine. Add softened butter and additional confectioners’ sugar, and beat until smooth and spreadable. If the frosting is too thick, add water (one teaspoon at a time) until smooth. Once ready, trim your cakes and assemble! King Arthur suggests frosting the cakes with a crumb coat first, but if you’re pressed for time feel free to do a single layer. And that’s it!

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

My Honest Review of King Arthur’s Classic Birthday Cake

I can totally see why King Arthur picked this cake as their recipe of the year — it is 100 percent worth the title. It’s like an amped-up version of a really good bakery-style cake, complete with that beloved buttery vanilla flavor I love. The cake is super moist without being marshy, and ultra tender without falling apart. The frosting is also delicious (it has that nostalgic American buttercream flavor), and although its thick texture makes it a tad difficult to spread, it was the perfect contrast to the tender cake.

As a whole, this cake is delicious — the perfect balance of flavors and textures. It was also one of the easiest cakes to make, coming together within a matter of minutes. If I were to make a birthday cake tomorrow for a friend, this is the recipe I would make. It’s a textbook-style birthday cake, and anyone would be happy eating it.

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

If You’re Making King Arthur’s Classic Birthday Cake, a Few Tips

  1. Prep your cake pans. King Arthur’s recipe has your grease your pans and suggests lining them with parchment paper. I did both, and it made unmolding the cakes super easy. If you have parchment paper on hand, I strongly suggest lining your pans in addition to greasing them.
  2. Don’t skip the almond extract. Although this ingredient is listed as optional, it really did add a nice pop of flavor that elevated the cake. I couldn’t necessarily tell that it was almond flavoring, but it rounded the flavors out and took them to the next level.
  3. Make sure your water is very hot when making the frosting. Using hot water will help dissolve the powdered sugar and “bloom” the cocoa powder. This will help release the cocoas flavor, giving the frosting a nice robust chocolate flavor.
  4. Let your cakes cool completely. The frosting comes together super quickly, so you might be tempted to frost your cakes before they’re completely done cooling. Just be patient and give your cakes at least two hours to cool before attempting to frost them.

    Rating: 10/10

Have you ever made King Arthur’s classic birthday cake recipe? Tell us what you thought!

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