Kitchn Love Letters

Snacking Cakes Are the Best Cakes to Make Right Now. Here’s Why.

published Apr 14, 2020
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Snacking cakes are, hands-down, the baked good that makes me happiest. I can’t pinpoint exactly when my obsession began, but I believe boxed mix-cakes, iced with frosting from a can or tube, were the “gateway” treat to my obsession. I yearned for these boxed-mix cakes as I child the same way I yearn for snacking cakes, now. Both are easy-peasy to assemble, produce tall, square slices of moist, soft-crumbed cake with copious swirls of frosting, and leave you, when all is said and done, with a sink holding only a few dirty dishes.

What Are Snacking Cakes?

As their name suggests, snacking cakes are not for birthdays, or anniversaries, or going-away parties. They are for whenever the craving for cake and frosting hits, for baking on a whim and consuming casually, like on a Wednesday afternoon. You might also know them by another name: Counter cakes, as cookbook author Shauna Sever describes them, are made for keeping on the counter and stealing slivers from whenever the urge for cake hits. I consider this an equally excellent explanation for snacking cakes.

Whatever you call them, they are the perfect cake for the moment we’ve found ourselves in now, with more time to bake and fewer ingredients to bake with.

Why Snacking Cakes Are the Best Cakes

Snacking cakes are one of the fastest, easiest desserts I know. The best ones are made with pantry-friendly ingredients, and are adaptable to substitutions. Often they call for oil, which will ensure your cake is moist, and also means you don’t have to wait for your butter to soften or worry about creaming it in a stand mixer until fluffy. Snacking cakes are also frequently prepared in a single bowl, at most two, and require nothing more than a whisk and a flexible spatula.

The simple ingredient list and minimal prep work means that very little time passes from the moment your desire for cake hits to the moment you take your first frosted bite. If you place them in the freezer while you make the frosting, they will be cool enough to ice by the time your frosting has reached fluffy perfection. After frosting a snacking cake (I’m partial to a 1:1 ration of frosting to cake), no piping or anything of the sort is required, or even encouraged. A simple sprinkling of sprinkles, or coconut, or maybe some flaky sea salt is all you need.

If you have more willpower than me, and actually have leftover snacking cake, wrap it up in plastic wrap and leave it on the counter. Because they’re often made with oil, snacking cakes have a staying-power that cannot be beat, allowing you to enjoy a slice up to a week post-bake. And whereas most cakes begin to lose a bit of their appeal a day or so after they are baked and frosted, and even more quickly once they are sliced, the flavors of a cake made with oil meld together and intensify as the days pass, making a chocolate cake even more chocolate-y on day two, and a lemon cake even more lemon-y.

Those passing through the kitchen will tuck into it, I guarantee it — and once they finish it off, with your help, I hope, make another one. They’re that easy.

Our favorite snacking cake recipes: