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40+ Creative Birthday Cake Ideas: Sweet, Savory, DIY, and Store-Bought

You can't have a birthday without cake! Well, you could—but it wouldn't be much of a celebration, would it?

Whether you're seeking a delightfully traditional birthday cake or want a more creative and unexpected birthday cake alternative, this list has something for you.

Sweet or savory, homemade or store-bought, there's simply no shortage of fun and delicious birthday cake ideas below. Let's get cooking (or buying)!

Homemade Birthday Cake Recipes

If you're baking the birthday cake at home, it all comes down to the right batter recipe. Try one of these birthday cake recipes ranging from everyone's favorite chocolate to something a little more surprising.

  1. Vanilla cake: Sally's Baking Addiction is the internet's go-to resource for homemade cake recipes, and this vanilla cake recipe has hundreds of raving reviews. Who says vanilla is plain?
  2. Chocolate cake: Espresso powder is the secret ingredient to this sumptuous chocolate cake. Coconut milk and coconut oil are optional if you want an extra-rich, creamy, and coconutty flavor.
  3. Better box cake: If you don't want to go fully homemade, then use these tips to spruce up your favorite cake mix! Simple substitutions of butter, milk, or even coffee can make your store-bought cake mix taste like it came from a pro.
  4. Strawberry cake: This recipe calls for boxed cake mix, strawberry Jell-O, and some freshly cut strawberries—resulting in a light pink delight that looks a lot fancier than you'd expect.
  5. Instant Pot funfetti cake: Watch this short Food Network video to learn how to "bake" your birthday cake in an Instant Pot pressure cooker.
  6. Piñata cake: This birthday cake hides a fun surprise inside! You won't hit it like a piñata…but when you cut it open, the same cascade of colorful sweet treats falls out from the center.
  7. Rainbow layer cake: It's easier than you think to create a rainbow layer cake! You just need a large oven with several matching cake pans…or enough patience to do several rounds of washing and baking. Either way, the results are sure to wow.

Tip: Sometimes the best birthday self-care is treating your body well. Looking for a healthier birthday cake alternative? Try this fresh watermelon layer cake, thisraw vegan carrot cake, or this grapefruit yogurt cake.

Fun Cake Toppers and Oh-So-Sweet Decorations

To inject a little more whimsy and fun into your birthday cake, spruce it up with a few simple decorations! The cake decorating ideas below add visual interest, taste appeal, or both—and they're simple enough to be used on a homemade cake or even applied to a store-bought cake, if you prefer. Totally up to you!

  1. Gummy bear cake: Stick rows and rows of gummy bears into your cake frosting to create a vibrant, rainbow-colored birthday cake. (If the birthday boy or girl has a sour tooth, then try sour gummies instead!)
  2. "Old as Dirt" cake: You can turn any cake into a funny birthday joke! Just throw on some crushed chocolate cookies and gummy worms and then write "Old as Dirt" with your favorite icing.
  3. Photo cake toppers: Put the birthday boy or girl on the cake with these personalized cake toppers. Bonus points if you choose an ever-so-slightly embarrassing photo to make them chuckle.
  4. Kit Kat cake: With this quick recipe, you'll encircle your cake with Kit Kat bars and then top it with M&Ms. You could also substitute the M&Ms with jellybeans, Reese's Pieces, Nerds, or any other fun-sized treat.
  5. Lego cakes: These building block cakes look like they require fancy baking and decorating skills, but all they take is regular cake with some extra-large marshmallows on top.
  6. Custom cake toppers: It's quick and easy to personalize any birthday cake! Order some custom cake toppers from a vendor on Etsy, and your homemade or store-bought cake will look professionally done.
  7. Barbie birthday cake: You've certainly seen these in your local grocery store's bakery section—but you can easily make your own. Just bake your favorite cake in a rounded tin, frost the bottom, and stick Barbie in the center.
  8. Gold leaf birthday cakes: Use these expert tips to add edible gold leaf to any birthday cake, instantly turning up the bling factor.

Tip: Celebrating the birthday of a beloved furry friend? This dog birthday cake recipe uses real dog treats as the decoration! The recipe calls for a Greek yogurt and peanut butter icing without sugar, so it's not as bad for your pup as a real slice of cake.

Creative Birthday Cakes That Look Like Other Foods

If you want to get a little crazier with your cake-decorating skills, try decorating your traditionally sweet birthday cake to look like some other kind of food. The internet abounds with amazing ideas—and even if you aren't Cake Boss, it's ultimately the thought that counts, right?

Here are some of our favorite wacky food-themed birthday cakes (that are still relatively amateur-friendly):

  1. Sushi cake: No, we don't mean the savory sushi cake that's all the rage—though you certainly could do that instead! This one is a sweet cake decorated with fruit and candy to look like a little hand roll.
  2. Taco cake: Take a normal round cake, cut it in half and stand it on its side, and then decorate it with yellowish frosting to look like a hard taco shell. Add some green sour strips for lettuce and some orange sprinkles for cheese!
  3. Spaghetti and meatballs cake: For this creative birthday cake, you'll bake your favorite cake and then top it with homemade chocolate cake balls (for the meatballs) and a delightful strawberry sauce (for the red sauce).
  4. Cheeseburger cake: This cheeseburger cake has two frosted buns (with rice crispy "seeds"), a naked chocolate cake for the burger, and some fondant and candies for the cheese and lettuce.
  5. Donut cake: This one's super easy! Instead of baking your birthday cake in a traditional rectangular cake pan, use a Bundt pan to make a donut shape. Then drip heated frosting over the top and throw on some oversized sprinkles for a giant donut look.
  6. Melted ice cream cupcakes: Stick an ice cream cone into your cupcakes' frosting, and they'll look like a melted ice cream cone—but will taste much better.
  7. Pizza birthday cake: This pizza birthday cake uses red food dye for tomato sauce, fruit roll-ups for the pepperoni, and melted white chocolate for the mozzarella cheese.

Tip: If the birthday boy or girl likes baking, why not make the birthday cake part of the celebration itself? Plan a day of baking (with all the ingredients ready to go), or sign up for a local baking class and do it together! You could also explore livestream cooking classes on a site like Goldbelly.

Birthday Cakes You Can Buy

If you don't feel like getting into the whole mess of baking your own cake and then decorating it at home, don't be afraid to buy your birthday cake. There's absolutely no shame in leaving the work to the pros.

Check out your local bakery for a traditional sheet cake, or try one of these creative birthday cake alternatives:

  1. Bash cake: This bash cake from Dylan's Candy Bar is actually a hollow cake-shaped chocolate with chocolate-covered pretzels inside. It's the perfect mix of sweet and savory—and the awesome "bash" is just like a piñata in cake form!
  2. April Fools cupcakes: If you liked the food-themed birthday cake recipes above, then you'll love these cupcakes. There's a popcorn box, unicorn poo, broccoli and carrots…all made to taste like a regular cupcake.
  3. Classic birthday cake: Milk Bar's cult classic birthday cake can be delivered anywhere in the United States and is sure to be a hit.
  4. Raindrop cake: If you use the internet at ALL, you've almost certainly seen this cake make the rounds on social media. Completely translucent like a raindrop, this cake is not only unique but also vegan and gluten-free. (Note that this is a kit you can buy, so technically you'll have to make the cake yourself.)
  5. Cake Guts: These "deconstructed" cakes are beautifully messy and made from the scraps of larger custom cakes. They're artsy, waste-reducing, and of course tasty.
  6. Cookie cakes: Normal-sized cookies are fairly easy to bake at home, but cookie cakes are surprisingly hard to master—making them a great choice to order in rather than DIY.
  7. Photo cakes: Photo cakes are another type of birthday cake you'll pretty much have to buy. Fortunately, most local grocery chains (and some smaller dessert shops) offer this service.

Tip: Bakers with nationwide shipping capabilities tend to be much more expensive and limited than local bakeries. Try calling your local grocery stores or bakeries to see if they can deliver. If not, they certainly offer pick-up!

Savory Birthday Cake Alternatives

It's hard to believe, but some people just don't like sweets. (Crazy, right?!) But just because someone doesn't like sweets doesn't mean they can't have a birthday cake! These ideas are perhaps slightly goofy…but hey, they taste great.

  1. Pepperoni Pizza Cake: Unlike the pizza "cake" we mentioned above, this one is literally made of pizza. It's four layers of pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, and Pillsbury pizza dough—taking the word "deep dish" to a whole new level.
  2. Takoyaki: These grilled octopus balls are a quintessential Japanese street food or pub snack. If the birthday boy or girl likes international cuisine and/or seafood, put these octopus balls on a stick and call them "cake pops"!
  3. SpaghettiOs cupcakes: This slightly disturbing trifecta of SpaghettiOs, Velveeta, and Goldfish is not for the faint of heart. Is it serious? Is it a joke? You get to decide.
  4. Birthday Meatloaf: This meatloaf looks like a little birthday cake, complete with mashed potato icing and carrots and peas for sprinkles.
  5. Giant Party Cheeseburger: This one's made for sharing with the entire birthday party. You'll season and form a giant burger patty, bake it in the oven for about an hour, and then sandwich it between an oversized boule bun.
  6. Birthday Sliders: Speaking of cheeseburgers… it's super easy to take regular sliders and turn them into a birthday cupcake alternative. How? Simply by sticking some candles in each one!
  7. Savory Herb Cheesecake: Inspired by classic French cuisine, this creamy cheesecake is similar to a quiche, only richer and creamier. There's something about the combination of ricotta, gorgonzola, red wine, fresh herbs…oh and butter. Lots of butter!
  8. Crab cakes: We can't talk about savory cakes without including crab cakes. This recipe uses Maryland crab and classic Old Bay seasoning, but you could easily switch things up by using canned tuna or another fish of choice.

Tip: These savory birthday cake alternatives are fun, but you don't have to make it a "cake" to make the day special. Feel free to whip up the birthday boy or girl's favorite meal, and that'll certainly be a special birthday gift—cake or no!

Sweet Birthday Cake Alternatives

You can never really have too much birthday cake…but still, it can be fun to mix things up a little. These sweet birthday recipes include something of that birthday cake feeling but aren't straight-up cakes.

  1. Homemade birthday cake ice cream: Skip the store-bought stuff and DIY! This recipe takes only 15 minutes and doesn't require the old-fashioned ice cream churner.
  2. Homemade cake pops: Cake pops had their moment in the spotlight many years ago now, but they're still a delicious and fun alternative to the typical birthday cake. This recipe is completely made from scratch without cake mix.
  3. Birthday cake pancakes: Throw some cake mix into your normal pancake recipe—and of course some sprinkles!—and you've got a perfectly sweet treat for a birthday breakfast.
  4. Birthday cake fudge: This creamy birthday cake fudge has colorful sprinkles and all the classic cake flavor but with a fun twist.
  5. Candied sweet potato mini cakes: Okay, so this recipe doesn't taste anything like a birthday cake, but it's so sweet that we had to include it! These mini tarts are sweet and savory with hints of ginger, cinnamon, and pecan for a warming birthday treat.
  6. Succulent cupcakes: These incredible cupcakes are like having your garden and eating it, too. Sounds weird…but trust us. You'll love munching on these adorable cacti just as much as you'll love looking at them.
  7. Birthday cake granola: Make your own granola with a delectable birthday cake crumble. If you'd rather get the same thing made by someone else, you can find this Safe + Fair birthday granola at stores like Walmart and Target.

Tip: Even if you can't get together with the birthday girl or boy for an actual birthday cake, you can still capitalize on that sweet, sweet birthday cake scent! Consider this vanilla cake body wash and lotion by Philosophy or maybe a birthday cake candle—both great if you're stuck having a virtual birthday party but still want to send a cakey gift.

Okay, enough birthday cake ideas. It's time for you to get baking, buying, or decorating! Good luck with your one-of-a-kind cake creation, and don't forget that if you need a card, Foxdog is here to help. We can send your birthday card as soon as today!

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