25 Classic Cakes Everyone Should Bake Before They Die
Something about the layer cake scares us. Perhaps, we’re not confident in our frosting skills, or maybe we’re just terrified of the moment we have to flip the layers out of the round pans. But, really, neither is a reason to skirt around some of the most classic cakes of all time. That’s why we’ve created what we’re calling “the baking bucket list.” Each one of these 25 classic cakes has something special, and not all of them are layer cakes. (Hello Bundt pan, my old friend.) Some are like eating a slice of history, and some are like tasting a sliver of plain heaven. What all of these recipes have in common: They deserve to be made—and to be made by you, ASAP. Whether starting with the simple Southern pound cake, beloved Hummingbird Cake, or iconic Lane Cake, get out your cake stand and call your friends. It’s time to share a slice (or two). This will be the tastiest bucket list you’ve ever completed. Read on for 25 classic cakes everyone should make at least once.
How To Make Chocolate-Mayonnaise Cake
Recipe: Chocolate-Mayonnaise Cake
This classic should be in every Southern woman's recipe repertoire. A moist, delicious Chocolate-Mayonnaise Cake pleases crowds of all ages, and is the perfect dessert to bring to a neighbor, to a potluck, or to a summer party. Mayonnaise may sound like a strange ingredient to add into a cake, but this iconic Southern staple yields an ultra-moist texture and mellows out the sweet flavor. The tradition of using mayonnaise in cakes dates all the way back to war times, when ingredients like eggs and oil were rationed. In place of these, cooks substituted mayo – whose main ingredients are, as you probably know, eggs and oil. Pulling together this homemade sheet cake recipe only takes about 20 minutes of hands-on prep time. We've topped this recipe with our creamy Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting, which is a decadent garnish on this Southern dessert. If you're not a chocolate-on-chocolate gal, feel free to use your favorite buttercream or frosting to finish off your cake.
Start this recipe by whisking together flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and baking powder in a medium bowl. The addition of salt in this recipe actually brings out the sweetness – so don't forget to add it! Then, prepare a 13- x 9-inch pan by greasing and flouring. Using a stand mixer, beat together the eggs, sugar, and vanilla until you have a creamy, light brown mixture. The goal is to have ribbons form when the beater is lifted from the bowl. Then, add mayonnaise to your wet ingredients, and beat at low speed until combined. Next, add the cocoa-flour mixture to the egg mixture alternately with hot water, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Be sure to beat at low speed after each addition so that the mixtures can become fully incorporated. Pour the batter into your pan, and bake! Cool your Chocolate-Mayonnaise Cake completely before spreading on your favorite frosting.
Classic Southern Pound Cake
Recipe: Classic Southern Pound Cake
Ah, these might be our favorite four words in a sequence. This recipe is the ultimate classic, and it should be baked right and baked often.
Recipe: Hummingbird Cake
We had no idea this cake would become our most popular and beloved Southern cake recipe ever when it was submitted in 1978. You aren't really a Southerner until you've tasted its moist layers packed with pineapple, pecans, cinnamon, and bananas.
Mama's German Chocolate Cake
Recipe: Mama's German Chocolate Cake
This cake is dressed to impress and deserves to be baked from scratch. German's Sweet Chocolate sweetens its layers, but a rich frosting, chunky with pecans and flaked coconut, is really the star of the recipe.
Blackberry Jam Cake
Recipe: Blackberry Jam Cake
You won't see this cake often, but it's always there, waiting to steal the show if you just let it. Kentuckians lay claim to this spiced cake with homemade berry jam and nuts, just as much as the Derby or bourbon.
Lemon-and-Chocolate Doberge Cake
Recipe: Lemon-and-Chocolate Doberge Cake
This cake is a New Orleans original typically made for special occasions—and this half-and-half version is a particular favorite. Expect six to nine layers of vanilla sponge cake sandwiched between custard or creamy filling.
Lemon-Orange Chiffon Cake
Recipe: Lemon-Orange Chiffon Cake
The chiffon cake was introduced in the mid-20th century and dubbed the first “new” type of cake in over 100 years. Trust us, the extra fluffy layers paired with citrus flavors will have you swooning.
Sea Salt-Caramel Cake
Red Velvet Layer Cake
Recipe: Red Velvet Layer Cake
Don't be frightened. This crimson cake is not nearly as complicated as you imagine. (Down here, it became a national treasure after its appearance in 1989’s Steel Magnolias in the form of an armadillo-shaped groom’s cake.)
The Ultimate Carrot Cake
Recipe: The Ultimate Carrot Cake
It's called "the ultimate" for a reason. Everyone should have this spiced, nut-studded cake—coated in cream cheese frosting—in their repertoire, and you can quote us on that.
Recipe: Strawberry-Lemonade Cake
This cake feels like a breath of fresh air. Tender lemony layers live in perfect harmony with strawberry-lemonade jam filling and strawberry frosting.
The Lane Cake
Recipe: The Lane Cake
Here's the deal with the Lane Cake: You might never eat this iconic Southern cake if you don't make it yourself. It's got a lot going on, but there's a reason to every rhyme.
Triple-Chocolate Buttermilk Pound Cake
Two words: Triple Chocolate. That sums up this cake deliciously—and the two glazes just put it over-the-top. For any hostess, this cake will catch some eyes.
Best White Cake
Recipe: Best White Cake
The White Cake is as much part of Southern Living's history as anything, and we're always trying to perfect the recipe. This particular version is beautiful in its simplicity, but will always steal the show at Christmastime.
Recipe: Orange Cake
This recipe is retro, which is just how we like our pound cakes. Why mess with a good thing? The citrus-flavored Bundt pops on any spring table.
Fresh Peach Coffee Cake with Pecan Streusel
Every hostess needs a coffee cake under her belt. Make it this one. Sweet, juicy peaches take center stage in this recipe.
Texas Skillet Cake
Recipe: Texas Skillet Cake
We upped the ante on Lone Star favorite, the Texas Sheet Cake, by making it into a dense, fudgy skillet cake. Here's why you should make this version: You can eat the cake straight out of the skillet, topped with vanilla ice cream.
Key Lime Pound Cake
Recipe: Key Lime Pound Cake
Take your classic Southern pound cake to the beach! You'll be serving up slices that capture the flavor of the Florida Keys with this citrus recipe.
Lemon Cheese Layer Cake
Recipe: Lemon Cheese Layer Cake
Don't be deceived by the name—you won't be getting a cheesecake out of this. You'll be getting something even better. These citrusy cake layers are sandwiched with rich, buttery lemon curd. (In southeast Alabama, a few ladies are still famous for their towering 14-layer lemon-cheese cakes.)
Coconut Pound Cake
Recipe: Coconut Pound Cake
This cake wows even the most seasoned of pound cake patrons. Coconut, pecans, and bourbon make up a mighty Southern trifecta.
Recipe: Pumpkin Cheesecake
As soon as the autumn breeze starts blowing through the South, we know it's time to break out the pumpkin desserts. This cheesecake feels festive for fall—and tastes fall-tastic to boot.
Chocolate-Mint Whipped Cream Cake
Back in the day, this recipe was submitted to us after winning a local cooking contest in Mobile, Alabama. Take a bite, and you'll see why. Make this for the chocolate-mint lover in your life.
Caramel Apple Cake
Recipe: Caramel Apple Cake
This might be the prettiest cake you'll make all year. (And it requires only 20 minutes of hands-on prep time.) The fall-inspired cake is topped with sautéed apple slices and a to-die-for apple-brandy caramel sauce.
Coconut-Butter Pecan Sheet Cake
Recipe: Coconut-Butter Pecan Sheet Cake
The name alone should have you drooling. You won't find an easier or more delicious sheet cake in the bunch.
Praline-Cream Cheese King Cakes
Recipe: Praline-Cream Cheese King Cakes
We don't think this need apply only to New Orleanians, either. These cream-filled treats are a Mardi Gras tradition, and this recipe makes two—so keep one and share the other.