18 Types Of Savory Cakes You Should Know

As self-respecting food enthusiasts and culinary professionals, we often find ourselves grappling with existential questions. For example, what truly constitutes a cake? Is it the baking ritual and the luscious layers? How about the frosting and decorating or the alluring sweetness? Maybe the crispy crust or the rotund silhouette? Whichever it is, this selection of savory cakes is here to challenge your preconceptions of what a cake can or should be.

From rice, bread, and crepes masquerading as cake layers to cakes that have nothing in common with cakes at all yet are still called that (we're looking at you, pancit lumpia cake), the realm of savory cakes is as intriguing as it is bizarre. Even the cake salé, with its zucchini, carrot, and tomato iterations, often dismissed as a mere un-iced bread loaf, adds to this delectable confusion. For the gastronomically adventurous and those bereft of a sweet tooth, this could well be a trove of alternative birthday cake inspiration, and for everyone else a way to expand their culinary horizons.

1. Cake salé

XX our unconventional cake journey than the food-loving heartland of France? It's the birthplace of the "le cake salé," which literally translates to "savory cake," where it's often provided as an apéro snack. This loaf-shaped delight is traditionally peppered with black olives and shreds of ham or bacon, although its versatility allows for a smorgasbord of additions, from chanterelles to sun-dried tomatoes, and even the occasional asparagus or vegan feta.

Once you master the basics, it's a forgiving recipe, perfect for using up foods you'd otherwise throw out, like veggie scraps, last bits of condiments, and leftover cheese shreds. A dash of extra olive oil keeps it moist, and three generous cups of filling promise an exciting exploration of flavors and textures in every bite. Plus, it freezes well and outperforms quiches and sandwiches as the go-to picnic companion. 

2. Smörgåstårta

Picture a glorious combination of cake and sandwich with a Nordic flare: meet Smörgåstårta, or "sandwich cake." Born somewhere in midcentury Sweden, this darling of the dining table has been turning heads at tea parties with its eye-catching allure for decades, and now it's back in style. Just don't let its beauty fool you because this is one cake that's not just for show but a main course in its own right.

Layered, frosted, and filled with everything from ham and cheese to shrimp and smoked salmon, it's a veritable feast of flavors sandwiched between de-crusted bread slices. And let's not forget the vegan version, a tantalizing tower of creamy veggie purées, mushroom pâté, and chickpea "egg" salad. Here's a tip: Assemble everything a day ahead, but hold off on the decorations — anything from cucumber ribbons to edible flowers and vegan caviar — until just before serving.

3. Savory carrot cake

Venture across the pond, and you'll stumble upon a culinary delight that masquerades as a dessert but is indeed a savory sensation. Born in the U.S., it's a crafty replica of its sweet twin, right down to the frosting, but tailor-made for those who find sweetness a tad overbearing. Depending on your preference, it can shapeshift between a loaf, a single-layer cake, and even cupcakes.

The secret behind its rich, crumbly texture and subtle sweetness? Carrots, naturally! But don't stop there; throw in sweet potato, crumbled feta, scallions, and various warming spices. If you love regular carrot cake for its nuts and raisins, you can throw those in, too. Dress it with a savory frosting, herbs, and seeds for a special occasion, or bake it as a loaf for snacking between meals. What's the frosting, you ask? Crème fraîche, flavored cream cheese, salsa, or even a savory sorbet would do the trick.

4. Sushi cake

In the pandemic-ridden world, culinary creativity flourished, and, among other things, sushi cakes sprung onto the scene as a result. This recent creation is a supersized version of the Japanese "oshizushi," or pressed sushi squares, taking the form of an unfrosted, layered cake. You'll likely find anything from shrimp and salmon to egg salad between the layers of seasoned sushi rice.

The best part about this cake is that it's easier to put together than regular sushi. And while traditional custom-ordered creations tend to be on the pricier side, if you make it at home with plant-based ingredients, it can be pretty affordable. Pureed avocado, edamame mousse, tofu scramble, carrot "salmon," or even vegan canned tuna spiked with Sriracha mayo could be your fillings. Top it with sesame seeds, furikake, and microgreens, and there, you have a sushi cake, a feast for both the eyes and the palate.

5. Mac and cheese cake

If you're on the lookout for new ways to enjoy indulgent pasta dishes, look no further than the mac and cheese cake. It masquerades in myriad forms: a humble single-layer cake, a Bundt with all its sculptural beauty, single-serving lava cakes, or even, quite scandalously, a cheesecake with a savory breadcrumb crust. At its core, you'll find the familiar mac and cheese ingredients, sometimes with a batter-like mix of yogurt, eggs, and flour sneaking into the sauce. At times, it might surprise you with tomatoes or deli meats nestled within.

A delightful crossover between mac and cheese and pasta bake, it's a dish that demands a well-greased pan for a beautiful browning, judiciously hydrated pasta (macaroni or spaghetti work best), and a generous hand with the cheese, especially if it's a trusty melt-friendly plant-based variety. And if you don't feel like cake, use muffin tins for easy individually baked macaroni and cheese.

6. Savory cheesecake

When it comes to making savory cheesecake, the process is fairly straightforward: Think of your traditional cheesecake, then flip the script. The sweet, buttery graham crust is swapped with seasoned breadcrumbs or a salted cracker, possibly enriched with nuts or a sharp cheese. Sugar-laced cream cheese filling is replaced by a savory mélange of kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted peppers, mushrooms, and perhaps a sprinkling of blue cheese or bacon. Forget the sweet coulis or caramelized nuts; we're talking scallions, roasted veggies, olives, and herbs as toppings.

This is your answer when your heart yearns for a creamy, crumbly cheesecake sans sweetness, and with a boost of veggies, it could very well stand as a meal. Veganize it with plant-based alternatives or make it tofu-based and eggless for a no-bake version. Regardless, remember the golden rule: a springform pan is your best ally in the cheesecake battlefield, sweet or savory.

7. Nasi lemak cake

Another curious rice-based creation hailing from Malay cuisine, this is a standalone dish shaped into a cake to grant it a celebratory status. Traditional nasi lemak ("rich rice") is served for breakfast as a plate of creamy and flavorful rice surrounded by umami-rich toppings, and it's one of the top foods you should try in Singapore.

This rice, infused with the heady aroma of pandan leaves and coconut milk, becomes a cake of sorts, layered with rich and spicy sambal and topped with chicken rendang, shrimp, anchovies, peanuts, and eggs. And for vegans, a version with soy meat, tempeh, and beancurd is available. The cake is then swaddled in crisp cucumber slices and tied up with a ribbon or a dapper butcher string bow. Considering nasi lemak's traditional breakfast status and overall nutritional value, this is the guilt-free kind of cake you can have first thing in the morning.

8. Zucchini cake

A variation of traditional French cake salé, the zucchini loaf cake blends the summer squash's unassuming charm with the robust olive oil flavor, offering a gustatory experience that is both subtle and substantial. The cake is further embellished with a mix of basil, mint, chives, and olives, with the occasional addition of bacon and a generous crumble of feta or goat cheese.

The beauty of this loaf lies not just in its flavors but also in its versatility. It makes for a wonderfully quick, meal prep-friendly breakfast treat that's easy on the wallet. For those seeking an extra flavor punch, try pan-frying cubed zucchini with a few alliums instead of grating it fresh into the dough. And if the loaf begins to lose its freshness, fear not! Simply toast it and slather it with a savory dip to bring it back to its glory days.

9. Tomato cake

Who doesn't love tomatoes? Those colorful, fruity orbs of sweet, acidic, umami-rich goodness make a perfect introduction to the world of savory baking. Hence, the existence of tomato cake that takes several intriguing forms. For one, it can be a straightforward pound cake studded with fresh in-season tomatoes, sinking into its pillowy, cheesy flesh as it bakes. The other is a cheesecake-type option made with skinned tomatoes. The skins are removed, dehydrated, and used to add umami punch to the cracker base. The remaining tomato flesh is cooked down with herbs and capers, pureed, and then mixed with mascarpone and olive oil to make the filling.

But wait, there's more! When fresh tomatoes are scarce, the craving for that umami hit can still be satiated with a sheet cake fashioned from canned tomato soup, crowned with cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and caramelized onions.

10. Savory Napoleon cake

Not to be confused with its French ancestor, mille-feuille, Napoleon is a treasured dessert of the post-Soviet territories. Its origin story is rooted in delicious irony, as it's named after Napoleon Bonaparte — a historical dig at Russia's triumph over him in the 1812 Patriotic War. This layered masterpiece, originally fashioned into a triangular shape to mimic Napoleon's infamous hat, now sports a more conventional round or rectangular figure.

Typically a sweet treat of puff pastry and custard cream, its native land has reinvented it countless times with a savory filling of mushroom pâté, seafood, or chicken salad. In the West, it's taken on a whole new persona — fewer layers, fancier fillings more fit for its French counterpart: think goat cheese, tomato chutney, or even guacamole. For the daring baker keen on authenticity, top your creation with a savory frosting and finish with a dusting of crushed puff pastry, Russian-style.

11. Honeycomb pasta cake

Should you find yourself with a hankering for a culinary endeavor that's part construction project, part Italian feast, turn your gaze to the torta di rigatoni, or the ever-fun-to-say honeycomb pasta pie. It's a laborious but equally entertaining kitchen project where dozens of rigatoni, or sometimes their tubular cousins paccheri or cannelloni, are filled to the brim with and encased in cheese, herbs, and a hearty homemade Bolognese.

It's a show-stopper, this dish, and what's more, it's easily veganized — just swap out the animal products for vegan alternatives. A few tips: A trickle of olive oil and a sprinkle of parmesan or nutritional yeast on the pasta prevent a sticky disaster. A dollop of sauce on the bottom will help the pasta stand upright. A piping bag can turn filling those pasta tubes from a chore into a breeze. Finally, give the cake an overnight rest in the refrigerator, and you'll have a stable, sliceable treat, ready to impress your friends, family, and Instagram followers.

12. Onion cake

Hailed as a humble pie, yet bursting with the robust flavor of its titular ingredient, the onion cake wears many cultural hats. With roots reaching into German, Amish, and Welsh cuisines, it's a dish as diverse as it is simple.

The German zwiebelkuchen, while considered to be one of the best savory pies worldwide, is more akin to an onion-laden cake as evidenced by the "kuchen" part of its name. It's a deep-crust delight, swarming with sour cream, bacon, and a veritable sea of onions, all nestled in a yeast dough base. Then there's the Amish version, swaddled in shortcrust-like pastry, adorned with poppy seeds and paprika. 

And finally, the Welsh rendition, a crustless, tarte tatin-esque marvel of thinly layered potatoes and onions cooked to a golden stickiness. Despite its basic ingredients, this unassuming treat packs a flavor punch, making it the perfect sidekick to soups or salads.

13. Savory crepe cake

Crepe cake is a layered treat with roots in various locales, most notably France, as evidenced in Julia Child's recipe for Gâteau de Crêpes à la Florentine. Her vision was a towering mound of whisper-thin pancakes, their edges just barely crisped, layered with a medley of cream cheese, spinach, and mushrooms. But your unfrosted masterpiece can take on any ingredients you dare to toss its way, from plain cream cheese to the indulgence of béchamel sauce, from the tang of sour cream to the earthiness of hummus. The possibilities are endless, and therein lies its charm.

Deftly bridging the divide between a handy fridge-clearing appetizer and an elevated brunch dish, it's a blank canvas where you can express your creativity. The secret to its success? Finding a harmonious trio of fillings and alternating them between crepe layers. For an extra culinary twist, consider switching to a vegan crepe recipe.

14. Pastel de atun

It might have flown under your radar until now, but it's time for you to meet pastel de atún, also known as the Mexican tuna cake. Contrary to its name, it's less of a cake and more of a no-bake loaf, akin to a layered salad or sandwich cake. Its exclusive homemade status sets it apart — you won't find it on restaurant menus or supermarket shelves. In its native country, it's a common children's party treat and a nostalgic dish mothers whip up for their adult offspring.

Constructed from crust-less white bread squares, doused in a blended mix of canned tuna, sour cream, a medley of peppers, cream cheese, and a smidgen of mayo, it's a symphony of flavors. Don't worry: The heat from the hot peppers is beautifully balanced by sweet red bell pepper and dairy. If you decide to make it, skip the oil-packed tuna in favor of water-packed for a subtler flavor. Or, better yet, use vegan tuna.

15. Sausage breakfast cake

The breakfast sausage cake, a Southern classic, is a culinary paradox. It's a typically rectangular cake, both savory and sweet, defying the conventional wisdom of cakes. The non-sweet version is a mix of pork sausage, onions, sage, and cheese, all baked into the batter. Some depart from tradition, lining the pan with canned biscuits, topping them with sausage and cheese, and baking until it becomes a gooey, melty delight. But wait, there's more.

There are those who sweeten the deal, dousing their sausage cake with maple syrup or turning the sausage into a supporting actor in a sweet blueberry breakfast cake ensemble. But, whether it's completely savory or not, it bakes up quickly and stores well. And the leftovers? They warm up splendidly, making this cake an ideal counterpart to your morning coffee. It's best served fresh from the oven, but it's just as enjoyable at room temperature.

16. Pizza bundt cake

Pizza bundt сake, a savory twist on monkey bread, is an American culinary sensation that has been capturing the imaginations of internet foodies since 2016 and, more recently, the TikTok community. Baked in a bundt pan, this pull-apart pizza marvel ingeniously transforms canned biscuits or store-bought pizza dough into knead-free monkey bread.

Making it yourself is a breeze: Simply slice the dough into bite-sized morsels, toss them in a blend of pizza sauce, garlic butter, and pizza toppings of your choice, and pop into the oven. The result is a seductively gooey, crispy-edged wonder, frosted with a luscious pizza sauce and dusted with Parmesan instead of sugar. 

The vegan version also exists: Just swap out the cheese with a dollop of cashew mozzarella cream to keep the pizza party going. Its uniqueness lies in its simplicity — no need to make the dough — and its universal appeal (who doesn't love pizza?).

17. Caviar cake

If you're feeling particularly adventurous or perhaps just mildly extravagant, you could always venture into the realm of caviar cakes. Now, don't let the name fool you; it's less of a cake and more of an opulent appetizer — and it's also not your typical bake-off challenge. Traditionally, it's a chilled blend of egg salad, herbs, onion, and sour cream, topped with a generous layer of caviar. And for the timid and eco-conscious, fret not — plant-based caviar can be your sustainable ticket to indulgence without breaking the bank.

The shape? Well, it can take on any form you fancy, from a cheesecake to a Napoleon. The Swedes, ever practical, have eschewed all pretense of cake and simply serve a chilled custard crowned with crème fraîche, onion, and dual-toned caviar. Just remember to grease your mold well and serve with your crispest crackers. This could be the game-changer for your wine and starter spread.

18. Pancit lumpia cake

If you love vibrant Filipino dishes, this unorthodox cake is for you. It's a bundle of gustatory joy filled to the brim with pancit noodles and surrounded by a fortress of lumpia spring rolls. The noodles, bathed in a soy bath, and the spring rolls, usually packed with pork and ginger mince, come together in a harmonious symphony of flavors.

The real charm of this dish, besides its festive appearance, is its remarkable simplicity. No oven required, your stove top and a bit of preparation are all you need. Gather your components, prepare your filling a day in advance if you wish, or grab some store-bought spring rolls if you're really crunched for time. 

The assembly is a fun task: Fill a tin with noodles, tuck the spring rolls in neatly, and add a final flourish of noodles to create a sense of abundance. Tie an ovenproof ribbon around the rolls for a final festive touch and enjoy warm.