30 Types Of Cake, Explained

Cake is a popular dessert across the globe. According to the Webstaurant Store, Americans spent over $140 million on cakes alone in 2016.

An article by The Nibble notes that the ancient Egyptians were the first society to figure out that the natural yeast floating around in the environment was the key to making their dough rise. The first cakes were descendants of yeasted bread risen on hot stones. The modern cake began to take shape in the 19th century with the invention of leavening agents like baking soda and baking powder — as well as the increased affordability of sugar and conventional home ovens.

Like other regional cuisines and dishes, cakes are shaped by the cultures and ingredients that surround them. Here are some of the most popular cakes and what makes them unique!

1. Red velvet cake

Red velvet cake has endured as one of the most popular cakes in the United States. The Washington Post notes the cake's name is a descriptor of its soft, velvety texture. The color, which is not as commonly observed in other cake types, was originally derived from raw cocoa powder. Raw cocoa powder began appearing in the 1800s and contains high levels of anthocyanin; a bright pigment that turns foods blue, purple, or red in the presence of an acid. The first red velvet cakes were baked with buttermilk, which has enough acid to interact with the anthocyanin and produce a distinct burgundy hue. During World War I, many bakers were forced to turn to grated beets or baked juice when eggs and milk were in short supply. This further brightened the red color of the cake.

Color additives became widely used after receiving approval from the Food & Drug Administration in the 1930s. Mental Floss reports that the Adams Extract company used the authorization as a way to promote its red food coloring. The company published a recipe for the "Adams Red Velvet Cake" shortly afterward.

2. Pineapple-upside-down cake

The pineapple upside-down cake is a retro baking classic. According to Alto Hartley, societies have cooked with cast iron skillets over open flames for hundreds of years. For a sweet treat, early societies would add sliced fruit to the bottom of the pan, pour on the batter, and flip the cake over once it was finished. Since early cast-iron pans featured tiny "spider legs," fruit upside-down cakes were dubbed "spider cakes."

Pineapple became more popular in America with the establishment of the Hawaiian Pineapple Company (now Dole). This tart cake is the perfect addition for family gatherings and holidays.

3. Black Forest cake

The Black Forest cake got its name from a sour cherry brandy called Schwarzwalder kirschwasser (kirsch) developed in the Black Forest region of Germany. Traditionally, a sour cherry brandy was used to soak the Black Forest cake. In fact, the Black Forest gateau (as it is known in Great Britain), was granted "protected status" by the European Union in 2016. Per Channel4 News, this means that Black Forest cake can only be called such if the kirsch is derived from the Black Forest region of Germany.

Typically, Black Forest cake is made by soaking the chocolate sponge in sugar syrup flavored with cherry brandy and topped with whipped cream. The German variation of Black Forest cake uses buttercream, while Austrians make theirs with whipped cream, gelatin, and cornstarch.

4. Cupcakes

Cupcakes are a uniquely American dessert. The Hummingbird Bakery reports that the first reference to the dessert may have been in a cookbook from 1796, calling it "a cake baked in small cups." Another possibility is that cupcakes may have been referred to as a measurement technique memorized in volumes — similar to the pound cake. During the 18th century, queen cakes were also common; these individually-portioned cakes were easily distributed and without the need for utensils.

Per ThoughtCo, commercial paper cupcake liners became widely distributed in the 1950s by the James River Corporation. The first cupcake bakery, Sprinkles Cupcake, opened in 2005, and Sprinkles now sells over 45,000 cupcakes daily.

Cupcakes in general come in almost every flavor as traditional cakes, so you can customize your batch to your liking.

5. Coffee cake

According to the Oh Danish Bakery, coffee cake is likely a descendant of the Danish tradition of eating sweetbreads while drinking morning coffee. After coffee was introduced to the European continent in the 1600s, Scandinavians and Germans started pairing coffee with sweetbreads stuffed with nuts, fruits, and spices.

Dutch and German immigrants brought the "coffee cake" to the United States in the late 1800s. In the 1870s, bakers in New York, New Jersey, and Delaware started adapting the coffee cake into more of a pastry than bread. Then, in the 1950s, bakers began making coffee cakes in Bundt pans to better support a heavier batter and heavy streusel topping.

Modern coffee cake can be made with a variety of toppings, icing, fruits, and nuts. Turkish coffee cake is flavored with bittersweet chocolate, espresso powder, pomegranate molasses, and cocoa powder and covered in a bittersweet chocolate ganache.

6. Angel food cake

The angel food cake is a light, airy cake made with an absurd amount of eggs. It is categorized as a "foam cake" because it derives its structure from heavily beaten egg whites rather than oil, yolks, or butter, per Martha Stewart.

Angel food cake is highly versatile. Although vanilla is the most traditional flavor, bakers can substitute citrus or almond extracts, as well as add unsweetened cocoa powder for a chocolate angel food cake. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves can be used for a spiced undertone to angel food cake.

For an ideal light texture, use sifted ingredients and caster sugar rather than granulated sugar. A stand mixer is also a handy appliance when making an angel food cake because it provides consistent movement when fluffing up meringues. You'll want to ditch the stand mixer when you're ready to fold the egg whites into the batter, though; using a stand mixer may beat the air out of the angel food cake and render it dense.

7. Devil's food cake

There are major differences between chocolate cake and devil's food cake. Devil's food cake has a dense texture and derives its structure from vegetable oil. Unlike its foil, angel food cake, devil's food cake utilizes leavening agents like baking soda and baking powder to rise. Some devil's food cake recipes add coffee to boost the chocolate flavor.

Like other cakes, devil's food cake can be adapted based on desired flavor profiles and the availability of other ingredients. There is some evidence that shredded beets were added to the first devil's food cake recipes to add moisture and sweetness; this makes the devil's food cake a precursor to the popular red velvet cake. Grated orange rind pairs well with the dark chocolate flavors without making the batter too wet.

8. Pound cake

The history of the pound cake is relatively simple. In 18th century Britain, illiterate home bakers relied on memorized recipes to produce consistent bakes. Classic pound cake is made of a few simple ingredients: butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. The bakers used a pound of each to make the original pound cake recipe. Pound cake eventually made its way to the southern United States and became a baking staple for many households.

Modern iterations of the pound cake recipe profile new flavors and textures. Chef Stephanie Prida's recipe for olive oil pound cake with glazed apples utilizes oil instead of butter with the addition of chopped walnuts, brandy, and cider-glazed apples. Rhubarb pound cake maintains its soft texture via Greek yogurt and its flavors through the addition of ground cardamon, sliced rhubarb, and orange zest. The black tea cream on top of this springtime pound cake is delectable and one you'll want on your kitchen table.

9. Sponge cake

Sponge cake was the mother of many modern cake styles. The primary difference between a sponge cake and an angel food cake is that sponge cake uses both the whites and the yolks of eggs, while angel food cake only uses egg whites, per Dinner Then Dessert.

Italian sponge cake is made with three simple ingredients: room temperature eggs, granulated sugar, and low-protein flour. The recipe can be modified to include extracts — lemon, for example, is the most traditional flavor used in Italian baking. Similar to working with angel food cake, the baker must be sure not to beat the air out of the batter before it is baked.

10. Genoise sponge cake

The King Arthur Baking Company notes that genoise sponge cake is enriched with butter and egg yolk, as well as flavored with a brush of flavored syrup. Adding the perfect brush of syrup rather than sopping the cake is the key to creating a flavorful, yet light sponge that can be layered in a torte.

The Genoise sponge cake is a frequent flyer on the Great British Bake Off. Self-proclaimed "queen of cake" Mary Berry had bakers make mockatines on Season 6, Episode 8's technical round. These small genoise sponge cakes are flavored with coffee icing and a crème beurre au moka: a French coffee icing. Prue Leith's Le Gâteau Vert appeared a few seasons later; this cake is filled with a pistachio-flavored genoise sponge and covered with pistachio marzipan and a spinach-based, boozy crème au beurre.

11. Carrot cake

Alan Davidson's 1999 "Oxford Companion to Food," as referenced by the Carrot Museum, reports that carrots have been used in baking since the Middle Ages when conventional sweeteners were otherwise scarce. Carrots continued to be used in recipes for Christmas puddings and cakes up until World War II.

Carrot cake can be filled with a variety of fruits, nuts, and flavors. The base flour can be substituted for whole wheat flour for a nuttier and more fibrous flavor. Adding fruits like pineapple can lessen the need for added sugars in the cake while providing a tropical flair to your carrot cake.

12. Opera cake

Opera cake is a traditional French dessert with three layers: almond sponge, espresso buttercream, and chocolate ganache. The Good Life France notes opera cake was named after French pastry chef Cyriaque Gavillion's wife, who said that his chocolate creation resembled the Paris Opera House.

The sophisticated layers of this cake are integral to getting every flavor in each bite. The flour is traditionally made of a mix of almond flour and white pastry flour. This combination gives the cake its nutty undertone. Moreover, a boozy layer of espresso-brandy syrup is soaked into the cake for flavor before the entire cake is covered in the espresso buttercream and delicate chocolate ganache.

13. Chiffon cake

Unlike sponge cake, chiffon cake uses vegetable oil and baking soda for texture and rise. These ingredients give chiffon cake a comparatively heftier bake than a sponge cake. Taste Atlas credits Harry Baker, corporate father of the General Mills company, for deriving the chiffon cake recipe to include vegetable oil instead of industrial shortening. This new style of baking was further marketed by Betty Crocker, a subsidiary of General Mills.

Chiffon cake is most commonly associated with citrus flavors. Orange, almond, chocolate, and coconut are four of the most popular chiffon cake flavors; the citrus notes are accented by a light, fluffy batter.

14. Flourless chocolate cake

Flourless chocolate torte cake is a gluten-free favorite prepared and baked in less than an hour. The recipe combines dark chocolate, almond meal, eggs, and butter together for a dense, chocolatey slice that pairs well with mascarpone, cream, or fresh fruit slices.

Chef Nigella Lawson's grown-up spin on flourless chocolate cake combines the same ingredients with the added nuttiness of chopped pistachios, rosewater, and softened pears. The pears provide a significant amount of moisture to the cake without significantly skewing its flavor. This recipe can be made quickly in a food processor and baked in under an hour for an elaborate celebration or post-dinner treat.

15. Johnnycakes

Johnnycakes are described by What's Cooking America as the "New England equivalent of tortillas." The cakes are made from a simple mix of cornmeal, water, and salt and fried on a hot griddle. New England colonists learned how to make these cakes by watching indigenous folks (the Pawtuxet tribal group) finely grind cornmeal and fry it.

Both savory and sweet adaptations of johnnycakes exist. Chef Gabe Kennedy's charred corn johnnycakes with peach compote bring the flavors of a New England summer together with a tinge of mint mascarpone on top. Johnnycakes can also be served with syrup or fresh fruit.

16. Brooklyn blackout cake

The Brooklyn blackout cake was the brainchild of the Ebinger Baking Company, according to the Kitchen Project. This chocolate cake has a chocolate pudding filling with a pudding and chocolate-piece frosting. It was named after blackout drills during World War II in which the borough of Brooklyn would run emergency procedures that effectively "blacked out" the city.

Although the bakery shut its doors in 1972, home bakers can still rejoice in the chocolate wonder that is the blackout cake. Half Baked Harvest's recipe amplifies the chocolate flavors in the cake with the use of instant coffee. Buttermilk is used as a leavening agent (in tandem with baking soda) to keep the cake moist.

17. Apple cake

Stemilt notes that the apple cake has numerous connections to German culture. In German, the cake is known as apfelkuchen (which literally means "apple cake") and includes warming spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. Ask Chef Dennis instead attributes apple cake to Polish and Jewish culture as it originally did not contain dairy or meat products (that would have been prohibited under Kosher guidelines). The Jewish apple cake contains oil instead of butter which both slows spoilage and makes the apple cake pareve.

Apple cake can be as simple or as complex as a baker desires. Spiced apple cake can play on the traditional fall flavors of apples, nutmeg, and cinnamon within a soft, sponge cake. The batter, made from traditional sponge cake ingredients and sour cream, is spooned into a nine-inch cake pan before being topped with softened Granny Smith apples. A layer of walnuts or pecans is also recommended for a nutty flair.

18. Asian fruit cream cake

The fruit cream cake is a staple for birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmas celebrations in both Japanese and Korean cultures. Unlike the cakes commonly seen in American bake shops, the fruit cream cake is not as sweet or as dense. Baker Polly Chan explained on her Instagram that the Chinese sponge cake is flavored with sweet cream, jam, and fresh fruit –- making it a light counterpart to an often-filling main course.

Eva Bakes' Chinese bakery-style cake recipe utilizes a soft sponge layer, custard filling, and whipped topping stabilized with gelatin for a soft dessert experience. The cake is artistically decorated with sliced strawberries, blueberries, and grapes for a summery, fresh garnish.

19. Poke cake

Poke cake seems like a dessert straight out of the 1970s -– or a college dorm room. Poke cakes are made by poking small holes in the top of a baked cake and adding a layer of flavored gelatin or pudding. Lil' Luna's Jello poke cake uses boxed cake mix and raspberry Jello to derive a sweet retro treat. To make this cake, it recommends baking and preparing the mix as directed on the box before poking ½-inch holes into the cake and pouring the prepared Jello mixture over. After the cake has solidified, it is topped with a tub of whipped cream and served.

Amanda's Cookin' recommends making a chocolate poke cake using boxed devil's food cake mix and chocolate pudding instead of Jello. Top with chopped candy bars, chocolate shavings, or fresh fruit!

20. Cheesecake

Cheesecake was invented by the Greeks in the fifth century, according to Junior's. The cheese itself is made of soft cheese, eggs, sugar, and flavoring, while the cake is made of a cookie or pastry base. The cake can be either raw, such as the French cheesecake, or baked, such as the New York Cheesecake. Although cream cheese is the commonly used soft cheese in cheesecake, ricotta, quark, and cottage cheese can be used in other variations.

Cheesecake can come in a variety of flavors. A no-bake chocolate cheesecake contains cream cheese, sour cream, melted semi-sweet chips, and a pre-made graham cracker crust. These ingredients keep the custard moist and delicious — especially with a sprinkle of flaky sea salt on top. Cheesecake can also be served with fresh fruits like cherries, blueberries, or strawberries.

21. Strawberry shortcake

Strawberry shortcake has a deep history in early America and has undergone significant change over time. Indigenous groups mixed strawberries and corn to make a strawberry cake, and it is believed that the colonizers replicated this dessert in the form of a shortcake. The first shortcake recipe was published shortly afterward in 1847. The 1850's Miss Leslie's Ladies Reciept Book contains a recipe for "Strawberry Cake" with mashed strawberries and icing. Over time, whipped cream replaced the butter icing and the cake component of the recipe took on regional textures; Southern shortcake resembles more of a crusty biscuit, while Northern shortbread has a cakey, soft texture. 

This strawberry shortcake recipe is a grown-up twist on the traditional dessert with cognac-macerated strawberries, marscapone, and toasted almonds.

22. Basque cheesecake

The Basque cheesecake is similar to its Americanized counterpart except for one important component: the crust! The Basque cheesecake is crustless, so it is dependent on a naturally hot oven to caramelize a crust layer. The La Viña cheesecake from the San Sebastián region of Spain is made of heavy cream, sugar, cream cheese, egg, flour, and vanilla; this is one of the most traditional Basque cheesecake recipes. Chocolates and Chai's chocolate variation uses melted 75% dark chocolate baked in a warm oven to emulate the same flavors as the traditional recipe — just with a chocolate twist. These cheesecakes can be garnished with fruit or cream and served at almost any event or gathering.

23. Basbousa

Basbousa is a Middle Eastern semolina cake flaked with coconut and soaked in syrup; its reach extends to North African and Western Asian countries as well. The soaking syrup can take on a variety of flavors including lemon, rose water, or orange blossom water. The cake is typically eaten around Ramadan, the holy fasting period for Muslims. Basbousa's taste has been described as tender, crumbly, and similar to that of American cornbread.

Basbousa can include a variety of flavors and regional ingredients. In Eqypt, basbousa frequently contains almond powder and a hazelnut topping, per 196 Flavors. In Syria and Lebanon, basbousa is often made with crushed pistachios and flavored with coconut or candied orange peel.

24. Bundt cake

Bundt cakes are less about what's in them and more about their shape. According to chef Alton Brown, ensuring that the batter does not stick to the walls of the doughnut-shaped mold is essential to getting the perfect bundt shape. He recommends coating the bundt pan with butter and a layer of flour before covering the pan with plastic wrap and vigorously shaking it. This ensures all corners of the pan are covered and will prevent your bundt from sticking.

Bundt cakes are popular at all times of the year, but most are made and elaborately decorated during the holidays. Glaze, icing, and garnishes give bundt cakes their intricate appearance. Jessica Morrone recommends baking her moist chocolate zucchini cake in a bundt pan for a crispy edge — and it's the perfect canvas for intricate decoration.

25. Mille crepes cake

"Mille crepe" translates to one-thousand crepes in French, according to Zen Can Cook. Although, that is a bit of an exaggeration — the average mille crepe cake contains between 15-to-30 layers of crepes sandwiched between layers of sweet, thin filling. Some of the mille foil cakes also have a frosting layer on the exterior of the cake with elaborate piping.

These intricate cakes come in a variety of flavors, such as tiramasu birthday cake made with a marscapone and sweet marsala wine filling. TashCakes combines the tropical taste of mango with 20 layers of crepes in their mango mille crepe cake recipe.

26. Ice cream cake

Ice cream cake is a nostalgic childhood creation that combines the best desserts out there: ice cream and cake. Ice cream cakes are typically assembled by layering ice cream and cake with chocolate, fruit, or candy. Ice cream cakes can come in a variety of themes and flavors that inspire creativity and imagination. 

A traditional Spumoni ice cream cake is made from the Italian flavors of pistachio, cherry, and chocolate ice cream along with the crunch of a chocolate waffle cone crust. S'mores ice cream cake combines decadent layers of homemade marshmallows, chocolate graham crackers, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate ice cream for a frozen campfire classic.

27. Icebox cake

Unlike ice cream cakes, icebox cakes do not include ice cream or cake. Instead, icebox cakes are no-bake desserts made with layers of wafer cookies and whipped topping and set in a refrigerator, according to The Washington Post (it's also sometimes referred to as dirt, due to its appearance). Icebox cakes are popular among home bakers because they are infinitely customizable with fruit, cookies, and toppings.

Icebox cakes are an excellent type of "cake" to make with kids in the kitchen because they require minimal cooking equipment (if any). A simple salted caramel icebox cake contains four simple ingredients: heavy cream, caramel sauce, salt, and chocolate wafer cookies. The icebox cake firms up in the refrigerator in at least three hours and is ready to serve when it comes out.

28. Honey cake

Honey cake is commonly served on the Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. The Russian version of the recipe, medovik, dates back to Emperor Alexander I, according to Russian Kitchen. Honey cake is a simple recipe sweetened with, you guessed it, honey. This simple honey cake recipe derives its moisture from Greek yogurt, eggs, and unsalted butter. The recipe can either be made in a cast iron skillet or a nine-inch cake pan. The skillet has some advantages for honey cake because it increases the crusty surface area while keeping the inside of the cake moist. The cake is finally garnished with fresh fruit and chopped pistachios.

29. Hummingbird cake

According to Southern Living, the hummingbird cake recipe was first submitted to the publication in 1978. It is now one of its most popular recipes! The hummingbird cake derives its moisture from vegetable oil and canned pineapple chunks, which are added to the batter with the can's liquid. Besides the tropical essence of pineapple, the cake also contains bananas, chopped pecans (roasted for a better flavor), and a layer of cream cheese frosting.

Hummingbird cake can also be made in a loaf pan, such as this hummingbird loaf cake recipe. The cake is made with the same flavors as a frosted hummingbird cake — just topped with a pecan oat streusel and vanilla glaze.

30. King cake

King cake is a staple of the Mardi Gras tradition. The cake, which can be made into a circular loaf or a braided ring, is just as extravagant as the Mardi Gras celebration. The cake is decorated in purple, green, and gold sugar; these colors are symbolic of power, faith, and justice and were designated by the Rex parade in 1892, according to Mardi Gras New Orleans. The last important element of the king cake is the inclusion of a small trinket inside (often a plastic baby). It is said that whoever chooses the piece with the trinket is king for that day — and responsible for purchasing all of the cake for the following year's Mardi Gras celebration.

Although you can make King Cake at home with colored sprinkles, white vanilla icing, and sweet dough, it is a much better idea to place an online cake order at one of New Orleans' king cake bakeries for the occasion. Although these bakeries have different takes on the king cake recipe, they all emulate the extravagance of the king cake tradition.