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10 Birthday Cake Tips That’ll Have You Celebrating

Want to have the best birthday celebration yet? We've got the birthday cake tips you need to make every slice special.

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Courtesy Trina Harris

You can make the cake in advance

Planning birthday parties can be time-consuming. Chances are you’ll want to prep as much ahead of time as possible to get it all done—including baking the cake.

The great news here is that you can freeze cakes. Unfrosted cakes, in particular, freeze really well, and partially frozen cakes are easier to frost. But if you’re really strapped for time, you can freeze a whole frosted cake, too. 

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Taste of Home

Not all birthday cakes need to be layer cakes

We know: The first thing when you think of when you think birthday cake is a towering, three-layer cake. But let’s be real, that’s not always in the cards.

Sheet cakes and cakes made in 13×9 pans can be just as festive for a celebration. Case in point: this gorgeous confetti cake. It absolutely screams birthday but takes much less time than any layered cake.

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Get flat layers for easier stacking

If you do go the layer cake route, make sure that your layers are flat and even so they stack nicely. You can get flat cakes a few ways.

You can bake with cake strips—fabric strips that wrap around cake pans—to create level cakes. Our Test Kitchen cooks love these from Wilton ($12).

If you don’t have cake strips at home, you can also level your cakes after baking. Use a good serrated knife to slice off the top of any domed cake. As for the scraps, use them to make cake pops (or just treat yourself to a snack).

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Courtesy Trina Harris

Give any cake a drip effect

Go into any trendy bakery and you’ll see gorgeous cakes with this fun drip effect. Creating this decoration at home doesn’t require pro-baker skills, though. You can make a ganache drip for any cake. Start by melting baking chips or chocolate and mixing with cream (learn how to make ganache step-by-step). Practice on a glass cup to ensure it’s reached the right consistency.

Then spread the ganache over the cake and let it drip elegantly down the side. Try it with this birthday drip cake or our fan-favorite special-occasion chocolate cake.

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Add a festive border

An easy way to decorate cakes is to add a festive border to the base of the cake. To do this, place strips of waxed or parchment paper around the edge of the cake plate before you set the cake down. Then press toasted, chopped nuts, crushed up candies or sprinkles around the base. Brush away the excess and remove the waxed paper for a clean finish around the base. It looks great with this pecan cake.

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Try tiny cakes

If you’re doing a small-scale birthday, you might think that baking a whole cake is out of the question unless you want lots of leftovers. Think again!

We’ve got plenty of mini cake recipes to choose from. These tiny desserts serve just a few but are still celebratory.

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The musical "Waitress"

Try a “naked” cake

Some folks are all about the frosting on birthday cakes. Some consider the cake the star of the show—the frosting is just a supporting character. If you fall into the latter camp, try a naked cake. These cakes are still filled with icing between the layers but take a minimal approach to frosting on the outside. To create a naked cake at home, layer the cake as normal and give the exterior a crumb coating—just a very, very thin layer of icing.

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Never underestimate the power of sprinkles

Don’t worry if you’re not a cake decorating whiz! Adding a dusting of sprinkles to any birthday cake instantly adds personality. Try classic rainbow sprinkles or over-the-top decoration blends from companies like Fancy Sprinkles.

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Try something more exciting than plain candles

An easy way to upgrade any birthday cake is with extraordinary candles and cake toppers. Forego traditional wax candles and try sparkler candles and cake toppers.

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Pineapple carrot cakeTaste of Home

Get perfect slices

When you make a gorgeous cake, you want to make sure every slice looks perfect. To cut clean slices from your cake, use a serrated knife. Dip it in hot water and wipe it dry, then slice away (cleaning after each cut). This will ensure you get nice, clean cuts that show off all your hard work.

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