I tend to think of cake as a treat for special occasions, and an elaborate layer cake isn't something I bake regularly. Many single-layer cakes, though, are easy enough to make more frequently—and who doesn't want more cake in their life? Keep it simple enough and you can even enjoy cake on a weeknight, and with the right technique it's easy to make a single-layer cake that is just as satisfying as a fancier one. From chocolate cakes made in skillets and sheet pans to a gluten-free layer cake and romantic lava cake for two, keep reading for 17 of our favorite easy cake recipes.
Chocolate Skillet Cake With Milk Chocolate Frosting
These first couple of recipes don't even require a cake pan—this simple chocolate cake is baked in a cast iron skillet. The baking soda is activated by acidic ingredients like coffee and brown sugar, meaning that the batter can be made right in the skillet with no whipping, creaming, or beating. We include a chocolate frosting recipe here, but peanut butter frosting would be delicious, too.
Hummingbird Skillet Cake
Here we give the skillet treatment to hummingbird cake, which you may not be familiar with if you're not from the South. It has the texture and cream cheese frosting of a carrot cake, but it gets a bit of a tropical twist from pineapple and banana. Hummingbird cakes are typically made with crushed pineapple and mashed banana, but we like to purée the two fruits together for a more intense flavor.
Texas Sheet Cake
Capable of serving two dozen people, this oversized cake has a great work-to-reward ratio. We make it with natural cocoa powder, which is fatty enough to give the cake a rich flavor and texture, and it's acidic enough to boost the baking soda's rising powder. We also add malted milk powder for a complex toffee note.
Gingerbread Sheet Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting
This cake takes just 15 minutes of active work, but gets tons of flavor from graham cracker-y whole wheat flour, tangy buttermilk, a heavy dose of molasses, and a variety of spices, like ginger, cinnamon, cloves, Chinese five-spice powder, and black pepper. A bright frosting will help balance out the molasses and spices—cream cheese is an obvious choice, but if you've never made whipped Greek yogurt, then this is a great time to try it out.
Toasted Sugar Angel Food Cake
Angel food cake might seem intimidatingly delicate, but the truth is that there's basically nothing to it beyond whipping up cold egg whites and sugar, mixing in cake flour, and baking. This caramel-flavored variation on the recipe requires a little pre-planning—toasting the sugar takes at least a couple of hours to toast—but it's a mostly hands-off process that's well worth the effort.
Classic Chiffon Cake With Vanilla Chantilly
Like angel food cake, chiffon cake is nowhere near as difficult as you might think. In fact, it's basically the same recipe but with egg yolks and oil added for a delicate richness. As with angel food, toasted sugar is very at home here. For finishing, we turn to an airy chantilly because a heavier icing would overwhelm the light cake.
Blackberry Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting
This cake will look fairly unassuming on your table—that is, until you cut into it to reveal a striking blue crumb dyed by a fresh blackberry purée. Because blackberries are so acidic, they can completely replace the buttermilk in our basic vanilla butter cake recipe without affecting the tenderness or rise. Better fruit is going to yield a more intense color, but you won't be disappointed with even supermarket blackberries.
Apple-Ginger Tishpishti (Gluten-Free Almond and Walnut Cake)
This traditional Sephardic cake is closely associated with Passover, but that doesn't stop us from making it year-round. Our Americanized version of the dish combines the typical almond flour and walnuts with grated apple. We find the traditional rosewater syrup that soaks into the cake to be a little too sweet, so we replace it with a ginger syrup spiked with Applejack.
Flourless Chocolate-Chestnut Torte
Chestnuts aren't exactly in season right now, but this is another dessert that I am happy to eat any month. It's easy to make this recipe in summer because we use canned chestnut purée, but since the purée is milder than fresh chestnuts we dial back the amount of chocolate and add a dash of bourbon. This cake can either be served cold (for a fudgey texture) or room-temperature (for a mousse-like softness).
Sour Cream Pound Cake
You're probably familiar with pound cake recipes that call for equal weights of sugar, butter, eggs, and flour. That works fine, but definitely leaves room for improvement. Our recipe replaces some of the butter and eggs with sour cream (for better browning), uses a little more sugar than flour (for a more tender crumb), and adds a small scoop of baking powder (to prevent excessive doming).
Easy One-Bowl Coffee Cake
Coffee cake may be more breakfast than dessert, but it's an easy treat that we couldn't leave out. I thought for years that I didn't like coffee cake because it is so often disappointingly dry, but casein-rich Greek yogurt keeps our version moist and tender. Coffee cake can also be a little bland, which we avoid by using a flavorful streusel topping made with whole wheat flour and plenty of cinnamon.
Gluten-Free All-Day Lemon Cake (With a Choice of Two Toppings)
Looking for a different option that works for both breakfast and dessert? Made with brown rice flour, tapioca starch, and buttermilk, this cake ends up somewhere between coffee cake and birthday cake. Powdered sugar icing will keep its texture closer to coffee cake, while a simple syrup glaze will seep into the crumb and make it extra moist.
Easy, Light, and Tender Honey-Vanilla Almond Cake
This cake isn't just easy, it's also practically healthy thanks to its lack of refined sugars and the fact that almonds are packed with protein and healthy fats. I don't like it for either of those traits, though—I just care about how light, tender, and delicious it is. The secret is slowly beating room-temperature egg whites with a little acid to make an airy, stable foam.
Easy Gluten-Free Chocolate Bundt Cake
This recipe follows the "dump cake" method, which is an unfortunate term referencing the fact that all you have to do is dump the ingredients into the pan, whisk together, and bake. You do need to whisk together the dry ingredients first before adding the coffee, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla extract so that it all combines properly. Once the cake is done you can turn to icing—I like to double down with a chocolate ganache, but a confectionery glaze will provide a lighter finish if that's what you're after.
Gluten-Free Single-Layer Yellow Cake
Gluten-free bakers should all keep this yellow cake recipe in their collection for when they need a quick, easy option. The cake is made with white rice flour, potato starch, baking powder, and xanthan gum in the same dump cake method as our bundt cake, keeping cleanup to a minimum. Topping the cake with chocolate buttercream isn't strictly necessary, but I think the cake screams for a little chocolate.
Molten Chocolate Cake
This molten chocolate cake for two is a perfect weeknight dessert—it takes just 20 minutes, including baking. We incorporate the six ingredients—unsalted butter, semisweet chocolate, powdered sugar, egg, all-purpose flour, and salt—in stages before baking for exactly 12 minutes to ensure that the center of the cake doesn't harden. The recipe can be easily scaled, but make sure to bake it in multiple ramekins instead of one larger container so that the timing stays constant.
Microwave Rocky Road Sponge Cakes
Our last recipe is so easy that you don't even need an oven—all the work can be done in a microwave. We make the batter in a food processor, which gets hot enough to melt the chocolate and makes short work of marshmallows and nuts. Fold in whipped egg whites, bake in paper cups with a few steam holes poked into them, and dessert is served.
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