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How to Bake the Perfect Birthday Cake

By Kayla Knudson
Created July 29, 2021
Birthdays are good, but birthdays with homemade birthday cake are even better. We all know Betty's the undisputed birthday cake master, so we thought we'd share some tips to help you make a birthday cake from scratch that's unforgettable! We'll walk you through each step, from selecting the perfect birthday cake recipe and finding the right pan size, to baking a birthday cake, cooling tips, the best ways to decorate a birthday cake and more. So, let's jump in and explore how to bake a birthday cake!

Getting Started

When it comes to baking a birthday cake, before you start, make sure your oven is preheated to the correct temperature. Temperature is important! If your oven is too cold, your cake won't rise, and if it's too hot, your cake will overbake.

Whether you're new to the kitchen or a baking pro, chances are you know that when it comes to baking, accuracy is key! Remember to measure your ingredients precisely and add them in the order and method described in your recipe.

Picking Cake Pans

Now that you have the low-down on how to bake a birthday cake let's talk pans! To keep it easy, we follow these three simple steps. First, check the recipe for the suggested pan size. If you're unsure of the size of your pan (it should be printed on the bottom), measure the length and width from inside edge to inside edge. Second, for tender, light cakes, use shiny pans that reflect heat. Third, fill your pans only halfway with batter to avoid your cake overflowing. This is particularly important for novelty-shaped pans, such as a heart or star.


Mixing the Batter

Now for one of our favorite parts of baking a birthday cake, mixing it up! Both portable or standard electric mixers are great for beating cake batter. But don't sweat it if you don't have either; the tried and true hand mix option works just as well. A little elbow grease just makes the cake taste better! Remember, if you're going the hand mixing route, stir the ingredients to moisten and blend, and beat for 150 strokes for every minute of beating time.

Oh, and one last tip, when choosing butter, go for the full-fat option. You can taste the difference!

Cooling Tips

After you remove your cake from the oven, follow the instructions for cooling. If you don't have any instructions, a good rule of thumb is to cool your cake in its pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. If you happen to let your cake cool for too long, it can stick. Just pop it in the oven for a minute to reheat it slightly, and presto!

Cake Decorating Bags

The best part of baking a birthday cake has to be decorating it. If you've never used a cake decorating bag, take this as your sign to give it a try! There are tons of cake decorating bags available, from reusable options to disposable; choose one that's right for you.

If you're working with a smaller cake or cupcakes, try a bag that comes with a coupler. This allows you to change the decorating tips while still using the same bag of frosting!

So, let's get decorating! Start by arranging all your tools within reach. Once you're set up, lightly outline any decorative designs onto your cake using a toothpick. If you're writing words, trace them out first to ensure they're correctly spaced. Most importantly, if you're not happy with how your icing is going, smooth it over and just start over! Decorating a cake is supposed to be fun, don't take it too seriously.

Frosting a Layer Cake


Brush any loose crumbs from cooled cake layer. Place 4 strips of waxed paper around edge of plate. Place layer, rounded side down, on plate.


Spread 1/3 to 1/2 cup frosting over top of first layer to within about 1/4 inch of edge.


Place second cake layer, rounded side up, on frosted first layer. Coat side of cake with a very thin layer of frosting to seal in crumbs.


Frost side of cake in swirls, making a rim about 1/4 inch high above top of cake. Spread remaining frosting on top, just to the built-up rim. Carefully remove waxed paper strips.


Simple Ways to Decorate a Cake

Get creative with your toppings; there are no rules when it comes to how to make a homemade birthday cake! We've included some of our favorite ways to decorate below for inspiration.

  • Try fresh fruit for a pop of color.
  • Get creative with candies such as fruit slices or chocolate-covered treats.
  • Dessert on top of dessert? Yes, please. Use frosted animal crackers, mini cookie sandwiches or pirouette cookies for a fun twist.
  • Sprinkle on the goodness! Mix it up with fun colors and sprinkle shapes.
  • Edible flowers, nuts and shredded coconut make for a beautiful and delicious presentation.

The real secret to baking the perfect birthday cake is to enjoy yourself! So, give it a whirl and bake some sweet memories to share! You can have your cake and eat it too!