How to Make a Piñata Cake

Learn exactly how to make an incredibly moist and flavorful butter layer cake complete with fudge frosting and filled with candies inside. It’s a piñata cake, everyone!

Picture overload today! I hope you’re ready for this. I don’t even know if I’m ready for this but it’s happening. And it’s still gracing the corner of my kitchen counter staring back at me. “Eat meeeee,” it says. Am I the only one taunted by talking leftover cake?

Oh. Ok. The cheese stands alone.

If you are looking for the most epic cake in the entire world, look no further. This here cake, my dear readers, is the tallest most buttery tower of indulgence. To make it even better (and similtaneously worse for upcoming bikini season… sorry?), this layer cake is topped and filled with rich fudge frosting. But the crème de la crème of this entire dessert masterpiece is the hidden treasure inside.

How to Make a Piñata Cake-- does it get ANY better than this? From scratch recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

SURPRISE CANDIES! I simply cannot type that without all caps.

How to Make a Piñata Cake-- does it get ANY better than this? From scratch recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

I made today’s party perfect cake for several reasons: first, Cinco de Mayo is around the corner. And if that’s not enough excuse for a piñata, I don’t know what is. Second, it’s my birthday next month so a plethora of sprinkles on any given day between now and then is required. And finally, I teamed up with BHLDN, Anthropologie’s wedding brand, to bring you this recipe. By the way, here is the exact cake I created for them. See my recipe notes below for the vanilla frosting recipe that I used. (Same butter cake recipe.)

BHLDN asked me to create a homemade alternative to a wedding cake. Something fun, exciting, and celebration worthy. So I delivered.

How to Make a Piñata Cake-- does it get ANY better than this? From scratch recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Let me teach you exactly how to make this piñata cake. I promise this is totally something you can handle. It’s just like baking a regular layer cake, but with a couple extra assembly steps. Start with my homemade cake batter. You want a flavorful cake with a tight crumb to hold its shape, but also one that is still tender and enjoyable to eat.

Today’s piñata cake is a cross between a vanilla cake, a butter cake, and a yellow cake. Its ingredients are standard: creamed butter and sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, flour, buttermilk. The KEY is in the eggs. This is a giant four layer cake– you will need 3 whole eggs plus 4 egg yolks. That is a lot, I know. But again, this cake is enormous. All those egg yolks (and the buttermilk) are what make this piñata cake so rich, so moist, and soooo tender. Oh my gosh, this has to be my favorite cake recipe.

Begin the assembly! Bake the four layers in 9-inch cake pans. Allow to cool completely. Frost one layer. This will be the bottom of the cake. More on this silky smooth fudge frosting in just a sec.

Bottom layer:

How to Make a Piñata Cake-- does it get ANY better than this? From scratch recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Then, cut a circle in the center of two of the cakes. You know what I used? A large, wide cup. You can also use a 3 – 4 inch round cookie cutter or a cut circular piece of parchment paper to use for tracing with a sharp knife. Just make sure those two cakes have the same size hole. These two holed cakes will be the two middle layers of the piñata cake.

How to Make a Piñata Cake-- does it get ANY better than this? From scratch recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Place one holed cake layer on top of the bottom frosted layer. Frost the holed layer and inside the cavity. Like so:

How to Make a Piñata Cake-- does it get ANY better than this? From scratch recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Top with the 2nd holed layer (which is the third layer of the piñata cake) and frost that too. Then, grab some candies. I used springtime chocolate morsels that came in yellow and pink, M&Ms, Sno-Caps, and sprinkles. You can use absolutely anything you, your kids, your friends, and your lucky piñata cake eaters love: chopped candy bars, white chocolate chips, gummy bears, jelly beans, candy corns, etc.

How to Make a Piñata Cake-- does it get ANY better than this? From scratch recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Fill the hole with the candies.

That’s a weird sentence.

How to Make a Piñata Cake-- does it get ANY better than this? From scratch recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Then, top the cake with another whole cake layer. Frost the entire cake and decorate as you please. Get crazy! Get festive! And most importantly, get hungry.

So, that fudge frosting. Woo-eee. Chocolate to the max! Smooth as silk, luscious, creamy, stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth, “let me just eat the frosting with a spoon if ya don’t mind” fabulous. In one word, this fudgy frosting is legit.

Now, the best part… drum roll please.

Cut into the cake and listen to the ooo’s and ahh’s as your hungry party goers discover the candies hidden inside. OMG this is the coolest cake in the world.

How to Make a Piñata Cake-- does it get ANY better than this? From scratch recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

How to Make a Piñata Cake-- does it get ANY better than this? From scratch recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

SURPRISE CANDIES! ♥

PS: For a super fun surprise, use my piñata cake as a gender reveal cake and fill it with either pink or blue M&Ms for a baby shower or other gender reveal celebration!

Print

Piñata Cake

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 4 hours, 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 hours
  • Yield: serves 14-16
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This cake serves a lot so, as expected, there are high amounts of each ingredient. You will need four 9-inch round cake pans as well as a 3 and 1/2 – 4 inch circle cookie cutter or you can carefully slice a hole in the center cakes with a sharp knife.


Ingredients

Cake

  • 3 and 3/4 cups (431g) sifted all-purpose flour* (spoon & leveled)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (3 sticks; 345g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 4 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (360ml) buttermilk, room temperature*

Fudge Frosting*

  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4 and 1/2 cups (540g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 3/4 cup (65g) natural unsweetened or dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) milk
  • 1 Tablespoon light corn syrup*
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • around 2 cups assorted candies such as M&Ms, chocolate chips, sprinkles, gummy bears, jelly beans, candy corns, chopped candy bars, mini Reese’s cups etc.
  • optional: additional sprinkles or candies for decorating the cake

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease and lightly flour 4 9-inch cake pans.*
  2. Make the cake: Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy – about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed for 5 full minutes until creamed together fairly well. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. On medium-high speed, add 1 whole egg at a time, beating well after each addition until all 3 whole eggs are mixed in. Then, repeat with each egg yolk until all 4 egg yolks are mixed in. Beat in the vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
  3. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, and mixing each addition just until incorporated. Do not overmix this batter. The batter will be smooth, velvety, and slightly thick. Spoon/pour batter evenly into each cake pan.
  4. Bake for around 25 minutes or until the cakes are baked through. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it is done. Allow cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. The cakes must be completely cool before frosting and assembling.
  5. Make the frosting: Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until pale, smooth, and creamy – about 4 full minutes. Sift the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa together. On low speed, gradually add the sugar/cocoa mixture, followed by the milk, corn syrup, vanilla, and salt. Beat for 1 minute. Turn the mixer up to medium-high speed and beat for 3 full minutes. If the frosting is too thick, add a splash more of milk.
  6. Assemble the cake: Grab a 3 and 1/2 – 4 inch circle cookie cutter (I use a large thin-edged cup) and cut a hole into two of the cake layers. Alternatively, you can cut a piece of parchment paper that size and use a sharp knife to trace/cut the holes. Place one of the whole cakes on a cake stand or serving plate. Use an offset spatula or knife to frost the top of the cake, then place one of the cut/holed cakes on top. Frost the top and inside the cavity. Place the other cut/holed cake on top and, once again, frost the top and inside the cavity. Fill the cavity with candies all the way up to the top. Place the last whole cake on top and frost the top and sides of the entire cake. Decorate with frosting and additional candies however you’d like. I used a Wilton 1M tip to pipe frosting around the top.
  7. Slice, serve, enjoy! (Keep a spoon handy when serving. I like to pile additional candies that fall out of the center of the piñata cake onto each slice as I serve.)

Notes

  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: The cake layers can be baked, cooled, and covered tightly at room temperature overnight. Likewise, the frosting can be prepared then covered and refrigerated overnight. Assemble and frost the piñata cake the next day when you are ready to serve. Frosted cake can be frozen up to 2 months if you have room in the freezer. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving. Honestly, it tastes much better fresh
  2. Flour: Make sure you sift the flour before measuring. Sifting is KEY. Otherwise, your cake layers could taste much too dense. You can also use cake flour instead of all-purpose flour. Use 4 cups sifted cake flour.
  3. Buttermilk: It’s important! If you do not keep it on hand, you can make a DIY version by adding 4 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice or white vinegar to a large liquid measuring cup. Then add enough regular room temperature milk (whole, skim, 1%, 2%) to make 1 and 1/2 cups total. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes. This soured milk can be used in the recipe.
  4. Corn Syrup: This tiny bit of corn syrup makes the frosting uniquely glossy and shiny. You can leave it out if you’d like.
  5. Pans: You can also use 4 8-inch cake pans. The bake time will be slightly longer.
  6. Vanilla Frosting Instead! Simply double this recipe for vanilla frosting and use it in this recipe instead of chocolate frosting.
  7. BONUS! With the center circular parts of the cake that were cut out, you can frost them with any leftover frosting to make adorable mini cakes or a small layer cake. So cute, right?
  8. Inspired by Betty Crocker.

Keywords: piñata cake, how to make a piñata cake

And guess what? We now have piñata cupcakes too!

Pinata cupcakes on sallysbakingaddiction.com

777 Comments

  1. Sally, do the candies stick to the frosting inside the “hole”? That’s my fear, in fact, that none of the candies will spill out… have you ever done the cake without frosting the insides of the hole?

    1. I always frost the hole which ensures the cake stays fresh inside. You can wait a bit to fill it with candy to give the frosting time to harden, or skip this step if you will be serving it shortly. However, the hole is large enough that even if some sticks to the sides there will be plenty in the middle to spill out!

  2. Hi Sally! I’m making this cake tomorrow and think I’d like to make it with your strawberry frosting? Should I double or triple that recipe to cover this cake?

  3. Hi sally,

    Would any of your layered cakes be good to use for this recipe? I was wanting to do either a vanilla or funfetti cake for this!

  4. I made this pinata cake for my son’s first birthday! I used the leftover insides of the cake to make a smash cake for him! Everyone loved the yellow cake, even in a family of chocoholics! We used your chocolate cream cheese frosting. So delicious!

  5. Hi Sally,
    First – thanks so much for all your amazing recipes…I’m a huge fan!! I’ve been following you for years and literally all of my baking adventures start with a trip to your website 🙂

    I’m keen to make this cake for my daughter’s birthday party, and one of her best friends has celiac, so I’d like to be able to make a gluten-free (GF) version. I’ve found some pretty great “go-to” GF versions of standard baking ingredients and was thinking I could use them to make a GF version of this cake, but given your note about its density, I’m wondering whether you would caution against it.

    I noticed in your reply to another poster’s question that you suggested your Triple Chocolate Layer Cake recipe would also work well for as a piñata cake – might it be a better choice to try and make gluten-free?

    Thanks so much!
    heather

    1. Hi Heather, How thoughtful of you to want to include her friend. Unfortunately, I have no experience using gluten free flour, but I know other readers have used it in different cake recipes with success. Let me know if you try it!

  6. Hi. I’m hopIng to make this for daughters party using your tie dye cake. Do you recommend doubleing that recipe and cutting each cake in half or quadrupling that recipe? Thank you!!

    1. Hi Heidi! I recommend using this cake batter for it. You can split up this batter and tint it different colors.

  7. Hi Sally,
    Can I leave out the corn syrup for the fudge frosting? I do not like to use corn syrup in recipes. Also, do you have a recipe for mocha frosting?
    Thank you,
    Ruth

    1. Hi Ruth! You can leave out the corn syrup. I add it to make a smoother, shinier frosting. Totally optional! For a mocha frosting, try adding a little espresso powder or replacing some of the milk with strong room temperature coffee or espresso.

  8. HI Sally, This looks perfect for the next birthday cake. But, I am wanting to make it coffee flavoured and fill (and decorate) with chocolate flavoured coffee beans (amongst other things). Any suggestions for quantities for flavouring the cake and icing to get the right coffee flavour through? Adding espresso to the frosting is a good start. Thanks.

    1. Hi Mandy! A coffee flavored piñata cake sounds fantastic. My recommendation is to add espresso powder to the cake batter and the frosting. I do have a mocha cupcakes recipe on my blog if you want to check that out as well– it would make a lovely cake if you double the recipe.

  9. Hi Sally,
    Is this cake suited for fondant? I am looking for a cake preferably chocolate cake that can support the weight of the fondant for a birthday cake.

    Thanks

      1. Hi Sally,
        I made this cake with fondant for my son 6th birthday and it was a success and your recipe never fail me. Thank you 🙂

  10. Wow so classy and mouth watering colorful cakes i loved it and please keep posting such tempting cakes because i am Learner of making new and different cakes

  11. Hi Sally….I’m totally confused! I made this frosting in January and it was perfect. I made it last week and it turned out really pale so I made it again today and it’s the same, yummy but really pale. I’m using the same brands of ingredients as before. Has the recipe changed? Is there anything I can do to fix the colour?

    1. The recipe has not changed – it sounds like you are just mixing it longer. With chocolate frosting the longer you mix/whip it the lighter the color becomes.

      1. Hi Sally,

        Thank you for your reply. It was for my daughters first birthday cake..I was a bit panicky! I made the frosting the night before I needed it. The next day when I took it out of the fridge it was still very pale but by the time I actually frosted the cake it looked perfect 🙂 I was so happy with the Pinata cake, everyone was very impressed..my niece thinks I’m a rockstar now!!! I also made your chocolate cake pops and the chocolate zucchini bread..everything was amazing, thank you x

  12. Just made this for a birthday in the family…..the looks of surprise on everyone’s faces when we cut open the cake were SO GOOD!!!! They never expected the masses of candy inside 😀 Thank you Sally for an amazing recipe!

  13. Hi Sally, I want to bake this cake for my son’s birthday, but he’s not a fan of chocolate cake or chocolate frosting! He loves chocolate candies though . I was thinking of using salted caramel frosting instead. Do you think that would work?

  14. Love love your recipes and challenges. Could I turn this into a cherry and almond cake using cherry and almond extracts in place of the vanilla and folding in 20 finely chopped maraschino cherries?

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