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!

piñata cake on a white serving plate with a slice removed showing the candy center

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.

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

2 images of piñata cake

Video Tutorial

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.

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

zoomed in image of piñata cake on a white serving plate with a slice removed showing the candy center

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:

layer of cake on a white serving plate with chocolate frosting on top

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.

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

piñata cake on a serving plate ready to be filled with candy

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.

assorted chocolate chips in a blue bowl

Fill the hole with the candies.

That’s a weird sentence.

2 images of piñata cake without top layer of cake showing the circle cut out of the center filled with candies

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.

piñata cake on a white serving plate with a slice removed showing the candy center

slice of piñata cake on a white plate with a fork

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
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piñata cake on a white serving plate with a slice removed showing the candy center

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 (443g) 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*

Chocolate Frosting & Assembly

  • 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) whole milk
  • 1 Tablespoon light corn syrup*
  • 1 and 1/2 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:
  6. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until pale, smooth, and creamy, about 2 minutes. Using a fine mesh strainer or sieve, sift the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa together. Add the sugar/cocoa mixture to the butter, then beat on low speed for 20 seconds. Stop the mixer, then add the milk, corn syrup, vanilla, and salt. Beat on medium-high speed for 2 minutes. If the frosting is too thick, beat in an extra splash of milk.
  7. 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.
  8. 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: If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make a DIY sour milk substitute. Add 1 Tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup. Then add enough whole milk to the same measuring cup until it reaches 1 and 1/2 cups. (In a pinch, lower fat or nondairy milks work for this soured milk, but the cake won’t taste as moist or rich.) Stir it around and let sit for 5 minutes. The homemade “buttermilk” will be somewhat curdled and ready to use 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. Milk in Frosting: I recommend whole milk or even half-and-half in the frosting, but lower fat or nondairy milk works in a pinch.
  6. Pans: You can also use 4 8-inch cake pans. The bake time will be slightly longer.
  7. Vanilla Frosting: Simply double my vanilla buttercream recipe and use it instead of the chocolate frosting.
  8. 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.
  9. Inspired by Betty Crocker.

Keywords: piñata cake, how to make a piñata cake

And guess what? We now have piñata cupcakes too!

piñata cupcakes on a plate with a bite taken from one showing the sprinkles in the middle

819 Comments

  1. Would have easily made 2 normal size 9 inch layers. Easier then to just split if you want 4 thin layers. Very dense cake. Had buttermilk and eggs I needed to use so it’s ok. Will definitely not make again. Frosting recipe was too skimpy and had to make some more. I have a magnolia bakery vanilla cake recipe in the oven right now. This is what 2 layers should be.

  2. Can I scale up your chocolate cake for this? If so, how much? Also, I would like to make this with your chocolate cream cheese frosting and how much should I scale that up as well? Thank you so much this looks soooooooo good!!!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Zana! We would 1.5x the chocolate cake recipe. Doubling would be too much. We recommend using our tuxedo cake batter which is almost the same as the triple chocolate cake, however, it uses some sour cream for extra sturdiness. You’ll need this for shaping the piñata cake. Our chocolate cream cheese frosting recipe make enough to frost a 3 layer cake, so we would make 1.5x the amount to have enough for a piñata cake. Would love to hear how it goes!

    2. Oh. My. Godness. This was sooo amazing! I made the cake with the Tuxedo cake batter and substituted some of the cocoa powder for Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder. I also used all the coffee suggestions, and could just barely taste it. There was a bit too much of the chocolate cream cheese frosting, but I didn’t put much in between the layers. For the candy in the middle, I put tons of chocolate chips and sprinkles and candy! The cake was very filling, and no one finished their gigantic piece I gave them, even though it was the best cake we’ve ever had! Thank you so much for telling me how much I should scale it up! Again, it was so so good!

      1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        We’re so happy to hear that the cake was a hit, Zana! Thank you for letting us know!

  3. Hi Sally, my daughter’s birthday is 4 days away. I made the cake with the tuxedo cake recipe since she loves chocolate. How early can I frost and assemble with the candy? I work all week so I wanted to this ahead of time

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Neha! See recipe notes for make ahead instructions – you have a couple options to make it ahead of time. Hope the cake is a hit!

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