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) 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!

Pinata cupcakes on sallysbakingaddiction.com

789 Comments

  1. A cake that candy pours out of?! Madness. The best, sweetest madness. I am a total fan here. So much more fun than an actual piñata! No beating things with sticks. Just love and forks!

    1. Best piece of cake I’ve ever had was at my best friends wedding…..where I met my husband! It was vanilla and just excellent. Would LOVE to win, probably would wet my pants if I did =) I love your piñata cake, how adorable Sally. Why didn’t I think of this? I make so many kids cakes for parties.

  2. Hmmm… The best cake I’ve ever had has to be a cannoli cake that was made for me for my 21st birthday. Cannoli in cake form = pure genius.

  3. Best piece of cake I have ever had is, Hands down, tiramisu. (That is consider a cake right?) I really can’t remember where I had it, but it was probably some high-end bakery in my area, but even since then, hooked. Chocolate+espresso+cake+lady fingers+whip cream? Yum.

  4. The best cake was one that was made for me for a birthday: dark chocolate cake and icing, was so good, never forgot it.
    jslbrown2009 at aol dot com

  5. The best cake that I’ve ever had was my mom’s friend Bill’s homemade carrot cake. It will always and forever be my favorite despite the many that I’ve tried! A local cupcake store called NORA Cupcake has a Piñata cupcake. I got it for my boyfriend last time I visited and he said it was his favorite one. I’m going to have to make this cake version for his birthday in May. Thank you, Sally.

  6. You don’t stand alone; I also get haunted by cakes asking me to eat them. Here’s a tip: the cake usually wins 😉
    The best cake I’ve had has got to be my dad’s birthday cake. We call it that because 1) we always make it for his birthday and only his birthday and 2) when he was little his grandma made the cake recipe for him and when she wasn’t with him for his birthday, she would mail the cake to him (yeah, we’re serious about cake; see where I get it from? ha) It’s a walnut cake with this walnut-y cream on top; so good!!

  7. Gorgeous and such a fun cake! I LOVE BHLDN, they have the most romantic wedding dresses! eeee! What a fun pairing with you! I’m a cake stand collector, so I hope I win!

    The best peice of cake I’ve ever had was my wedding cake in Sept 2013 🙂 It was almond cake with vanilla buttercream from The Masters Baker (west chester, pa)! It was so gorgeous – but it being our special day is what made it taste best 😉 ! I don’t know their secret, but the buttercream is the best I’ve had.

    I think I will be making this pinata cake for my nephews birthday!
    Thanks Sally! (as always!!!)

  8. This cake is insanely fun! My daughter’s birthday is today. I bet she’d squeal with delight over this one!
    My favorite cake ever is probably The Midnight Chocolate one my husband bought me from Cold Stone. The Ice cream with the chocolate cake is just flippin’ amazing! I savored it for weeks just cutting off little pieces at a time. YUM!

  9. The best cake I’ve ever had was at our wedding. The wedding coordinator at out venue made cakes in the side. She is amazing. It was the lightest and moistest cake ever! Vanilla bean cake with strawberry filling and a whipped vanilla buttercream frosting. There was no left over cake at our wedding. We were fortunate enough that she not only made our 1 year anniversary cake but also our 2nd! If we hadn’t moved to a different state I’d most likely still be getting anniversary cakes from her!

  10. This one is the icing on the cake! Can’t wait to try it….
    My favorite cake has to be my Mom’s chocolate cake. She reserved some of the batter for the frosting… It was always amazing and a recipe I can’t duplicate

  11. My husband and I recently split a dessert at a restaurant called Family Meal in Frederick, MD. It was a butternut squash and cheesecake layer cake…sounds odd but we could not stop raving about it and talking about it weeks later.

  12. I eat cake a ton, but the best one I remember recently was an Ooey Gooey Peanut Butter Chocolate Butter cake. Yes, I’ll repeat that: a Ooey Gooey Peanut Butter Chocolate Butter Cake. It consisted of a layer of dark chocolate fudge cake mix, a layer of crushed Butterfingers and Reese’s, a third layer of a peanut butter cream cheese concoction, then melted chocolate chips, and then finally mini chocolate chips. It was AMAZINGLY epic and I was proud of myself for making it!!!

  13. The best cake I have tasted was a white layer cake made for my cousin’s bridal shower. It was so moist, I couldn’t stay away from it!

  14. ohhhh this cake! so fun! Must try it — my family will love it.

    but the best slice of cake I’ve ever had, hmmmm, well since I can’t stop thinking about the carrot cake I made at Easter (I used your recipe!) I would have to say that was it! seriously the best carrot cake ever! but my grandma used to make a gooey butter cake that I loved loved loved as a kid — not sure if its just the wonderful memories with her or if the cake was just that delicious! haha 🙂

  15. Oh that cake looks amazing!! I might have to try making it.
    The best cake that I have ever had is definitely a death by chocolate cake that my friend made for my birthday – chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting. Yummmm!! Every bite is like a party in heaven for my taste buds!! 🙂

  16. The best cake I’ve ever had was at my cousin’s wedding. Delicate white cake stuffed with strawberries. I may have stolen an extra slice!

  17. I had a slice of chocolate cake recently in San Diego that was decadent and so delicious! Here is the description: “Rich and creamy Valrhona semi-sweet dark chocolate mousse tops a thick layer of chocolate cake moistened with cocoa and finished with dark chocolate ganache.” And – AND! – it was served in a puddle of more chocolate. Wonderful!

  18. OMG, the grands will love this! Best cake I ever had was a lemon poke-type cake that my aunt made throughout the summer. She unfortunately passed before anyone got the recipe and to this day, although I’ve tried, I’ve not yet been able to replicate the deliciousness of this summer treat.

    Thanks for the giveaway – the cake plate is calling my name!

  19. The best piece of cake I’ve ever had is Publix’s Death By Chocolate cake! It’s chocolate cake with rich ganache frosting and thick chocolate spears to garnish! Yum yum!

  20. The best piece of cake I’ve ever had is legendary around here, from a local bakery. It’s a white chocolate raspberry and absolutely insane! Can you put that on your bucket list of recipes for your blog Sally, no pressure.

  21. I made my birthday cake one year (well, most years) with about a pound of Callebaut chocolate and other yummy stuff. Now I’m thinking I really need to make that cake again!!

  22. Strawberry cake is definitely my favorite. I once made a strawberry cake with a funfetti layer in the middle. So fun!

  23. This is so fun Sally! And I must say, the best piece of cake I’ve ever had was a tres leches in Costa Rica! (sorry Grandma!)

  24. This is a beautiful, clever cake! How cute!!!
    The best cake I’ve ever had….well it’s split between a triple chocolate layered cake and a white cake with lemon curd filling!

  25. This is such a happy cake! Love the candies inside, I cannot wait to give this a try! Bikini season oh well. The best piece of cake I ever had was an incredibly moist homemade chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Yum!

  26. Sally, you’ve outdone yourself with this cake!!!! It is so so so beautiful and I want to dive straight in. I can’t stop staring!

  27. Mir’s comment above made me literally LOL… I love it! 🙂 This cake will need to make an appearance around here this summer, somehow… for sure when we have a bunch of people over… because leftover cake screams at me, too. It’s hard to pick a “best ever”, but certainly in the running is the lemon layer of our daughter and son-in-law’s wedding cake a few years ago. Our other daughter made the cake, insisting on things like fresh squeezed lemon juice and homemade fondant… just, oh yum. (yep, layer! Another layer was funfetti.) 🙂

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