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


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!

clock clock icon cutlery cutlery icon flag flag icon folder folder icon instagram instagram icon pinterest pinterest icon facebook facebook icon print print icon squares squares icon heart heart icon heart solid heart solid icon
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


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.



  • 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 (62g) 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


  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.)


  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


  1. my favorite cake was at my best friends brial shower. so delicious!!

  2. my wedding cake… Cannoli cake

  3. The best piece of cake I ever had was a red velvet with a chocolate ganache center and cream cheese frosting…love!

  4. The best piece of cake I’ve ever had was a chocolate blackout cake from a cheesecake company. We left it in the fridge when we went on vacation, and the dog sitter finished it off!

  5. Your cake looks delicious and what a surprise it is to be filled with the candy. My most favorite cake is made by a friend of mine and is always decorated so pretty. Always my go to for special occasions. Thanks for the the great giveaway.

  6. Your piñata cake looks amazing, Sally!! I’ve always thought they were too hard/difficult to make but your step-by-step instructions make it sound very do-able! Hmmm, I think the best cake I’ve ever had was my sister’s wedding cake: yellow/butter cake with buttercream frosting. Now I want cake for breakfast!

  7. Many years ago when I was in college I had a summer job in Pitman, NJ. Every Friday we would go to this restaurant for lunch and get the chocolate mousse cake for dessert. It was the best cake ever! I wish I could remember the name of the place ( then I could take a road trip and get some more….)

    1. I just remembered the name of the restaurant-The Telford Inn. Yay!

  8. The best piece of cake I ever had was the Ultimate Chocate Cake from Wegmans. Still my favorite cake to this day, but now I might have to make this to see if my opinion changes!

  9. Best cake ever is the coconut cake from Wright’s Sandwich Shoppe in Dunwoody, Ga! Mile high, super moist & amazingly delicious!!

  10. Kim McCallie says:

    The most memorable piece of cake I’ve ever had was a coconut layer cake from Page’s Okra Grill in Mt. Pleasant, SC.

  11. The best cake I have ever had is a dobashe cake from a little french patisserie in Lafayette LA called Poupart’s. It’s a nine layer cake with chocolate pudding between each layer, covered in ganache. It melts in your mouth.

  12. My personal favorite is a Kiev cake, it can be found at any European/russian/Ukrainian store. It’s spongy, creamy, buttery and crunchy at the same time:)

  13. Alexandra robertson says:

    Oh this looks so fun!! Can this cake recipe be halved if needed? The best cake I have ever had was opera cake at a bakery in MN. My best gal friend was visiting from Tx and we stopped in while shopping to drink liquid gold aka coffee and decided to try some cakes. Opera was a combo of the best things in life…. Coffee and cake!! What a pretty giveaway. Your stuff always gets a thumbs up!

  14. My wedding cupcakes. I stumbled upon this little bakery called Petsi Pies in Cambridge, MA. Their specialty is pies (which are AMAZING) so I didn’t even think they had cupcakes. They gave me free samples of their four flavors –carrot walnut with cream cheese frosting, whoopie cupcake with fresh whipped cream and chocolate ganache, coconut with cream cheese frosting, and red velvet with cream cheese frosting. We got some of each for the wedding and had them make a whoopie cupcake into a cake for us to cut. Their cupcakes and working with them is one of my best memories of our wedding. And I love going back to the bakery to pick up some cupcakes to celebrate our anniversary. Oh, and I think my favorite after much contemplation is the carrot cake!

  15. The best cake that I have ever had was a chocolate cake topped with chocolate ganache that we bought from a local bakery for my grandma’s surprise 80th birthday party!

  16. Emily van der Heijden says:

    So hard to pick my favorite piece of cake ever! But I would have to say, probably a chocolate cake with chocolate chip cookie dough frosting in between the layers, all covered in peanut butter frosting! I made it for a party once, it was so rich and delicious!

  17. the best slice of cake I’ve ever had was at my sister’s wedding. a white chocolate buttercream and orange cream. it was so soft, layered and sweet. delicious

  18. The cake my mom makes for family birthdays cant be beat. I cant even replicate it if i try.

  19. The best piece of cake I ever had was the first time I tried my mother-in-law’s famous Cold Coffee Cake!!

  20. My 21st birthday, in Rome– la torta di ricotta e cioccolato, which translates to the greatest ricotta-and-chocolate cake known to the world because it’s like the most luxurious cannoli filling in a cake. 🙂

  21. Michelle @ Modern Acupuncture says:

    The best cake I’ve ever had is…. drum roll, please! The Meltaway Coffee Cake from Mountain View Bakery in Haverstraw, NY. It’s super crumb-heavy (like 1.5-2 inches of crumbs on top!) and then the crumbs are covered by a thick glaze that hardens up a little to keep all the crumbs together. It’s like a sugar glue, but in the best way. And the cake itself is a yeasty layered miracle, with little pockets of brown sugar-butter-pecan heaven that pop out at delicious intervals. I heat it up a little so it’s warm and melty-gooey before eating. HEAVEN.

  22. The best piece is hard to choose…but I had a really amazing piece from a restaurant here in Asheville, NC! The bottom layer was a lemon cheesecake, the middle layer was a very light lemon cake, and the top layer was a raspberry mousse! So yummy.

  23. julianne c. says:

    i haven’t tried to make my own cake {yet} but the best piece of cake i have had so far is the “death by chocolate” cake at a little italian restaurant near my house. it’s devil’s food cake with a chocolate fudge buttercream. IT IS LIFE CHANGING.

  24. The best cake I ever had was at my sister’s wedding…red velvet of course! It was from this little bakery that no one had ever heard of and it was amazing! Sometimes I still think and dream about it….

  25. Eva @ Eva Bakes says:

    The best cake is a lemon butter cake that a local restaurant makes. It has the texture of a cheesecake and is topped with candied citrus. The chef won’t share the recipe so I’ll just have to figure out how to make it myself!

  26. Ariane Livaudais says:

    Without question the best cake I’ve ever had is my mom’s carrot cake… toasted pecans, lots of fresh grated carrots and cream cheese frosting….three layers of pure heaven! My sisters and I make it for every family birthday & leftover cake is always enjoyed for breakfast 😉

  27. Stephanie C says:

    Barbs bakery here in Phoenix has the best champagne petit for. Delish!!!

  28. Heather - Butter & Burlap says:

    I don’t know if I’ve had the best piece of cake?… Is that sad?!! I think I need to eat more cake! lol. It’s a good excuse to find my favorite piece of cake. Sorry, bikini. I have a birthday coming up in the fall and I WANT this cake for my party! I love it!! So creative, great job Sally!

  29. Best piece of cake? My red velvet, pink ombre cream cheese frosted, orchid covered wedding cake on the beach in Hawaii. 🙂 PERFECTION.

  30. Gaelyn Cooper says:

    Love the idea of using this for a gender reveal! The best cake I ever had was the first time my husband decided to bake me a cake for my birthday. It was chocolate with chocolate frosting and it was from a *box mix*! It must have had extra love in it because it was so light and fluffy and delish. I said “what did you do to it?!”. I found out later that he even sat by the oven and opened and closed it a bunch of times because he didn’t want it to burn but it still came out perfect lol.

1 2 3 4 25

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

With kitchen-tested quality recipes and step-by-step tutorials, my goal is to give you the confidence to bake and cook from scratch.

Sally's signature

Recipes You’ll Love



Join the community on the 1st of every month as we tackle a new challenge recipe. Review Sally's Baking Challenge FAQ page if you have any questions.

View More

A tradition since 2013, every December we countdown to Christmas with 10 new cookie recipes in a row!

View More

The first week of every November is all about Thanksgiving Pies.

View More

My Cookbooks

Sally's Cookbooks

About Sally

Welcome to my Kitchen!

I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally