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. Sally,

    I had been looking for an excuse to make a pinata cake, and a friend’s going away party was the perfect one! Although I didn’t use your recipe (I made a strawberry cake w/ funfetti icing), I did use your tutorial and found it very helpful. Such a fun and adventurous cake :)! Thanks for the step-by-step!

  2. Would this be a good cake recipe to use for a multi-layer rainbow cake w/ chocolate frosting? Would it work well w/ food coloring? If not, do you have another one of your recipes you would suggest? 

  3. Hi Sally,
    I come from a family of chocoholics and this cake looks AMAZING! I was just wondering if you could tell me how best to make the cake batter itself chocolate flavoured? I know that might sound too much for some people but my dad would DIE for this cake in all chocolate! Thanks 🙂

  4. Hello. Could i use 2 boxes of butter cake or yellow cake mix instead if im rushed on time? N just followed the rest? I’ve done that with some if your other recipes, i was just checking on this 1!
    Jenny

  5. I made this cake for the first time and thought I would punk it up!  I made an ice cream cake…And I did smaller thiner layers…..5 in all…a layer of ice cream and then the holes and a layer of frosting…it was even more amazing because the ice cream mixed with the candies….awesome…thanks for the original 🙂

  6. Just made this cake today for a friend’s birthday tonight. It looks incredible! I can’t believe I made it – it looks professional. Thanks Sally for making difficult recipes so easy for us novices! I also made your lemon cupcakes with the raspberry frosting to supplement this cake in case there’s not enough. Those cupcakes are amazing as well – I think I’ve made them 4 or 5 times. Soooo good!!!

  7. Loved this piñata cake. It was easy and delicious and everyone was impressed. This is my favorite baking site. I’ve not found a single thing that I didn’t enjoy. Easy to follow directions and pictures accompanying them are wonderful. Thank you

  8. Made the pinata cake for my friends sons birthday. The kids went crazy for it stuck harbor all around the cake on top of the frosting. Sugar rush yea but worth it…. Easy recipe to follow and cake itself turned out beautiful. Thank you

      1. Do I change anything on the recipe for the cupcakes ? I made the Cake and it is my Favorite by far. Thank you so much. Been looking for a recipe like this for a while, this one is just perfect.

      2. Just bake them for a shorter amount of time- 20 minutes or so. To fill, use a small sharp knife to cut a hole in the top of the cupcake and fill with candies. Then, put it back on top. Like I show here.

  9. Hi Sally, love ur blog to the core.i m making this pinata cake for my son’s third birthday.i would like to know is it ok to make it two days in advance n keep it in fridge.

  10. I’ve been following your blog for some time, and when it was my birthday recently I knew I wanted to make one of your recipes for a birthday cake.
    I was set on this amazing piñata cake, but my mum really wanted to try your red velvet recipe, so……
    A Red Relvet Piñata Cake was born!!! filled with white and milk chocolate chips <3
    It looked divine and I can honestly say it was the best cake that I have ever eaten. Ever.
    Thank you so much for the baking inspiration 😀
    Best Wishes from the UK x

  11. Hi Sally! I thought of making this for my son’s birthday in 3 days…I’m making the 3D thomas train cake..will this cake be suitable for sculpting and under rolled fondant? or is there anything in your bake book that i can adapt? 

    thanks!!
    christine

  12. Sally – I’d love to use this recipe to make a smaller 3 layer cake.  Do you have directions on how to reduce the recipe?  I’m new to baking but this is cake #4 for me from your site.  Love it!  It’s changed how I approach parties – always proud to make my own cake.  Thanks!  

    1. (not a piñata cake – just a regular butter cake with chocolate frosting.  if you don’t get a chance to respond I will probably just make the recipe and make cupcakes with the rest!) 

      1. That’s what I suggest– make cupcakes with the extra batter Sondra. I love the texture of this cake– and I think you will too!

  13. Hi Sally, 
    Quick question, when I make the Piñata Cake on your notes it says to make you sift the flour before measuring.
    My question is, do I sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt first and then measure ? Or do I just sift the flour and measure and then sift in the baking powder, baking soda and salt after measuring? 
    Thank you Love all your recipes 

  14. Hi Sally,
    This cake looks fantastic! I love your blog.
    One question. The four layers of cake can be baked at the same time? or is better to bake them separately?

  15. Hi Sally

    I was wondering if the funfetti cake u have can with stand having this in the center or can I put sprinkles in this cake n still be ok?

  16. Hi Sally ,

    Am just about to attempt your great looking Pinata cake.
    When I heat my oven to 350 farenheit is that meant to be fan forced?

  17. Hi Sally, 
    Silent admirer of your cakes and photos. You stay in my locality. Would love to meet you someday! I wanted to ask , I don’t have a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, will it be alright? i have a mixer with which I make whipping cream and other stuff. I am baking this cake for an occasion so wanted it to perfect. Thanks and keep up the good work!!

    P.S : Happy new year!!!

  18. Hi,

    I love to look at your site and find inspiration.  But mostly I found your recipe is too sweet for me when it comes to frosting, so I always reduce sugar.  I also have baked the blueberries and lemon layer cake, the cake was perfect but again the frosting is super sweet.  

  19. Hi Sally,

    This looks so impressive! I want to make it for an event but will not have time the night before, and do not a big enough freezer for the assembled cake. So I was planning to bake the layers in advance and freeze them, and then assemble the night before. Is it possible to also make the frosting in advance and freeze it?

    Thanks!

  20. Is it possible to make this into a chocolate cake? I’m dreaming of chocolate cake with PB frosting and Reese’s Pieces or Peanut Butter M&Ms or mini PB cups inside..

    1. Or would your chocolate cake recipe function well here? The beautiful devil’s food one. With so many layers and other things going on, I wasn’t sure if it would work.. And would I double that recipe?

    2. Hi Kristen! Make my chocolate cake recipe instead. You can split the batter between three 9-inch cake pans; the bake time will be less than what that recipe instructs because the layers will be thinner. Just cut the hole in the middle layer for the candies.

  21. You absolutely took my breath away with this one! I was planning to buy an ice cream cake from Baskin Robbins for my son’s second birthday but now I am going to do this. I had asked a friend if I should get a piñata, but a bunch of two year olds swinging blind folded doesn’t sound great. This is the solution!

  22. Hey Sally!
    I love your blog! I am going to try to attempt this amazing cake for my friend’s birthday today but my problem is that every single cake I have made in our house goes flat once I take it out of the oven-it’s very frustrating. It rises beautifully and then collapses! Some people say it is because I live at a higher altitude (not that much higher) and should change the amount of leavening agents? What do you think? 

  23. I wanted to leave a comment on the moist yellow cupcakes recipe the life of me cannot get it to work. I want to make green tea-pistachio cupcakes and lemon cupcakes with blueberry icicing, but I am not thrilled with the “base” cupcake recipe from the sites that have those cupcakes. These sound amazing. Can I use this recipe and just add the propotional amount of green tea powder/lemon juice & zest that the other recipes call for? I need to make about 36 cupcakes and wanted to make one big batch of cupcakes and then divide them. That’s how I ended up here on Pinata cake because your other comments said this was better for a large batch, but I wasn’t sure if it was enough… will my plan work?

  24. Hi Sally! I want to make this cake for my little sister’s birthday and I was wondering if it was the right kind of cake batter that could be turned into a funfetti cake? I love all of your recipes! 

  25. Hi Sally, your site looks beautiful, wonderful recipes and ideas. Your site is a real treasure of the most beautiful recipes. Thank you.

  26. Hi Sally.. love ur recipes and the way u explain all the sciences of baking.. have done so many recipes from ur site.. cinnamon rolls brownies red velvet layer cake devil’s chocolate layer cake.. and can’t go by without trying something new.. I want to make this cake for my husband’s birthday.. but I will be serving this cake to jst 4-5 people.. so can I make this cake 3 layered and fill the middle with the sprinkles..

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