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!

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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


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 (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


  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. Hi Sally, I have only 2, 9″ tins, could I bake this batter in batches?

    1. I would bake it in batches, yes. Keep the batter at room temperature as you wait for the next batch.

      1. Thanks so much Sally, really appreciate your quick responses and fabulous recipes☺!!

  2. Hi there

    I made this cake for my son and it was fabulous. My daughter would like a three layer cake but a tall one so I need to make it in a deep circle pan rather than the victoria sponge tins. Would this recipe be OK to use in a deeper pan?

    Thanks in advance.

    Amy 🙂

    1. Hi Amy! I can’t see why not.

  3. Hi, Sally!
    I am such a big fan, I know you probably hear it all the time, but, yes, huge fan over here.
    Anyway, I want to make this cake for my son’s birthday, but I think I am going to try the vanilla frosting, since I want to colour it red.
    (Everything needs to be red. Yeah. Toddlers.)
    I was wondering if just doubling it would be enough, it seems a bit too little of an amount to me.
    Also, if I would just try to colour the chocolate frosting, would it work?
    Thank you for taking time to read this comment, I am so looking forward to the cookies book!

    1. I wouldn’t color this chocolate frosting. 🙂 And for the vanilla frosting– I think 1.5x the frosting recipe would be enough. Thank you so much for your sweet comment. Have fun baking the cake 🙂

      1. Thank you for the reply!

  4. Happy 2017 Sally!
    I am baking this cake for a new year’s party!
    I can never get to frost neatly..
    Can you cover Frosting 101 in your baking basics please!

    1. Frosting 101 is a wonderful suggestion 🙂

  5. Hi Sally , I have a request for a chocolate pinata cake, could you suggest a good chocolate cake recipe that would work well for this?
    Could I replace Cocoa powder for flour in this recipe to convert it into a chocolate one?

    1. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as subbing cocoa for some flour. 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.

  6. When you’re baking these 4 cakes, do you cook 2 in the same oven at the same time? If so, how do you arrange them in it as to not under or over cook one?

    1. Hi Sarah, sometimes I bake them all at once and rotate them top to bottom halfway through. Or, depending how much time I have, I bake just two at a time and rotate once to the other side.

  7. This is awesome, I might make this for my son’s upcoming 8th birthday!

  8. This looks like so much fun! Love all the creative ideas on here 🙂

  9. Hi Sally, I am a Turkish mom who learned baking basically from your website! Thank you so much!
    I want to bake this pinata cake for my sons Dinosaur birthday party. I have only 8,9,10 inch pans one of each . I will use 8 inch and 9 inch pans to make a volcano shape.and m&m’s inside! Ooooo preschoolers will be delighted 🙂
    The thing is my son does not like butter frosting. Any chance using a frosting like whipped cream?
    And if I bake in batches, i am wondering the second batch, even waits in room temperature, start rising because of baking powder?

    1. Such a fun idea! You can keep the batter at room temperature if baking 1 cake at a time. Whipped cream would definitely work as a frosting!

  10. Niki Daugherty says:

    Sally, this cake was so fun to make! I made it for a friend’s birthday, and she absolutely loved it! Everyone at work just raved about the piñata surprise inside

  11. Oh Sal I love your cake it’s very pretty! Just don’t know how you manage to stay so thin with all this baking! Keep up the good work! You have one of the best blogs!

  12. Hi Sally! Love your recipes! Quick question. Would I be able to bake and assemble this cake tonight for my sons bday party tomorrow at 1:00. I have so much to do tomorrow and it would make thing so  much easier for me! Or would it be better to do it a few hours before the party? Oh FYI I am filling it with Smarties… Don’t know if that makes a difference…

    1. Absolutely! I would keep it covered at room temperature OR refrigerate overnight then set out first thing in the morning so it’s room temp when serving.

      1. charlotte says:

        I saw ur response too late so I ended up assembling the cake a couple hours before the party. I gotta tell you…the layers were easy to work with  and so was the frosting! The end result was amazing and the cake got rave reviews for both taste and appearance. My sons eyes lit up like the fourth of July when he cut into it on his fourth birthday party! I have u to thank! You’re amazing….so thank you!!

  13. Warning! Do not make the center hole too big. In an effort to be generous with the candy, I cut the cirlce about 3″ across. Once I started frosting it, everything started to crumble.

  14. says:

    This is fantastic! Not only tasty but so quick and easy to make.

  15. nissa novas says:

    Hi! This is amazing and I am attempting this for a baby shower this weekend. Does anyone know how tall this cake ends up being when done exactly according to the recipe? I have a cake carrier that is about 5 inches tall but I don’t think that will be tall enough for this. Thanks!!


  16. Another fantastic recipe!!  Made it for coworkers and filled it with pink and purple m&ms and silver sanding sugar to match our show colors.  I also used the vanilla icing recipe linked on this page and dyed it pink. 

    After it was cut open, the joy of watching people walk past the table and then do almost a double take as they saw what was spilling out was hysterical.  Thank you for these recipes that help keep my friends and coworkers happy and well-fed.

  17. Hi Sally – hope you can help me. My brain is getting boggled. I want to make a 3-layer piñata sheet cake in a 9×13 pan using your Triple Chocolate Cake recipe and the Vanilla Buttercream frosting recipe from here: I’ve figured out that I should triple the cake recipe but how many portions of the frosting recipe do I need to cover a triple layer 9×13 sheet cake? 

    also, is there any problem with making a sheet cake into a piñata cake? I plan to cut a hole in the bottom two layers and then plug the top with the cut out cake circle (cut in half horizontally). I could hardly find any examples online of a piñata cake that is not round. Can it be done, and any issues I should think about? Thank you so much!

  18. Instead of making 4 layers I made 2. This made the batter raw and I cooked it for an extra 25 minutes but the batter was still raw. Anyways I love your blog your cookies and cream cupcakes are my phenomenal!

    1. Hi Gabby, did you cut the recipe in half to make 2 layers? If you used the entire recipe in only pans the cakes would be too thick to to bake evenly.

  19. Mercia Kruger says:

    Thank you for a wonderful recipe. I have one question. How long in advance can i make the pinata before the sweets in the tunnel become soggy and ‘coloured’ the cake inside. Want to bake the cake two days in advance. I bake a pinata before and the candies released their colour and did nof spill out properly.
    Regards, Mercia

    1. A couple days in advance is OK.

      1. Hi Sally- I’m baking this for my boss’s birthday which is this upcoming Tuesday. Would it be okay to bake and assemble tomorrow (Sunday)? Or should I maybe just do the baking tomorrow and assemble on Monday night? Let me know your thoughts!

        I try to bring something I have baked into the office every Monday and have done a lot of your recipes. Always big hits!

  20. Hi Sally,
    I made this cake for my 7 year old’s birthday for 24 kids! It turned out beautifully so thank you so much for the recipe and detailed instructions. I wish I could send you a picture! Sarah

    1. You are welcome, Sarah! I hope it was a great birthday!

  21. OK! I’m planning on doing this cake for my daughter’s birthday, but want to use your strawberry icing instead (from your strawberry cake recipe)! (Colors I’m using are pink and gold, and that strawberry icing will do perfectly as the pink!) I’m assuming that I should double the icing recipe for this cake or do you think it will require more?

    1. Doubling the strawberry frosting should be fine! I hope your daughter loves it!

  22. Christine Markwart says:

    Hi Sally,
    I would like to make a chocolate version. Since this is 4 layers – and more cake than a standard cake – can you recommend one of your chocolate cake recipes? Or do I make one and a half batches of a chocolate cake split into the 4 pans?

    Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Christine! You’re right. Your best bet is to make this chocolate cake batter 1.5x, then divide between 4 pans. Bake time will be longer because the cake layers will be thicker.

  23. 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!

  24. Do you have a recipe I could use if I wanted the cake to be chocolate flavored instead of a yellow cake?

    1. Sure do! Here is my favorite chocolate layer cake recipe.

  25. Nikki Chirico says:

    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?

    1. Hi Nikki! I recommend doubling the strawberry frosting recipe.

  26. 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!

    1. Yes, they would as long as you make 4 layers! Have fun!

      1. Would you double the recipe or just pour the batter from the original recipe into 4 pans?

  27. 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!

  28. Tina Zablocki says:

    This cakes looks so yummy!! Can it be made using nondairy ingredients?

  29. 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!

    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!

  30. 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.

      1. will do thank you!

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