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

793 Comments

Comments are closed.

  1. Hi Sally,
    Can I leave out the corn syrup for the fudge frosting? I do not like to use corn syrup in recipes. Also, do you have a recipe for mocha frosting?
    Thank you,
    Ruth

    1. Hi Ruth! You can leave out the corn syrup. I add it to make a smoother, shinier frosting. Totally optional! For a mocha frosting, try adding a little espresso powder or replacing some of the milk with strong room temperature coffee or espresso.

  2. HI Sally, This looks perfect for the next birthday cake. But, I am wanting to make it coffee flavoured and fill (and decorate) with chocolate flavoured coffee beans (amongst other things). Any suggestions for quantities for flavouring the cake and icing to get the right coffee flavour through? Adding espresso to the frosting is a good start. Thanks.

    1. Hi Mandy! A coffee flavored piñata cake sounds fantastic. My recommendation is to add espresso powder to the cake batter and the frosting. I do have a mocha cupcakes recipe on my blog if you want to check that out as well– it would make a lovely cake if you double the recipe.

      1. Hi Sally

        Which recipe can I use if I want to make a chocolate Pinata cake with chocolate frosting ? Also, I have 7 inch pans… how should the recipe change ? Also which vanilla frosting would you recommend incase I wanna make vanilla frosting for this?

  3. Hi Sally,
    Is this cake suited for fondant? I am looking for a cake preferably chocolate cake that can support the weight of the fondant for a birthday cake.

    Thanks

      1. Hi Sally,
        I made this cake with fondant for my son 6th birthday and it was a success and your recipe never fail me. Thank you 🙂

  4. Wow so classy and mouth watering colorful cakes i loved it and please keep posting such tempting cakes because i am Learner of making new and different cakes

  5. Hi Sally….I’m totally confused! I made this frosting in January and it was perfect. I made it last week and it turned out really pale so I made it again today and it’s the same, yummy but really pale. I’m using the same brands of ingredients as before. Has the recipe changed? Is there anything I can do to fix the colour?

    1. The recipe has not changed – it sounds like you are just mixing it longer. With chocolate frosting the longer you mix/whip it the lighter the color becomes.

      1. Hi Sally,

        Thank you for your reply. It was for my daughters first birthday cake..I was a bit panicky! I made the frosting the night before I needed it. The next day when I took it out of the fridge it was still very pale but by the time I actually frosted the cake it looked perfect 🙂 I was so happy with the Pinata cake, everyone was very impressed..my niece thinks I’m a rockstar now!!! I also made your chocolate cake pops and the chocolate zucchini bread..everything was amazing, thank you x

  6. Just made this for a birthday in the family…..the looks of surprise on everyone’s faces when we cut open the cake were SO GOOD!!!! They never expected the masses of candy inside 😀 Thank you Sally for an amazing recipe!

  7. Hi Sally, I want to bake this cake for my son’s birthday, but he’s not a fan of chocolate cake or chocolate frosting! He loves chocolate candies though . I was thinking of using salted caramel frosting instead. Do you think that would work?

  8. Love love your recipes and challenges. Could I turn this into a cherry and almond cake using cherry and almond extracts in place of the vanilla and folding in 20 finely chopped maraschino cherries?

  9. Hi Sally. I’m looking for a three layer, nine inch Yellow layer cake for a birthday party. Is this the best recipe to use or should I use the zebra cake recipe without the chocolate? I wasn’t sure if the zebra base was a yellow cake or a vanilla cake. Thank you.

    1. Either would be excellent. Lately, I’ve been making the zebra cake without the chocolate as my basic yellow cake. Both are excellent– and not *too* different from each other.

  10. Hi Sally. If we use your chocolate cake recipe for this do we double it or Just split it across 4 pans? Thank you!

    1. Hi Amelia, I would 1.5x the chocolate cake recipe. Doubling would be too much. I recommend using my 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.

  11. Hi Sally —

    Could I mix sprinkles into this to make it a funfetti cake? I know you have a funfetti cake, but I love yellow cake!

    Thank you!

  12. I have only 2 cake pans. Can I bake 2 layers and when those are done bake the other two? Wasn’t sure if it would affect the batter waiting to be baked.

    1. Hi Mimi, You can try it but your second two layers might not rise up as high (since the leaveners are activated as soon as they are mixed with the wet ingredients). The other option is to cut the recipe in half and once your pans are cooled and clean repeat the process.

  13. Hi Sally! Wanted to see if you had ideas for adapting this cake recipe for high altitude? I live at about 5600 feet.

    1. Hi Meredith, I actually have no experience baking at high altitude. I know some readers have found this chart helpful: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/learn/high-altitude-baking.html

  14. Hi Sally,

    I’m looking to make a two layer yellow cake with chocolate frosting. I was going to halve the cake recipe, should I have the frosting recipe as well or make a full batch?

    Thanks!

  15. Thank you would this work to fill with skittles? My grandson wants a skittle filled lemon cake. Thanks so much

  16. I made this chocolate icing to go with your chocolate cake, and it came out AMAZING! The icing was creamy and delicious and went great with your moist chocolate cake! Thank you so much for the recipes.

  17. I am making this cake for a birthday party but am wondering if I make it the night before will the m&m’s become moist and sticky (and not spill out) if they are inside the cake for that long. I have a lot to do on the day of the party so it would help a lot if I could assemble it ahead of time.

  18. I am wondering if I could make a piniata cake with your strawberry cake recipe if I double it for 4 layers. My son wants a strawberry piniata leg theme birthday cake this year.

    1. Hi Jenny, Yes you can but I do recommend making the cake twice instead of doubling it for the best texture.

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