11 Best Types of Cake

types of cake

Ralph Smith

There are (thankfully!) a zillion different cake varieties out there. Whether you’re into classic cake recipes, seasonal spring cakes, or tantalizing holiday options (Easter cakes for the win!), there’s a cake out there for each and every one of us. But while you’ve probably thought long and hard about your favorite flavors of cake, how much do you know about different types of cake?

We’re not talking about types of layer cakes—your standard vanilla, yellow, white, confetti, red velvet, and so on. Those are classified under the sweet umbrella heading of “butter cake,” so they’re all essentially the same type of cake. Rather, we’re talking about all types of cake!

Before we dive deep into cake territory, let’s cover some basics: Cake is essentially a soft, sweet baked good most often made using a combination of flour, butter (or shortening or oil), eggs, sugar, and other variable ingredients like leaveners (baking powder or baking soda) or flavoring (extracts and other add-ins). There are a few cakes that fall outside of this general description—we’re looking at you, cheesecake and ice box cake—but the cake community still considers them to be members. There’s also a whole category flourless cakes, too, both baked and unbaked!

Bottom line: There’s an entire world of cakes out there. But for now, let’s get started by learning about 11 types of cake every baker should know about. Start reading, then start baking!

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Angel Food Cake

A variation on sponge cake (more on that below), angel food cake is a naturally fat-free cake that gets its name from its light-as-air composition. Egg whites are whipped with sugar until stiff, then combined with flour, and the result is a sweet white cake with an airy, slightly chewy crumb. Angel food cake is typically baked in a tube pan with high walls; the stiff batter clings to the walls as it rises nice and high in the oven. Pro tip: After baking, invert the cake onto an empty wine bottle and let cool.



Butter Cake

This is the cake we all know and love: The vast category includes white, yellow, chocolate, and marble cakes, plus everything in between. There are differences within the category (such as using whole eggs or just egg whites), but the structure is essentially the same. Butter cake gets its rich, sturdy texture from butter as well as leavening agents like baking soda or baking powder—the combo results in a sturdy crumb that can withstand being split, stacked, frosted and sliced.



Some argue that this isn’t truly a cake—but then what is it? Cheesecakes can be baked or unbaked, depending on the ingredients, but they’re most commonly made in a springform pan, as cheesecakes are delicate and you wouldn’t want to invert them out of a standard cake pan. Many cheesecakes have a graham cracker crust, like our Strawberry Cheesecake, or a cookie crust, like our Peanut Butter Cheesecake. Cheesecake filling is generally made with a combination of cream cheese (or other soft cheese), sugar, eggs, and other mix-ins.


Chiffon Cake

Best described as a hybrid oil-sponge cake, the chiffon cake really is the best of both: It has the rich, moist crumb of oil cakes and the airiness of sponge cakes. The result is a cake that’s moist, light, and fluffy. Unlike other sponge cakes, chiffon cake often calls for a leavening agent in addition to whipped egg whites—both contribute to the cake’s signature lightness and eight. The delicate nature of the cake makes it ideal for being glazed or iced.


Flourless Cake

Can you make a cake without flour? Yup, you bet! These cakes are very delicate, so they’re often made in springform pans for easy removal. Flourless cakes are often baked in a water bath, too, where the cake pan is set in a larger pan filled halfway with hot water. This insulates the cake and produces a silkier, less porous texture. It also prevents the bottom from burning. Flourless cakes are often very rich because of their high fat content, which is necessary for structure in the absence of flour.


Genoise Cake

The genoise cake is the European equivalent of the American sponge cake. Whole eggs are whipped with sugar before flour is added; the batter is often then fortified with melted butter, which sets the genoise cake apart from the classic iteration of sponge cakes. This combination of ingredients results in a moist, tender and pliable cake that’s typically subtle in flavor. Genoise cake is ideal for soaking up flavored syrups or rolling up into a jelly roll-style cake, like our Chocolate Swiss Roll Cake.


Icebox Cake

Icebox cakes are another sweet treat that defies basic cake categorization. However, to us, if it looks like a cake, tastes like a cake and slices like a cake…it is a cake! Made by layering cookies with whipped cream, an icebox cake melds together over the course of a few hours in the fridge. The cookies soften, so the final texture is not unlike standard frosted layer cakes.


Loaf Cakes (aka Quick Breads)

The sweet quick breads of the world (including classics like banana, zucchini bread, and pumpkin bread), are essentially cakes baked in loaf pans—hence the name! True breads generally call for yeast, whereas quick breads rely on chemical leavening agents like baking powder and baking soda, similar to more traditional cakes. Fruitcakes are another example of a loaf cake, though their specialized moniker comes from the fact that they are stuffed with fruit and nuts and then drizzled with (or soaked in!) spirits.


Oil Cake

The most beloved of the all-oil cakes is likely olive oil cake, which is a staple in Mediterranean cuisine and has a signature rich, moist crumb. Oil is a shelf-stable ingredient, unlike butter, which results in cakes that remain fresh for longer when stored at room temperature. However, all-oil cakes made with standard cooking oils like vegetable or canola arguably don’t pack the same punch as flavorful olive oil cakes and all-butter cakes. Some cakes, particularly chocolate ones, use a combination of butter and oil as chocolate tends to taste dry when baked.


Pound Cake

A timeless classic, pound cake is the result of butter cake meeting loaf cake. Its name comes from its measurements, which were traditionally a pound each of butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. Some pound cakes are leavened with baking powder or baking soda, while others are leavened with egg whites, similar to sponge cakes. The flavor is sweetly subtle, with a rich, dense crumb thanks to the butter and eggs, and the cake itself is either served plain or topped with a glaze or icing.



Sponge Cake

Traditional cake recipes are separated into two main categories: shortened (butter) cakes and foam cakes. The main difference between the two is the fat content. Shortened cakes are made with butter, margarine, oil, or shortening, whereas foam cakes are made with little to no fat and contain more egg. Sponge cakes are foam cakes! They’re soft and springy, and typically do not use chemical leaveners, relying mostly on whipped eggs or egg whites for their rise. As the name suggests, sponge cakes are ideal for soaking up syrup, both in flavor and in texture. As whipped eggs will deflate over time, it’s important to get the cake into the oven quickly after you make the batter.

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