Food

Birthday Cake Planning

Toby’s third birthday is coming up next month, and he’s obsessed with it this year. Needless to say, we’ve daydreamed a LOT about the birthday cake. Since I’m not a big baker, I wasn’t sure what to make (last year, we just served strawberries!). But at the playground the other day, my friend Maureen revealed a genius idea…

She’s not a big baker either, so for her son’s third birthday, she served a donut cake. The instructions are simple: Buy a box of donuts and stack them up. That’s it! Apparently it was a huge hit, and all the kids talked about it for weeks afterward. She also served a box of donut holes for the parents to snack on. Brilliant, right? It’s cheap, easy and delicious—basically, as Maureen said, “it ticks all the boxes.”

Now the only question is what flavor donuts to buy!

What cake or dessert you prefer for birthdays? Any fun ideas? My sister always requests pumpkin pie, and I once got cheese:)

P.S. Toby’s first birthday party, and Toby’s second birthday party.)

(Poe cake: Skunkboy; pink cake: One Charming Party; white sprinkle cake: Ashley McLaughlin; chocolate cake: Christine Olson; donut holes: Wedding Things)

  1. Your cake looks gorgeous! It’s sweet, addictive, festive and fun, with a subtle taste of birthday cake in every deliciously rich handful. Thank you for excellent post.

    Birthday cake makers

  2. Not really a “different” thing, but a a few years ago for her 7th birthday The Babe had an Olympic-themed party. She wanted a cake that looked like the Olympic rings. In typical hero fashion, the Gentleman baked simple 8″ round cakes, then cut circles out of the middles, freehand. They were spot-on perfect. He then pieced together the rings, making cuts where necessary, and mixed up colored frosting for each of them.

    I’m not sure the Babe would let me off the hook with doughnuts, although it sounds awesome to me.

  3. Not really a “different” thing, but a a few years ago for her 7th birthday The Babe had an Olympic-themed party. She wanted a cake that looked like the Olympic rings. In typical hero fashion, the Gentleman baked simple 8″ round cakes, then cut circles out of the middles, freehand. They were spot-on perfect. He then pieced together the rings, making cuts where necessary, and mixed up colored frosting for each of them.

    I’m not sure the Babe would let me off the hook with doughnuts, although it sounds awesome to me.

  4. that is so crazy and funny….i was JUST talking about doing this for my son’s 3rd bday in July!

  5. One year my mom made me a brownie cake – box mix brownies, with “icing” of whipped cream, topped with strawberries. :) One of the best “cakes” I’ve had!

  6. My sister served a tier of donuts for her wedding “cake”! It was such a fun and unique dessert and people loved it. You could serve coffee for the adults and milk in pretty glass jars for the kiddos!

  7. My go to: FRUIT TRIFLE!! You get a little cake, you get a LOT of fruit, a little whip, a little custard…and for a more adult flare, my mum always loves to spike it with some apricot brandy ;-) Plus it looks incredible.

  8. Cinnamon rolls; stacks and stacks of them!

  9. This is brilliant! I might have to do this for my next birthday… Or maybe just for any day!

  10. My birthday is in July and I usually ask for strawberry shortcake. Its delicious and summery. My 16th birthday cake was just a giant watermelon cut in half with candles stuck in it.

  11. This is absolutely BRILLIANT!!! As a normally less-than-successful baker, I am totally stealing this idea. Another to keep in mind are rice crispy treats. I made them WITH my five year old and her class devoured them. We live in Paris and everyone thought they we super original and yummy. The teacher and a few parents even asked me for the recipe. (LOL can you imagine that happening in the U.S.?)

  12. As a traditional cake lover icing eater first…I’d rather have a small birthday cake in the center of a platter of matching cupcakes.
    The donuts are a nice idea, but I’d still be looking for the icing cake.

  13. reminds me of my little sister’s 8th birthday. she was one of the odd kids that don’t like cake, so my mum made a big stack of her favourite sandwiches with egg and cress, stacked neatly in the form of a heart-shaped cake with carrot sticks as “candles”. that cake is a legend in our household by now!

  14. For birthday cakes my grandma would wrap coins in wax paper, mainly pennies and usually one nickle, and put them in the cake. It was always a contest to see who got the most ‘money’ at the end of their piece of cake (and the wax wrapping meant they were big enough ‘presents’ that you could see them in each forkful so no choking worries).

    • My grandma baked cakes all the time, but you knew it was a birthday cake if there was money inside ;)

  15. Ugh. Now I’m drooling and dying for a cream filled donut.

  16. One year, when I turned 40 I asked my husband to get me my favorite ice cream: mint chip. But I wanted an ice cream cake. Little did he know he was supposed to order it ahead of time so in a bind, he called my mom (while I was busy getting a massage) and they schemed. She told him she got a gourmet mix for chocolate cookies and would bake a bunch and he could get a quart of the mint chip and they would make ice cream cookies.

    Problem was when she made the mix it didn’t turn out and all the individual “cookies” melted to form one big cookie while baking. So she made another one with the rest of the batter and they made a huge platter sized ice cream cookie that we cut into smaller pieces.

    Lol. It was very yummy though.

  17. this is horrible and lame, i’m sorry but bake your kid an F-ing cake or cupcakes at least. or tarts, or brownies. but donoughts friend up with preservatives? come on, gross.

    • You are lame and horrible.

  18. . says...

    Fantastic idea! And you could always drizzle icing over it to tie it all together (if they aren’t already iced of course) Yum!

  19. . says...

    Fantastic idea! And you could always drizzle icing over it to tie it all together (if they aren’t already iced of course) Yum!

  20. What an adorable and quick ‘cake’! My daughter who won’t be 3 till until October has already proclaimed she would like two cakes – one Dora and one Thomas *sigh* This looks WAY easier!

  21. Love this idea!! My little guy adores donuts, it would make his day. One thought, try to go for quality donuts from a local bakery, instead of the boxed variety. No hydrogenated oils/artificial yuck and they usually give a price break on quantities. Happy almost 3rd birthday, Toby!

  22. Anything from Doughnut Plant will make you everyone’s favorite mom because those are really just the best doughnuts ever.

  23. this post…it’s like you can see into my mind…I have sent my husband this ;)

  24. I love to bake and take advantage of every opportunity to so I always make a cake myself but I would probably just order vanilla cupcakes from a favorite bakery with very bright icing (red, yellow, blue, green). I don’t think a toddler is worth the price of Magnolia but that is just me. If you are worried regular size cupcakes wont get finished try mini cupcakes. If you are going with donuts, get the powdered sugar ones.

  25. Donut cakes all the way! I did this for my son and daughter’s birthday. Worked especially well for her since her party was a brunch affair, bagels and donuts. What’s awesome about this option is that it’s cheaper than buying a sheet cake (cause I don’t bake) and you get an assorted flavor mix so there’s options for everyone. Get more of the donuts with sprinkles because kids love sprinkle donuts.

  26. This is such a great idea!! I got my husband a bakers dozen of doughnuts from Doughnut Plant for Valentine’s Day and it was a huge success. Plus, as I’m sure you know, Doughnut Plant is the bombity bomb. So effing good. I told them to just pick and surprise up and it was great. Considering my husband’s taste level are probably about the same as your (almost) 3 year old’s… haha

    I always have key lime pie at my birthday. So much better than cake.

  27. I don’t like donuts. We always have chocolate cake at our house :) Everyone lives for it.

  28. My birthday falls right around prime time for strawberries, so my husband usually makes me strawberry shortcake! In the past, I have also had ice cream cakes (I like ice cream WAY more than I like cake), german chocolate cake, and the usual store-bought ones.

    Still have to say that my ultimate favorite is the one made by a guy who loves me enough to go all out each year for my special day!

    • Oh, my kids go crazy for store bough ice cream cakes! That would probably be a big hit! Dairy Queen makes great ones and I think Baskin Robbins does too.

  29. Love this idea! So cute and easy too! :)I need to make one of those out of doggy doughnuts (does such a thing exist?) for the Smoosh’s upcoming birthday.

    xoxo,

    Jules of Canines & Couture
    http://www.caninesandcouture.com

  30. My son has to eat gluten free, so bday cakes have always been an issue. We finally hit on Strawberry shortcake with a southwest twist. I make it with cornbread, fresh strawberries and add a little chipotle to the strawberry sauce for a smokey kick and for the adults its topped off with a tequila whipped cream. It sounds weird, I know, but its quickly be come a family favorite.

  31. My son has to eat gluten free, so bday cakes have always been an issue. We finally hit on Strawberry shortcake with a southwest twist. I make it with cornbread, fresh strawberries and add a little chipotle to the strawberry sauce for a smokey kick and for the adults its topped off with a tequila whipped cream. It sounds weird, I know, but its quickly be come a family favorite.

  32. My son actually requested a “donut cake” for his third birthday, and this is exactly what I planned to do! But we didn’t have a formal party this year and instead had a giant mexican dinner at our favorite restaurant with his grandparents, aunt and cousins. Complete with sombreros, mariachi and a sopapilla with 3 candles.

  33. Yes! My sons 2nd Birthday party is in 2 weeks and this is exactly what we are doing. Although we are doing full size donuts for the adults too.

  34. I don’t get when people say I’m not a baker. If you can read a recipe, you can bake.

    • Truth! Just follow the directions carefully. Baking is chemistry. You should generally follow the instructions exactly, especially if you are inexperienced. Get someone who can bake to supervise you if you want to make sure it works. And if you don’t understand directions like whip egg whites into soft peaks you can actually look things like that up on YouTube now.

  35. My little Hazel Bee turns 3 on the 29th of this month and I might have to steal this idea! Brilliant!

  36. That’s so funny, I was just tidying up my office this weekend and I found a picture of me and my sister with my grandpa on his birthday with a donut “cake”. We were about 5 and 8 and he looked so happy to be blowing out the candle that my mom stuck in the hole in the top donut on the pile. Such a good memory.

  37. My fiance isn’t a great lover of cakes or sweet things, so last year I made his favourite- vanilla and mint cheesecake, and this year I’m going with homemade scones filled with homemade lemon curd and clotted cream. I, on the other hand, like a big rich chocolate cake!

  38. This is a cute idea, definitely. But nothing makes me melt like an obviously homemade, not-neat-at-all, probably-a-bit-of-a-struggle birthday cake!

  39. What a great idea. For my daughter’s first birthday I want a real cake but it will be a lovely idea for the following years.
    Happy Birthday Toby.

  40. My birthday is the day after Valentine’s Day so my mom always made me a heart shaped chocolate cake. When I got engaged she bought my fiance a heart shaped cake pan so now my husband makes me a cake :) My favorite recipe is off the back of the hershey’s baking chocolate tin…so easy and tasty! For my daughter’s first birthday I made carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. I have a soft spot for homemade cakes for birthdays (even if they’re from a box!) it just seems so much more personal than something bought from a bakery.

  41. I made Krispy Kreme birthday cakes for a few years for my middle son. He would ask for that every year when he was about 8, 9 and 10. What’s nice is that it is so easy and the kids like it more than birthday cake.

  42. We did doughnuts instead of a cake at our wedding. (I made every attempt to be more ‘party’ and less ‘wedding’). I’m pretty sure everyone loved it.

    We got them from the Doughnut Plant (http://doughnutplant.com/) which if you haven’t been, you have to go. The creme brulee doughnuts will change your life :)

    Happy Birthday Toby.

  43. As a kid I dreamed up my ideal cake, and ever since then either my mom or I have served it on my birthday :) It’s basically a black forest trifle, although as a ten year old I thought it was very creative – cubed chocolate cake, chocolate pudding, extra cherry pie filling, and whip cream in layers. And, bonus for my mom, it’s an easy one!

  44. I love this idea! Simple and EVERYONE loves donuts!

    I’m in the midst of figuring out a birthday cake for my soon to be 4 year old. I’m thinking of making it an activity by supplying plain cupcakes and then have the kids decorate them themselves. It might end up being kind of crazy, but I think it’ll be fun!

    I’m going to keep the donut cake idea as back up!

    Thanks!

  45. Donuts and cupcakes have always been too sweet for me and my two year old son must be the same way. He’s thrown up twice from cupcakes at school and wanted nothing to do with a donut at a kid’s birthday party but we both LOVE our ice cream! He can devour ice cream without a problem so an ice cream cake was what he got for his 2nd birthday and he loved it.

  46. I really like this idea and now I want donuts.

  47. From that pouty-lipped picture of Toby a while back perhaps you should consider stacking pretzels from the pretzel truck?? :) Doughnuts sound like a marvelous and easy idea. Hope his birthday celebration is joyous; he’s a doll.

    • Ha! That made me laugh out loud! :) That picture was priceless!

  48. Cute and age appropriate! Love this idea!

    ~F

  49. Hmmm, I feel pretty strongly that birthdays should involve a real birthday cake, with the one exception being ice cream cake if you’re so inclined, which I always loved as a kid.

  50. Now I kind of just want donuts in ADDITION to a cake.

  51. What a cute idea! Definitely going to do this!

  52. this is a great idea! when i was super young i never liked cake because i thought the frosting was too messy (such a strange child, i know). donut cakes would have been a nice solution ;) so easy!

  53. We do old school Jello Poke Cakes around here for birthdays. A box of cake mix, some Jello, whipped cream & fresh fruit! We cater the different Jello/fruit flavors to whoever is having the birthday. Mine will be lemon blueberry this year!

    • That sounds revolting. I am going to have to take your word for it.

  54. I think I’ll be assembling a donut cake for my husband’s birthday in July… so much more fun than regular cake, and the man seriously loves donuts.

  55. My husband’s birthday is in July and he loves pie. Last year I made him a gorgeous blackberry pie with bits of lemon zest. I still think about it :)

  56. You should definitely buy the doughnuts from the doughnut plant! It’s fantastic and they have a Manhattan location! Have a great day!!

    Xx Hilary

  57. You should definitely buy the doughnuts from the doughnut plant! It’s fantastic and they have a Manhattan location! Have a great day!!

    Xx Hilary

  58. These are so fun! My favorite birthday treats were carrot cake, lemon pie, or strawberry shortcakes…as long as you can stick a candle in it, it’s my favorite :)

  59. Such a fun idea! Plus, it makes serving, storing, and sharing easy :)

    Also, Doughnut Plant in Chelsea is delicious! :)

  60. A tasty post <3 I love donuts so much !!

  61. Great idea! Another low-stress/high-impact option? Fondue! Everyone loves dipping fruit, pound cake, and pretzels into melted chocolate. And is there anything cuter than a kid with a chocolate-smeared smile?

  62. I am a sucker for ice cream cake! That’s my absolute favorite!

  63. My sister took my nephew to a donut shop last week for the first time. When he opened up his treat and saw the sprinkles he whispered, “Mom, this is just like Christmas Eve…” He’s about 5 months older than Toby so you can imagine how much her heart melted. Go with sprinkles:)

  64. This is a nice idea for bringing a special sweet treat for my pre-schooler’s class on his birthday as well – especially since I may do it in the morning… Great idea!

  65. We made donuts for my birthday once! Maybe something fun to do once he’s older, the hot oil might be too much excitement right now (and too much work) but there’s nothing better than a still piping hot donut!

  66. My sister is getting married this Friday, they are doing this for their wedding cake!

  67. i’m a huge donut lover so i’m always a proponent of donuts beating out cakes! especially the cakey-cinnamony donuts….mouth watering.

  68. Three already. Big man. Hope he gets the birthday cake of his dreams. Donuts are a great idea. We have this bakery called Top Pot in Seattle that makes the best donuts. I wouldn’t mind stacking them up and eating them.

  69. i just did this for my sister’s bridal shower, only i put them on a pretty three tiered stand. they look so festive if you get an assortment. everyone loved it!

  70. I think that this is a really neat idea. Then you do not have to worry about cutting cake. And it will not make as much of a mess.

    Emily
    eageremily.blogspot.com

  71. we did this for my mom + son last year, since both are not huge fans of birthday cake and it was a hit! actually now since we made creme brulee for the first time last christmas/my birthday, that’s the only dessert anyone wants for their birthday. this summer while we’re in Paris for my son’s birthday, we’re on the prowl for the best creme brulee in the city :)

  72. Ok, so now I need a doughnut. Thanks, Jo. (Although this may have more to do with the fact that I’m 8.5 months pregnant…)

  73. My mom always baked a girl out of buns – making a braid out of the dough and arms and legs (with showlaced shoes on) and a big bun for the head with dough eyes and mouth, and then the body as a triangle of out round buns. (hard to explain, sorry). It is actually quite simple and I usually helped her (my favorite thing was making the shoes) and always so entertaining conversations – “Please pass me a piece of leg” or “Would anyone like to have the last piece of braid?”

    We served it with hot chocolate, butter and cheese.

    • That’s such a neat idea and I love the conversations it sparked. :)

  74. Donuts for a birthday cake?! Yes, please! That’s a great idea because you don’t have to bother with cutting pieces for everyone and no forks necessary. :)

    sincerelysammie.com

  75. I would be over the moon to have a birthday cake made of donuts! I also have a soft spot for Carvel Ice Cream cakes. Not fancy but totally amazing.

  76. I got donuts from the Doughnut Plant (on 23rd and 7th) for my boyfriend’s birthday this year!! It was less stress than baking, and so much easier to transport to the restaurant we had a group dinner at. Also very easy to share – and everyone got to try a bunch of flavors! Worked like a charm for a 26 year old, so I’m sure a 3 year old would be just as happy :)

  77. did this on saturday for my bf. he loves doughnut plant on the LES.

  78. I once saw a rice krispie treat cake! Meanwhile it was for a 30 year old’s birthday but it was still yummy nonetheless! =)

    Ergo – Blog

  79. If you are a good baker and up for a new challenge you could make a doughnut cake with the recipe Yeast Baked Donuts from the blog, Wild Yeast. My husband made them the other weekend and they were melt in your mouth delicious.

  80. We did this with glazed donuts for my son’s 8th bday. It was a hit.

  81. I had the Doughnut Plant in the lower east side as “cake” at my birthday dinner this weekend! Highly recommended.

  82. My nephew doesn’t really like cake, but he loves donuts! So for his 4th birthday in February, my sister made a donut cake just like this! She arranged plain glazed donuts and chocolate glazed donut holes on a platter and put candles on it. My nephew and niece loved it!! Such a great idea.

  83. LOVE these doughnut birthday cakes. I’ve made with those pink Snowballs before, can’t wait to give this a try :) And what a nice way to celebrate Toby’s big day!

    xo
    Erin

  84. mmm! what a great idea! and not having to worry about slicing the cake, lovely!

  85. What a great idea! I love it! So simple and delicious. I totally dig donuts. And you can do a variety which is great.

  86. This comment has been removed by the author.

  87. I love this idea. My youngest is turning 2 on the 30th and I already have to bake cupcakes for her pre-school class so this sounds like a great idea for our family party! Thanks.

  88. My dad always bakes me a devil’s food cake with chocolate-almond frosting, and then I add the tiny round sprinkles when he’s finished. However, the best cake I ever received was when I lived in Spain for four months and my host mother bought me a little ice cream cake to share with my roommates. The cake, paired with the Spanish beer my host dad bought me (the only beer I drank in the house the entire semester!), was a delight to eat mostly because of the nostalgia and love surrounding the occasion. I won’t ever forget that birthday!

  89. What a lovely idea! Now I want one of those cakes for MY birthday! ;)
    Since I’m a huge ice-cream and chocolate fan my mother would buy a huge chocolate ice cream piece (I don’t know the word in English, sorry, but you get the meaning, right?) and she would put the candles on top of it. Then, I would blow the candles and she will quickly make ice cream sandwiches with my favourite cookies and the chocolate ice cream for all of us!!! It was a bit messy but I loooooved it!!! And my childhood birthday pictures are so funny, chocolate ice cream everywhere! :)
    xo,
    E.
    http://www.theslowpace.com

  90. I’m a HUGE pastry/pie lover, so I have asked for my favourite pie in the past… also cherry cheesecake!

  91. Who knew donut cakes were also so elegant! I am sure it will be delicious perfection, and I love the idea of the donut holes for adults. xo

  92. The hubby actually prefers cheese cake and triple berry sauce (Oh man triple berry sauce YUMMMM). It’s a nice little switch up from regular cake.

    Holly
    http://www.lovingallthis.com

  93. I’m a cake girl myself… but donuts would be so fun (and also look pretty grand)! A variety of flavors of cake donuts would be fun and also less messy than sticky filled and frosted donuts!

  94. so cute! a good friend of mine is a baker and she’s already planning my little one’s first birthday cake (only 4 months early! ha!) i was thinking cupcakes but this is such a great idea!

  95. Fantastic idea! I highly recommend the Donut Plant in chelsea! Yum!

  96. Yum! We had a Krispe Kreme doughnut grooms cake at our wedding and it was a huge hit. We did an assortment of flavors, but i’m sure the kids would like anything with sprinkles on it!

  97. I always make a sponge cake with fresh fruit and lots of whipped cream ( not a big fan of icing). For my daughter’s 2nd birthday cake we went to old fashioned sweet shop (we live in Ireland) and got a variety of different sweets,candy ands so on in different shapes and used them then to decorate the cake:)