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What are your favorite non-traditional birthday cake ideas?

I want to make a cake for my friend, but I know he doesn't like the traditional floury cake + frosting. I also want to do something fancier/more interesting. Any suggestions/recipes?

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  1. My little sister requested a punch bowl cake for her last couple of birthdays (well, at least the last two I was able to attend). Punch bowl cakes aren't fancy, but they are tasty, and a nice spin on a traditional cake. I've always liked ones made with a devil's food type cake recipe, fresh whipped cream, cherries, and coconut.

    1. Pie.

      Does he like cheesecake?

      1. Growing up I never liked a sweet cake (still don't) so there might be birthday cake for guests there was always something else for me. Sometimes it was angle food cake with whipped cream, sometimes a jello cake with whipped cream and once I remember strawberry tarts. Now I prefer to have chinese cake (SO is chinese) and even had it as a wedding cake. It is light white almost sponge cake with fruit and whipped cream between the layers and on top. Very light and tasty.

        1. well, pie is the cake of the moment if you want to go in a totally different direction.

          i'm like your friend - not a fan of the standard frosted cake. i grew up eating ice cream cake for birthdays. you could do the kind that alternates layers of ice cream *and* flour-based cake, or skip the floury cake altogether and get creative by putting things like crushed cookies, pie crust, chocolate chips, sprinkles, caramel sauce, fudge sauce, etc between layers of ice cream. that would be my choice :)

          2 Replies
          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            +1 for ice cream cake...we didnt get them all the time so they were a special treat...
            and almost always carvel...
            with the occasional B&R

            i would always dig it apart and go for the crunchy things (what r they called anyway) in the middle..

            1. re: srsone

              ours were Carvel too. sadly it's now awful, awful stuff. and the crunchy things were called "crunchies" :) we always ordered extra with our cakes!

          2. Lemon tart served with sweetened whipped cream and some raspberries

            Angel food cake with whipped cream and fruit

            Strawberry shortcakes

            flourless chocolate cake (epicurious has a good recipe "la bete noire") for the chocolate lovers.

            We've also done birthday ice cream sundae bar and homemade cookies, no cake at all.

            1. There is a wonderful almond or hazelnut dacquoise (meringue and nut baked disks) with a praline buttercream in Mastering the Art of French Cooking (I can't remember if it is in vol 1 or 2). It is RICH. I have made individual small cakes as well if a large one is too much. There are other variations like filled with a mousse.

              Also in the same book are charlottes. I have made the one with ladyfingers dipped in orange liquor and filled with a chocolate mousse. I loved that too. The others look good as well.

              Finally Pavlova - just be careful that the topping isn't too sweet.

              2 Replies
                1. re: ursy_ten

                  Third. Was the first thing that came to mind. A bigger "Wow" than a birthday cake, and lighter but just as indulgent (at least seemingly). Assuming you can get fresh berries, of course.

              1. I make cheesecake or tiramisu for my friends and usually have an ice-cream cake myself. For fancy, perhaps a croquembouche?

                This thread reminds me of the Friends episode when Monica makes birthday flan!

                1. How about a trifle with fresh or frozen fruit? You could even put candles on it. Or, if he likes chocolate, you could make a box with tempered chocolate sides and a top and fill it with chocolate mousse and raspberries.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ninrn

                    Ooh, I also like this idea. You can never go wrong with trifles!

                  2. This time of year, I make Ina Garten's Strawberry Country Cake and it's always a huge hite. So is Nigella's Chocolate Cloud Cake.

                    I make a very simple Ice Cream Cake for my grandchildren at get togethers, and the adults love it as well. Grind up a couple of sleeves of oreo cookies, while holding about six aside. Put half the ground up oreo's on the bottom of a spring form pan. Place in the freezer. Buy a large container of good ice cream and place on counter for an hour. I like Mint Chocolate Chip. After the Ice Cream has softened, place 1/2 of it into the spring form pan and place the spring form pan back in the freezer. Chop up a package of andes mint candies. Take spring form pan out of freezer again. Add more crushed oreo cookies and 1/2 of the chopped andes candies on top of the ground oreos. Press a little into the ice cream and place the second half of the ice cream, oreos and candies on top. Freeze overnight. Take ice crream cake out and unmold carefully 1/2 hr. before serving.

                    I've done this cake with lots of variations, so you can be creative with your flavors.

                    1. I think you should move this to Home Cooking?

                      1. I'm also on the don't-like-foury-cake bandwagon. If your friend is a chocolate lover, then a flourless chocolate cake is always a big hit. You could serve with a raspberry sauce. I also recently discovered a new favorite cake recipe from Food & Wine, Vanilla Bean cake: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/va...

                        It's divine. Both the flourless choc cake and vanilla bean cake are simple, yet elegant. You could even serve one of each!

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Croissant

                          The Vanilla Bean Recipe is really interesting. I have never seen anything like it. Bread flour in a cake and resting for 8 hours - I may have to make that. Thanks.

                          1. re: Croissant

                            Croissant, would you say the Vanilla Bean Cake has a texture like flourless chocolate cake?
                            That sounds wonderful...

                            1. re: blue room

                              It IS wonderful! I'm usually a chocolate person, but I truly love this cake. It's not quite the texture of flourless chocolate cake, but it is definitely a dense, moist cake.

                          2. what about a mousse cake? i made a dark chocolate mousse cake with a thin pistachio cake as a base and a creme brulee in the middle for my dads bday a few months ago. everybody loved it!

                            1. A round (or rounds) of cheese, and fruit.

                              1. Tweed Angelfood Cake--it is tasteful.

                                1. Crepe cakes are easy to tailor to the birthday boy's tastes. Crepes stacked with custard, or ganache, fruit, or a combination of all three.


                                  1. I'd make a soda cracker "pie" using the following recipe:

                                    3 egg whites, beaten stiff. Add 1 cup sugar (the amount can be reduced) and 1 tsp vanilla. Roll 16 double soda crackers fine but not too fine. Add 1/2 tsp baking powder. Fold in egg mixture. Add 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped. Butter a 9X9 pan and bake in 325 oven for 30 minutes. When cool serve with sweetened strawberries or peaches and top with a layer of whipped cream.

                                    1. http://www.cookingchanneltv.com/recip...

                                      From Chuck's Day Off this non traditional carrot cake with honey Greek yogurt frosting was really tasty. It's a small cake and not overly sweet. I loved it.

                                      1. As soon as I saw the OP, I thought croquembouche. Totally fits the profile - it's definitely interesting, looks very fancy, very different from a traditional cake plus frosting combo.

                                        Crepe cake is a good idea too. I adore those cakes!

                                        1. Along the croquembouche line but maybe a bit easier to confect (less engineering) and utterly delicious, a gâteau St-Honoré? It's the usual French birthday cake.

                                          1. for fourth of july, my mom makes a pound cake with whipped cream frosting, and decorates with strawberries and blueberries for an american flag. you could do something similar but incorporate different fruits for the season.

                                            1. Cannoli Cake!
                                              My parents got one for me when I got into Medical school; it is the only "birthday" cake I eat besides my favorite ice cream cake with the little chocolate crunchies in the center.

                                              1. My sister ALWAYS had Pecan Pie for her birthday "cake" growing up. (Can't stand Pecan Pie myself!)

                                                1. seconding the dacquoise up-thread ... An almond and/or hazelnut dacquoise with a buttercream filling (flavored depending upon what you/he likes... chocolate lemon, vanilla, berry, etc)

                                                  on the ice cream tending side... Mud Pie or Baked Alaska

                                                  or a little more abstract a Crumb Topped "Apple Cake" - peel and core apples. slice thinly horizontally, then carefully cook down in a large pan, in batches, using butter and a bit of brown sugar... let cool slightly then take how many ever cakes you plan to make - that number of apple slices- line a sheet pan and top them with a streusel (use flour, oats, brown sugar, butter, etc) and broil til streusel is golden. then make the cakes - use three slices per "cake" (two unstreuseled and one streuseled for top) and use a filling of your choice between, if even just a bit of creme anglaise or even creme fraiche (or even molded ice cream sliced rounds that are the same size as the apple slices)... apple as cake as apple...

                                                  1. If I were to pick something else besides a cake for my birthday it would be a chocolate chip cheesecake or a tiramisu.