As if this month wasn't busy enough, my family celebrates about 6 birthdays in December. Which must explain why I'm thinking, not about how on earth I'm going to catch up on my Christmas shopping, but about cake.
The following isn't meant as a comprehensive list of all cakes, but it is a comprehensive list of all the best cakes I've ever run across in my life. (By the way, I'm not separating out cupcakes or bundt cakes, as these are shapes, not categories, as far as I'm concerned.)
- Chocolate Cake. It's delicious on its own, or add fruit (cherries, strawberries, raspberry, banana, coconut, pineapple, orange), candy (peppermint, caramel, chocolate chips), nuts (peanutbutter, pecans, walnuts, hazelnut), or booze/liquor (amaretto, khalua, rum) - or all of them! - to create endless variations. Variations include fudge cake, devil's food cake, chocolate volcano cake, death by chocolate cake, white chocolate cake.
- Black Forest Cake. I know - this properly belongs under the "chocolate cake" category, but this is my list and I think Black Forest Cake is sufficiently amazing to deserve its own category.
- Lemon Cake. Especially good with poppy seeds or almonds. Variations include poppy seed cake, key lime cake, orange cake.
- Punch Cake/poke cake. The idea is to bake a basic cake (yellow, chocolate, whatever), punch holes in it, and then fill the holes with a variety of good things. The result tends to be colorful and incredibly moist. Variations include pineapple punch cake, peach punch cake, jello punch cake, lemon punch cake.
- Pineapple Upsidedown Cake. With this you get not only cake and fruit, but also a delicious carmelized layer of brown sugar that adds the perfect amount of sweetness and gooiness. Variations include banana upsidedown cake.
- Coconut Cake. One of my all-time favorites. One Easter, mom dyed the coconut green and scattered jellybeans over the top, so it looked like a lawn seeded with Easter eggs. Variations include pina colada cake.
- Hawaiian Cake/Pig Pickin' Cake. Includes mandarin oranges, pinapple, coconut and sometimes macademia nuts .... kind of like a cake version of what my grandmom used to call "fruit ambrosia". I always called it Hawaiian cake, but I understand it is also known as a Pig Pickin' Cake. I include this for reference and not because I ever intend to call it a Pig Pickin' Cake in public. Ever again.
- Angel food cake. Classic sponge cake paired with fresh fruit and cream - liquid or whipped. It really does taste like a little slice of heaven. Variations include strawberry shortcake, peach shortcake.
- Boston Cream Pie. Vanilla cream inserted between two layers of yellow cake with chocolate on top ... what's not to love? (TIP: This cake is delicious served cold to the point of frozen.) Variations include twinkee cake.
- Spice Cake. Variations include ginger cake (aka gingerbread), clove cake.
- Carrot Cake. Suppose I could list this as a variation of your basic spice cake, but the carrots add a heartiness and moistness that plain spice cake lacks. Variations include pumpkin cake, sweet potato cake, zucchini cake.
- Pecan Cake. ... by which I mean a cake prepared using pecan flour and then covered in a pecan/caramel frosting. Yellow cake works well as a base; spice cake works even better! Variations include hazelnut cake, almond cake, walnut cake, pistachio cake.
- Cinnamon Coffee Cake. I've seen all kinds of things added to the recipe - berries, apple, pecans, etc. It's all good. For special occassions mom used to bake a version she got from the side panel of a box of bisquik. It was so buttery, it would have made even Paula Dean swoon. Variations include streussel cake.
- Mousse cake. Basically, any cake with layers of mousse and topped with a mousse frosting. It's two desserts in one! Variations include chocolate mousse cake, raspberry mousse cake.
- Caramel cake. You swirl the caramel into the batter, and then finish it off with a caramel/nut frosting. Genius. Variations include butterscotch cake, candy cakes.
- Apple Cake. These are especially good with a nutty caramel frosting, and are perfect for fall. Variations include pear cake, banana cake, cranberry cake, blueberry cake, apricot cake, blueberry cake, raspberry cake.
- Sour Cream Pound Cake. Your basic pound cake recipe but with sour cream substituted for some of the oil and water. Adds a great richness to the flavor. Variations include cream cheese cake, applesauce cake, yogurt cake, pudding cake.
- Whiskey cake. My grandmom used to make this one. She swore the whiskey evaporated during baking but my sister and I used to pretend to be tipsy after imbibing a piece. Variations include rum cake, marguerita cake, bourbon cake, beer cake, wine cake, champagne cake, sherry cake.
- Apricot brandy cake. I should probably expand this category to include all cakes that combine fruit with booze (though apricot and brandy are the best combo I've ever run across). As anyone whose favorite part of a mixed drink is the fruit at the bottom of the glass knows, fruit and booze make a great combo.
- Marble cake. The trick with marble cake is to swirl together two kinds of cake batter. The result is delicious and colorful. Variations include chess cake, rainbow cake.
- Red Velvet cake. This is basically a devil's food cake with red food coloring added to the batter, but it gets its own category because it's always been one of my favorites. The contrast of the red cake and the white frosting makes my mouth water!
- Mocha Cake. Variations include Black Russian cake, cappucino cake, tiramisu cake.
- Amaretto Cake. My wedding cake contained a whole bottle of amaretto. Not sure if the guests realized, but I can tell you that in all my life I've never seen a wedding cake consumed so quickly! Variations include khalua cake, creme de menthe cake, eggnog cake, irish cream cake.
- Dump Cake. Presumably called this because the idea is to take a basic cake mix and then "dump" stuff into the batter - chips, nuts, pieces of candy, crushed cookies, fruit, raisins, etc. Variations include chocolate chip cake, cookies & cream cake.
- Ice cream cake. Like mousse cake, it's two desserts in one. My mom was making them long before you could pick one up at the Baskin Robbins on your way home. Variations include baked alaska.
Don't see your favorite here? Let me know! Hate to think that I might be missing out on something good.