26 showstopping kid's birthday cakes you can easily do yourself (including a cheat's no-bake train cake using Mini Rolls)

Think Oreo cake, giant rainbow cupcake, pick & mix cake, and many more. There are some serious Brownie points to be won with this lot...

No-bake train cake
(Image credit: TI Media Limited)

You've been tasked with making your kid's birthday cake this year and looking for some showstopping inspiration, well, you've come to the right place. 

From a no-bake train cake for those with a fear of ovens and soggy bottoms to a clever anti-gravity cake that will boggle your little ones' minds, we've got you – and your small party guests – covered with our range of statement cakes to stand proudly on your kid's party food table. And you'll be glad to know that all include top tips for making your kid's birthday cake that little bit easier.

There are ideas to suit everyone from total novice bakers to those who could give a Bake Off contestant a run for their money, all of which will be the star of the show amidst all the other party buffet food. And speaking of Bake Off, we've got cakes from the tent's most famous inhabitant, Nadiya Hussain, and another show winner, Jo Wheatley. 

We also spoke to expert baker, Sophia Butler, who makes cakes for children's parties at The Sugar Tea Room to get her take on making a kid's birthday cake; "Vanilla cakes are the easiest to bake and decorate," says Sophia. "A simple all-in-one recipe, with equal flour, butter, sugar, eggs, and a splash of vanilla extract makes the best sponge. Add some jam or buttercream in the middle and the cake will be perfect!" 

Here are our best kid's birthday cake recipes and ideas for you to recreate at home...

Birthday cake ideas for kids

Jo Wheatley’s rainbow vanilla sponge

A bright winner – and one that is perfectly acceptable if it looks a but 'rustic' 

1. Jo Wheatley’s rainbow vanilla sponge

Serves: 8-10 | Prep time: 45 mins | Cook time: 25 mins

This adorable and very fun cake comes courtesy of The Great British Bake Off winner Jo Wheatley (you'll need to cast your mind back as far as 2011 for that one). It's a great one for less confident bakers, as the sponge is a basic – and classic vanilla, and there's no fancy fondant work – it's just about ready-to-roll icing and Smarties. You'll need some blue food colouring for the buttercream. Making the rainbow is a little fiddly but not at all complex, and is secured in place with cocktail sticks, disguised with buttercream clouds.

Get the recipe: Jo Wheatley’s rainbow vanilla sponge

No-bake train cake

Too cute and zero baking – we're making this immediately, birthday or no birthday

(Image credit: TI Media Limited)

2. No-bake train cake

Serves: 6-8 | Prep time: 1 hour 

If you're not so hot on the old baking skills, you'll be on the right track (sorry) by putting together this showstopper made entirely from shop-bought cakes and biscuits you can find at any supermarket – or even in the corner shop if you're tight on time. It's a chance to exercise your creative skills without concerns for soggy bottoms or burnt sponges, and it's super fun to put together with the kids. The result is next level.

Get the recipe: No-bake train cake

Pink wafer ice-cream cake

A fabulous cake effect with the vanilla ice cream sandwiched between strawberry 'sponge' – you'll just be needing a deep baking tin

(Image credit: TI Media Limited)

3. Pink wafer ice-cream cake

Serves: 12 | Prep time: 1 hour, plus overnight freezing

Made from shop-bought strawberry and vanilla ice cream (though you could switch out for other flavours), this ice cream cake is simpler than it looks and will be a triumph with the kids. Best suited for a party at home, as it won't easily be transportable, make it the day before the big reveal, as it needs to be set in the freezer overnight. Great for summer parties.

Get the recipe: Pink wafer ice cream cake

Oreo layer cake

An Oreo fan's taste of paradise

(Image credit: TI Media Limited)

4. Oreo layer cake

Serves: 12-14 | Prep time: 1 hour 30 mins | Cook time: 55 mins

Oreo enthusiasts will be utterly thrilled with this towering Oreo cake because it's not just topped with Oreos (that do indeed have sprinkles stuck to them, just when you thought they couldn't love them more), but also contains them crushed into the frosting. Delicious!

Get the recipe: Oreo layer cake

Stained glass cake

One for older kids, who will be better equipped to enjoy these not-actually-glass shards

(Image credit: TI Media Limited)

5. Stained glass cake

Serves: 16 | Prep time: 1 hour 20 mins | Cook time: 1 hour 10 mins

A stained glass window in cake form? Sure. This glorious design would work just as well for an adult birthday celebration. The almond sponge is a relatively simple one (note to self to check any nut allergies before serving) and the shards are made from melted boiled sweets – multi-coloured obvs – with liquid glucose. The best bit? Once set and cooled, smash them into shards to decorate the cake. 

Get the recipe: Stained glass cake

Nadiya Hussain's confetti birthday cake

Hidden fruit in the frosting means this cake is practically a health food…

(Image credit: TI Media Limited)

6. Nadiya Hussain's confetti birthday cake

Serves: 12 | Prep time: 35 mins | Cook time: 25 mins

Nadiya knows a thing or two about a special celebration cake (as the late Queen would have testified), and our favourite thing about this pastel wonder is that the colour isn't from artificial food colouring – the pink comes courtesy of using real strawberries. So, it's basically good for you, right? A simple bake perfect for amateur bakers. Just don't forget the sprinkles.

Get the recipe: Nadiya Hussain's confetti birthday cake

Digger cake

Simple and adorable – let's do this!

7. Digger cake

Serves: 6-8 | Prep time: 40 mins | Cook time: 20 mins

Make a simple cocoa sponge (or even buy one – bad bakers rejoice!) and transform it into this seriously impressive digger cake using chocolate fingers, crumbled Oreos, and your kid's favourite mini toys. The chocolate finger fence keeps all the 'rubble' in place. A bit of housekeeping – don't forget to give those toys a good wash and a soak in boiling water to sterilise them. Oh, and remind the little ones that they aren't actually edible…

Get the recipe: Digger cake

Smarties chocolate finger cake

A classic party cake, and a real treat for the taste buds

(Image credit: Getty Images)

8. Chocolate fingers cake

Serves: 8 | Prep time: 30 mins | Cook time: 25 mins

An absolute classic kid's birthday party favourite is this choc sponge, wrapped in a fence of chocolate fingers and topped with a ton of Smarties (don't be shy) and other sweets. Choose a selection – Maltesers, marshmallows, Dolly Mixtures, jellies, whatever takes your fancy – and they can either be compartmentalised into sections or just all piled on together for ease. Divine. 

Get the recipe: Chocolate fingers cake

rainbow layer cake

Another classic delight of a cake

(Image credit: TI Media)

9. Rainbow cake

Serves: 15 | Prep time: 15 mins | Cook time: 40 mins

Easier than it looks, the biggest challenge here is finding five cake tins to bake the different colour sponges (and remembering how to make colours from other colours, to not overspend on food colourings!). Stick the sponges together with a layer of lemon curd for a little tang and some extra sweetness, spread over the frosting, roll in sprinkles, and await squeals of delight.

Get the recipe: Rainbow cake

Birthday present cake

One for those who know their way around a piece of fondant – isn't it glorious?

(Image credit: Future)

10. Birthday present cake

Serves: 8-10 | Prep time: 1 hour 30 mins (plus various chilling times) | Cook time: 25 mins

One for those who are a dab hand with the fondant, this impressive creation takes a bit of patience and skill. Still, the step-by-step hand-holding instructions mean even those with neither can give it a good go so, if you fancy channeling your inner Bake Off contestant, then knock yourself out. It's a labour of love and one that is well worth it.

Get the recipe: Birthday present cake

Polka dot cake

Yep, we're going dotty for this bake

11. Polka dot cake

Serves: 16 | Prep time: 3 hours | Cook time: 35 mins

One for those with plenty of baking kit (think a cake pop-making machine) at their disposal, and a reasonable amount of time and skill, this stunning cake is well worth going the extra mile. After making the multi-coloured cake pops, they're added to the regular batter, for a brilliant polka-dotted sponge effect. Once cooled, the cake is covered in buttercream and circles of multi-coloured cut-out fondant. A spot of joy.

Get the recipe: Polka dot cake

Marshmallows chocolate cake

You can never go far wrong with a marshmallow

(Image credit: Future)

12. Chocolate and marshmallow birthday cake

Makes/serves: 10 | Prep time: 40 mins | Cook time: 55 mins

An easy one that will be every bit as loved as a fancy, time-consuming bake, this choc cake topped with fresh cream and marshmallows won't keep long, but that's hardly a worry as the kids will likely snaffle it in record time. The sponge contains ground almonds so be sure to check in about the party guests' dietary requirements.

Get the recipe: Chocolate and marshmallow birthday cake

Chocolate giant cupcake

If there's one thing we enjoy more than a cupcake, it's a giant cupcake…

13. Giant chocolate cupcake

Serves: 12 | Prep time: 25 mins | Cook time: 50 mins

A cupcake for 12 you say? And why not? This recipe could be adapted for any flavour sponge and variety of toppings. The key piece of the kit is a giant cupcake mould (these can be bought on Amazon) – other than that, it's the same as prepping any other cake. Cover with a chocolate ganache and pipe buttercream on top and you're good to go. 

Get the recipe: Giant chocolate cupcake

Chocolate cola cake

We don't need an excuse to buy cola bottles, but we're always glad to have one

(Image credit: TI Media Limited)

14. Chocolate cola cake

Serves: 12 | Prep time: 1 hour | Cook time: 30 mins

An excellent use for that flat bottle of cola in the fridge (or if you don't have a flat one, make sure you pour it out a while in advance to de-fizz a little), this basic choc sponge is livened up with a glass of iconic pop, giving it the edge over a bog standard chocolate cake. Decorate with cola bottles (feel free to add fizzy ones too) and other chocolates of choice. 

Get the recipe: Chocolate cola cake

Pinata cake

Well, this will be a nice surprise when sliced…

15. Piñata cake

Serves: 12 | Prep time: 1 hour | Cook time: 25 mins

If there's one thing a kid loves more than a piñata, it's a piñata in cake form. And, while this might feel complicated, it's essentially a regular sponge, hollowed out, filled with a mix of sweets, and covered in buttercream. Never mind the kids, we want one for our next birthday celebration, please.

Get the recipe: Piñata cake

Giant rainbow cupcake

The kids will be over the moon, never mind the rainbow

16. Giant rainbow cupcake

Serves: 8 | Prep time: 50 mins | Cook time: 45 mins

Using a giant cupcake mould, this is a rainbow cake in a new guise. The recipe uses nine multi-coloured layers, but you could do less to save time and lessen the fiddly stuff. Sprinkle with Skittles and any other candies of choice (being colourful is the only stipulation) and stick a big candle with the birthday child's age on top. Delightful.

Get the recipe: Giant rainbow cupcake

pick & mix chocolate and sweet cake

A penny mix up, in cake form

17. Pick and mix chocolate and sweet cake

Serves: 8 | Prep time: 30 mins | Cook time: 45 mins

A choc finger cake turned into a pick and mix counter? The dream. Use chocolate jazzies, Love Hearts, white chocolate mice, and all the classics, to fill separate sections of the topping. Looks so effective, and tastes so good. Choose whatever sponge you fancy, though chocolate is always a winner. The kids will be more fussed about the toppings, so it's even ok to just buy the cake. Win-win. 

Get the recipe: Pick and mix chocolate and sweet cake

rocky road cake

Don't mind if we do

(Image credit: Future)

18. Rocky road cake

Serves: 6 | Prep time: 25 mins | Cook time: 55 mins

Didn't think Rocky Road could be bettered? It just was… This is a chocolate sponge but with all the added joys of smashed biscuits, choc chips, and raisins (feel free to add glace cherries too, and to swap the digestives for ginger nuts, amaretti biscuits or any other cookies of choice). Drizzle over melted white choc and decorate with mini marshmallows – and you've got yourself a sure-fire hit.

Get the recipe: Rocky Road cake

Anti gravity cake

(Image credit: Future)

19. Anti gravity cake

Serves: 12 | Prep time: 45 mins

A clever-looking cake that requires very little cleverness as a baker. Make (or buy) a basic chocolate sponge, slather it in buttercream, pop some straws in it, and cover those in buttercream too, then stick on a very generous amount of M&Ms or Smarties. The kids will be mad about it and you'll feel like the most popular person in town, which is always nice. 

Get the recipe: Anti-gravity cake

Reese's Pieces peanut butter cake

A cake worth going nuts over

(Image credit: Future)

20. Reese's Pieces chocolate peanut butter cake

Serves: 16 | Prep time: 45 mins | Cook time: 45 mins

It goes without saying that this one needs an allergy warning but, now that we've got the non-fun stuff out of the way, let's crack on with celebrating this glorious cake. A rich chocolate cake covered in peanut butter flavoured buttercream, topped with a silky chocolate ganache, and topped with halved mini peanut butter cups in the ultimate celebration of America's iconic chocolate bar. Yes, please.

Get the recipe: Reese's Pieces chocolate peanut butter cake

Chocolate marble cake

Classy and very, very chocolatey

(Image credit: TI Media)

21. Chocolate marble cake

Serves: 12 | Prep time: 1 hour | Cook time: 1 hour 15 mins

A somewhat sophisticated bake that could be best suited to older kids and teens. The cake is marbled with a mix of dark choc and white choc sponges, covered in Nutella buttercream and a chocolate glaze, and decorated with homemade marbled chocolate shards. And that's rather a lot of chocolate, not that there's such a thing as too much chocolate, of course.

Get the recipe: Chocolate marble cake

Giant KitKat cake

If there's one thing better than a KitKat, it'll be a giant KitKat

(Image credit: Future)

22. Giant peanut butter Kit Kat Chunky

Serves: 12 | Prep time: 25 mins, plus setting time 

A fabulous-looking 'cake' (ok, actually a massive biscuit) that requires zilch in the way of baking.  It just needs wafer biscuits (we recommend hazelnut flavour, but it's down to personal preference), smooth peanut butter, and melted milk chocolate. Oh, and some cookie cutters to write KitKat on top of the cake. Wonderful. 

Get the recipe: Giant peanut butter Kit Kat Chunky

Chocolate explosion cake

Now we know what heaven looks like

(Image credit: TI Media Limited)

23. Chocolate explosion drip cake

Serves: 8 | Prep time: 1 hour | Cook time: 20 mins

Perfect for older kids, teens, and, frankly, adults, this drip cake is a sophisticated showstopper. A choc sponge, covered in buttercream and chocolate ganache, the big appeal is the topper filled with a variety of chocolate bars. Choose a mix of shapes and sizes – think everything from Galaxys to Curly Wurlys, Kinder Buenos to Ripples, as well as individual treats like Rolos, Maltesers, and choc pretzels. 

Get the recipe: Chocolate explosion drip cake

giant Rice Krispie cake

This fun, rustic cake is rice as nice

(Image credit: Future)

24. Giant Rice Krispie cake

Serves: 28 | Prep time: 20 mins, plus chilling 

It's easy, serves a lot of kids (so perfect for one of those big whole-class parties), and is very cheap to make. Win, win, win there, then. The drizzled-over chocolate is made from melted Mars Bars and you have free rein to decorate in whichever way your child's heart desires. Choc buttons, mini marshmallows, sprinkles, there are no rules…

Get the recipe: Giant Rice Krispie cake

Chocolate ganache cake

Not one, not two, but three different chocolate sponges – now you're just showing off

(Image credit: TI Media Limited)

25. Chocolate ganache cake

Serves: 15 | Prep time: 30 mins | Cook time: 35 mins

A three-sponge cake – with white, milk, and dark layers – is covered in a rich and silky ganache and topped with white chocolate stars. Of course, the topping could be switched out for whatever you like – crumbled-up Crunchie bars or Maltesers, choc chips, rainbow sprinkles, edible glitter – the choice is yours.

Get the recipe: Chocolate ganache cake

Nadiya Hussain's Halloween birthday cake

Spookily wonderful

(Image credit: Nadiya Hussain)

26. Nadiya Hussain's spiced pumpkin Halloween birthday cake

Serves: 20 | Prep time: 1 hour 10 mins | Cook time: 50 mins

An excellent one for an Autumnal birthday, but, really, this cutely spooky spider cake will go down a storm at any time of the year. The sponge features butternut squash or pumpkin (which if you're pulling a face, may we remind you how much you love carrot cake?) and the spiders are chocolate-covered Oreos with liquorice legs. Sweet, in more ways than one.

Get the recipe: Nadiya Hussain's spiced pumpkin Halloween birthday cake

Which type of cake is the best for serving at a kids birthday party?

"Vanilla sponge is the best cake to serve, as it is easy to bake and decorate, and can easily be made dairy free too or vegan for any dietary requirements," says Sophia Butler. A simple chocolate cake is always going to be a winner with children as well or, if your baking skills aren't up to scratch, try a fridge cake, like a rocky road, covered in sprinkles with some candles.

On average, how much does it cost to buy a kid's birthday cake?

Between £10 and £20. You can easily buy one for under £10 – a classic chocolate caterpillar cake costs £7.50 from Sainsbury's or Morrisons and it's perfectly possible to get a fancier cake for around £15 in most supermarkets. 

Getting a cake personalised will bump up the cost, as will buying it from a cake maker, who will make the cake individually to order and could charge anything from £30 up to £100 for the time taken to lovingly create it – plus you'll be supporting a small local business.

What is the easiest way to decorate a birthday cake?

'The easiest way to decorate a cake is to use buttercream and sprinkles," says Sophia Butler. "The choice of sprinkles in supermarkets has grown over the years with sprinkles to suit any party theme." Buttercream is the best choice if your piping or icing skills aren't great, as it's easy to spread over the cake and is perfectly ok looking a little rough and ready. And don't forget the candles (and matches!) – sounds obvious but it's very easily done.

Writer bio pic
Lara Kilner

"I'm often one for sticking to the bakes I know I can pull off – my trusty carrot cake recipe or the foolproof Victoria sponge mostly – but this collection is encouraging me to go off-piste and challenge myself for my daughter's next birthday celebration. At the moment, it's between the pick-n-mix cake and the Reese's Pieces cake (her brother will be fuming with jealousy), with a fallback of one of the inventive no-bake options in case of abject failure. Wish me luck."

For more birthday cake inspiration, how about trying to make your very own caterpillar cake or a masterpiece inspired by one of the best Frozen birthday cake ideas or Bluey birthday cake ideas

And don't forget to have a look at how to cut a birthday cake to make the most out of the cake and ensure everyone gets a slice in their party bags.

One of these tried and tested rainbow cakes could make a great base for your design too, or one of our tried and tested caterpillar cakes solves the dilemma without breaking a sweat.

Lara Kilner
Food Writer

Lara Kilner is a writer and editor with two decades of experience in national newspapers, magazines, and websites. She writes about food, lifestyle, travel, health and wellness, and entertainment, and regularly interviews celebrities and people with interesting life stories and experiences. Her foodie content has included interviews with Jamie Oliver, Rick Stein, Queer Eye’s food expert Antoni Porowski, the Hairy Bikers, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, Raymond Blanc, Andi Oliver, Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith, and Nadiya Hussain.