Cake ideas: 36 quirky and unique cakes and bakes

If you've mastered all the classic cake recipes and want to take your cake baking and cake decorating skills to the next level, why not try one of these unusual cake ideas.

A Reese's peanut butter cake, pig cake pops, hamburger cupcakes and a polka dot cake
A Reese's peanut butter cake, pig cake pops, hamburger cupcakes and a polka dot cake
(Image credit: Future)

If you've mastered all the classic cake recipes and want to take your cake baking and cake decorating skills to the next level, why not try one of these unusual cake ideas. 

“Quirky cake flavours that taste good will make your cake stand out and spark conversation. The secret is to make sure they balance each other out. Like chilli and chocolate – you get the heat but the sweet and rich chocolate makes sure it’s still delicious,” says Caroline Hartley from The Happy Food Kitchen. “If you are looking for inspiration from popular confectionery, think sour rhubarb and creamy custard – or cocktails are a good place to start. Also consider where flavours are combined in other cuisines – like coconut and lime.” 

Another way to bring more excitement to your bakes is by making supersized versions of classic biscuits and chocolate bars. “Try giant Jaffa Cakes, a bumper size Twix or a cake version of a Wagon Wheel. Even common dunking biscuits are stunning when they are supersized,” says Caroline. “If you’re struggling for an idea for a celebration cake for someone this can be a fun and personal take on a cake, especially if you know they always have a certain biccie in their biscuit barrel.” 

And you don’t have to be Great British Bake Off material to give them a go, either. “If you don’t feel you’re too great with a piping bag, then get artistic with decorations which just need to be placed on top. Arranging chocolate bars and biscuits on top adds height and interest, as well as something for non-cake fans (if there is such a thing!). Cut them to varying heights and layer for a decadent look. Fresh or pressed edible flowers, berries and other fruit are also great additions and it is great to keep them seasonal.” 

Cake ideas: Quirky and unique cakes and bakes

Made with orange marmalade and chocolate ganache, this is one up on the brilliance of a simple Jaffa Cake

1. Jaffa Cake drizzle loaf

Serves: 10 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 1 hr 25 mins 

There are few things in life that bring more simple pleasure than a Jaffa Cake (or three) with a cup of tea, but we are going to put it out there and say this tops it – and it’s only marginally less simple to put together (and totally worth the light effort). 

A simple orange sponge is topped with marmalade – we recommend Bonne Maman – and covered with a chocolate ganache. And can we suggest topping it with actual Jaffa Cakes, if we may be so bold?

Get the recipe: Jaffa Cake drizzle loaf

A birthday essential for all peanut butter and chocolate lovers

2. Reese's chocolate peanut butter cake

Serves: 12 | Skill level: Medium | Total time: 1 hr 50 mins 

Reese’s peanut butter cups are an American import that have been heartily embraced over here in recent times, and are given a lot of much-deserved glory in this cake, worthy of making for a peanut butter lover’s birthday very special (it goes without saying that it mustn't be served around any allergy sufferers, of course). 

A cocoa sponge is covered in peanut butter buttercream and a chocolate ganache and topped with halved peanut butter cups. You could add other delights like the colourful candy of Reese’s Pieces on the topping, too. 

Get the recipe: Reese's chocolate peanut butter cake

A choc and coffee sponge topped with Oreos, what's not to love?

3. Oreo cake

Serves: 12-14 | Skill level: Medium | Total time: 2 hr 25 mins 

Basically like an Oreo in cake form, the cocoa and coffee-infused sponge, is filled with a vanilla buttercream and topped with a mix of mini and full-sized Oreos. 

Simple but effective and looks like you have gone to a lot of effort. Perfect for a birthday party or any family celebration and will please little ones and big ones equally. 

Get the recipe: Oreo cake

An American classic, this fridge cake is easy, effective and delicious

4. Icebox cake

Serves: 12 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 30 mins, plus overnight chilling

An icebox is a fridge cake that has been popular in the US since the 1930s, where it was named after the cool boxes used before mass refrigeration. Basically layers of wafers or biscuits with cream, this version features a mere six ingredients and is heavy on the ol’ caramel, featuring choc caramel digestives sandwiched between layers of cream mixed with the God of sweet sauces, dulce du leche. 

Topped with cubes or caramel and grated chocolate, after a night in the fridge, it’ll come out looking fancy for minimal effort. It’s very rich, so a little will go a long way, too. 

Get the recipe: Icebox cake

Chocolate Creme Egg cake

A Creme Egg cake is for life, not just for Easter!

5. Chocolate Creme Egg cake

Serves: 12 | Skill level: Medium | Total time: 1 hr 50 mins 

An obvious one for Easter, it could equally be adapted to any other time of year – swap the Creme Eggs for anything else with a gooey centre – Munchies? – or even without – Maltesers, M&Ms, chopped up Snickers, crumbled Flakes, you get the idea. A simple chocolate cake with a cream filling and a ganache top , you can also pop crumbled pieces of your topping of choice into the cream centre.

Get the recipe: Chocolate Creme Egg cake

A brilliant choice to inspire awe in your party guests

6. Anti-gravity cake

Serves: 12 | Skill level: Medium | Total time: 2 hrs

This amazing anti-gravity cake will give you some serious kudos with the kids at a birthday party, so it’s well worth the effort. “This is a really simple way of making a showstopping cake kids especially will enjoy,” says Caroline Hartley. Learn how to make your own in 7 simple steps. 

Made with whatever sponge you fancy (though chocolate fudge is an obvious choice), the secret is a couple of straws stuck into the cake which you stick your chocolate of choice to, and then pop the empty bag on the top so it looks like they’ve all just tumbled out. It could be done with chocolate buttons, but we highly recommend Smarties or M&Ms to make everything wonderfully rainbow coloured. 

Get the recipe: Anti-gravity cake

Rhubarb and custard cake bars

Retro flavours that combine together perfectly

7. Rhubarb and custard cake bars

Serves: 12 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 2 hr 15 mins 

A flavour combo of utter joy, we all love a rhubarb and custard dessert, or those sweets from the jars in old-fashioned candy shops. And now, we can have it in a cake bar too, with both fresh rhubarb and rhubarb jam with this custard sponge. Excellent to give as a gift, in a box wrapped with ribbon, or to make when friends are coming for a frothy coffee and a chat.

Get the recipe: Rhubarb and custard cake bars

This polka dot cake isn't just dotty on the outside, it's dotty on the inside

Serves: 12 | Skill level: Medium | Total time: 3 hours

You need plenty of patience and prep time for this one, but it’s an absolute triumph when it's done because, not only is it fantastically dotty on the outside, it’s even dotty on the inside. “Making sure the inside of the cake is as fab as the outside is such a treat when it is cut and looks really clever. But there are very simple techniques anyone can master to make this professional effect,” explains Caroline Hartley. 

This is done by adding brightly coloured cake balls (ideally you’ll use a cake pop machine but it’s not crucial) into the middle of the cake mixture before baking. Not something you knock up for anything other than a party or occasion – because it must be shown off to as big an audience as possible!

Get the recipe: Polka dot cake

Treacle bundt cake with limoncello drizzle

A moist treacle cake infused with the Italian liqueur

9. Treacle bundt cake with limoncello drizzle

Serves: 12 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 1 hr 10 mins 

A bundt is so called because of the shape of the cake pan it’s cooked in – like a doughnut with a hole in the middle and, as the name would suggest, it hails from Germany. But this cake also gives a nod to another European nation – the USP here is the use of limoncello, the sweet, lemony Italian liqueur from Amalfi, which, combined with crystallised ginger, makes a tangy drizzle for the dark, moist treacle cake. 

Get the recipe: Treacle bundt cake with limoncello drizzle

Cupcake batter infused with cola, and topped with ice cream

10. Coke float cupcakes

Serves: 12 | Skill level: Medium | Total time: 1 hr 20 mins 

Inspired by the old school dessert of a glass of cola fizzing with a dollop of vanilla ice cream, these cupcakes contain Coca Cola (other brands are, of course, available) in the batter and are topped with a scoop of ice cream – alas, they must be served immediately – and a glacé cherry popped on top. Get the cute, retro red and white striped cupcake cases and the paper straws from Amazon. 

Get the recipe: Coke float cupcakes

The beetroot brings moisture and goodness to the cake mix

11. Beetroot and chocolate cake

Serves: 6-8 | Skill level: Medium | Total time: 2 hr 15 mins 

We never bargain on getting one of our five a day in cake form, but beetroot is a marvellously moist addition to a sponge, adding colour and depth of flavour (and, as much as we love beetroot, we are happy to report that it doesn’t actually taste of it). Filled with buttercream and cherry jam, you can freestyle on decoration, but edible flowers are a lovely touch that make it look super special. 

“For some reason people feel weird about vegetables in cakes when carrot cake is a commonly loved cake. Vegetables seldom add anything other than sweetness to a cake and provide lots of moisture which means less fat is needed,” says Caroline Hartley.

Get the recipe: Beetroot and chocolate cake

A retro classic, with a Caribbean feel

12. Lorraine Pascale's upside-down cake

Serves: 6-8 | Skill level: Medium | Total time: 1 hr  

Lorraine has gone 70s retro with this wonderful upside cake, using tinned pineapple rings and a generous splash of rum, Caribbean style. The key is to caramelise the pineapple for a wonderfully sticky and sweet taste and texture. She suggests serving with mascarpone, but you could also use cream, creme fraiche or vanilla or raspberry ice cream. A definite talking point for a dinner party.

Get the recipe: Lorraine Pascale's upside down cake

Chilli and chocolate is an unlikely but brilliant combo

13. Dark chocolate and chilli cupcakes

Serves: 12 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 50 mins 

The Latin Americans know a thing or two about making use of chocolate and chilli as a combo, and these cupcakes work a treat, containing two whole red chillies in the mix. Perfect for anyone who loves a bit of spice and isn’t a fan of overly sugary treats, you can use sugar paste to fashion chilli shapes for the tops, which look super sweet. Sugar and spice, quite literally.

Get the recipe: Dark chocolate and chilli cupcakes

Homemade Twix

A brilliant one for a bake sale

14. Homemade Twix

Serves: 10-12 | Skill level: Medium | Total time: 1 hr

If there’s one thing more satisfying than a Twix bar with your coffee, it’s a homemade Twix bar with your coffee. And, if you didn’t know already, this recipe will teach you how to make caramel, an excellent skill to have in any baker’s armour. These are a brilliant, novel cake to make for a bake sale or for a picnic, as a gift for friends or neighbours or just to have tucked in the fridge for a mid-afternoon livener.  

Get the recipe: Homemade Twix

All things green make for a tasty cupcake with zing

15. Courgette and lime muffins

Serves: 12 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 50 mins 

Courgette in a cake? Sure. These cupcakes combine courgette with lime to make tangy, moist muffins that are perfect served with a cuppa. It's an ingenious way to sneak some extra veggies into the kids' diet, too. The icing is super easy too, with just cream cheese, icing sugar and lime zest and juice.  

“Courgettes can make for a moist, rich cake with depth and I bet you would never guess what the secret veggie ingredient was,” says Caroline Hartley.

Get the recipe: Courgette and lime muffins

Citrus olive oil cake

16. Citrus olive oil cake

Serves: 8 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 55 mins 

Who needs butter when you can use olive oil instead? This recipe swaps the bad fats for good ones and adds the zest of an orange and lemon for extra zing. You'll feel weird using oil at first but we guarantee you'll be pleasantly surprised with the results, and it’s far healthier than your average cake. 

Sometimes simple is best and this cake is transporting us to a terrace overlooking a Sicilian olive grove. You could decorate the top with orange and lemon slices or some icing infused with citrus fruits, if you fancy. 

Get the recipe: Citrus olive oil cake


These burger cakes are a work of genius

Serves: 12 | Skill level: Medium | Total time: 40 mins 

“Presentation is everything and thinking about unusual ways to present simple cakes is a great way to make them more special,”  says Caroline Hartley. And it doesn’t get much more unusual than a cupcake disguised as a hamburger. A delicious, double chocolate chip cookie is the 'burger' and honey cupcakes are halved as the 'buns'. 

Sprinkle with sesame seeds to mimic a seeded burger bun and use red and yellow coloured icing as ketchup and mustard (not forgetting green dyed desiccated coconut for lettuce) Ingenious and essential for the next kid’s party you plan.

Get the recipe: Hamburger cupcakes

Apple sponge, custard buttercream and a crumble topping

18. Apple crumble cupcakes

Serves: 12 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 1 hr 5 mins 

If you love a classic apple crumble after your roast on a Sunday then you’ll be all over these clever sweet treats. An apple sponge, custard buttercream and a buttery crumble topping, they’re perfect for a summer dessert when a steaming pudding covered in custard is a little too hot for comfort. They’re super cute, too.

Get the recipe: Apple crumble cupcakes

This cake contains canned tomato soup – strange but brilliant

19. Tomato soup cake

Serves: 10-12 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 40 mins 

We know, we know, it sounds odd, but stick with us here. The tomato soup (the recipe uses half a can of soup, so you can have the rest for lunch tomorrow…)  adds a red tint to the sponge along with making it extra moist and spongy, and a little spicy (in a good way), complemented by the cinnamon. Dusted in icing sugar, this recipe is a quirky keeper, and it’s lower fat than most cakes, so perfect if you’re a calorie watcher. A most excellent talking point, too. 

Get the recipe: Tomato soup cake

Rainbow cake

Brightly coloured sponges sandwiched together makes for a very happy birthday cake

20. Candace Brown’s rainbow cake

The Bake Off winner knows a thing or two about showstoppers, and this cake is up there with the best of them. Give your friends and family a surprise with this creative rainbow cake, made up of multi coloured sponges that looks way more clever and complex than it actually is. 

You just mix the ingredients for the sponge, divide it into sections and get busy with different primary hued colouring pastes.  Covered in buttercream, you can decorate it however you wish on the top, just be sure to make it multicoloured.

Get the recipe: Rainbow cake

Spiced squash ring cake

This veggie cake is moist and tasty, with a cream cheese and caramel topping

21. Spiced squash ring cake

Serves: 12 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 1 hr 20 mins 

Butternut squash might seem an unlikely baking ingredient but it adds a delicious moist texture to the sponge. Topped with a thick cream cheese frosting and drizzled with caramel, this cake will be so well received by your guests, or to share at a picnic or gathering – no one will believe it's actually made with vegetables. It can easily be frozen to brighten up another day, too. 

Get the recipe: Spiced squash ring cake

easter cupcakes: cupcake bouquet

Perfect for a special birthday, how pretty is this, and literally good enough to eat

22. Cupcake bouquet

Serves: 20 | Skill level: Medium | Total time: 1 hr 50 mins 

One to try for crafty types, we can’t deny this is time consuming but it’s so worth the effort for a special occasion, like a loved one’s birthday or for Mother’s Day. These floral-style decorated cupcakes are presented like a bouquet of flowers, because who needs flowers when you can have cakes that are just as pretty? (and taste a damn sight better, too). Beautiful. 

Get the recipe: Cupcake bouquet

Hidden shape cupcakes

These clever cupcakes have hidden butterflies inside

23. Hidden butterfly cupcakes

Serves: 12 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 2 hr 20 mins 

These hidden butterfly cupcakes are a great way of adding a bit of character to your average batch of vanilla sponges. Because, surprise, each cupcake has a hidden pink butterfly inside. Not as complicated as they appear, you’ll just need to make two sponges and colour one pink (or another colour of your choice), and then cut out that one with a butterfly cookie cutter. Great for a kid’s or teen’s birthday party. You could try this recipe with hidden hearts too, or any other shape.  

Get the recipe: Hidden butterfly cupcakes

This cake takes a mere three minutes to cook

24. Mug cake

Serves: 1 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 10 mins 

Cake... In a mug? Yes, really! That cooks in three minutes? Yup, indeed. This delicious mug cake is so simple to make – you mix all the ingredients in your chosen mug and cook it in the microwave, 3 mins later, you've got mug cake. Once you know how easy it is, it’s kinda dangerous – it doesn’t take much longer than boiling the kettle for a cuppa to go with it, after all.

Get the recipe: Mug cake

25. Pimms cupcakes

Serves: 12 | Skill level: Medium | Total time: 1 hr 45 mins 

“Boozy buns and cocktail cupcakes are a fab way to make cakes more adult! You can use the alcohol or a non alcoholic version of the drink and decorate in the way that drink would be presented too. Great for parties, they are always a talking point,”  says Caroline Hartley. 

Summer just isn't summer without a tall glass of Pimms in the great outdoors, and these cupcakes are the perfect accompaniment. Topped with fresh mint, cucumber, strawberries and orange, these cupcakes have all the flavours of the classic cocktail. Perfect to serve at a garden party, or as dessert after a barbecue. 

Get the recipe: Pimms cupcakes

Strawberry cupcakes topped with cream and meringue

26. Eton mess cupcakes

Serves: 12 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 45 mins 

That quintessential British summer dessert, but in cake form. These cupcakes are topped with vanilla buttercream, with pieces of meringue, fresh strawberries and strawberry sauce. We wonder whether the posh boys of Eton and Harrow will be enjoying these cupcakes to boost their energy during their annual cricket match, as is tradition. 

Get the recipe: Eton mess cupcakes

Strawberry and basil cupcakes

Basil brings a new dimension to a fruity cupcake 

27. Strawberry basil cupcakes

Serves: 6 | Skill level: Medium | Total time: 1 hr 15 mins 

One of those things that probably shouldn’t work but, somehow just makes perfect sense,  a whole bunch of basil is infused with the milk that is added to the cupcakes and brings a herby twist. A  great way to update your cupcakes with a weird and wonderful flavour. 

Just don’t forget to decorate them with fresh strawberries when in season, and pop on a little basil leaf or two for greenery, and to bring the whole thing together.

Get the recipe: Strawberry basil cupcakes

Bacon goes surprisingly well with sweet flavours

28. Banana and bacon muffins

Serves: 10 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 45 mins 

Well, if the Americans can eat bacon on pancakes with maple syrup, then we can surely include it in our breakfast muffins. The perfect combo of sweet and savoury, these muffins also include cheddar cheese and banana, (yes, banana) and the soft fruit and salty meat really does work well together. Alas, if you’re veggie, you will want to opt for our regular banana muffins instead.

Get the recipe: Banana and bacon muffins

Chocolate Guinness cupcakes

A sweet celebration of stout

29. Guinness cupcakes

Serves: 12 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 25 mins 

A most excellent choice for St Patrick’s Day, or to gift to your Irish friends, or anyone at all who loves a nice glass of stout, these cupcakes are adult-only (isn’t it nice not to share your bakes with kids for once?). The Guinness helps make the cakes light and airy. Decorate with chocolate buttercream and brighten up the topping with a shamrock and some edible glitter.

Get the recipe: Guinness cupcakes

These wonderful pig pops are perfect for a kid's party or bake sale

30. Pig cake pops

Serves: 48 | Skill level: Medium | Total time: 2 hrs 

Cake pops are a great way of turning leftover cake into sweet treats, and they look so cute and super effective on display at a kid’s birthday party. Follow the basic cake pop recipe before the slightly fiddly but  satisfying experience of creating the piggy faces. You can do this for other farm animals too – try these sheep cake pops. Then, just sit back watch the kids' faces light up in wonder at how very clever you are.

Get the recipe: Pig cake pops

Giant cupcake recipe

Why have mini cupcakes when you have a massive one?

31. Giant cupcake

Serves: 10 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 1 hr 10 mins 

A big cake in the shape of a cupcake? Sure, why not? All you need is a giant cupcake mould and a steady hand for piping the buttercream. Giant cupcakes are perfect for special occasions, you will just need to remember that it is not a solo treat and you are required to share it with all your friends! A brilliant one for a tea party. 

Get the recipe: Giant cupcake

Baileys no-bake cheesecake

Creamy Bailey's Irish cream is perfect in a cheesecake

32. Bailey's no-bake cheesecake

Serves: 12 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 1 hr 20 mins 

Bailey's in a cheesecake? Now that we think about it, it makes sense – it’s like a boozy dessert masquerading as a drink, after all.  Ths delicious, no-bake recipe is perfect for dinner parties, especially if your oven skills aren’t up to much, as all you need to operate is the fridge! A thick, creamy cheesecake centre with a buttery biscuit base, it’s covered in grated chocolate and looks super sophisticated despite being super easy to make. Which is always going to be a winner.

Get the recipe: Baileys no-bake cheesecake

Mini Egg brownie tart

Use M&Ms or Smarties instead of mini eggs, for a year-round treat

33. No bake chocolate tart

Serves: 12 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 1 hr

This chocolate ganache tart is a little different from the norm, thanks to the addition of mixed spice and lemon thyme in the mix. It’s a no-bake cake, and is perfect for Easter, with mini chocolate eggs in the mix, but would be great at any time of year – you could add Revels, nutty M&Ms, smarties or any other candy-encased chocolates in to the mix for pops of colour and flavour And, as it’s a fridge bake, it’s an easy one for even the most amateur of bakers. 

Get the recipe: No bake Easter chocolate tart

A brilliant riff on a classic biscuit

34. Giant Bourbon biscuit

Serves: 16-20 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 30 mins 

A great birthday cake idea for anyone who loves a Bourbon dunked in their tea, this would also be a winner for any bake sale. Two cocoa sponges are spread with chocolate spread and decorated with letter cutters. Simple, and very effective. 

Get the recipe: Giant Bourbon biscuit


A patriotic cake for any suitable celebration

35. Union Jack cake

Serves: 18 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 1 hr 50 mins 

OK, so it’s going to be a little while before we have another jubilee to celebrate, but there’s always some reason to bust out a flag cake, whether it’s marking a sporting occasion, or welcoming someone home from a long trip overseas. The blueberry, raspberry and strawberry topping is striking, yet easy to do, and even helps with your five a day. A cake with a royal seal of approval. 

Get the recipe: Union Jack cake

A biscuit icon, now in cake form

36. Giant peanut butter KitKat Chunky

Serves: 12 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 25 mins, plus 30 mins setting time

That most classic of sweet treats reimagined in cake form. A brilliant idea for a birthday party (so long as there are no peanut allergic guests, remember), it’s quirky, fun and pretty straightforward to make. You’ll just need to invest in some letter cutters, to make the top with the Kit Kat sign, if you don’t already have any. Wonderful, and mightily tasty, too.

Get the recipe: Giant peanut butter KitKat Chunky

From how to cut a birthday cake to top tips for making kid's birthday cakes, we're here to make baking that little bit easier. We've also got a great collection of kid's birthday cake ideas as well as easy ways to decorate cupcakes with kids which are sure to inspire the bakers among us.

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.