10 Genius Mother's Day Cake Recipes for Mom

May  5, 2019

Every week—often with your help—Food52's Creative Director Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius. Today: 10 cakes, each with the Genius seal of approval, just in time to save Mother's Day.

Still need a present for Mother's Day? Go bake her a cake. And for you moms out there—do you suspect your loved ones are running a little behind this year? Save them: request a cake.

Some of my happiest, most successful mom-oriented days involved baking my mother's favorite chocolate cake with a cream cheese ribbon—sometimes with her help, sometimes stumbling along on my own. I think she liked it easily as much as the awkward poems and framed photos, though I doubt she'd ever tell.

Shop the Story

I've rounded up some of the greatest cakes from the Genius Recipes column below, plus a few other favorites from around Food52. But what I really want to know is: what genius cake will you bake for your mother?

Amanda Hesser's Chocolate Dump-It Cake

Dump it cake from Food52

"My mother has many specialties, but her Chocolate Dump-It Cake is most beloved in my family," Amanda writes. "She kept this cake in the fridge, and it is sublime even when cold. I wrote about this cake in my second book, Cooking for Mr. Latte, but wanted to celebrate it here on Food52, as well."

Maialino's Olive Oil Cake

Olive oil cake from Food52

Olive oil cake at its best has a crackling crust and an aromatic oil-rich middle, which, if it held any more moisture, would be pudding. Pulling this off should be easy—there aren't even egg whites to whip and fold, or butter to cream—but it isn't always. This one, however, is perfect, and will ruin you for all others.

aargersi's Coconut Tres Leches

Tres leches from Food52

"I started making tres leches because it is my neighbor's favorite thing and I like her," says aargersi. "I started with Martha Stewart's recipe which is a great jumping off point—but it is not as juicy as a traditional tres leches, which you will find resting in a shallow lake of sweet milk. So I adjusted up for that, and here I have swapped in some coconut, some lime (because it is one of coconut's BFFs) and I used Tahitian vanilla which is a bit more floral than Mexican (but if you can't find it, go with whatcha got). It's rich and milky and coconutty and good. Ask the neighbors."

Margaret Fox's Amazon Cake

Amazon cake from Food52

Meet your new go-to birthday cake, bake sale cake, dinner party cake, late night snack cake—for when the fridge is at its barest and you need chocolate cake now. (It's also vegan and parve and dirt cheap, but you wouldn't know unless we told you.) This isn't not the richest, most chocolatey cake—if you like, you can amp up the chocolate by swapping in coffee for the water, or adding more cocoa. But you don't need to. It's a different animal: light, delicately strung together with cocoa, and not terribly sweet.

Lindsay-Jean Hard's Banana Cake with Penuche Frosting 

Banana cake from Food52

"I think of this as my grandmother's recipe," Lindsay-Jean writes, "but it's actually her mother's or her mother-in-law's...either way, it was a special cake that she would make for my father's birthday, as it's his favorite cake (and mine too). It's a simple seeming cake (no vanilla?! not a spice to be found?!), but it's like your favorite banana bread, only lighter and fluffier, and the frosting truly makes this cake."

Roberta's Parsley Cake

Parsley Cake from Food52

If we can put rosemary in our frozen yogurt and thyme in our cookies, there's nothing stopping parsley from treading over the line. It's festive and herb-forward, but also a bright spot at the end of a dense, salty meal.

Nigella Lawson's Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake

Loaf cake from Food52 

On creating this cake, Nigella Lawson explains, "I remember very strongly wanting to create what we call a loaf cake—and what is generally called a pound cake Stateside—that had a richness and squidginess of texture that this form of cake normally doesn't major in." And she did.

Cory Schreiber & Julie Richardson's Rhubarb Buckle With Ginger Crumb

Rhubarb buckle from Food52

There's a secret ingredient in here: ginger (times two). Fiery candied ginger is minced up in the crumb topping, and ground ginger in the cake too—just enough to give it a warm, flirty je ne sais quoi that doesn't try to shout over the rhubarb.

Nigel Slater's Extremely Moist Chocolate Beet Cake

Beet cake from Food52

Step aside, red velvet. It just so happens that the deep pink earthiness of a beet is surprisingly well suited for bittersweet chocolate. Crushed beets are also an inexpensive way to make a cake achingly moist, nearly molten. And you don't need all that red food coloring after all.

SML Office's Louisa's Cake

Louisa's cake from Food52

"Louisa is a family friend, gardener and chef from Castellina in Chianti, Italy, where we gather several times a year," recipe author Jennifer Wagner writes. "She cooks everything from memory and threw this together one night last spring. When we pressed her for the recipe she hastily rattled some ingredients off and we scrambled to write it all down on a napkin. Along with my husband and children, we've tested this cake about 6 times, and friends are constantly asking for the recipe."

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

Photos by James Ransom, except Louisa's Cake by Sarah Shatz

Order Now

The Genius Desserts cookbook is here! With more than 100 of the most beloved and talked-about desserts of our time (and the hidden gems soon to join their ranks) this book will make you a local legend, and a smarter baker to boot.

Order Now

Join the Conversation

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • t
  • Heather McLaughlin
    Heather McLaughlin
  • AntoniaJames
  • jane.coombs88
  • booglix
I'm an ex-economist, ex-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


t May 8, 2016
Nigella's cake is always a winner!
Heather M. April 30, 2014
I think I might try caramel cake with chocolate filling this year. I also have to decide if I want to do fondant or piped butter cream to decorated. Last year I did chocolate cake with butter cream frosting. I piped red, dark peach and yellow ribbon roses and drop flowers to match the bouquet of roses I got. My mom loved it.
AntoniaJames April 30, 2014
Alas, my mother is no longer with us, this being our first Mother's Day without her. In her memory, I will make one of her favorite desserts, Strawberry Shortcake. I'll be using the Genius James Beard version (of course), which I know she'd appreciate. I'll be using the Genius Nancy Silverton whipped cream, as well. Of course.

There's no "missing" like missing one's mother; this Mother's Day is testing my resolve to carry on as she would, "with hope and enthusiasm for the future." ;o)
Gary D. April 30, 2014
Antonia, do not kid yourself for even a moment, she is there with you. She is why you are who you are, at least in part. And the fact that you closely follow tradition speaks to the woman, and the daughter she raised. My mom has been away for years, but she is still here every day. I see her in myself and my daughter, when we cook together and especially when we play music and sign while doing it, like she always enjoyed. Peace on this excellent weekend, and notice the signs of her presence.
monica.clancy.54 May 3, 2014
Your Mother loved, taught and mentored you well. Her legacy will always be with you so in a sense she will always be there.
jane.coombs88 April 30, 2014
where is the spice cake? My fave...
Marian B. May 1, 2014
This is pretty spice cake-y! And from my grandmother.
jane.coombs88 May 1, 2014
I have made this cake so many times I don't ever want to make it again. I even have the original cook book that the recipe first appeared in. I am looking for a knock out spice cake recipe. Thx
Marian B. May 1, 2014
What book is it in??
jane.coombs88 May 1, 2014
It is the Campbell Soup Cookbook Cooking with Soup. It is the all red one. This cookbook and The I Hate to Cook Book by Peg Bracken were the ones I used in the '60s.
innoabrd May 2, 2014
This is my most favorite spice cake. Very old Yankee recipe, the friend who gave it to me is in her 70's and it was her great-grandmother's recipe. Simple, and interestingly old-fashioned with water in the recipe. Hope you enjoy.
jane.coombs88 May 7, 2014
I made ATK spice cake. It has the complexity that I have been lusting for. Thx for the input.
booglix April 30, 2014
Nigel Slater's beet cake is great! Two favorites of mine are the almond torte in Chez Panisse Desserts (which is good alone or soaked with an amaretto and bourbon syrup) and Ina's lemon cake. Both very easy, simple, reliable and seriously delicious.
Alice M. April 30, 2014
I have a coconut and cornflour chiffon cake (no wheat flour at all) in the oven and my fingers are crossed...
Author Comment
Kristen M. April 30, 2014
Pins and needles!
Catherine L. April 30, 2014
Does this mean my mom hasn't actually appreciated all the macaroni crafts I've made her???
Author Comment
Kristen M. April 30, 2014
She loves them all, and she loves them equally.
Marian B. April 30, 2014
I'm going retro with Tomato Soup Cake.
Author Comment
Kristen M. April 30, 2014
Also genius.