Cake

21 Genius Mother's Day Cake Recipes for Mom

Our best cakes, just in time to save Mother's Day.

March  6, 2020
Photo by Bobbi Lin

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.

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?

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Our Best Mother's Day Cakes

1. Chocolate Dump-It Cake From Amanda Hesser

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."

2. 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.

3. Coconut Tres Leches From aargersi

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."

4. Amazon Cake From Margaret Fox

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.

5. Banana Cake With Penuche Frosting From Lindsay-Jean Hard

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."

6. 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.

7. Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake From Nigella Lawson

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.

8. Rhubarb Buckle With Ginger Crumb From Cory Schreiber & Julie Richardson

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.

9. Extremely Moist Chocolate Beet Cake From Nigel Slater

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.

10. Louisa's Cake From SML Office

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."

11. Chocolate Cloud Cake From Richard Sax

Flourless chocolate cake meets dreamy, poufy soufflé in this chocolate cloud cake that most certainly lives up to its name. A few smart tricks—like whipping some of the egg whites with sugar to make a fluffy meringue that gets folded in—help give this cake crackly edges and a moussey center any mother would love.

12. Lemon Buttermilk Cake From Maida Heatter

With a near-perfect five star rating (over 40 reviews and counting!), this Genius buttermilk cake makes a lovely holiday treat—especially if your mom's a fan of puckery sweets. The recipe calls for more lemon and lemon zest than you'd normally find, plus the whole thing gets soaked in a lemon-sugar syrup, so you won't be able to miss that citrusy kick when you take a bite.  

13. Olive (Oil) Cake From Charlotte Druckman

If adding actual olives sounds like a not-so-great idea, just trust us on this one—it's the salty-tangy addition you didn't know your olive oil cake was missing. For fans of savory-sweet combos, it's pretty much guaranteed to be a hit.

14. Our Best Carrot Cake From Coral Lee 

While it may not technically be a Genius recipe, the carrot cake recipe from Associate Editor Coral Lee is by far our very best. Moist, spongey cake with just-the-right amount of warming spices? Check. Ultra-fluffy cream cheese frosting that's not too sweet. Check. This cake ticks all the right boxes.

15. Strawberry Not-So-Short Cake From Erin McDowell 

For a real Mother's Day showstopper (that the whole family can dig into), look no further than this towering strawberry not-so-short-cake from star baker Erin McDowell. 

16. Fudgy Cream Cheese Chocolate Cake From Susan Miglore

This birthday cake goes back three generations in my family (check out the full story here), and I think it would make very delicious treat for any chocolate-loving mom. 

17. Whole Orange Cake From Sunset Magazine & Stephanie Spencer

Meet the spunky citrus cake that's very good at brightening up someone's day (like, ahem, your mom). Surprise her with a slice or two and freshly brewed pot of coffee in the morning for the sweetest-ever wake-up call. 

18. Fresh Ginger Cake From Sylvia Thompson

This hot-off-the-press Genius ginger cake isn't like other you met before—as in, it doesn't taste like it came from the stale corner of a pastry shop or a candle store. The key: more freshly grated ginger than you probably think is necessary (you can even leave the skin on).

19. Marie-Hélène's Apple Cake From Dorie Greenspan

This new-to-the-site apple cake is already getting a stellar response: "I made this lovely cake last night, got rave reviews from guests," one community member wrote. Our guess? Yur mom will love it. 

20. Chocolate Quinoa Cake From Paula Shoyer

This flourless chocolate cake achieves a not-too-rich, birthday cake-like crumb all thanks to a surprise ingredient: quinoa! 

Watch: Bonus Recipe! Dark Chocolate Malt Cake

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].

Psst: This recipe was updated by the Editors in 2020 to include more Mother's Day cake recipes. 

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From our new podcast network, The Genius Recipe Tapes is lifelong Genius hunter Kristen Miglore’s 10-year-strong column in audio form, featuring all the uncut gems from the weekly column and video series. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts so you don’t miss out.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • t
    t
  • Heather McLaughlin
    Heather McLaughlin
  • AntoniaJames
    AntoniaJames
  • jane.coombs88
    jane.coombs88
  • booglix
    booglix
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. 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."

19 Comments

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. http://food52.com/recipes/27026-tomato-soup-cake
 
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.
http://www.ebay.com/bhp/campbell-cooking-with-soup
 
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. http://food52.com/recipes/28183-adelaide-perkins-spice-cake
 
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.