33 Genius Mother's Day Cakes to Satisfy Mom's Sweet Tooth

Our very best cakes for Mom from the geniuses who create delightful, distinctive desserts.

March  8, 2022
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?

1. Chocolate Dump-It Cake From Amanda Hesser

"My mother has many specialties, but her Chocolate Dump-It Cake is most beloved in my family," Food52 founder Amanda Hesser 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."

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chocolate dump it cake

2. Maialino's Olive Oil Cake

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, nor butter to cream—but it isn't always. This one, however, is perfect, and will ruin you for all others.

maialino's olive oil cake

3. Coconut Tres Leches Cake

"I started making tres leches because it is my neighbor's favorite thing, and I like her," says Food52 contributor 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 and 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."

coconut tres leches cake

4. Amazon Cake

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 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.

amazon cake

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

"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."

banana cake with penuche frosting

6. Roberta's Parsley Cake

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.

parsley cake

7. Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake From Nigella Lawson

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.

dense chocolate loaf cake from Nigella Lawson 

8. Rhubarb Buckle With Ginger Crumb

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.

rhubarb buckle with ginger crumb

9. Extremely Moist Chocolate Beet Cake From Nigel Slater

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.

chocolate beet cake from Nigel Slater

10. Louisa's Cake From Jennifer Wagner

"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 six times, and friends are constantly asking for the recipe."

louisa's cake

11. Chocolate Cloud Cake From Richard Sax

Flourless chocolate cake meets dreamy 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.

chocolate cloud cake from Richard Sax

12. Lemon Buttermilk Cake From Maida Heatter

With a near-perfect five star rating (over 50 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 lemony sugar syrup, so you won't be able to miss that citrusy kick when you take a bite.  

lemon buttermilk cake

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.

olive oil cake from Charlotte Druckman

14. Our Best Carrot Cake From Coral Lee 

While it may not technically be a Genius recipe, the carrot cake recipe from former Food52er Coral Lee is by far our very best. Moist, spongy 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.

best carrot cake

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

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

strawberry not-so-short cake from 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. 

fudgy cream cheese chocolate cake

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 a freshly brewed pot of coffee in the morning for the sweetest-ever wake-up call. 

whole orange cake

18. Fresh Ginger Cake From Sylvia Thompson

This hot-off-the-press Genius ginger cake isn't like others you've 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).

fresh ginger cake from Sylvia Thompson

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

This apple cake has been getting a stellar response: "I made this lovely cake last night, got rave reviews from guests," one community member wrote. Our guess? Your mom will love it, too. 

marie-helene's apple cake from Dorie Greenspan

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! Blend the batter to feature the quinoa a little or a lot—either way, you'll love the texture it brings to this fudgy cake.  

21. Dark Chocolate Malt Cake From Samantha Seneviratne

Malted milk powder brings this cake its deep, dark chocolate power, bolstered by strong brewed coffee and enhanced by the addition of sour cream. Best of all, there's a trick to getting the sprinkles on the cake's perimeter easily (but we won't give away the secret!).

dark chocolate malt cake

22. Kabocha, Olive Oil & Bittersweet Chocolate Cake From Nicole Rucker & Gjelina

If you're a fan of cozy, squishy pumpkin bread, this kicked-up version featuring rich, sweet kabocha squash and a silky olive-oil-infused glaze dotted with crisp pepitas may be your new go-to seasonal fave. 

kabocha squash cake

23. Strawberry & Butterscotch Whipped Cream Cake From Jami Curl

This Genius cake from pastry chef Jami Curl needs no stand mixer—simply stir it together using the fresh or frozen fruit of your choice (Jami likes using frozen blueberries) and enjoy in under an hour. A vanilla and sour cream batter welcomes any and all customizations. 

strawberry and butterscotch whipped cream cake

24. Ian Knauer's Chocolate Eggplant Cakes

A glut of summer eggplant inspired this chocolate eggplant cake (which was, in turn, inspired by applesauce cake). Sweetened with wildflower honey and dolloped with whipped cream—spiked with maple syrup and salt if you'd like—this cake makes the most of prolific summer produce. 

Ian Knauer's chocolate eggplant cakes

25. Danielle Noce's Brazilian Carrot Cake

This carrot cake, popular in kitchens across Brazil, is reminiscent of a pound cake with a glossy chocolate ganache glaze that adds sweetness and complexity to familiar flavors. Break out the Bundt pan and prepare to discover the magic.

brazilian carrot cake

26. Molly Yeh's Dark Chocolate Marzipan Scone Loaf

It's a loaf, it's a scone, it's a chocolate marzipan cake! Thanks to the boundless creativity of Molly Yeh, this Mother's Day–friendly dessert is all that and more. Dive in to this delicious hybrid confection, and uncover its hidden perks.

dark chocolate marzipan scone loaf

27. Rose Levy Beranbaum's Chocolate Oblivion Truffle Torte

This flourless chocolate torte is a better and purer vehicle for chocolate than chocolate itself (scientifically speaking). If you're craving the kind of oblivion only a hefty dose of rich dark chocolate can provide, this is the recipe for you. 

chocolate oblivion truffle torte

More Great Cakes for Mom, Recommended By the Food52 Editors

28. Easiest Chocolate Mousse Cake

Mom deserves the sweetest, most indulgent dessert for Mother’s Day and this rich chocolate cake studded with fresh raspberries fits the bill. The base, which is a chewy chocolate brownie, is topped with the airiest chocolate mousse followed by a thick layer of vanilla whipped cream.

Easiest Chocolate Mousse Cake

29. Sweet Potato Hummingbird Cake

Everything that you’ve come to know and love about a hummingbird cake—fresh bananas, diced pineapple, and of course an epic layer of cream cheese frosting—is in this cake. But Mom should have a little something extra for Mother’s Day, which is why we’ve added green peanuts and grated sweet potatoes for extra moisture and sweetness.

Sweet Potato Hummingbird Cake

30. Martha Stewart's Pineapple-Banana Upside-Down Cake

Leave it to Martha to develop the recipe for our new favorite Mother’s Day cake. It’s fruitier, sweeter, and dare we say better version of the old-fashioned dessert. Thick pineapple slices are arranged in concentric circles to form a flower-like appearance. 

Pineapple-Banana Cake

31. Lemon-Raspberry Skillet Pudding Cake

Raspberries are just starting to reach their peak season around Mother’s Day, which makes this bright cake perfect Mother’s Day. It’s best served warm, straight from the cast-iron skillet (ideally with a dollop of whipped cream or scoop of ice cream because mom deserves it).

Lemon-Raspberry Skillet Pudding Cake

32. Toasted Almond Chocolate Bundt Cake

If you grew up enjoying a toasted almond ice cream bar on the beach during summer, you’ll love this cake. It’s made with a combination of almond flour and all-purpose flour, a duo of almond and vanilla extract, and melted chocolate.

Chocolate Bundt Cake

33. Cream Cake

Mom will love this super easy cake, which is light like an angel food cake but has the body of a pound cake. Like a black dress, it’s simplicity is best with just a few carefully chosen accessories. In this case, that means whipped cream and fresh berries.

Cream 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 March 2022 to include more Mother's Day cake recipes. 

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Levanilla
  • thalia ho
    thalia ho
  • Heather McLaughlin
    Heather McLaughlin
  • AntoniaJames
  • jane.coombs88
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."


Levanilla April 13, 2022
Great List of cakes! Thanks for sharing the list with us.
thalia H. 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...
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???
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.
Kristen M. April 30, 2014
Also genius.