Layered Birthday Cake with an M&M Surprise
This layered birthday cake will be your go-to cake for your family and friends. A sprinkled cake like this is loved by everyone.
I made this layered birthday cake for my niece’s first birthday. Her initials are MM, so naturally, we made an M&M-themed party. This is a four-layered cake, and it is super easy to make. You’ll see.
How to make it?
First things first, if you haven’t already, take your butter out of the refrigerator and make sure it gets softened to room temperature. This can take a couple of hours, so make sure you do it in advance or use this helpful tip!
Layered Birthday Cake: Once your butter is at room temperature, add it to your stand mixer bowl along with your sugar. Mix the two for about two minutes until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, until fully combined. Make sure not to overmix. Then add in the vanilla extract and mix to combine.
Add the flour, baking powder, and salt to the mixer. It’s not necessary to sift it, but feel free if you like that better! While the mixer is running on low, slowly add in the milk. If you pour the milk too quickly, it will splatter everywhere. You can stop mixing when you begin to see the dough form into a thick batter. Transfer the batter into four round cake pans. I used 9″ pans, but you can use 8″ if that’s what you have. The cake will be slightly higher.
Bake the cakes in a preheated oven of 350° for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool for about 10 minutes and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Once the cakes are cooled, slice the top of the cakes off with a serrated knife or spatula. See below for ideas on what to do with the cake scraps. This serrated spatula is life-changing! You will never have to worry about a lopsided cake ever again.
Wrap two of the layers of cake in the freezer using cling wrap. These will be used for the top and bottom of your cake. It’ll be easier to frost them when the cakes are frozen. The second two layers will be used for the middle of your cake. Cut a hole in the center of each using a 4-inch cookie cutter. Wrap them and stick them in the freezer until you’re ready to frost.
Buttercream: In your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter until smooth. Begin adding your powdered sugar, one cup at a time, at low speed. Once the powdered sugar is all incorporated, add in your salt and heavy whipping cream. I like to add salt to my buttercream because it balances out the flavor and doesn’t make it overly sweet. But feel free to omit the salt if you like basic sweet buttercream.
Continue mixing your buttercream on low until you reach your desired consistency. It took me about five minutes to reach the perfect, smooth consistency. If your buttercream is too thick then add some more heavy whipping cream, one tablespoon at a time. If it’s too thin, add more powdered sugar 1/4 cup at a time.
Put an 8-inch cake board onto your cake turntable. You can use a 10-inch cake board, but with the 8-inch board, the cake will hide the board. (Pro Tip: Add a damp paper towel under the cake board to prevent it from sliding.) Next, add a dollop of buttercream onto the middle of the cake board and place one cake layer on top. (A dollop of buttercream will stop the cake from sliding as well.) Add a generous amount of buttercream, about 1/2 a cup, and using an offset spatula, spread the buttercream evenly on the layer. Don’t spread it around the sides just yet.
Next, add your first hollowed-out layer of cake with the hole in the middle. Frost the top evenly and repeat with the next hollow layer. Before adding the top of the cake, add the M&Ms in the center. Fill the cake with M&Ms until they reach the top but make sure they are not overflowing. We want to make sure the top layer lays flat. Because I made this for a baby girl’s birthday, I used a mix of pink, white, and red, but you can use whichever colors and flavors you want.
Next, add the top layer of the cake. Now that we added and frosted all cake layers, now would be the time to color the frosting. Add the magenta and teal gel food coloring to the buttercream. Be sure to only add one drop of each at a time until you reach your desired color.
Add the frosting over the top and start spreading it around and over to the sides. Scrape as needed to have a thin layer. Once you have a thin layer of frosting around, let the cake/frosting cool in the refrigerator for a bit. About 30 minutes. This gives you a chance to clean up the kitchen or relax on the couch with a cup of coffee and get ready for the next step.
Once the frosting has hardened, continue frosting until the whole cake is covered. If you have potholes in your cake, that means you need more frosting. Add frosting to the potholes and then smooth them out with a cake scraper.
While the buttercream is still fresh, add the sprinkles around the sides. To make things easier and less messy, flip a cake pan upside down on a cookie sheet and sprinkle the cake like that. This way the cookie sheet catches all of the sprinkles that fell instead of them landing on the floor or your counter. Easy cleanup!
What to do if you only have two cake pans?
If you don’t have four cake pans to stick in the oven at once, you can halve this recipe.
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 and 1/2 cups white sugar
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 and 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup rainbow sprinkles
Follow the instructions above or below to make the batter. Let the cakes cool completely before wrapping them up and freezing them. Repeat one more time to get the four layers.
What to do with the cutoff cake/scraps?
With this particular cake and most frosted cakes, you will have scraps left over once you cut and even out each layer. What should you do with these?
- Mini Cake: You can use the two 4-inch hollowed-out middle layers to make a mini cake. You will have enough buttercream in the recipe below to frost the mini cake layers.
- Cake Pops: The top cut-off portions of the cake can be used to make cake pops. Crumble up the cake and add some buttercream (you might have some leftovers from this recipe). Roll them into balls and add them to popsicle sticks to set. You can also use a silicone mold to make it easier.
- Decoration: Crumble up the pieces and sprinkle them on top once the cake has been frosted.
- Ice Cream: Add the pieces to your favorite ice cream for the ultimate sundae! (My favorite)
You can also store the cake pieces in an airtight container and freeze them for up to 3 months.
Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free
This layered birthday cake is a cinch to make gluten-free. All you need to do is substitute all-purpose flour with gluten-free flour. Make sure it’s a 1-to-1 baking flour like Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Flour.
Cake: Substitute the butter with margarine or a neutral-flavored oil like vegetable or canola. Just remember per 1 cup butter, use 3/4 cup oil. For example, 4 sticks of butter equal 2 cups, so use 1 and 1/5 cups of oil. I use vegetable oil in place of butter often, and the layered birthday cake still tastes moist and delicious.
To replace milk, you can use any dairy-free milk substitute or water. I usually use water because I don’t usually keep a dairy-free milk replacement in the house.
Buttercream: To make this dairy-free, switch out the butter for margarine or another dairy-free butter alternative. I don’t recommend using oil or any other liquids because you won’t get the light and fluffy texture that we all know and love in a buttercream.
Instead of heavy whipping cream, any dairy-free milk alternative will be fine, or even water.
Layered Birthday Cake with an M&M Surprise
- 4 sticks, 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3 cups white sugar
- 6 cups all-purpose flour
- 8 large eggs
- 1 and ½ tablespoons vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 cups whole milk, 2% or skim is fine
- 2 cups rainbow sprinkles
- 6 sticks, 3 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
- 9 cups powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 and ½ tablespoons heavy whipping cream
- 4 drops magenta gel food coloring
- 4 drops teal gel food coloring
Layered Birthday Cake
- Preheat your oven to 350ºF and grease four 9" round cake pans.
- In your stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. About 2 minutes.
- Add eggs, one at a time, until each is fully incorporated, then add the vanilla extract. Mix on low until combined. Make sure you don't overmix.
- Add in the flour, baking powder, and salt to your stand mixer. Mix on low and slowly pour in your milk. You should have a thick pancake batter consistency.
- Turn off your mixer, and with a rubber spatula, fold in the sprinkles.
- Carefully divvy up the batter evenly into the four greased cake pans.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center.
- Let the cakes cool for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Once the cakes are completely cooled, level out the top of the cakes with a serrated knife. Next, take two of the cakes and cut a hole in the center using a 4" cookie cutter.
- Wrap the cakes with cling wrap and freeze them until you're ready to frost.
- In your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth.
- Begin adding your powdered sugar one cup at a time and mix until incorporated.
- Add in the salt and heavy whipping cream and mix on low until desired consistency is reached.