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Have you ever seen the popular Number Cakes and wondered how to make one? Follow my simple step-by-step instructions on how to make a beautiful Number Cake at home for your next birthday celebration!
Making big layered cakes with elaborate frosting designs can be very time consuming and hard to do. That's probably why I despise making them so much!
It's true. As much as I love baking, cakes are not my jam. I usually stick with no fuss sheet cakes and maybe a cupcake here and there.
So why am I making an exception?
I've admired Number Cakes for a long time now. They're super trendy and look so elegantly effortless! I thought I'd try making one to see how it went and the results were great! I truly felt it was easier than other decorated layer cakes I've begrudgingly made in the past.
If you're like me, you probably find yourself always searching for new ideas and easy ways to decorate birthday cakes. This one fits the bill!
For birthdays, anniversaries, and graduations parties, Number Cakes make a super impressive addition to your dessert table.
In this blog post, I'll will show you how to make a Number Cake, and I will provide some tips for decorating it too!
Number Cakes Are The Solution For Easy Birthday Cake Ideas!
The great thing about Number Cakes is that they can be decorated in so many different ways!
Another idea is to use fondant to make small decorations, or you could use different piping tips to make buttercream flowers as well.
The possibilities are endless! With a little bit of creativity, you can decorate it in any way you like!
Finding The Right Pan
There are a bunch of different number cake pans on the market, and you can choose whichever one you prefer.
However, I recommend these silicone number pans. When working with such delicate shapes, I find it's best to use silicone when possible. I never have an issue with silicone pans; they release perfect every time and easy to use and wash.
The set that I bought contains every number, 0-9. Now, I realize this is A LOT of 'pans' to store, however the great thing about silicone is you can roll them up and put them in a small box or storage bin.
Wilton makes a metal pan that can be adapted to any shape by using blocks which is convenient, but I really didn't love the look of it. Plus, it was way more expensive than buying the entire number set of silicone pans. The metal pan's edges are not as neat and tidy as if you were to use a pan that was in the actual shape of the number.
This number cake pan set can be found on Amazon for an affordable price.
The Cake Recipe
I went with a vanilla cake, although you can certainly use any flavor you want! This cake is super delicious and formulated to work well with number cake pans.
The recipe I've posted here is my favorite basic vanilla cake. This is a really easy vanilla cake recipe (no whipping of egg whites!) and comes out super moist.
The cake is light and fluffy, yet still sturdy enough to work with when cutting into the number shape and stacking the layers.
If you're in a pinch or don't feel like making homemade cake, boxed cake mix always works as well.
Cream Cheese Frosting & Substitutes
You can use regular buttercream, or Swiss meringue for this cake, but I really love to finish off the vanilla cake with cream cheese frosting.
My recipe here works very well for this cake. It is a stiffer cream cheese frosting which holds up well to the piping. As you start to whip the ingredients together, you may find that you need to thin it out a bit to get a perfectly smooth consistency. I like to use milk for this, but you can use heavy cream, coconut milk, or whatever you have on hand.
Cream cheese frosting is generally saved for red velvet cake, but pairing it to vanilla cake is a total game changer! The slight tartness of the cream cheese is the perfect combo for the buttery sweetness of all that vanilla.
Another reason cream cheese frosting is my go-to for this recipe is, it has a velvety lusciousness to it. It makes the bite of cake more dreamy, in my opinion! This cake has a very luxe look so I knew using cream cheese frosting would be the way to go to add richness.
If you don't have cream cheese on hand, or are looking for a dairy-free option, you could use a vegan cream cheese or cashew cream, but I would recommend searching for a buttercream that was developed to use those ingredients specifically, as I'm not sure how these would affect the recipe I have here.
Using mascarpone cream cheese would also be a good choice, but you may need to add more powdered sugar to make sure it's stiff enough for piping. The light sweet flavor would go nicely with the cake. My recipe for Mascarpone Buttercream can be found here.
You could also use chocolate ganache frosting as well; I would recommend using a dark chocolate ganache for this cake.
Using whipped cream is not recommend as it is not sturdy enough to use in between the layers of cake.
How to Make A Number Cake
Making a Number Cake is easy! All you need is a number cake pan, a good cake recipe or cake mix, frosting, and some edible decorations.
Assembling The Cake
Assembling the cake takes a little bit of patience and care.
One thing I learned during my recipe testing was, the cake can drop lots of crumbs which got all over the frosting (which was not ideal!) To combat this, I decided to freeze the cakes for a short while to firm them up and reduce crumbs, and it helped tremendously.
Start by cutting the cake into two layers and placing them all on a baking sheet lined with parchment.
Place the cake in the freezer to chill. Freezing the cakes for 30 minutes will help firm them up and make them easier to work with. It prevents breakage and excess crumbs from falling into the pretty buttercream dollops!
Once the cake is firm, prepare the buttercream and placed it in a large piping bag fitted with a large round tip.
For the first cake layer, I started by placing it on the serving tray.
Piping the Frosting
In order to achieve the look of the cake I made here, you'll need to pipe the frosting onto the first cake layer. If you are unable to pipe or are in a hurry, you can of course spread the frosting on with a offset spatula.
To achieve the perfect dollop shape, it's best to hold the piping bag completely upright, and squeeze. The key to achieving the trendy cake look, is to make sure all of the dollops the exact same size.
Once you cover the first cake layer with the frosting, gently place the second layer on top ensuring no crumbs fall onto the first frosting layer.
Ensure that the edges of the cake are lined up all around before you begin to add the frosting to the top of the cake.
Repeat piping dollops of frosting to cover the top layer of cake.
Tips For Decorating A Number Cake
After the top of the cake is frosted, it's time to decorate!
You can use anything you have on hand; fresh fruit, small cookies, sprinkles, or other sweets like candies or dried fruit. Fresh fruit is great as the "main decoration" because it also adds a lot of flavor and freshness to the vanilla cake and cream cheese frosting.
I find it's easiest to start with the largest pieces first, and then work your way to adding the smallest items. This way, all the toppers are spaced out nicely and evenly spread out on top of the cake.
You don't want large groupings of one type of decoration so it's easiest to follow this, "large to small" approach.
For my cake here, I started with the halved strawberries, then added the remaining smaller berries, and tucked in the flowers at the end. This helped me to achieve a very professional bakery style look.
Decorating a number cake can be so much fun, and it's easy to do! All you need is some creativity, and basic toppings.
You can also use small cookies, candies, chocolate pieces, fondant, or more buttercream designs to decorate your number cake.
Flowers Are Another Essential That I see On A Lot Of Number Cakes
Just be sure that any flower you use is edible for safety. The grocery store didn't have an designated 'edible flowers' so I picked up these lovely pink Chrysanthemums.
We did not eat the Chrysanthemums, but I felt good knowing that we could eat the rest of the cake safely with the flowers removed.
Can I Make This Cake Ahead Of Time?
You can make this cake a day ahead, but wait to decorate it until just ready to serve.
If using fruit, the fruits could leak juice which will streak and make a mess!
The other toppings, whether they are small cookies or candies can also be affected over time if they sit in the buttercream for too long. Cookies could get soft from the moisture of the frosting and other toppings might change in texture as well.
It's best to decorate right before serving to avoid any potential disasters!
Number Cakes are incredibly popular, with a wide range of designs.
They're also very simple to make, and there's no wrong way to make them! If you're searching for a fun and easy birthday cake, look no further than the Number Cake!
This cake recipe makes enough for a double digit cake. Feel free to also make into a letter cake or alphabet cake. If you only need to make one cake, simply put any extra cake batter into 9x9 pan and bake on the side for later.
This recipe makes enough for 2 cakes or a 2 digit number! If making one cake, you can either halve the recipe or bake off any remaining cake batter in a pan for yourself!
For the Cake
- 1 c butter (softened at room temp)
- 1 ¾ c granulated sugar
- 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
- 4 eggs (room temp)
- 3 c cake flour
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- ¾ tsp salt
- 1 c whole milk (room temp)
For the Frosting
- 16 oz full fat cream cheese (softened at room temp)
- 1 c unsalted butter (softened at room temp)
- 8 c powdered sugar
- 1 Tbsp or more, whole milk or heavy whipping cream (as needed to reach desired consistency)
- Pinch of salt
Edible Toppings such as...
- Sliced strawberries
- Other fruit
- Amoretti cookies
- Fresh flowers (be sure they are identified as edible)
- Fresh herbs
- Prepare the cake pan(s). If using the silicone type, all you need to do is spray with cooking spray or coat in butter. If using a metal pan(s) you might want to lay down a few strips of parchment paper in the bottom.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- In a large bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, combine the butter and sugar. Beat until light and creamy, about 3 minutes.
- To the creamed butter add the vanilla extract. Mix.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Be sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl well.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (cake flour, baking powder and salt.)
- With the mixer on low speed, add ⅓ of the dry ingredients and mix until just about absorbed.
- Then, add ½ of the milk and mix. Repeat with another ⅓ of flour mixture, remaining milk, and then remaining flour, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl after each addition. Stop mixing once the last of the flour has absorbed into the cake batter. Do not overmix.
- Once all the ingredients are mixed, add the cake batter into the prepared cake pan(s). I find it's easier to use a large cookie scoop to add the batter into the pan and then spread out using an offset spatula.
- Place into the oven.
- The baking time is about 30 minutes, so begin to check on the cake at the 20 minute mark and check on it until it's done. Bake until slightly golden and when a toothpick inserted into middle comes out clean.
- Cool completely in baking pan on a wire rack.
- Once cooled, use a large serrated knife to level off the cake as needed.
- When ready to assemble, cut the cake in half and place on sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
- Place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes to firm up.
- In the meantime, make the frosting.
- In another large bowl add the softened cream cheese and softened butter. Mix until just combined, about 1 minute.
- Add the powdered sugar and mix on low speed, adding milk as needed until stiff peaks form.
- Place frosting in a large pastry bag fitted with a large round tip.
- When the cake is ready, take the first layer or cake and put it on your serving plate. Pipe the buttercream in dollops all over the surface (hold the piping bag upright and squeeze). The dollops should hold stiff peaks.
- Take the top layer of cake and gently place it on top of the frosting ensuring no crumbs fall on the sides of the first layer of frosting.
- Repeat a layer of frosting dollops on top.
- Only before serving, top with fresh fruits, candies, small cookies, meringue kisses, sprinkles, edible flowers, and other small desserts. This is the most trendy way to decorate number cakes.
Recipe by Owlbbaking.com
- If you'd like to make a gluten free cake, try this recipe made with almond flour.
- When decorating, start with the largest pieces first, and then work your way to adding the smallest items. This way, all the toppers are spaced out nicely and evenly spread out on top of the cake. You don't want large groupings of one type of decoration.
- When using flowers, be sure that any flower you use is identified as edible for safety. Even if you do not eat the flowers, it is good knowing that you can eat the rest of the cake safely with the flowers removed!
- You can make this cake a day ahead, but only decorate right before serving. If using fruit, the fruits could leak juice which will streak and make a mess. The other toppings can also be affected over time if they sit in the buttercream for too long.
- Prep Time: 30
- Cook Time: 30
- Category: Cake
- Method: Baking
Keywords: Number cake, birthday cake, how to make a number cake