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Birthday Cakes for Grownups

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Adulting shouldn’t mean forgoing a big birthday cake. These cakes are super-festive, but instead of putting kid-centric decoration at the fore, they feature sophisticated flavor combinations (and maybe a little booze). Make one for someone who’s feeling less than thrilled about another year gone by.

  • Recipe

    Doberge Cake

    This towering “half-and-half” cake is worthy of a celebration, which makes it the go-to birthday cake in New Orleans. Layered with chocolate pudding and lemon custard on the inside, and buttercream frosting, lemon fondant icing, and chocolate ganache on the outside, it’s not a recipe for beginning bakers.

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  • Recipe

    Kentucky Jam Cake

    Studded with raisins and nuts, fragrant with nutmeg and cloves, the secret ingredient in this recipe is blackberry jam, which both flavors and colors the cake.

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  • Recipe

    Hazelnut-Almond Dacquoise

    Dacquoise refers to both the baked meringue layers within the cake and the composed cake itself. Three long rectangles of hazelnut-almond meringue are piped onto a baking sheet and baked in a slow oven overnight, so they dry out and get crispy. A creamy espresso buttercream that tastes like soft coffee ice cream and a chocolate ganache filling are sandwiched between the layers.

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  • Recipe

    Chocolate Layer Cake with Cinnamon-Caramel Ganache Filling

    Make the filling and the frosting first, letting the former chill and the latter thicken slightly at room temperature while the cake is baking and cooling.

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  • Recipe

    Pear Ginger Cake with Whipped Cream and Rum-Caramel Glaze

    It’s a triple-decker stunner that features a soft, tender cake with fresh pears and homemade ginger folded into the batter, and a billowy whipped cream filling and frosting. All is topped with luscious rum-caramel glaze.

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  • Recipe

    Pistachio Chiffon Cake with Raspberry Glaze

    A chiffon cake is the reigning queen of oil-based cakes—think angel food cake, but with egg yolks (in addition to the whites) and oil. Although the finished cake looks pretty impressive—especially once it’s covered in a rosy-red raspberry glaze and topped with chopped pistachios—it’s truly a cinch to prepare.

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  • Recipe

    Carrot Cake with Mascarpone Frosting

    This carrot cake feels lighter than most, thanks to four thin layers, subtle spicing, and a not-too-sweet frosting made with mascarpone. Candied carrot curls and pecans on top make it look festive and add a bit of crunch.

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  • Recipe

    Browned-Butter Banana Cake with Salted Dark Chocolate Ganache

    Toasty browned butter and salted dark chocolate icing transform a simple banana-nut cake into an unforgettable dessert. A few pinches of flaky sea salt on top are a clue to the cake’s secret ingredient.

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  • Recipe

    White Forest Cake

    This impressive spin on a Black Forest cake uses sweet white chocolate instead of dark chocolate. The cake and cherries can be prepared ahead, but the white chocolate mousse has to be made just before using. A few hours in the fridge firm up the mousse and give the cake a chance to absorb all the sweet cherry flavor. Pointy, curved white chocolate shards give it a sculptural, modern look (watch a video of how to make the shards).

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  • Recipe

    Chocolate Irish Whiskey Cake

    This recipe reimagines the classic whiskey-spiked Irish coffee as a decadent mocha layer cake filled with coffee-whiskey whipped cream and topped with white and dark chocolate shavings.

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  • Recipe

    Orange Layer Cake

    This is my mother’s recipe, which I always requested (and got) for my birthday. I love to eat this cake with a cup of Earl Grey tea. Leave yourself plenty of time to frost the cake; it works best if filled and then refrigerated before frosting. Remember to zest your oranges before juicing.

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  • Recipe

    Chocolate Mousse Layer Cake

    The simplest way to decorate this cake is to press chopped, toasted walnuts onto the sides. For a more dramatic look, try wrapping the cake in a chocolate band (see our video for how-tos) and topping it with white chocolate curls.

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