23 Classic Cakes Everyone Should Bake Before They Die

Hummingbird Cake
Photo: Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Something about the layer cake scares us. Perhaps, we're not confident in our frosting skills, or maybe we're just terrified of the moment we have to flip the layers out of the round pans. But, really, neither is a reason to skirt around some of the most classic cakes of all time. That's why we've created what we're calling "the baking bucket list." Each one of these 25 classic cakes has something special, and not all of them are layer cakes. (Hello Bundt pan, my old friend.) Some are like eating a slice of history, and some are like tasting a sliver of plain heaven. What all of these recipes have in common: They deserve to be made—and to be made by you, ASAP. Whether starting with the simple Southern pound cake, beloved Hummingbird Cake, or iconic Lane Cake, get out your cake stand and call your friends. It's time to share a slice (or two). This will be the tastiest bucket list you've ever completed. Read on for 25 classic cakes everyone should make at least once.

01 of 23

Classic Southern Pound Cake

Classic Southern Pound Cake
Skyler Burt; Prop Styling: Mindi Shapiro Levine; Food Styling: Karen Rankin

Recipe: Classic Southern Pound Cake

Ah, these might be our favorite four words in a sequence. This recipe is the ultimate classic, and it should be baked right and baked often.

02 of 23

Mama's German Chocolate Cake

German Chocolate Cake
Southern Living

Recipe: Mama's German Chocolate Cake

This cake is dressed to impress and deserves to be baked from scratch. German's Sweet Chocolate sweetens its layers, but a rich frosting, chunky with pecans and flaked coconut, is really the star of the recipe.

03 of 23

Blackberry Jam Cake

Blackberry Jam Cake
Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Cindy Barr; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Recipe: Blackberry Jam Cake

You won't see this cake often, but it's always there, waiting to steal the show if you just let it. Kentuckians lay claim to this spiced cake with homemade berry jam and nuts, just as much as the Derby or bourbon.

04 of 23

Lemon-and-Chocolate Doberge Cake

Lemon-and-Chocolate Doberge Cake
Photo: Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Cindy Barr; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Recipe: Lemon-and-Chocolate Doberge Cake

This cake is a New Orleans original typically made for special occasions—and this half-and-half version is a particular favorite. Expect six to nine layers of vanilla sponge cake sandwiched between custard or creamy filling.

05 of 23

Lemon-Orange Chiffon Cake

Orange Chiffon Cakes
Jennifer Davick

Recipe: Lemon-Orange Chiffon Cake

The chiffon cake was introduced in the mid-20th century and dubbed the first "new" type of cake in over 100 years. Trust us, the extra fluffy layers paired with citrus flavors will have you swooning.

06 of 23

Sea Salt-Caramel Cake

Gingerbread Latte Cake with Vanilla Whipped Cream Frosting
Greg DuPree; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

Recipe: Sea Salt-Caramel Cake

Caramel cake is about as classic as it gets in the South. Try your hand at our most recent rift on the basic Caramel Cake Recipe. Sea salt perfectly compliments sweet caramel.

07 of 23

Red Velvet Layer Cake

Red Velvet Layer Cake
Jennifer Davick

Recipe: Red Velvet Layer Cake

Don't be frightened. This crimson cake is not nearly as complicated as you imagine. (Down here, it became a national treasure after its appearance in 1989's Steel Magnolias in the form of an armadillo-shaped groom's cake.)

08 of 23

The Ultimate Carrot Cake

Ultimate Carrot Cake
Alison Miksch

Recipe: The Ultimate Carrot Cake

It's called "the ultimate" for a reason. Everyone should have this spiced, nut-studded cake—coated in cream cheese frosting—in their repertoire, and you can quote us on that.

09 of 23

Strawberry-Lemonade Cake

Strawberry-Lemonade Cake
Jen Causey

Recipe: Strawberry-Lemonade Cake

This cake feels like a breath of fresh air. Tender lemony layers live in perfect harmony with strawberry-lemonade jam filling and strawberry frosting.

10 of 23

The Lane Cake

The Lane Cake
Hector Sanchez

Recipe: The Lane Cake

Here's the deal with the Lane Cake: You might never eat this iconic Southern cake if you don't make it yourself. It's got a lot going on, but there's a reason to every rhyme.

11 of 23

Triple-Chocolate Buttermilk Pound Cake

Triple-Chocolate Buttermilk Pound Cake
Alison Miksch

Recipe: Triple-Chocolate Buttermilk Pound Cake

Two words: Triple Chocolate. That sums up this cake deliciously—and the two glazes just put it over-the-top. For any hostess, this cake will catch some eyes.

12 of 23

Best White Cake

Best White Cake
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Christina Lane; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Recipe: Best White Cake

The White Cake is as much part of Southern Living's history as anything, and we're always trying to perfect the recipe. This particular version is beautiful in its simplicity, but will always steal the show at Christmastime.

13 of 23

Orange Cake

Orange Cake Recipe
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Recipe: Orange Cake

This recipe is retro, which is just how we like our pound cakes. Why mess with a good thing? The citrus-flavored Bundt pops on any spring table.

14 of 23

Fresh Peach Coffee Cake with Pecan Streusel

Fresh Peach Coffee Cake with Pecan Streusel
Iain Bagwell; Prop Styling: Mindi Shapiro Levine; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Recipe: Fresh Peach Coffee Cake with Pecan Streusel

Every hostess needs a coffee cake under her belt. Make it this one. Sweet, juicy peaches take center stage in this recipe.

15 of 23

Texas Skillet Cake

Texas Skillet Cake
Stephen DeVries, Prop Styling: Missie Neville Crawford; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Recipe: Texas Skillet Cake

We upped the ante on Lone Star favorite, the Texas Sheet Cake, by making it into a dense, fudgy skillet cake. Here's why you should make this version: You can eat the cake straight out of the skillet, topped with vanilla ice cream.

16 of 23

Key Lime Pound Cake

Key Lime Pound Cake
Jen Causey

Recipe: Key Lime Pound Cake

Take your classic Southern pound cake to the beach! You'll be serving up slices that capture the flavor of the Florida Keys with this citrus recipe.

17 of 23

Lemon Cheese Layer Cake

Lemon Cheese Layer Cake
Southern Living

Recipe: Lemon Cheese Layer Cake

Don't be deceived by the name—you won't be getting a cheesecake out of this. You'll be getting something even better. These citrusy cake layers are sandwiched with rich, buttery lemon curd. (In southeast Alabama, a few ladies are still famous for their towering 14-layer lemon-cheese cakes.)

18 of 23

Coconut Pound Cake

Coconut Pound Cake
Antonis Achilleos

Recipe: Coconut Pound Cake

This cake wows even the most seasoned of pound cake patrons. Coconut, pecans, and bourbon make up a mighty Southern trifecta.

19 of 23

Caramel Apple Cake

Caramel Apple Cake
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Recipe: Caramel Apple Cake

This might be the prettiest cake you'll make all year. (And it requires only 20 minutes of hands-on prep time.) The fall-inspired cake is topped with sautéed apple slices and a to-die-for apple-brandy caramel sauce.

20 of 23

Coconut-Butter Pecan Sheet Cake

Coconut-Butter Pecan Sheet Cake
Southern Living

Recipe: Coconut-Butter Pecan Sheet Cake

The name alone should have you drooling. You won't find an easier or more delicious sheet cake in the bunch.

21 of 23

Praline-Cream Cheese King Cakes

Praline-Cream Cheese King Cakes
Photo: Greg DuPree; Prop styling: Claire Spollen; Food styling: Chelsea Zimmer

Recipe: Praline-Cream Cheese King Cakes

We don't think this need apply only to New Orleanians, either. These cream-filled treats are a Mardi Gras tradition, and this recipe makes two—so keep one and share the other.

22 of 23

Orange Chiffon Cake

orange chiffon cake on cake stand with cups of coffee
Photographer: Antonis Achilleos; Prop Stylist: Christine Keely; Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer

Recipe: Orange Chiffon Cake

In the cake world, this is the crème de la crème of all baker triumphs. The light, fluffy chiffon cake climbs high in the tube pan. No frosting needed. The cake's flavor stands alone.

23 of 23

Hummingbird Cake

Hummingbird Cake
Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Recipe: Hummingbird Cake

We had no idea this cake would become our most popular and beloved Southern cake recipe ever when it was submitted in 1978. You aren't really a Southerner until you've tasted its moist layers packed with pineapple, pecans, cinnamon, and bananas.

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