Cake Recipes Every Southerner Should Master

The Lane Cake
Photo: Hector Sanchez

Every Southerner's life is marked by cakes. From baptism to funeral, and all of the birthdays, graduations, and weddings in between, Southerners can craft a timeline of their lives by the cakes they've eaten, baked, and loved. Those cakes are recipes that have been woven into our traditions thanks to…well, the fact that they're just darn good. Whether with pecan-studded tops, coconut-packed layers, or decadent chocolate frosting, these cakes are the ones to master for every Southern occasion. (Feeling ambitious? Try the 18-layer masterpiece first.)

01 of 20

Caramel Cake

Caramel Cake
Jennifer Davick

Recipe: Caramel Cake

The sugary indulgence of a perfect caramel cake is the birthday treat of choice for many Southerners, and it's a cake you don't purchase from anywhere lightly—it's tricky to find a consistently great one. The layers must be moist, but the icing is the ultimate key. You need to constantly stir it, pay attention, and don't over-cook!

02 of 20

The Ultimate Carrot Cake

Ultimate Carrot Cake
Alison Miksch

Recipe: The Ultimate Carrot Cake

A classic carrot cake is a hit at any Southern party, and you'll love this super moist recipe with brown sugar-cream cheese frosting that's just so good you'll want to use it on every cake.

03 of 20

Hummingbird Cake

Hummingbird Cake
Photographer: Fred Hardy II, Food Stylist: Emily Nabors Hall, Props Stylist: Christina Brockman

Recipe: Hummingbird Cake

A slice of this heavenly Hummingbird cake is about as classic as it gets, and if you can get the signature texture and taste just right every time, you're a bonafide Southern baker!

04 of 20

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Recipe: Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

If you want simple, old-fashioned, and delicious, this chocolate-mayo sheet cake is as good as it gets. Southerners know Duke's mayonnaise is as useful in desserts as it is on a sandwich. This ultra-moist cake proves it.

05 of 20

Million Dollar Pound Cake

Million Dollar Pound Cake

Recipe: Million Dollar Pound Cake

A decadently dense pound cake is a Southern staple for any baker. While there are too many award-worthy pound cakes to list, this buttery pound cake stands out. If a picture's worth a thousand words, then one of these pound cakes is worth a million dollars.

06 of 20

Red Velvet Layer Cake

Red Velvet Layer Cake
Jennifer Davick

Recipe: Red Velvet Layer Cake

This tall, rich cake is a party favorite for any occasion. The ultra-thick layers and mouthwatering cream cheese frosting make this red velvet cake a masterpiece of epic proportions.

07 of 20

Little Layer Chocolate Cake

Ivy Odom 18-Layer Chocolate Cake Still

Recipe: Little Layer Chocolate Cake

This incredible and height-defying chocolate cake is anything but little—but the 18 layers used in the recipe are thin and perfectly baked. Known best below the Gnat Line, this moist, layered chocolate cake's height is based on which birthday you're celebrating. Trust us, this cake is worth the extra effort to master!

08 of 20

The Lane Cake

The Lane Cake
Hector Sanchez

Recipe: The Lane Cake

A cake that's as steeped in Southern history and tradition as The Lane Cake deserves to be mastered by those looking to pay homage to the wonderfully talented Southern bakers before them. Over 100 years ago, this cake won the county fair competition in Columbus, Georgia, and was later featured in the literary classic, To Kill A Mockingbird. The fruit-filled, bourbon-spiked, meringue-topped cake is a delicious must-try. Our latest twist? Dried peaches (finely diced and ridiculously delicious) stand in for raisins, and the traditional meringue frosting gets a spirited makeover with a triple shot of peach schnapps.

09 of 20

Classic Birthday Cake

Classic Birthday Cake
Micah A. Leal

Recipe: Classic Birthday Cake

This nostalgic cake is easy but also deeply satisfying. It requires no leveling or layering, but the sprinkles are mandatory. Once mastered, everyone you know will be requesting this cake for their birthday.

10 of 20

Mama's Rum Cake

Mama's Rum Cake
Peter Frank Edwards

Recipe: Mama's Rum Cake

This festive, rum-soaked dessert is a major hit at Southern holiday parties. The rum-to-cake ratio is important to master, and it tastes even better after a day or so when the flavors have really melded together.

11 of 20

Caramel Apple Cake

Caramel Apple Cake
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Recipe: Caramel Apple Cake

We think this beautiful cake should be in every Southerner's fall-baking repertoire. Topped with sautéed apple slices and amazing Apple Brandy-Caramel Sauce, this single-layer cake is unique and special. This is one of the prettiest cakes you can make for the fall—and it requires only 20 minutes of hands-on prep time.

12 of 20

Strawberry Vanilla Cake

Strawberry Vanilla Cake
Sarah Epperson

Recipe: Strawberry Vanilla Cake

This delicious three-layer cake gets its lovely fruity flavor from fresh chopped strawberries and strawberry gelatin. The pretty pink hues throughout this cake make it a lovely addition to any Southern holiday (especially in the spring), and the vanilla buttercream is tasty enough to eat right out of the mixing bowl!

13 of 20

The Coconut Chiffon Cake

The Coconut Chiffon Cake
Hector Sanchez

Recipe: The Coconut Chiffon Cake

Coconut cake has reigned supreme atop many Southern dining tables throughout history, and this masterpiece of a coconut cake features coconut-packed layers, whipped white chocolate buttercream, and a rich coconut-mascarpone filling. This is the ultimate coconut cake that we won't be giving up anytime soon.

14 of 20

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Pineapple-Upside Down Cake
Jennifer Davick

Recipe: Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

This dessert is always a winner with the Southern crowd. Butter, brown sugar, and pineapple cook together at the bottom of the skillet to make a deliciously gooey topping for this cake.

15 of 20

Homemade White Cake

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

Recipe: Homemade White Cake

Think of this instant classic as the little black dress of white cakes. It's appropriate for every occasion on its own and versatile enough to show-case any festive cake decor.

16 of 20

Mama's German Chocolate Cake

German Chocolate Cake
Southern Living

Recipe: Mama's German Chocolate Cake

We love that this German chocolate cake gives a little something more than a traditional chocolate cake with its rich frosting that's gloriously chunky with pecans and flaked coconut. Mama would be proud.

17 of 20

Key Lime Icebox Cake

Key Lime Icebox Cake
Photo: Hector M Sanchez; Prop Stylist: Heather Chadduck; Food Stylist: Vanessa Rocchio

Recipe: Key Lime Icebox Cake

An old-school icebox cake is a Southern treat, especially in the summertime. This cake is so pretty, no one will have any idea it was no-bake. A tip from our kitchen: Add the lime juice once you've fully cooked the custard to let the cornstarch thicken the mixture properly.

18 of 20

Angel Food Cake

Angel Food Cake
Photographer: Jennifer Causey Food Stylist: Ana Kelly Prop Stylist: Kay Clarke

Recipe: Angel Food Cake

A heavenly cake, so light and fluffy, it's fit for angels. It's also thankfully fairly easy to master with the right ingredients and a few tricks. One must-know trick is to cool the cake upside down so it releases cleanly from the pan.

19 of 20

Luscious Lemon Cake

Luscious Lemon Cake
Jennifer Davick

Recipe: Luscious Lemon Cake

A good lemon layer cake is a must-have in your baking arsenal. This lemon cake, comprised of rich lemon layers made with a lot of butter and egg yolks, is elegantly but simply decorated with a silky lemon buttercream that's bound to impress guests.

20 of 20

1234 Cake with Chocolate Frosting

1234 Cake
Victor Protasio, Food Stylist: Emily Nabors Hall, Prop Stylist: Kathleen Varner

Recipe: 1234 Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Yellow cake with chocolate frosting is the cake most of us think of when we picture a classic layer cake. And sure, you could make it from a boxed mix, but you'll taste the difference with this homemade version that can be dressed up for any occasion.

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