Birthday Cake Recipe

A perfect, simple birthday cake. One that effortlessly handled the car ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Flourless and made primarily with almond paste and eggs, it's baked until golden, then flooded with a simple, smudge-proof buttermilk glaze.

Birthday Cake

I made birthday cake for myself this year. Or maybe I should say cakes, plural. I made one small cake, and a pair of tiny cakes. When they were cooled and frosted I lined a plate with parchment paper, placed the cakes on top, then pushed them into the back of my car before slamming the trunk. We skipped town for Los Angeles, and took a leisurely two days to get there. We did things like look for migrating whales off the coast, searched for items for the next collection of the shop, and ate cake on a shaded picnic table outside Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad. The cake? The cake is worth making. Made mostly of almond paste and eggs, it's sort-of a cake version of these macaroons, flooded with a simple, smudge-proof buttermilk glaze. It's the kind of cake that can handle some time in the car, will stay moist for a few days, with frosting that sets instead of smears.

Birthday CakeBirthday Cake

I make some notes down below in the recipe section about baking pan options, but the jist is this..feel free to play around with pan sizes if you like. The tins I used to bake the smallest cakes might have been old jelly molds - anything oven-safe with good shape is fair game around here. Although, one thing I've learned about using old pans is this - the most unfussy cakes tend to come from pans with smooth unblemished interiors. Pans that are rough tend to hold onto cakes when turning them out, even if they've been well buttered and/or floured. What else? Pan sizes - I know you'll have questions. The main consideration when playing around with pan sizes is baking time. You need to watch the cakes, and pull them when they're done. It's that simple. With this cake, for example, the edges will set and start developing a golden blush that deepens over time. At this point, you're looking for the center to set. Test with a toothpick or cake tester - when it comes out clean, or when you have a sense that the cake has set, you're good. You want to catch it just as it sets, so it stays moist.

Birthday Cake

(Above) Looking north from Santa Monica. (Below) Wayne with his camera.

Birthday CakeBirthday Cake

I hope you have an occasion for cake in the near future, whether it's this one or another. :)

Also! As a side note, for those of you interested in the QUITOKEETO shop, we're planning on opening with new items (and a handful of restocked favorites) this Monday morning, April 22, at 8:30am. I've posted a bit of a preview here - super excited! xo -h

101 Cookbooks Membership

Premium Ad-Free membership includes:
-Ad-free content
-Print-friendly recipes
-Spice / Herb / Flower / Zest recipe collection PDF
-Weeknight Express recipe collection PDF
-Surprise bonuses throughout the year

spice herb flower zest
weeknight express

Birthday Cake

First thing, be sure to buy almond paste, not marzipan.There is a difference. And no on almond butter as a substitute as well, I'm seeing that as a question in the comments as well. This recipe makes ~3 cups of cake batter. You can bake one 8-inch cake, or multiple smaller ones. Adjust your baking time accordingly, and use a cake tester to decide when to pull the cake(s) from the oven - smaller cakes take less time to bake. Pictured above: one 6-inch cake made with ~2 cups/ 480ml of batter + 2 tiny cakes made with ~1/2 cup / 120ml batter each.

butter for greasing pan(s)
14 ounces / 1 1/2 cups / 2 tubes of almond paste
5 large eggs, whisked
1 3/4 ounces / 45 g / scant 1/4 cup organic cornstarch
scant 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
6 tablespoons / 1/3 cup / 80 ml unsalted butter, melted & cooled

Buttermilk Glaze:
scant 1 cup / 5 oz organic confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons buttermilk
the contents of 1/2 vanilla bean

3 tablespoons toasted almond slices

Preheat oven to 350F / 180C with a rack in the center. Butter an 8-inch pan generously, or, alternately, you can use multiple smaller pans for a cluster of tiny cakes (see head notes).
Break the almond paste into a food processor and give a few quick pulses, you're looking for medium-sized, pebbly pieces. Add the eggs, and process until smooth. Sprinkle in the cornstarch and salt, pulse a few times, then add the butter. Blend one more time, before transferring to the prepared pan(s). Bake until deeply golden and set in the center, you're going to want to test this cake - a toothpick should come out clean before pulling it from the oven - for tiny cakes, this is usually 40-45 minutes, longer for larger cakes. Let cool in the pan on a cooling rack for 20-30 minutes (very small cakes can be turned out after ~5 minutes), then transfer directly to the cooling rack. Cool complete before frosting.

To make the glaze, whisk together the confectioners' sugar, buttermilk, and vanilla bean. Keep whisking until the glaze is free of lumps. Flood the top of the cake(s) allowing the glaze to run over the sides, and sprinkle with almond slices.

Makes one 8-inch cake, or multiple smaller cakes.

Prep time: 10 minutes - Cook time: 60 minutes

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

Comments are closed.

Apologies, comments are closed.


@Gwynn Smith: I live in The Netherlands, and almond paste is called "amandelspijs" in Dutch, and is used in lots of Dutch baking. Try looking for it under the Dutch/Afrikaans name maybe?

Dawn Milner

This was a huge hit, thank you! I made my own almond paste with coconut sugar and an egg white. Also, I used cinnamon maca almond butter as the frosting ( It was heavenly!


I feel bad about the seeded sweet tease after seeing this perfect cake, and it was for your birthday—Oy! Happy Birthday Heidi!

HS: ;) I made another version of it with Amaro the other night, I should have dropped some off for you! Not a seed in sight! I'm off to track you down on tumblr now. xo!


I made this cake last night for my husband who is headed on tour for the week. I made it per the recipe and it was so good. It almost tastes like donuts. I used Almond Milk instead of Buttermilk because I just didn't want to buy buttermilk. It made my glaze less white and less thick than it appears in the recipe. Next time I'll try buttermilk. I also used an 8 inch cake pan and it puffed up quite a bit, making it sort of odd shaped. It still tasted amazing.


Happy belated birthday to you. These cakes just look stunning. I'm going to buy a few vintage jelly-moulds today - and am excited to try this out. Unfortunately we can't get propper almond taste here in the Netherlands, or ground almonds... it's as if the Dutch refuse to make propper cake. So I've got to wait, til I'm visiting home again, to get myself all the stuff I need. Have you ever tried making these with hazelnut or any other kind of nut?

Ole @cookingbrains

I made this in a Bundt pan. It is delicious, moist and dense.


I just tried this recipe. It was easy to follow and the cake came out great. Very moist and dense. I used Odense almond paste that I found at Target. Instead of using a cake pan, I made them into cupcakes. I also checked instead (following the suggestion of Heidi). I decided not to make the icing because I'm not a big fan of buttermilk. Thanks for the nice recipe!


Belated birthday greetings Heidi. Hope you had a lovely day. I can't wait to try the cake out for the next family birthday especially as it's gluten-free so everyone will be able to enjoy it. I've been searching for the prefect non chocolate gluten free cake recipe for a while. Thanks.


Just got home and had a lovely box from Quitokeeto waiting for me! Birthday luck was on my side Monday morning as I was finally able to secure one of those wonderful knives for my very own. It feels wonderful in the hand, a real pleasure to hold. And the June Taylor marmalade...will be trying that tomorrow morning with my tea, toast and Labneh. So much fun to come home to such nice presents!

HS: Enjoy them both Kristin, and give the knife & blade a kiss of mineral oil now and then to keep them happy. :)

Kristin | The Dinner Concierge

I am salivating over these little sweeties. I would have never thought of macaroon with buttermilk glaze icing. I bet the buttermilk flavor brings out the almond taste. Love it. Thank you


I saw this recipe and couldn't wait to try it as I love anything with Almond Paste. I wasn't sure about how this would come out as it has very few ingredients. When it came out of pan (I used an 8" square pan) it seemed very heavy. I made the icing once cooled and put in refrigerator overnight. Well this cake is so delicious....very dense spongy...can't describe it. I cut a nice large piece for my daughter to bring to work and "share" with her teacher friends. When I asked her how her friends liked it she laughed and said they never got a piece. She just kept cutting herself pieces all day....enough said.......make this cake you won't be sorry. Oh I did make one change. I love raspberry so I swirled seedless raspberry jam into the glaze....but that's just's amazing without.

HS: So happy you enjoyed it Lorna, and I love the raspberry touch - I bet fresh strawberries would be really nice too.


Happy Birthday Heidi - I've just discovered your beautiful blog - looking forward to coming back! Leigh


I am so excited to have this cake bookmarked - gluten-free and involves almond paste. It's bound to be a winner :) Your pictures are gorgeous & I especially love the one of the waves. Happy Birthday!

anna maria

Hi Heidi! Happy Birthday! I have a camera question for you... I have Polaroid Land Camera that I want to take to Paris. I bought the film and was wondering what I should do when I pack it. Do you put it in your carry on and have them hand inspect it or do you put it in your checked luggage?

HS: Hi Wendy, I place it in a clear plastic bag, and request a hand check. You definitely don't want to put film in your checked luggage. Good luck and happy shooting!


Happy birthday, Heidi!! Love the new Quitokeeto items :)

HS: Thanks Dervla!


This is a lovely recipe. Made it over the weekend, but recommend 1 modification. Try icing first with 1 Tbsp. buttermilk, when I did it with 2 it was much more runny and didn't look as white and thick as Heidi's. You can always add if too thick. Still tasted great, husband loved it, too.

HS: Getting just the right of buttermilk in the glaze is tricky indeed! Thanks for the comment C.


These small cakes look so delectable. They may be small in size but I know they're very delicious. The beach looks so beautiful, very soothing to the eyes. I wish I could go there too. Thanks for providing the details regarding the recipe and baking procedures of your birthday cake. I am excited to try it and add my personal touch to this interesting creation. I may even serve this on my daughter's birthday next week.

Keona Curay

Hi and happy birthday Heidi. I live in South Africa and have been following you for ages. I have made many of your delicious recipes with appreciative success. I would very much like to make this cake but have no idea what Almond paste is and if there is a substitute.

Gwynn Smith

belated birthday cheers to you, heidi! wishing you another fantabulous year... love this recipe & going to make it for our upcoming celebration for soon-to-be King's Day in The Netherlands!! will be using 'crown' mold pan!! :-)


For those who can't find almond paste, you can easily make it yourself. Lots of recipes via Google. That said, I just bought two tubes of Odense almond paste to the make this cake for my husband, who has celiac disease. Just read the label and found that Odense adds wheat starch -- GRRR. What a pain. Can't wait to find another brand of almond paste and make this cake! It looks fabulous!


I've got leftover almond frangipane that I made for another cake awhile back. I was thinking of using that instead of the paste and reducing the number of eggs since the frangipane already has a few in it. What do you think? I'd love to make the cake this week - who doesn't need a Thursday night cake? :)

Molly's Wild Roots

These look lovely and I like the way you've 'draped' the icing over. Your site is a bit of an inspiration.


Happy Birthday, Heidi. I bought what looks like a jelly mold from an antique store, but have been afraid to use it as a cake pan. Gotta try it now. Isn't the mission in Soledad amazing? Loved the views and solitude of the area.


Happy Birthday, Heidi!

Susan Sullivan

Happy belated birthday Dear Heidi.. May God bless you...thank you for sharing all your lovely recipes and your sweet little birthday cake with us... :-) the pic with the sea is so


This cake looks amazing. I like it :) I think I might bake one for my birthday. Thanks :) .. Happy birthday Heidi!


Awwwwwwww Heidi... this cake recipe is so tender! And so lovely. Thank you for sharing and Happiest of Bdays, Madame. ;)


I have all the ingredients and going to make this cake tonight Yum!


My birthday is next week and I've always wanted to make myself an almond cake for my birthday. This is just perfect. Thanks H!


What sweet birthday cakes; I also, bake my own bday cake and will test drive this recipe. Thank you so much for the beautiful ocean wave, being stuck in the high desert I miss the ocean...


Happy, Happy Happy! This reminds me of one of my favorite farmer's market breakfast, chocolate croissant with almond paste filling. I have been gluten free for one year and missed my fav! So this is what I did with this recipe; made my own almond paste ( check ingredients on pkg most have wheat starch) 2 cups almond flour mixed with 1/2 cup honey, lyle's golden syrup or agave. Made the recipe as above and sprinkled chocolate shavings on top right out of the oven. As we say in Hawaii, "Ono- delish!" Thank you Heidi! And Happy Birthday!

HS: Thanks for this detailed alternative Diana - love hearing it was a success!


Love the idea of doing little cakes to accompany the big one... and jelly molds is an inspired idea. I guess you could even use large cookie cutters if you were prepared to fiddle around making a base for them.

alice Dishes

What a beautiful cake. I know that you say almond butter would not work, but if I cannot find almond paste, do you think I could substitute a combination of almond meal and honey?


Love baking with almond meal or almond paste. What do you think about subbing potato starch for corn starch? ps happy birthday!!


Happiest of Birthdays to YOU! Lovely cake! I have been making lower carb/grain free cakes in the mornings with very little sweetener and lots of eggs, coconut flour and a bit of almond flour or meal. This kind of reminds me of that but more festive (b-day style). I love it. And it's gluten-free, which is good for me. The glaze looks incredible. It's funny--but when I saw the wave picture at first I thought it was a blanket on a bed (like the picture above it). I'm not sure if that was intentional but good accident. :D

Hannah S-Q

I love the fun in this post, and who doesn't like cake? I recognized some of the shapes from molds we used to make "sugar cakes" from pure maple syrup, as a child when I was growing up. Your photography is equally beautiful, hope you have a wonderful weekend on the west coast. We finally have sun here in the mid-west but our Saturday morning temperature is still in the 20's!

Dan from Platter Talk

Happy Birthday Heidi :)

Ashish Naithani

This sounds beyond perfect, from the almond paste to that smudge proof buttermilk glaze! The recipe has already been printed out...I think we'll be having this for dessert this weekend. Thank you!

Rachael (Fuji Mama)

Is this a dense cake? Would you say almost pound cake like? My bf loves dense dense cakes, so I've been looking for pound cake recipes... if this isn't quite that level of denseness, could you recommend something? We have a bet on who will make a more delicious birthday cake.. he claims he'll attempt a 3 layer triple berry short cake for mine (ala Sweet Lady Jane's) and I'll come up with a pound cake for his birthday..

HS: Hi Mary, it's dense in the very best way possible. With less "crumb" than pound cake as far as the texture goes. Sounds like it should be just the thing for him!

Mary L.

This is the best news I've had all week. It's almost birthday season at my house and I really need to come up with a few flourless options. This is going to fit the bill just perfectly. Happy birthday, Heidi!


Easy, quick and very good!


I can't wait to try this uncomplicated dish!


What perfect cakes to eat by the seaside...they look like those shells with the fluted edges, smooth white bodies and brown-grey bumpy tops.


Oh my gosh, no flour! This is the kind of birthday cake I am totally on board with! Absolutely beautiful, I love how adaptable you've created this for us. And that wave picture- just fantastic!

Katy @ Katy's Kitchen

What do you think about baking this cake in madeline tins?

HS: I think that might be a brilliant idea Mimi.


Darn, my birthday was last month! Guess I'll have to wait...or perhaps find someone else for whom to make it! I am sure someone would really appreciate this cake! Anyway, happy birthday!

Michelle Ritchie | Delicious Karma

Heidi, I'm not sure what almond paste is. I don't think we have it here in NZ. Is it possible to make my own?


I love the simplicity of this recipe, Heidi. Do you think, for more purity, it would work with homemade almond paste?

HS: I haven't tried it yet, but yes, I think so!


Happy Birthday Heidi!!!! It will be my daughter's birthday soon so I have a chance to bake this myself. thanks for sharing, Roberta


can I make it with Almond butter instead and not use the butter?


buon compleanno! cake is one of my favorite 4-letter words...

diary of a tomato

this reminds me very much of one of my most favorite cakes, ever: amanda hesser's almond cake, damp, profoundly almond, addictive. i'm intrigued by the use of cornstarch here. it's a favorite of mine in cookie-baking, for its loft. will give this a go. oh, and as an aside? that pair of shots, rumpled bedsheets + waves? brilliant. and happy birthday! molly


Wow, that photo at the hotel room window made my day. #aestheticcomfortfood


Does your almond paste have almond extract in it Heidi?


Happy Birthday Heidi! Gonna try your almond cake this weekend. The glaze sounds scrumptious... any excuse to use a vanilla bean instead of extract! I, too, make my own birthday cakes - mine was this past Sunday and I make a cheesecake with the last of my Meyer lemons, using the last of my lemon poundcake to make the crust. Also made a flourless chocolate cake for my fellow April Fool who shared my party with you.


My favorite cake every is almond.. and an eight inch cake for the weekend, sounds just about perfect. Happy B-day Heidi and thank you for sharing the recipe, and the beautiful pictures of your West Coast water!


Lovely, lovely cakes. I was surfing your site this morning for dinner ideas for tonight and tomorrow eve... although I frequent your site and am well aware of your incredible creativity, I was just once again amazed and wanted to tell you.

Kelly Turnbull

Mmmm, almond paste. It makes nearly everything so delicious and sounds like the perfect birthday treat.


Well, looks like I'll be making myself a (this) birthday cake next week!

jenny s

Found this recipe to make your own almond paste. Sounds like you need a pretty heavy duty food processor to grind up the almonds. Here's another using almond meal/flour. I'd try to adapt the Jacques Torres recipe to use almond flour. My own birthday is coming up in a week, so I want to make this! Happy birthday Heidi, and thanks!


Happy belated birthday Heidi! Sounds like you had fun. As always, love all your recipes and photography. Too bad your wonderful shop doesn't ship to Canada... yet;) I still enjoy the window shopping immensely.


wow heidi, that last picture of the waves left me breathless.


Happy Birthday, Heidi! I'm celebrating my birthday tomorrow and I'll be making my own cake as well. I've been catching a lot of flack over this from friends and family so I think I'll be using your post as proof that baking your own birthday cake is entirely acceptable! I hope mine turns out as lovely as yours.

Katie (A Fork in Hand)

Happy birthday Heidi, this lovely cake looks scrumptious! I love using ground almonds in cakes, make the cake so moist, and now I look forward to the almond paste - thanks for the recipe!

Ozlem's Turkish Table

The last photograph - of the water - is absolutely beautiful. I can just sense the force of the water. The lines coming from the left and the colours! It made me feel. I love the look of these cakes. So charming! Inspired to find some unique pans.

Lydia Webber

Happy happy birthday Heidi! Live, love, laugh.


Sounds like you had a fabulous "escapade" and delicious cakes on your special day. Happy Birthday to you!!!

Ketmala Phoumalavong

Happy birthday! Your cakes are so lovely, and what gorgeous photos from your excursion. Thank you for sharing it all with us.

Maureen Abood

Happy Birthday!!! I have just baked myself a cake: gluten free strawberry cake! I am tempted to eat it straightaway but I had in mind to take a picture for the blog. Even if it's only 5 pm in Spain it's too dark for a pic. Today has been cloudy all day :(


I hope you had a very happy birthday. This cake looks so good, I don't live in the US, so I sometimes have a hard time getting the ingredients. Here I have seen almond butter, from the other comments I understand it would lack sugar right? Do you think I could substitute? I have done various of your cakes, all of them really good, I'd really love to try this one. Blessings

HS: Hi Adriana - no, almond butter won't work as a direct replacement for almond paste.


I made myself a birthday cake this year as well. Yours looks perfect for you and someone else to celebrate and enjoy without over indulging. The photo of the ocean over the bed is incredible. I'd love to learn to take great photos. I'm still learning but have a long way to go. Simply stunning! Happy Belated Birthday!

Vicki Bensinger

The little cake tins look like the tins I use to make sandbakkels a Norwegian cookie. My set is pretty old , there are 6 each of 6 different shapes, diamond, 2 rounds , oval, heart and a rectangle. They all have the multi fluted shapes. You press the cookie dough in very thin then bake and carefully pop the cookies out. Turn them upside down so you see the pattern for serving. You can also fill them with pudding or cream and fruit though I never have.

Elizabeth F

What beautiful photos! Happy Birthday to you!


This looks delightful. I've been drooling over a lemon and almond cake from a cookbook called Vintage Cakes, but I haven't made the effort to find almond paste yet. Sounds heavenly. Happy Birthday.


Happy Birthday! A beautiful cake and a beautiful getaway

natalie @ wee eats

This little cake looks divine. I made a cake yesterday too because... it was also my birthday! What a happy coincidence. :) Hope you had a lovely day. xxx


Happy Birthday! Looks like a great way to celebrate.

Simply Life

What an intriguing cake recipe--mostly almonds, no flour! I'll have to give it a try. Heidi, you always have the best moulds! Love the bigger round one especially.


Happy Birthday! This cake looks delicious, I love almond flavor. What brand of almond paste do you recommend?


happy birthday heidi! beautiful cakes you baked here... personally i've always been too nervous to use one of those vintage pans for actual baking, but they certainly make dainty ones! worth a try perhaps. :)


Gorgeous cake! This sounds so tasty!

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar

Prettiest cakes I've ever seen! Happy birthday!

Marie @ Little Kitchie

Almond paste? That's a new ingredient for me - I have never seen it in stores!


At the lodge I work, in the middle of the Maine woods, we easily have over 50 pounds of almond paste (maybe more)! Luckily, we also have lots of guests. I've been looking for a simple recipe to put a dent in our supply, and this recipe looks like it beautifully fits the bill! Thanks!

Amy @ CookingScraps

We did the drive from San Fran to Santa Monica in January ... for us, it was breeding elephant seals that marked the journey. And Peter Pan on audiobook :) Happy birthday x

Amanda @ Easy Peasy Organic

Happy birthday!


I can always find an excuse for cake! I hope you had a very happy birthday Heidi.


my aunt recently made a cake using nuts and nut flour (almond, macadamia...) instead of wheat (and many many eggs). i thought it was amazing! def have to try your recipe which seems to be quite similar. btw: the pictures look fab! look at the structures the water makes!


As far as I understand the main difference between almond paste and marzipan is the ratio of ground almonds to sugar. Generally, almond paste will have roughtly equal proportions of almonds and sugar (plus other ingredients) and marzipan will have a higer ratio of sugar (up to 75% sugar) plus other ingredients. Almond paste is best for baking while marzipan is better for covering and molding. BTW I love that this cake is GF, sooo cool!


Happy Birthday! It sounds like you had a great trip. The cake looks so delicious. I love the simple buttermilk glaze.


Wonderful cake. I have never used a buttermilk frosting as I rarely frost my cakes, but this looks like a great idea to keep the cake moist and fresh for longer if traveling, or otherwise too I must try this really soon.

sangeeta khanna

Your Santa Monica pics are gorgeous! I live in San Diego and the past day and tomorrow are supposed to be in the 80s...just exactly the kind of weather I live in SoCal for! And your cake...equally gorgeous. And no flour. WOW! Totally pinning it. Love this. Happy BDAY!!!!!

Averie @ Averie Cooks

GLUTEN FREE! I CAN EAT THIS!!! (of course, make sure ingredients are truly GF, etc...) anyway, i was wondering if almond butter would work in place of almond paste??? i have lots of almond butter running around...


Happy Birthday Heidi! So happy to hear about QUITOKEETO! I have been trying for FOREVER to get one of those beautiful knives...Monday {4/22} is my birthday - I am feeling lucky!

Kristin | The Dinner Concierge

What gorgeous little cakes!


Happy birthday Heidi! This cake looks amazing. I think I might bake one for my mother's birthday next week, she loves almonds. Thanks :)


I've never used almond paste, but this seems like as good an excuse as any to get in on that action. Yum!

LisaR @ Who Stole My Baby?

Comments are closed.

Apologies, comments are closed.

More Recipes

101cookbooks social icon
Join my newsletter!
Weekly recipes and inspirations.

Popular Ingredients

Use of this site constitutes acceptance of its User Agreement and Privacy Policy.

101 Cookbooks is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Any clickable link to on the site is an affiliate link.