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

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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!

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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

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