Officially, there’s no real definition for a “snacking cake.” But unofficially? A snacking cake is a type of cake that’s simple to prepare (typically baked as one layer or even as cupcakes) with minimal decoration (think large, casual swaths of frosting or a quick dusting of confectioners’ sugar) that can be enjoyed just about any time of day.
That means a snacking cake can be a breakfast cake, a lunch cake, an afternoon break cake, and yes, even a midnight treat cake. The snacking cake is versatile and informal, the type you might leave in its pan on the counter, cutting small slivers to munch on throughout the day. And as everyday cakes, these bakes can bring some fun and whimsy to your regular routine — what better way to celebrate a mundane afternoon than with a slice of something special?
To brighten up your day, here are some of our favorite flavorful snacking cakes:
No frying to be found here! These tender cupcakes (thank you cake flour) feature a fruity jam filling beneath a buttery, confectioners’ sugar-coated exterior. In other words, they’re your favorite doughnut shop treat, baked in muffin tins and ready to be snacked on morning, noon, and night. Easy to make, able to be stored for days at a time, and ready to eat at any moment? Sounds like the quintessential snacking cake(s) to me.
This cake is like if you took the best banana bread you know, then turned it into a sheet cake and added an irresistible chocolatey frosting. Need we say more?
OK, we will, because this cake basically inspires poetry. It starts with the buttery brown sugar cake base, made with super ripe bananas for flavor and buttermilk for extra-soft texture. Then there’s the frosting, made with malted milk powder for that unmistakable old-school taste. It’s the kind of cake you want to last forever but disappears far too quickly. (Good thing it’s easy to make again!)
Rich, moist, and flavorful, this cake is the one-bowl treat of your dreams. It’s finished with a two-ingredient chocolate crackle frosting — a mix of ground chocolate and granulated sugar that’s sprinkled atop the warm cake so that it melts ever-so-slightly into a crispy, crunchy coating. Your afternoon tea break never tasted so good. And a decadent cake was never so simple to prepare — it only takes an hour start to finish.
Do we sometimes overlook coffeecake? Probably. Should we? Definitely not, especially when bright, tart versions like this rhubarb-ginger one are out there for us to bake right this minute. Crowned with a gingery streusel and infused with tangy rhubarb in every bite, this is the kind of treat that makes you question why anyone could ever call coffeecake boring.
Some of the best snacking cakes are ones that deliver on flavor. Absent elaborate frostings or exciting fillings, the cake itself has to stand out. And boy, does this one do just that. It’s got golden sugar for subtle, caramel-like sweetness, a dynamic trio of cinnamon, ginger, and cloves for spice, and whole cups of add-ins like carrots and nuts. Plus, there’s the final flourish: a dose of freshly grated nutmeg in the cream cheese frosting for a bright spark of flavor.
Cookies-and-cream may be a nostalgic ice cream flavor, but it’s also so much more: crunchy, creamy, chocolatey … or in other words, the embodiment of an Oreo dipped in a glass of cold milk. And somehow all those characteristics are wrapped up in the cute little packages that are these cupcakes. The frosting is the star — a rich, fluffy dollop that evokes chocolate sandwich cookie fillings. But don’t overlook the cupcakes themselves: tender from cake flour and deeply chocolatey, they may even make you prefer cake over cookies.
Cover photo (Rhubarb-Ginger Coffeecake) by Rick Holbrook; food styling by Kaitlin Wayne.