The Cheat’s Birthday Cake

Do you wish you could whip up a show-stopping cake for that special birthday, but have no idea where to start?

As cake trends evolve and cakes grow taller and more complex, it can be somewhat daunting for the beginner to know where to start, when it comes time to bake that special person in your life a fabulous birthday cake.

Obviously, I have more complex recipes and tutorials on my website, but whenever I talk cake with my non-cakey friends – or muggles as some of us in the cake world like to call them – I hear a lot of, ‘Oh, I could never do that!’, ‘I don’t have the time’ or the classic, ‘I wouldn’t know where to start…’

With that in mind, I decided that my latest ‘recipe’ (although one can barely call it that) would be the ultimate cheat’s guide to creating a beautiful and trendy birthday cake, whilst considering every possible shortcut to allow you to achieve a cake that you can be proud of, without all of the stress that goes into learning to bake the ‘proper’ way.

Everything I used in this recipe was obtained from my local supermarket at the weekend, to ensure that I didn’t use any specialist ingredients or tools that you can’t easily buy as part of your weekly shop and I think the results speak for themselves.

With just some lemon-flavoured boxed cake mixes, a few ready-made finishing touches and a couple of fresh ingredients, you will be able to create this beautiful birthday cake that will put a smile on anyone’s face.

Who knows though. You might just pick up a couple of tips along the way that will give you the confidence to tackle something slightly more complex next time.

My Cheat’s Birthday Cake is the perfect starter recipe for anyone who dreams of being able to make modern, beautiful cakes, but is lacking the confidence to give it a go.

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The ‘Cheat’s’ Birthday Cake

  • Author: Mr Baker's Cakes
  • Prep Time: 90mins
  • Cook Time: 30mins
  • Total Time: 120mins
  • Diet: Vegetarian


The ultimate ‘cheat’s’ guide to creating a beautiful and trendy birthday cake, whilst considering every possible shortcut to allow you to achieve a cake that you can be proud of, without all of the stress that goes into learning to bake the ‘proper’ way.


Units Scale

For the cake:

  • Three boxes of Betty Crocker Zesty Lemon Cake Mix.
  • 9 medium eggs
  • 270ml vegetable oil
  • 540ml water
  • The zest of three large unwaxed lemons

For the buttercream icing:

  • 500g slightly salted butter
  • 1kg of icing sugar
  • The zest of one large unwaxed lemon
  • Dr Oetker Extra Strong Food Colour Gel

For the decoration:

  • Dr Oetker Unicorn Confetti
  • Six pre-made macaron (I bought my lemon flavoured ones at TK Maxx, but my local supermarket stocks a mixed-flavour multipack too)


To make The ‘Cheat’s’ Birthday Cake, you will also need the following equipment:

  • At least two 8” round cake tins
  • A large mixing bowl, a wooden spoon and a whisk (or a stand mixer with the equivalent attachments)
  • A fine grater or lemon zester
  • A sieve
  • 2-3 piping bags (or one reusable one)
  • A Wilton 2D closed star tip
  • A palette knife or dessert spoon
  • A cake edge scraper (or ruler)


Start by preheating your oven to 180°C (160°C fan) and greasing and lining six 8” cake tins (or use two, and wash and reuse them like I did).

Prepare the three batches of cake mix, following the instructions on the box.

To punch up the lemon flavour and to counteract any artificial taste, I added the zest of one large unwaxed lemon to each batch of mix.

Pour into the tins and bake in the oven for around 30 minutes.

Once the cakes have stopped singing (yes, it’s a thing – it means you can’t hear them bubbling anymore), remove them from the oven and cool in the tins for five minutes, before transferring to a cooling rack.

While the cakes are cooling, beat the butter for 3-5 minutes at high speed, until pale in colour.

Sieve a third of the icing sugar into the mixture, along with the zest of one large unwaxed lemon.

Beat together until combined.

Add another third of the icing sugar, along with two table spoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice and beat again.

Finally add the last of the icing sugar and beat on high speed until all of the sugar is fully incorporated and the mixture is smooth.

If it’s still a little stiff, feel free to add some more lemon juice to loosen the mixture.

Transfer some of the buttercream into a separate bowl and colour it with the yellow gel colour. Set aside.

Once the cake is cool, place the first layer of cake on to your serving dish or cake board and cover with a layer of your buttercream filling, spreading this out with a spatula or the bottom of a dessert spoon.

Add the next layer of cake and pipe (yep, we’re getting into the real skills now) a ring of buttercream around the edge to form a barrier or dam.

Fill the buttercream ring with lemon curd.

Repeat your alternating layers until you have added all of the layers of the cake.

Spread the sides and top of the cake with more of the plain buttercream and smooth this with an edge scraper, if available. You can achieve the same effect with a ruler – but make sure it is clean!

Place the cake in the fridge (if you have room – it’s a bit of a monster) for around 30 minutes to allow your crumb coat to set.

Once the buttercream has had a chance to stiffen, spread the yellow buttercream all around the sides of the cake and use your scraper (or ruler) to smooth this out again. A cake turntable or lazy Susan makes this task much easier.

Next, place the remaining lemon curd into another piping bag and pipe this around the top edge of the cake, allowing some to drip down the sides. Fill in the rest of the top with the remaining lemon curd.

Next, place a closed star piping tip (Wilton 2D – yep, we’re getting proper technical now) into a piping bag and pipe six ice cream-style swirls on top of the cake, alternating these with your macaron.

Top each of the swirls with some of your Unicorn Confetti sprinkles, before sprinkling some more around the top edge of the cake.


Finally, sprinkle more Unicorn Confetti all around the based of the cake and, using a spatula or any other flat edged implement (like your ruler again), carefully drag some of these up the side of the cake.

And there you have it! A trendy and pretty impressive-looking birthday cake, with barely any real effort at all!


The Cheat’s Birthday Cake will keep for up to 3 days in a sealed container at room temperature.

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