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Best birthday cake 2023: Celebrate in style with birthday cakes from £5

Looking for something extra tasty? Here's our pick of the best birthday cakes you can buy

We know how important cake is, which is why we’ve searched far and wide to find some of the best birthday cake you can buy. Our fast-paced lives don’t always allow time to make one and let’s face it, not all of us are competent bakers. What’s more, finding a decent one in-store or online can often produce disappointing results – too dry, too sweet, too artificial-tasting or, if you’re unlucky, all three.

If you want to dodge the dodgy cake, you’ve come to the right place – our roundup of the best birthday cake brings you great cakes from top bakeries to budget-friendly supermarkets. So whether you want a no-expenses-spared dessert, the best birthday cake for kids or the best vegan birthday cake around, we have it sussed.

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How to buy the perfect birthday cake

Getting the size right

Choosing a cake that’s big enough to satisfy your party is essential, especially when you’re buying online and can’t actually see how big the cake is. In fact, the single biggest complaint of birthday cakes bought online is that they arrive unexpectedly small. Always check how many it serves and remember that some cakes, like those with chocolate ganache or fresh cream, will be richer than others and often go further than, say, a classic sponge.

Made-to-order or off-the-shelf?

The benefit of made-to-order cakes is that they can be personalised, usually with wording of your choice, but sometimes with additional options such as size, flavour, icing type and colour. In many cases, you can commission a unique design of your choice. The benefit of off-the-shelf birthday cakes is that they’re cheaper and there’s no need to order ahead, both of which are a bonus if you need something last minute.

How do we test our birthday cakes?

To find the very best birthday cakes, we review each cake based on presentation, taste, texture, value for money and – in the case of special dietary requirements – how close they are to the real deal.

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The best birthday cakes you can buy

1. Marks & Spencer Rainbow Layers Cake: Best rainbow cake

Price: £30 | Buy now from Marks & Spencer

Rainbow cakes – multi-layered sponges, each with a different colour – are all the rage. And no wonder: it’s the gift that keeps on giving, with an aesthetically pleasing cake on the outside that looks even more beautiful once you cut into it. The problem is many rainbow cakes favour style over substance. Not so with this one.

Despite the six layers of vibrantly coloured sponge (which makes the cake fantastically high), M&S have only used natural colourings and the texture is light, while the vanilla buttercream and crunch from the outer decoration bring in new textures that complement it perfectly. As for flavour, it’s spot on – not too sweet and with just the right amount of vanilla to taste. There’s a larger version that you can personalise for £45.

Key specs – Serves: 12; Shelf life: 5 days; Size: Diameter 6.5in

Buy now from Marks & Spencer

2. Lola’s Cupcakes Chocolate Fudge Cake: Best fresh chocolate cake

Price: £20 | Buy now from Lola’s Cupcakes

Using the fresh ingredients will always give you a better payoff when it comes to cake and that’s certainly the case with this delicious Chocolate Fudge Cake from Lola’s Cupcakes. Made up of a rich chocolate sponge, this double-layered delight is filled and lathered in a smooth chocolate ganache, drizzled with milk and dark chocolate sauces and topped with chocolate and gold leaf flakes.

As Lola’s Cupcakes doesn’t offer nationwide delivery on this particular treat, you’ll only be able to get it sent straight to your door at certain locations including London, Birmingham, and Slough – so check the website for full details.

If you do happen to live outside of the delivery zone for this cake, don’t fret, as there are still plenty of cupcakes, brownies and cheesecakes ready for nationwide delivery.

Key specs – Serves: Variable; Shelf life: 48hrs; Size: 5, 7, 9, 11 or 12in

Buy now from Lola’s Cupcakes

3. Waitrose Triple Layer Carrot Cake: Best carrot birthday cake that’ll feed a crowd

Price: £20 | Buy now from Waitrose

Designed and made exclusively for Waitrose by Fiona Cairns’ luxury bakery, this triple-layer carrot cake is just the right mixture of spice and everything nice. The recipe uses carrot puree mixed with ground spices, leaving you with a moist sponge that’s also laden with pecans and sultanas. Between each layer of sponge and also on top is a dreamy yoghurt and cream cheese frosting, which complements the warming spices beautifully.

Unlike some carrot cakes, there is also a touch of orange flavouring which reduces the carroty taste somewhat, meaning even carrot cake haters might enjoy this one.

Key specs – Serves: 18-20; Shelf life: Not stated; Size: 20cm (8in)

Buy now from Waitrose

4. Betty’s Personalised Cake: Best personalised birthday cake

Price: From £55 | Buy now from Betty’s

We’ve never been disappointed by a Betty’s cake, and we’ve worked our way through most of them over the years. Their personalised birthday cakes are among the most aesthetically pleasing of the lot, especially if you like a more traditional look, and they’re always exceptionally tasty.

They differ in shape, colour (with additional choices for piping and ribbon) and cake type – including fruit cake, sponge or chocolate, all of which are luscious. You can even pick between royal or soft icing. The sizes available are six, eight or ten inches. Our favourite is the Genoese sponge with yellow detail.

Key specs – Serves: Variable; Shelf life: 1 week; Size: 6, 8 or 10in

Buy now from Betty’s

5. Lola’s Cupcakes Red Velvet Happy Birthday Cake: Best red velvet birthday cake

Price: £17.50 – £100 | Buy now from Lola’s Cupcakes

This handmade, red velvet cake from Lola’s Cupcakes is a particularly tasty treat. It features that deep red base everyone knows and loves, coupled with a fresh cream cheese icing. It’s also topped off with a hand-piped Happy Birthday message, just in case anyone had forgotten what all the celebrating was about.

As it’s made with some fresh ingredients, it’s recommended you polish it off within 48hrs of delivery – with that being next day delivery should you order before 2 pm.

However, as with many of Lola’s fresh cakes, this product can only be delivered across certain locations due to the limited fleet of delivery drivers and refrigerated trucks.

If you like the look of this but require a gluten-free version, there’s also a practically identical coeliac-friendly option.

Key specs – Serves: Variable; Shelf life: 48hrs; Size: 5, 7, 9, 11 or 12in

Buy now from Lola’s Cupcakes

6. Oggs zesty lemon cake: Best cheap vegan birthday cake

Price: £5 | Buy now from Waitrose

Oggs cakes might not have all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a traditional birthday cake but what they lack in grandeur, they make up for in taste. Anyone who’s vegan or can’t eat dairy will know how difficult it is to buy off-the-shelf birthday cakes, so having a brand like Oggs is a real treat. The best part about this cake is that you wouldn’t know it was egg- and dairy-free.

It’s not super light but it is incredibly moist and doesn’t crumble apart when you bite into it. The icing is very creamy and has a sweet but not overpowering lemony flavour. The only criticism of this cake is that it is quite oily, so if you prefer a drier cake texture, this might not be for you. Additionally, if you’re worried about the cake looking too ‘plain’ the addition of some candles and edible sprinkles will brighten it up. We also love Oggs mini vanilla sprinkle cupcakes and think they’re a nice ‘individual’ alternative to a full-size birthday cake at parties.

Key specsServes: Variable; Shelf life: Typically over one month; Size: Not specified

Buy now from Waitrose

7. Lola’s Cupcakes Gluten Free Fudge Cake: Best gluten-free birthday cake

Price: £18.50 – £85 | Buy from Lola’s Cupcakes

Lola’s Cupcakes has managed to produce a delectable gluten-free and vegan fudge cake that’s as tasty as it looks. It’s been accredited by Coeliac UK and the Vegan society and is also free from refined sugar. The cake consists of a moreish chocolate sponge filled with chocolate ganache and fresh raspberries, which also adorn the top of the cake.

The size can be customised to your liking between 5 to 11in, and you can even request it to be heart shaped if you’re buying for that special someone in your life.

Key specs – Serves: Variable; Shelf life: 48hrs; Size: 5, 7, 9 or 11in

Buy from Lola’s Cupcakes

8. Asda Shark Cake: A cute and affordable children’s birthday cake

Price: £12 | Buy now from Asda

It might not be the most anatomically accurate shark cake in the world, but that enormous grin and wonky dorsal fin are guaranteed to make a splash at any young child’s birthday party. Presented on a blue base with wave detail, this aquatic dessert is made using madeira sponge with jam and sweet icing. At 18 slices, it’s easily enough for your average children’s birthday party, too.

We’re not going to pretend it’s the best tasting sponge we’ve ever come across, but our little testers had no complaints, with mere crumbs left on their plates. And it’s gender-neutral, as well as being the friendliest – and possibly most rotund – shark in town.

Key specs – Serves: 18; Shelf life: 22 days; Size: Diameter 6in

Buy now from Asda

9. Just Love Vegan Chocolate Cake: Best vegan chocolate birthday cake on a budget

Price: £6 | Buy now from Ocado

For a cheap and cheerful chocolate cake befitting of any occasion, Ocado has developed a fantastically fudgy and moist treat without using milk, eggs or butter.

This vegan-friendly dessert hasn’t got any nuts, hydrogenated fat or artificial colours and flavours either, so it should suit most dietary requirements. The sponge is covered with rich, chocolatey frosting and topped off with edible, lustred dark chocolate drops.

Key specs – Serves: 8; Shelf life: Typically over one week; Size: Not specified (488g)

Buy now from Ocado

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