Easy Cakes to Bake at Home

MORE editor Judith Coyne learned to bake with the help of these easy recipes from New York Times writer Mark Bittman. Read the full story here.



Find more cake recipes from Mark Bittman here.

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Coconut Layer Cake

Even a novice can master this classic. Mark Bittman likes to use unsweetened shredded coconut (3 cups) in the recipe, but it’s fine to go with the sweetened variety if your palate insists. Or, like our editor-author, you can experiment with a mixture of the two. 


Prep time: 25 minutes

Bake time: 25 minutes

Makes at least 10 servings


  • 3¼ sticks unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pans and the wax paper
  • 2 cups cake or all-purpose flour, plus some for the pans
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • 4  eggs
  • 1½   teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2½  teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 3  cups shredded coconut, unsweetened or sweetened
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 1 1-pound box confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons coconut milk,  or as needed


1.Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease the bottom and sides of two 9-inch layer-cake pans: Cover the bottom with wax or parchment paper; butter, then flour the pans; invert and tap to remove the excess flour.


2. Put 1¼ sticks of the butter in a food processor with the sugar, and process until light in color and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, pulsing after each addition; then add 1 teaspoon of the vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder, ¼ teaspoon of the salt and ½ cup of the -coconut. Add the dry ingredients to the processor, a little at a time, alternating with the milk (2 to 3 additions); pulse just to combine after each addition; do not overprocess the mixture.


3. Turn the batter into the pans, and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean, 22 to 25 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then cool on a rack.


4. Put the confectioner’s sugar in a food processor along with the remaining 2 sticks of butter, ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon vanilla; process until creamy and fully combined, 30 to 45 seconds. With the processor running, gradually add enough coconut milk to reach a spreadable consistency.


5. When the cake is cool, put the first layer, top side down, on a plate or cake stand. Spread a third of the frosting on top, all the way to the edges, and sprinkle with ½ cup shredded coconut. Put the other layer on top, flat side down. Spread on another third of the frosting, and use the rest to cover the sides. Press the remaining 2 cups coconut onto the top and sides of the cake. Cover with wax paper, and store at room temperature for up to 2 days; covered with plastic wrap, it will last an extra day.

Mitchell Feinberg

Boozy Apple Cake

Pureed apples, blended into the batter, give this cake a distinctive flavor, but it’s the cup of cognac—or other brandy or bourbon—cooked with butter and sugar that makes it memorable.


Prep time: 50 minutes

Bake time: 50 minutes, plus
one hour of resting time

Makes about 12 servings


2  sticks unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pan

2½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more if using a Bundt pan

2 medium apples (about 8 ounces), peeled, cored and quartered

2½ cups sugar

4 eggs

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

 ½ cup milk

1 cup Cognac, Calvados or other brandy or bourbon


1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 9-by-13-inch rectangular pan, or butter and flour a 9-inch Bundt pan.


2. Put the apples in a blender or food processor; puree; remove, and set aside. Put 1½ sticks butter and 1½ cups sugar in a food processor, and pulse until combined. With the motor running, add the eggs one at a time. Add the apple puree, and process until just combined.


3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Add about a third of the flour mixture to the apple mixture in the food processor. Then, with the motor running, add about half of the milk; add another third of the flour, followed by the rest of the milk, then finally the last of the flour. Process until the batter just evens out. Turn the batter into the prepared pan, and bake until the middle is set (your fingers should leave only a small indentation when you gently press the cake), 45 to 50 minutes. When the cake is done, cool it in the pan for about 10 minutes.


4. Meanwhile, combine the liquor in a small saucepan with the remaining ½ stick butter and 1 cup sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, then pour over the cake; let it sit for at least an hour before serving. (For a Bundt cake, let it sit for an hour, then unmold.) Cover with wax paper, and store at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Mitchell Feinberg

Orange-Polenta Pound Cake

If you’re looking for maximum effect (“you baked this yourself?!”) with minimum effort, this treat is hard to beat. And the prep time clocks in at a mere 23 minutes. 


Prep time: 23 minutes

Bake time: 1¼ hours

Makes about 8 servings


2 sticks unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pan

1 cup all-purpose or cake flour

1 cup cornmeal

1½ teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

1 cup sugar

5 eggs, separated

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice


1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with butter.


2. Mix together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and orange zest in a bowl, and set aside. Use a food processor to cream the butter until it’s smooth. Add ¾ cup of the sugar, and process until it’s well blended; then add the remaining sugar. Process until the mixture is light in color and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the food processor if necessary. With the motor running, add the egg yolks one at a time. Add the orange juice, and process until blended. Transfer to a large bowl. Mix in the dry ingredients by hand just until smooth; do not beat. In another bowl, beat the egg whites with a whisk until they hold soft peaks; fold them in gently but thoroughly (the base batter is very thick).


3.Turn into the pan, and bake until a toothpick inserted into the top comes out clean, about 1¼ hours. Let the cake rest in the pan for 5 minutes before inverting onto a rack. Remove the pan, then turn the cake right side up. Store at room temperature, covered with wax paper, for a day or two.

Mitchell Feinberg

Cherry-Almond Brownies

The swoon score for this confection is easily 10 out of 10. It’s best when eaten within 24 hours—not that there’s much chance the supply will last that long. 


Prep time: 18 minutes

Bake time: 25 minutes

Makes about 1 dozen


1 stick unsalted butter, plus more for the pan

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

½ cup all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

½ teaspoon almond extract

½ cup chopped raw or toasted almonds

½ cup dried cherries


1.Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan with butter.


2. Combine the butter and chocolate in a small saucepan over very low heat, stirring occasionally. When the chocolate is just about melted, remove from the heat, and continue to stir until the mixture is smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, and stir in the sugar. Then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Gently stir in the flour, salt and almond extract, then fold in the almonds and cherries. Pour and scrape into the pan, and bake until just barely set in the middle, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on a rack. Cut and store, covered, at room temperature for no more than a day.



Click here for even more recipes from Mark Bittman.


Click here to read executive editor Judy Coyne's hilarious yet heartfelt account of learning to bake.


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Mitchell Feinberg

First Published May 11, 2011

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