31 Birthday Desserts That Aren’t Cake

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Looking for the perfect birthday cake alternative? We get it—sometimes you just have to think outside the bakery box. That’s why we’ve found 28 show-stopping birthday desserts that are sure to satisfy any sweet tooth. From ice cream to cookies, scroll down to get inspired!

photo: iStock

Birthday Charcuterie Boards

What's better than one dessert? A whole bunch of desserts, on one giant platter. Whether it's a cocoa-themed spread or you want to go full-on birthday-themed, the hottest new trend in food is taking over the party, too. Birthday charcuterie boards are where it's at! 


Is there anything better than the cinnamon-sugar goodness of a county fair churro? For those looking to recreate this particular magic at home, we present this recipe from Peanut Butter & Peppers. The secret here is that the churros are baked, not fried—which means they have all the sweet, doughy crunch you expect but you can skip the greasy frying. For the whole scoop, click here.


Mini Brownie Bowls

Because cones are so ordinary, right? Up the ice cream sundae bar game by opting for a super sweet bowl the gang can eat: these mini brownie bowls from Life Love Liz are perfect because you can serve them warm or cooled down, depending on how much time you have before you need them. Get the details on how she did it over at lifeloveliz.com.

Unicorn Sundaes

Why do unicorn cake when you can serve up unicorn-themed sundaes? The best part about this amazing treat from Dawn at Cutefetti is her low-cal version that still has all the whimsy and the taste. Find out how she made them (and get a ton of other cute ideas) here

Colorful Macarons

These popular French cookies can be made in a variety of colors and flavors and have an extra-festive birthday appeal—plus it's easy to portion control sugar intake for the younger kids. While they can be a bit challenging to make for the novice baker, Sally's Bakings Addiction has a step-by-step tutorial that just might help you win this whimsical dessert. If you're not feeling up to it, patisseries across the country sell these delectables. You can also order up a batch from [ma-ka-rohn] where you'll also find gluten-free varieties. They ship across the US. 

Brownie Pops

Brownies go sophisticated with this fun recipe from The Cookful. Just whip up a batch using your favorite recipe (or a boxed mix), and dip them into a simple ganache to up the fancy factor. To see the full recipe, click here.

And for more desserts on a stick, click here

Baked Birthday Donuts

Do not be surprised if these funfetti-filled donuts become a new birthday tradition. They’re simple to make and super colorful. They’re also perfect for a crowd. Don’t forget the glaze! Get the recipe from If You Give a Blonde a Kitchen.

Cheesecake Flan

Are you a fan of flan? How about the creamy goodness of cheesecake? You can have ‘em both with this recipe from A Little Yumminess. It’s more firm than flan and lighter than cheesecake—perfect for a birthday cake alternative that’s a little outside the box. Click here for the how-to!

Sprinkle Sugar Cookies

We dare you to find a more cheerful cookie than these sugar masterpieces from The View from Great Island. They’re perfectly festive for any birthday soiree, and a cinch to whip up. Use a whole assortment of sprinkles or customize the colors for your tot! For the instructions, head here.

Party Cannoli

It’s easy to add cannoli to your birthday party lineup with this genius idea from Hungry Gems. Picture it: smooth ricotta, vanilla paste speckles, and fluffy sugar. Don’t forget the colorful sprinkles for that extra special touch! Get inspired to make your own here.

Nutella Whoopie Pie

When a dessert has “whoopie” right in the title, you know it’s a reason to celebrate. These delish sandwich creations have a hint of orange, a whole lot of Nutella, and are just the thing to amp up a birthday party. (Psst! They also make great gifts!) Score the recipe by clicking here.

Watermelon Split

This may sound bananas, but hear us out: watermelon splits just might be your new favorite split. They're simple to make and perfect for summer birthday parties! Add some blackberries for extra flavor and you'll wow every party guest. Snag this recipe for yourself by clicking here

Strawberry and Sprinkles Pancakes

Give your usual birthday dessert a flip with this sweet idea from Averie Cooks: pancakes! These phenomenal flapjacks are bursting with sprinkles, topped with strawberries, and the perfect way to begin or end a birthday. Grab the instructions here.

photo: A Subtle Revelry

Ice Cream Tacos

Who says tacos have to be savory? These festive dessert tacos are totally on-trend for a 2018 birthday and easier than cupcakes. Check out how A Subtle Revelry puts them together (And if you're looking for more dessert taco ideas, we've got them right here.). 

Strawberry Rice Crispy Pops

We love these adorable pops from Tast-e, and not just because they look like something that belongs in a cotton candy castle. They’re just as easy to whip up as your run-of-the-mill rice krispie treats, and the little ones are sure to gobble them up. Get the scoop by clicking here.

S’mores Muffin Tin Ice Cream Cakes

These mini ice cream cakes from Blender Happy may look complicated, but they’re actually pretty easy to pull off. With a graham cracker crust, some hidden mini marshmallows and a banana-based ice cream topping, they’ll be an instant favorite with your crew. To grab the recipe, click here.

Ice Cream Cupcakes

These may look like boardwalk-style chocolate dipped cones, but don't be fooled—they're cupcakes! The Flair Exchange shows how to bake the cupcakes right into the ice cream cones, and dip them a chocolate shell topping. For step-by-step instructions, click here.

Pina Colada on a Stick

Keep things light with this fun (virgin) twist on the piña colada by First Look, Then Cook. Strawberries and pineapple are paired with coconut gelatin squares for a combination that will send you straight to the islands. Click here to snag the recipe.

Banana Split Ice Cream Pie (In a Jar)

Around My Family Table's great idea combines all the best parts of a banana split into a cute mason jar, making it the perfect individual treat for kids. Layer up graham cracker crumbs, different types of ice cream, and fruit toppings for a dessert that really rocks. To check out the full recipe, click here.

Ice Cream Cake Pops

We’re obsessed with these yummy ice cream cake pops from Better Recipes—and they’re actually easier to make than normal cake pops. Just scoop mini portions of ice cream, then roll them in your favorite cake flavors. To get all the details, click here.

Oreo Ice Cream Sandwiches

Oreo lovers will go crazy for these ice cream sandwiches with a twist from Frosting and a Smile. You can customize the toppings based on taste or to match the party's theme—either way, your guests will gobble 'em up. Click here to grab the recipe.

Grilled Donuts

If you’ve got a donut fan in your fam, they’ll fall for this sweet treat from The Merry Thought. Paired with ice cream or fruity dips, they’re an easy way to feed a crowd, too. Get the recipe by clicking here.

Cookies and Cream Dessert Pizza

Combine your kid’s two favorite things—pizza and cookies—and you’ll get this insanely delicious dessert from Amuse Your Bouche. This version is topped with marshmallow fluff, Oreos and chocolate, but you can get creative topping it with your favorite sweets and fruits. Click here to get the recipe.

Balboa Bars

These ice cream bars from Half Baked Harvest are a step above your usual picks from the ice cream truck. Customize them with Oreos, chocolate chips, sprinkles, nuts—the sky's the limit. They can be made ahead of time or little chefs can get involved in topping their creations themselves. Click here for all the details.

Breakfast for Dessert

Chloe, a San Francisco-based French illustrator and mom to daughter Lula, started a trend in birthday cake alternatives when, for her daughter's first birthday, she served up Belgian waffles to her guests, instead. Making large batches of these treats is super simple with a waffle iron, and if you want to get creative, go for an unconventionally shaped waffle maker.

Tiny Pies

If you’re not a star baker, you can still wow your guests by ordering a batch of adorable Tiny Pies. Made by a mother-daughter duo based in Austin, Texas, the pies are small enough to fit into the palm of your hand, and they can be shipped right to your door. To find out more, click here.

Funfetti Cake Batter Popsicles

For a birthday-appropriate twist on popsicles, try this clever idea from Unusually Lovely. It’s super easy to whip up with the help of cake mix, rainbow sprinkles and heavy cream. Click here to get the recipe.

Dirt Dessert

This fun idea from Mooshu Jenne is perfect for an outdoor party. Layer chocolate pudding, whipped cream and crushed chocolate cookies for "dirt" that's sure to be delicious. To grab the recipe, click here.

Peanut Butter Oreo Ice Cream Cake

Guests of all ages will be wowed by this impressive cake from Lauren's Latest. It's actually pretty easy to throw together using Oreo cookies, chocolate ice cream and a seriously delicious peanut butter-caramel sauce. Get the details on how to make it by clicking here.

Fried Ice Cream

They love ice cream and french fries, so it’s not too much of a stretch to say they’ll probably go nuts for fried ice cream. Add a little fudge and whipped cream, and it’s birthday dessert heaven. For the easy how-to, head over to Overtime Cook.

Circus Animal Truffle Bark

Turn your kid's favorite cookie into this colorful truffle bark from A BaJillian Recipes. This would also work perfectly as a take-home treat for goodie bags. Click here to get the full recipe.


— Abigail Matsumoto, Erin Lem,  Susie Foresman & Amber Guetebier



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