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The Best Ways To Repurpose Your Leftover Cake

Australian lamingtons cut into hearts and covered in raspberry frosting
Australian lamingtons cut into hearts and covered in raspberry frosting - Millefloreimages/Getty Images

No matter how much of a cake fan you are, it's possible to have too much of a good thing. Maybe you baked for a party that got canceled or made twice the amount you needed out of an abundance of caution. There are only so many days you can tolerate eating sugar for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but before you throw your hands up in despair and dump your leftover cake in the trash can, consider turning it into something else.

There are many cake recipes that can easily be adapted to include stale cake. In most cases, you'll need to scrape the icing off or accommodate for the sweetness. If you're swapping the cake for bread in a classic bread pudding, for example, you'll need to cut back on the sugar since cake is so much sweeter than bread. Whether you're a fan of trifle, cheesecake, or Rice Krispie treats, we've made a roundup of the best options for repurposing leftover cake so you don't have to suffer the heartbreak of tossing it in the trash.

Read more: 11 Unusual Dessert Combinations You Need To Try At Least Once

Trifle

Two glasses of strawberry trifle on a green plate
Two glasses of strawberry trifle on a green plate - Anna Shepulova/Shutterstock

A trifle is a delicious dessert that has something for everyone. In its most basic form, it consists of layers of custard, fruit, cake or ladyfingers, and whipped cream. When served in a glass bowl, these tiers are both elegant and enticing–the perfect combination for a fancy dinner party or a romantic date night at home. Unlike most desserts that are ideal for formal occasions, however, trifles are a cinch to make, especially if you're using leftover cake.

You can either make the custard yourself (our vanilla custard recipe is beginner-friendly, but tastes restaurant-worthy) or buy some from the store. If you can't find ready-made custard, pudding will work, too. You can also make your own fruit compote for the fruit layer. Berries are a classic option, and a dash of sherry is strongly encouraged. Cut the cake into cubes about an inch thick. Anything smaller will become too soggy and anything larger will create an imbalance with the rest of the layers.

To assemble, make sure to layer the fruit directly on top of the cake to maximize absorption. Alternate tiers of the whipped cream, cake, fruit, and custard until you reach the top, finishing it off with a layer of cream, and a smattering of fruit to garnish.

Cake Pops

Cake pops with pink icing and silver, white, and red sprinkles
Cake pops with pink icing and silver, white, and red sprinkles - EugeniaSh/Shutterstock

Cake pops are one of the best ways to use stale cake because the dryness is masked in delicious frosting. To make them, blitz the cake in a food processor to turn it into crumbs. Then, add a few tablespoons of frosting (our recipe for classic buttercream will do the trick), and mix it all up to form a loose dough. Roll it into balls about an inch in diameter and place them on a lined baking sheet. Dip lollipop sticks into melted candy melts and insert them into each ball of dough. Dip the balls into the candy melt, and then prop them in a glass or stick them in Styrofoam to dry.

The best part about making cake pops is that you can turn a boring vanilla or chocolate cake into a fully customized, visually appealing dessert. You can use pink candy melts to make a copycat Starbucks version, dip them in colorful sprinkles, or add flavor to your buttercream. The recipe is simple, requires no baking, and is so delicious that they'll be gone in seconds.

Cake Pudding

Slice of gooey cake pudding with fork
Slice of gooey cake pudding with fork - Bhofack2/Getty Images

If you've eaten so much cake that you can hardly bring yourself to say the word let alone eat another slice, turning it into pudding is the perfect disguise to make it palatable again. Like bread pudding, which was created specifically to avoid wasting inedibly stale bread, cake pudding hinges on the amount of liquid it can absorb, so the staler it is, the better.

If it's a frosted cake, you'll need to cut off the icing to make sure the custard mixture can be absorbed. Slice the cake into cubes and put them in a bowl. Pour custard over them and then bake the mixture for 20 to 30 minutes. You can use a standard bread pudding recipe, but you'll need to cut back on the sugar by at least half due to the sweetness of the cake. Add raisins, pecans, and cinnamon to make it even more similar to bread pudding, or put your own spin on it with sprinkles, coconut, or berries.

Zuppa Inglese

Portion of zuppa inglese on white plate and wooden table
Portion of zuppa inglese on white plate and wooden table - Wanderlust Media/Shutterstock

Directly translated, "zuppa inglese" means "English soup" in Italian, but it's not like any soup we've ever tried. This creamy, tiered dessert is similar to a trifle, but with a set of specific ingredients that make it unique. First, there's Italian pastry cream, which is like custard, but thicker. Half of the pastry cream is plain, while the other half is combined with chocolate to create a second flavor. Then there are ladyfingers (which can be swapped with cake). And lastly, there is the star of the show, a bright red liqueur called alchermes.

Dating back to at least A.D. 800, alchermes originally got its scarlet color from a tree-eating insect called Kermes vermilio (per Sevenfifty). Added to that were such ingredients as apple juice, rose water, raw silk, ambergris, gold flakes, crushed pearls, and aloe. Although only a few of these ingredients remain, the drink provides a striking red hue and mysterious flavor to this distinctive trifle. If you're looking for an adventurous way to use your leftover cake, you could do much worse than zuppa inglese.

Ice Cream

Close-up of vanilla icing with cake chunks mixed in
Close-up of vanilla icing with cake chunks mixed in - Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Although cake may be one of those things you never thought to add to your ice cream, these desserts are a classic combination. Ice cream usually plays the supporting role in the cake's star performance, but when that cake is old and dry, the roles can be flipped for a heavenly dessert.

When mixed into ice cream, leftover cake takes on the texture of cookie dough, transforming from dry breadiness to melt-in-your-mouth gooeyness that is so delicious you won't be able to stop eating it. This dessert is also a much cheaper way to upgrade ice cream than buying a high-end option at the store. Premium ice cream is expensive, especially if you're craving specialty flavors. Instead of dipping into your weekly grocery shopping budget to indulge in a pint of salted caramel cookie or Oreo swirl, just crumble your leftover cake and mix it into a tub of good old-fashioned vanilla. To achieve a gooey texture, make sure to stir the cake into the ice cream instead of sprinkling it on top. If you do the latter, you will have exactly what you'd expect–ice cream with stale cake. Mixing the cake in until it's completely incorporated gives you the kind of cookie dough texture you won't be able to resist.

Serradura

Glass of serradura on white kitchen towel
Glass of serradura on white kitchen towel - kina8/Shutterstock

"Sawdust" isn't a word you'd want to be associated with dessert, but in the case of Portuguese sawdust pudding (serradura), it is both accurate and delicious. It's also one of the easiest puddings you'll ever make. Traditionally, it's made of just three ingredients: whipped cream, sweetened condensed milk, and tea cookies. Blend the cookies into a sawdust-like powder, whip the cream and sweetened condensed milk until soft peaks form, and then alternate layers of cookie powder with sweet cream.

To swap in leftover cake instead of cookies, crumble the cake into half-inch pieces or smaller, and bake in a 350-degree Fahrenheit oven for about 15 minutes. Allow them to cool before blitzing them in a food processor and layering them with the cream. To make the pudding particularly striking, serve it in martini glasses, and garnish with fruit or toasted nuts.

The most difficult part of this recipe is the self-discipline required during the setting period. The pudding needs to chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, and it will take all your willpower not to dig in immediately.

Tiramisu

Slice of tiramisu on white plate
Slice of tiramisu on white plate - Alyona-kos/Getty Images

Tiramisu means "pick me up" in the dialect of the northern Italian region where it originated, and it's easy to see why. It's a classic dessert with a knockout flavor combination that has stood the test of time, and it's bound to put a pep in your step. Espresso-soaked ladyfingers, liqueur, chocolate, and mascarpone cheese come together to form a mouthwatering dessert for any occasion or time of year. It also happens to be fairly easy to make, and you can swap the ladyfingers for stale vanilla or chocolate cake without altering any other part of the recipe.

To make tiramisu, create the mascarpone cream layer with eggs, sugar, cream, vanilla, and mascarpone cheese. Add a couple of tablespoons of marsala wine or rum to freshly brewed espresso, and cut the cake you're using into rectangles. If it's stale, you should make thick slices because they'll absorb plenty of moisture. If it's fresh and moist, you should make thin slices to ensure the coffee soaks through. Alternate rows of espresso-dipped cake and mascarpone cream until you reach the top of the dish. Dust the top with cocoa powder, and let it chill in the fridge for several hours.

Loaded Rice Krispie Treats

Bowl of plain Rice Krispie treats
Bowl of plain Rice Krispie treats - Niko Natsuki/Shutterstock

Rice Krispie treats are one of the M.V.P.s of childhood snacking, and if we're honest, they're up there on the list of adult snacks, too. The classic recipe involves melting marshmallows (and sometimes butter) in a saucepan and mixing it with Rice Krispies. Then you press the mixture into a lined baking tin, allow it to cool, and slice it into squares. What could be easier? The airiness of the Rice Krispies makes it a sweet, light treat that you can eat all day long.

If you want to level up this classic snack, however, there are ingredients you can add that will turn them into flavorful, and dare we say elegant, treats that you could even take to a fancy dinner party. Leftover cake is one of the best options. Whether it's chocolate, vanilla, or red velvet, it will turn into a glorious flavor contrast when paired with Rice Krispies and marshmallows. Simply crumble it into the saucepan before pressing the ingredients into the tin.

Crumble

Bowl of apple crumble with two scoops of ice cream
Bowl of apple crumble with two scoops of ice cream - Stephaniefrey/Getty Images

Crumbles and crisps may not have been the first thing you thought of when trying to repurpose leftover cake, but think about it: instead of sprinkling a streusel topping over the fruit, use crumbled pieces of cake instead. As the dish bakes, the cake will transform from stale, unwanted leftovers to mouthwatering toasted topping. Any cake flavor will do, and you can add seasonings to align the topping with the fruit. For example, if you're making a classic apple crumble and have some leftover pound cake to get rid of, you can break the cake into small pieces and add a heaping teaspoon of cinnamon, a little brown sugar, and even oats if you want to stick to the traditional recipe. Even chocolate cake can add a fun spin on a peach or pear crumble.

When making a streusel topping out of leftover cake, you can choose whether to turn it into fine crumbs or leave it in large chunks. In either case, make sure to add a little butter so the mixture becomes crispy when baked.

Charlotte

Charlotte Royale with one slice removed
Charlotte Royale with one slice removed - Anna_shepulova/Getty Images

A charlotte is a type of chilled dessert in which ladyfingers or cake is lined on the inside of a bowl and covered with custard and fruit. The result is a dome of cream under a layer of sweet, bready biscuits. It's an excellent option for leftover cake because, no matter how stale, it will become saturated by the creamy filling. If you want to be extra fancy and you have a whole cake at your disposal, you can make a Charlotte Royale by slicing the cake into thin layers, spreading each layer with jam, and rolling them into Swiss rolls. The rolls are then cut into slices to reveal spirals, which become the lining of the mold.

To make a Charlotte, choose a large enough bowl to fit the ingredients and line it with plastic wrap. If you're skipping the Swiss rolls, simply cut the cake into squares or rectangles about ¾ of an inch thick or less to make sure they absorb the liquid. Then, make your cream filling. Whether you choose a custard cream, Bavarian cream, or simple whipped cream, you have the option to add fresh fruit at this stage. Fill the mold with the cream, and then refrigerate it for at least 6 hours until it's set.

Rum Balls

Plate piled high with rum balls covered in chocolate shavings
Plate piled high with rum balls covered in chocolate shavings - DenisProduction.com/Shutterstock

Leftover chocolate cake isn't a great substitute in every recipe. If you're making an apple crumble, for example, the chocolate will clash with the classic apple and cinnamon flavor combination, and it can easily overwhelm other dishes as well. But when you're dousing the leftover cake in rum, there is no better option than chocolate. The bitterness and creaminess of the chocolate complement the sweet, sharp, spiciness of the rum, making an irresistible combination. Because of the intensity of the flavors, bite-sized rum balls are the perfect option–big enough to make an impact, but not enough to overload your tastebuds.

To make chocolate rum balls, pulse the cake in a food processor and add the rum. If you're using a full-sized, 9-by-13-inch cake, you can add a full half cup of the liquor. If you're using less, you'll need to modify it accordingly. Then add a ¼ cup of condensed milk to bring it all together. Roll into 1-inch balls and then roll them in sprinkles, nuts, powdered sugar, or cocoa powder.

Pie And Cheesecake Crust

Slice of cheesecake on white plate
Slice of cheesecake on white plate - Emrah_oztas/Getty Images

Graham crackers may be the ingredient of choice for cheesecake and pie crust, but cake is also worth considering. It offers more flavor than graham crackers, and, when pre-baked, becomes just as crispy. If you're making a cheesecake, start by blending the cake into fine crumbs. If you leave large pieces, the creamy filling will run through and create a sticky, soggy mess at the bottom. Then, combine the crumbs with butter. This may seem overly decadent, but you want cheesecake crust to be crispy, and butter will turn the cake into a crunchy base rather than a dense, fudgy one. Once the cake and butter are combined, pack the mixture into the dish, and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until it darkens slightly. Allow it to cool before pouring in the filling.

If you're making a chilled dessert and want a fudgier bottom layer, you don't need to pre-bake the crust. For a no-bake chocolate cake base, you can even add melted chocolate to the blended cake crumbs. When chilled, it will become a compact layer of fudgy deliciousness.

Australian Lamingtons

Traditional lamingtons on white plate
Traditional lamingtons on white plate - irina2511/Shutterstock

Lamingtons are an Aussie staple that is so near and dear to the nation's heart that they have their own holiday. Lamingtons are small squares of buttery cake dipped in chocolate and coated in coconut, and they are addictively delicious. Some variations use a raspberry coating instead of chocolate, while many versions also include a whipped cream and raspberry jam filling.

These Aussie cakes are a great way to repurpose leftover cake, especially if you're dealing with a half-eaten sponge cake that hasn't gotten too stale. You might not be able to frost it and serve it in its half-eaten state, but you can cut it into 1-inch squares (or larger if you're feeling generous), and dip them in chocolate and coconut for a stunning, all-new presentation. To make things easier on yourself, freeze the cubes of cake before dipping them so they don't crumble into the chocolate or raspberry mixture.

Mango Float

Slice of mango float cake on white plate with spoon
Slice of mango float cake on white plate with spoon - Wikimedia Commons

Mango float cake is a popular Filipino dessert consisting of layers of sweet cream, chopped mangos, and crushed graham crackers. It's a light, sugary concoction that is perfect for a hot summer's day, and it's bound to please fruit lovers and cream enthusiasts alike. To make it with leftover cake, you can either break the cake into crumbs and bake them until they're crispy, or simply cut slices and layer them in as is. The first option will more closely mimic the texture of the graham crackers in the traditional recipe, while the second will turn the dessert into something closer to a trifle.

To make the cream, beat whipped cream in a bowl until soft peaks form. Then, add condensed milk and vanilla, and beat again until the mixture stiffens. Layer the cream, cake, and cubes of mango in a casserole dish until you reach the top. For a striking finish, cover the last layer with thinly sliced pieces of mango. Refrigerate the dessert for a minimum of 6 hours and serve cold.

Zuccotto

Slice of zuccotto on white plate with two forks
Slice of zuccotto on white plate with two forks - irina2511/Shutterstock

The semi-frozen ("semifreddo") Italian dessert Zuccotto is made of sponge cake, chocolate cream, whipped cream, and liqueur syrup. It was created during the Renaissance when the famed Florentine architect Bernardo Buontalenti presented it at a party held for Caterina de' Medici sometime in the 1500s (per IntoFlorence). Five hundred-plus years later, it is still a beloved dessert in Florence and abroad, and it just so happens to be a perfect recipe for when you have leftover cake.

To make this slice of Italy at home, line a large bowl with plastic wrap, slice your cake into quarter-inch thick rectangles, and layer them on top of the plastic wrap. Make the liqueur syrup by heating brandy or rum with sugar and water in a saucepan. When it's cool, drizzle some of the syrup over the cake slices. If you prefer a less boozy dessert, you can skip this step and only drizzle a small amount at the end. Divide the cream into equal portions. Whip one to make plain cream and add melted chocolate to the other to make chocolate cream. Spread the plain cream evenly on the cake slices to keep the bowl shape, then pour in the chocolate cream until it reaches the rim. Add a final layer of cake slices, drizzle with the remaining liqueur syrup, and freeze. Make sure to thaw for 30 minutes before serving to give it the intended texture.

Read the original article on Mashed.