Ugly Cake

5 from 2 votes

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Ugly Cake is yummier than it sounds! The buttery cake batter is swirled and baked with a homemade creamy custard to create a cake so sweet and moist that it doesn’t need any frosting!

a slice of ugly cake dusted in powdered sugar
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Ugly cake is not only deliciously sweet and moist, but it is also incredibly easy to make. No need to stress about the little details when making this cake because it isn’t meant to look nice! The batter can be a bit lumpy and the swirls of custard can be uneven; it will still bake up to be golden, moist, and delicious in no time. Honestly, the uglier this cake looks, the better it tastes!

For a while, everyone in my house wanted this ugly cake for their birthday. It’s so different from traditional fluffy, frosted cakes—everyone loved the novelty of it! If you really want to jazz it up a bit, you can dust your finished ugly cake with some powdered sugar. However, I find that this frosting-free cake doesn’t need it! This easy one-hour cake is hard to beat. Don’t judge a cake by its batter and be sure to give this recipe a try! 

close up of one piece of ugly cake side view

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • It is an easy way to elevate a boring cake mix.
  • Ugly cake is a great recipe for beginner bakers—you can’t mess it up!
  • This features a delicious mix of fluffy and custard-like textures.
  • Doesn’t need any frosting! Just whip up the batter, bake it, and you’re good to go!
labeled ingredients for making ugly cake.

Recipe Ingredients

  • Yellow Cake Mix—Any brand will work!
  • Homemade Vanilla Custard—Made by whisking together vanilla pudding mix, an egg, a block of cream cheese, and some whole milk.
  • Eggs—Add a nice bounce and some structure to this moist cake.
  • Whole Milk—Keeps your cake rich and moist.
  • Salted Butter—Melted. For a smooth buttery taste!
  • Vanilla Extract—Enhances the natural sweet flavors in this ugly cake.
  • Powdered Sugar—Optional for garnishing.

How to Make Ugly Cake 

clear mixing bowl with stages of raw ugly cake ingredients

1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cake mix, eggs, milk, vanilla, and melted butter until homogenous. 

square glass cake dish filled with batter for ugly cake recipe

2. Pour the cake batter into a prepared baking dish and set aside. 

clear mixing bowl with stages of raw ugly cake ingredients

3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the cream cheese, milk, pudding mix, and egg to create the vanilla custard. The custard does not need to be perfectly smooth but avoid any large clumps.

ugly cake recipe baked in the dish

4. Pour the custard over the cake batter and use a knife to swirl the two layers together. Bake the cake until the edges are golden brown. Allow your cake to cool on the counter before slicing. Dust the top of the cake with powdered sugar, serve, and enjoy!

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is it called ugly cake?

Ugly cake is an old-fashioned dessert that focuses more on moisture and flavor than it does on looks. A traditional ugly cake is denser and browner than a normal cake and is typically served undecorated. Because of this, it is referred to as “ugly cake”. But just because it doesn’t look like a regular cake doesn’t mean it’s not delicious! In fact, this plain-looking cake is one of my favorite desserts!

What makes ugly cake different from regular cake?

Ugly cake is different in a few ways from a regular cake. First, ugly cake batter is enriched with melted butter, milk, and additional eggs. Another difference is that you will swirl a homemade custard throughout the cake batter before baking—this makes the finished cake denser and sweeter than a regular cake. It should also be noted that ugly cake is usually served without any frosting; the cake is sweet and moist enough on its own!

POV forkfull of ugly cake dusted in powdered sugar

Expert Tips

  • Salted butter helps balance the sweetness of the cake and custard! If you only have unsalted butter, then you will want to add a teaspoon of salt to the cake batter. 
  • Because of the custard layer, it can be tricky to know when this cake is done cooking! Once the edges are golden brown, you can take your cake out of the oven. You can also poke around the edges with a toothpick to check if it is fully cooked. The center of the cake will have the most custard so it will not result in a clean toothpick no matter how long you bake the cake.
  • Giving your ugly cake some time to cool helps the custard settle, which allows you to get cleaner slices! If you try to cut and serve your cake immediately, then you may end up scooping your cake rather than slicing it.
  • If you want to give your cake a nice finished look, you can dust the top with a bit of powdered sugar!
ugly cake recipe baked in the dish and dusted with powdered sugar

How to Store Ugly Cake 

If you have any leftover cake, you can store it in the fridge for up to 4 days in an airtight container. This cake is great served warm, cold, or room temperature! If you’d like, you can throw a leftover slice in the microwave for about 45 seconds to heat it up before eating or serving. Ugly cake is similar in flavor and texture to coffee cake, so I usually enjoy the leftovers on a weekend morning alongside a cup of coffee or hot cocoa.

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ugly cake recipe baked in the dish
5 from 2 votes

Ugly Cake

Ugly Cake, tastier than its name suggests, combines buttery batter and homemade creamy custard for a sweet, moist treat that requires no frosting!
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes
Total: 55 minutes
Servings: 12

Ingredients 

Ingredients for Cake:

  • 1 box yellow cake mix,, 15 ounce box
  • 3 eggs,, large
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup salted butter,, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Ingredients for Custard:

  • 1 3.4 ounce package vanilla pudding,, instant pudding
  • 1 egg,, large
  • 8 ounces cream cheese,, 1 block
  • 1 cup whole milk

Instructions 

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. and grease a 9×13 inch baking dish with butter or nonstick cooking spray.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cake mix, eggs, milk, vanilla, and melted butter until homogenous. Pour the cake batter into the baking dish and set aside.
  • Create your custard by whisking the cream cheese, milk, pudding mix, and egg together in a medium sized bowl. The custard does not need to be perfectly smooth, but should not have any large clumps in it.
  • Pour the custard over the cake batter and use a knife to swirl the two layers together.
  • Bake the cake for 40-45 minutes? Or until the edges are golden brown.
  • Allow your cake to cool for 30 minutes on the counter before slicing. Dust the top of the cake with powdered sugar, serve, and enjoy!

Notes

  • Because of the custard layer it can be tricky to know when this cake is done cooking. Once the edges are golden brown you can take your cake out of the oven. You can also poke around the edges with a toothpick. The center of the cake will have the most custard and will not result in a clean toothpick no matter how long you bake the cake.
  • Allowing your cake time to cool helps the custard settle, which allows you to get cleaner slices. If you try to cut and serve your cake immediately then you may end up scooping your cake rather than slicing it.
  • Room temperature cream cheese will be easier than cold cream cheese to mix in to the custard.
  • If you don’t have whole milk you can use half and half or 2% milk.
  • Salted butter helps balance the sweetness of the cake and custard. If you only have unsalted butter then you will want to add a teaspoon of salt to the cake batter.
  • It is not necessary to dust your cake with powdered sugar but it gives the cake a nicer look.
  • Store your leftover cake in the fridge for up to 4 days. This cake is great served warm, cold, or room temperature. If you’d like you can zap a leftover slice in the microwave for about 45 seconds.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 slice (1/12 cake), Calories: 359kcal, Carbohydrates: 44g, Protein: 6g, Fat: 18g, Saturated Fat: 11g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 5g, Trans Fat: 0.4g, Cholesterol: 99mg, Sodium: 471mg, Potassium: 129mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 26g, Vitamin A: 635IU, Calcium: 170mg, Iron: 1mg
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