Countdown Cake Tutorial {surprise inside cake}

filed under: Surprise Inside Cakes on December 30, 2013

Creating a show-stopping New Year’s Eve Cake is one of my greatest delights! There is nothing better than hearing gasps when you cut into a gorgeous that just happen to have the most fitting surprise-inside!

New Years Eve Countdown Cake #surpriseinsidecake

New Year’s Eve Countdown Cake

Here is a video tutorial on how to make the Countdown Cake.  (another video below) The complete directions and instructions are listed below as well!

To Make this Countdown Cake You Will Need:

(Feel free to use box mixes)

1 chocolate cake recipe (below)

1 white cake recipe

1 chocolate frosting recipe

Optional: Sprinkles

1 set of number cookie cutters, measuring about 1 1/2 inches high

sheet pan

9 inch round cake pan

baking spray

offset spatula

New Years Eve Countdown Cake #surpriseinsidecakeHow to Make a Countdown Cake

Begin by making a chocolate cake in a sheet pan.  (You want the pan to be approximately 12 x 18 inches.)  Make cake then freeze the cake for at least 2 hours.

Remove cake from freezer.  Using number cookie cutters, start by pressing a ‘1’ (or number of your choice) into sheet cake.  If cake feels at all crumbly, put back into the freezer.  Press ‘1’ into the cake and then remove cake from cookie cutter.  Set it on a parchment lined cookie sheet.

Repeat this process for all numbers.  Make three sets of each number, even though you will only use two in the cake.  The extra set is ‘just in case’.  So you will press out three sets of 10, three 9’s, three 8’s, three 7’s and so on.

Place cut out cake numbers back into the freezer.  You want them to be frozen when inserting into the white cake batter.

Prepare white cake batter and pour HALF of the batter into a prepared 9 inch round cake pan.  To make this easier I pour my cake batter into a 4-cup measuring cup, then pour out approximately 2 cups into my cake pan.

Starting with the 10, place the 1 and 0 into batter-filled cake pan.  Make sure there is at least 1/2 inches between the number and the edge of the pan.  Place two 10’s back to back so that its about 3 inches thick.  Now place two 9’s in the pan directly behind 10.

Continue placing numbers into the pan in a circle, working back from 10.  Once you are about halfway around the pan, check to make sure that you are working on the number 5.  10-6 should take up half the pan and 5-1 should take up the other half.  If you have any extra space, simply fill in with 1’s.

New Years Eve Countdown Cake #surpriseinsidecake

Mark your pan so that you know where the 10 is.  You can either make a dot with a black permanent marker or drop a small piece of chocolate cake on top of the batter where your 10 is.  (This will most likely be trimmed off when/if you level the cake.)

Carefully pour remaining batter over numbers making sure to cover them completely.

Bake cake for approximately 45 minutes at 350 degrees.  Keep an eye on it and test to make sure center is completely cooked.

Remove from oven, let cool for a few minutes, then place in freezer for at least an hour. (You can freeze the cake up to 3 months, just make sure its properly covered.)

When ready to frost cake, remove it from the freezer.  If needed, level cake.

Make note of where the “10” is on your cake then remove cake from the cake pan.  Place on the cake stand and mark where your 10 is.  You can use a piece of tape on the cake stand to mark.

New Years Eve Countdown Cake #surpriseinsidecake

Cover cake in chocolate buttercream and then sprinkles and refrigerate until ready to serve.

When you are ready to cut into your cake, just make sure you make your cut where the ’10’ is.  Cut each piece about 2-3 inches thick.  You will then be removing the pieces in descending order.

New Years Eve Countdown Cake #surpriseinsidecake

If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to let me know!

Chocolate Sheet Cake
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
chilling time
1 hr 44 mins
Total Time
35 mins

Use this amazing chocolate sheet cake recipe as the numbers for your New Year's Eve Countdown Cake! The remaining cake is a wonderful snack!

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: chocolate sheet cake
Servings: 24
Author: Amanda Rettke
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup strong coffee
  • 1/2 cup dutch process cocoa
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups (192g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick or 113g) salted butter, warm but not melted
  • 1/2 cup 100g granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup 100g packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup cold coffee
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Place all ingredients in the first part into a saucepan over low heat. Stir until they are fully incorporated, 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool a bit. It should be a little thick and similar to custard.
  1. In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking soda, and baking powder together.
  2. Add 1/2 cup warm butter, sugars, eggs, cooled coffee, and vanilla to the flour mixture and mix with a hand-held mixer until fully combined. (or stir by hand)
  3. Add the chocolate mixture from the FIRST PART to the ingredients from the SECOND PART. Stir by hand until all ingredients are well combined.
  4. Pour onto a prepared (sprayed or lined with parchment) baking sheet (I used a 10x15in baking sheet). Smooth out the batter and gently tap on the counter.
  5. Bake in a 350°F oven for 16-22 minutes, or until the center no longer appears wet and an inserted toothpick is removed with a few crumbs.
  6. Allow to cool before frosting.

Recipe Video

[brid autoplay="true" video="385486" player="16517" title="New Year's Eve Countdown Cake" description="Countdown Cake" duration="48" uploaddate="2019-02-27 11:38:27" thumbnailurl=""]

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  • Jessica says:

    Amazing! Would be fun to do at a children’s birthday party and have all the numbers be the kid’s age.

    • Amanda says:

      lol You are right! I was already planning on using the idea for my sons birthday Feb. 7th! 🙂

  • Brianna Andrews says:

    My problem would be cutting it right. But looking forward to trying this!

    • Amanda says:

      Even if you do accidentally cut into it wrong, since you know where all the numbers all you can easily find the right spot for the next cut! 🙂 Happy Baking! #speakingfromexperience

  • Shaina says:

    Such a fun cake, and I love the video tutorial!

    • Amanda says:

      Thanks Shaina!

  • Kavli says:

    Wow!!! This is amazing! Amanda, your ideas and talent never cease to amaze me. Can’t wait to try this, hopefully I’ll be able to with a newborn at home. But it’s so cool I just gotta try it 🙂

  • Vohn McGuinness says:

    That is GENIUS! Love it! Vohn x

  • farheen khan says:

    This is amazing 🙂

  • Vicki @ WITK says:

    This is so adorable! I love this idea, wish i was going to a NYE party 🙂

    • Amanda says:

      lol Me too! With five kids and nursing the baby full time I don’t think its going to happen this year. 🙂

      • Ria Mathew says:

        It’s just wow,Amanda! I cannot even imagine doing all of this with just one baby

        • Ria Mathew says:

          You are a super mom!!

  • June says:

    Amanda YOU ARE A genius! Probably won’t get to this tomorrow but birthdays are a great idea and there are always next year. Thanks for sharing your talents

  • Amy Huntley says:

    I love this!!

  • Alicia says:

    Such a cute cake!

  • Erin C. says:

    This is genius!! I love it.

  • Beth @ Hungry Happenings says:

    What a clever take on the surprise cake. I love it! Pinned.

  • Jessica L. says:

    You are just too amazing! I adore this cake. And the cameo by your little girl? She is the cutest thing!! Congrats on another amazing cake 🙂

  • Brenda @ a farmgirl's dabbles says:

    Wow. This just blows me away, Amanda. What an incredibly beautiful and FUN cake for NYE!!!

  • Laura @ Laura's Culinary Adventures says:

    This is so clever! I’m sad I didn’t see this until after the New Year’s celebration!

  • Jocelyn (Grandbaby Cakes) says:

    This is just so gorgeous! Happy New Year!

  • Lisa @ Garnish with Lemon says:

    You never cease to amaze me, Amanda! Love this cake! Genius!

  • Rima says:

    I tried making a 2014 message inside my cake for New Year’s celebration, but I made my cake chocolate and the numbers white or yellow, BIG mistake…. My numbers turned chocolatey and didn’t show!! Super bummer!! Should have tried it your way! Oh well, next time!

  • Jennie @themessybakerblog says:

    This is just about the coolest cake I’ve ever laid eyes on. So very creative. Happy new year! Pinned.

  • Sneha says:

    Thank you for such a wonderful idea. I made a number cake along with stars n it was a super hit in my family. Although I used a vanilla cake recipe instead of white . So in love with ur website. Pls can u write sum eggless cake recipes as we r vegetarians.
    Love u so much.

  • Lois Aloe says:

    LOVE THIS CAKE! You are such an inspiration! What brand number cookie cutters do you use? The ones I have found are either too big, too small or just not right – one set had you using the 2 and 5 for the same number – just turn it upside down :-(.

  • Ilona says:

    I would like to make this cake and I have a question. When I remove white cake (with numbers inside) from the oven, why do I need to freeze the cake? What could happen if I omit freezing?

    • Amanda says:

      If you don’t freeze the cake after baking nothing bad will happen, it just helps to keep the cake stabilized. You can most definitely just bake, cool to room temp. and serve. 🙂

  • kathrein says:

    Wow, great article.Much thanks again. Will read on

  • Rasika says:

    Your all cake are very nice. I love the I am Baker.


    Strong coffee – does it mean only coffee powder or coffee mixed with water?
    Also, is cold coffee – coffee powder kept in the fridge or mixed with water and kept in fridge?
    Without mixing with water I I cannot ‘pour’? it is more like a dough.

  • I Am Baker Logo

    Brand new recipes that people find kinda acceptable.