Have any Chanukah parties on the agenda? If you do, you’ll definitely need one Chanukah Party Surprise Cake. Serve it at your own party, or bring it along to a friend’s. But make sure you don’t tell anyone what’s inside until they cut it open and see for themselves!

Use this recipe, or any other cake recipe—even a boxed mix will do. What makes this cake exciting is the surprise element, not the actual recipe. Then again, if it tastes like sawdust, that’s not great either.


  • 2⅔ cups oil
  • 4½ cups sugar
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 cups cocoa
  • 5½ cups flour
  • 4 tsp. coffee dissolved in 3½ cups hot water
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla
  • 2 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tbsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt


  1. Cream the oil, sugar and eggs.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until there are no lumps.
  3. Pour into four 10″ round pans and bake at 325° F until a toothpick comes out clean. Approximately 45 minutes.

You’ll need at least three layers; I used four. Size is up to you. I used 10″ round pans, and the cake was huge—enough for 25–30 people. Unless, of course, this cake is the only thing you’re serving. Then you’ll need more.

Tip: You know how sometimes cakes come out looking like mountains, much higher in the center than around the edges? For layer cakes, you want to avoid that. Bake the cakes at a lower temperature (like 325° F) for slightly longer, and the cakes will bake more evenly.

Remove the cakes from the oven, and set the pans on cooling racks. When the cakes are fully cooled, gently ease them out of the pans, cut off the tops so they are flat on both sides, and freeze for several hours (freezing allows for easier construction).

Prepare the frosting. This is the recipe I used, but again—feel free to use any great recipe you have, or canned frosting for convenience.


  • 1 cup margarine
  • 3 cups confectionary sugar
  • 1 cup cocoa
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • ½ cup non-dairy creamer


  1. Cream margarine.
  2. Add rest of ingredients and mix until smooth.

Now it’s the fun part. Put on your hard hat, block off the doorway with bright orange cones, and declare the kitchen a construction zone.

Take the layers out of the freezer, unwrap the first cake and spread frosting around its perimeter, like this:

Unwrap the second layer and cut a hole in the center. Place it on the base—the frosting will make it stick.

Unwrap the third layer and cut a hole in its center, like with the previous layer. Frost and stack. It doesn’t matter if the holes don’t match up perfectly.

Note: If you’re making a smaller cake and want to skip one layer, this is the one to pass.

Now, close your eyes . . . it’s time for the surprise! Actually, don’t close your eyes, or you won’t know how to make it, and then there will be no surprise at all—just a poor, forlorn, unfinished cake, ignored in favor of the doughnuts and ice cream. (No, ice cream is not specifically a traditional Chanukah food, but a party without ice cream loses its status as a party in my books.)

You’ll need chocolate coins. Lots of them. I used an entire box. Open the little net baggies they come in, and fill the center of the cake with shiny golden bounty.

Quickly, before anyone sees, frost and stack the final cake. Look—no one would ever know what’s hiding inside this dark, chocolatey mass.

Shhh . . . I hear it saying something. What’s that? Oh, right: “Your secret’s safe with me . . .”

Leave the cake as is, or frost the outside. Make it as plain or fancy as you like.

This cake is also fun to make with kids. If you’re going to a Chanukah party, make it with your kids and let them enjoy the surprise everyone else gets when you cut it open.

Because look what will happen . . .

Treasure! Gold! Eureka!

Oh, and there’s some chocolate cake too.

Invite your friends, play some dreidel, eat good food and have a party.

Happy Chanukah!

Update: Check out this picture I got from a happy reader. Her kids decorated the cake with sprinkles and they shared it at a neighborhood party. Everyone was delighted when those shiny coins came piling out.