If you're looking for the perfect football-themed dessert, these mini football cakes are it! They’re individual-sized chocolate cakes with fresh whipped cream filling and a smooth chocolate glaze coating.
They're made from the same base recipe as my homemade ring dings, using a football-shaped cookie cutter instead of a round one. Then they have a simple white icing design to make them look like footballs. So cute right!?
This mini football cake recipe is the ultimate Super Bowl party dessert. They're also great to bring to a football tailgate since they're easier to transport than cupcakes. Or make them for a kid's birthday party!
- Why You'll Love This Recipe
- How to Make Chocolate Sheet Cake for Mini Football Cakes
- Tips to get a Flat-Topped Cake
- How to Make Stabilized Whipped Cream
- How to Make Cream-Filled Mini Football Cakes
- Substitutions & Variations
- Storage & Make-Ahead Instructions
- What to Do with Cake Scraps
- 📖 Recipe
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- They're so cute and perfect for a football-themed party or tailgate!
- Made with fresh whipped cream and decadent chocolate glaze.
- Uses boxed cake mix as a shortcut (doctored up to improve texture and flavor- no one will be able to tell it's boxed cake!)
Here's what you'll need:
- Chocolate cake mix - i.e. Devil’s Food cake mix. I chose to use boxed cake mix because it doesn't make that much of a difference IMO. Freshly baked cake from a mix is still worlds better than the premade cake in store-bought ring dings. So it's a worthwhile shortcut for me.
- Milk - Using milk in place of water in the cake mix makes it less airy and crumby, which helps these cakes hold their shape better. I recommend 2% or whole milk, but any type of milk is fine.
- Eggs - use an extra egg to make the cake a little denser and less dry.
- Oil - vegetable or canola oil. Or substitute any type of neutral cooking oil.
- Heavy cream - a.k.a. heavy whipping cream is what you want to make fresh homemade whipped cream.
- Powdered sugar - or confectioner's sugar. It's used in the chocolate glaze coating and the whipped cream filling as a sweetener and stabilizer.
- Whip It - in addition to powdered sugar, Whip It helps stabilize the whipped cream so that it keeps for several days. You can substitute gelatin or any other whipped cream stabilizer (options outlined below in the blog post).
- Vanilla extract - enhances chocolate flavor.
- Cocoa powder - I prefer Dutch-processed cocoa because it makes the glaze a deeper brown color with extra chocolate flavor.
- Coconut oil - I add coconut oil to the glaze because it’s solid at room temperature. It gets melted to mix in with the glaze but then hardens as the glaze sets.
- Salt - just a pinch balances out the bitterness of the chocolate.
- White icing - I used store-bought cookie icing for ease, but you can also make your own with powdered sugar + milk (use this easy 2-ingredient recipe!)
See recipe card for quantities.
How to Make Chocolate Sheet Cake for Mini Football Cakes
This recipe starts with making a chocolate cake from a boxed mix. Follow the box instructions with a few simple adjustments:
First, combine the chocolate cake mix with eggs, oil, and milk. Use one extra egg than what is called for on the box, and use milk instead of water. Mix to combine with an electric mixer until smooth.
Then, pour the chocolate cake batter into a greased rectangular cake pan. A large shallow cake pan (~ 12x16) works best for to match the approximate thickness of copycat ring dings.
For a flat, smooth cake top, bang the pan against the countertop to release air bubbles. Use a toothpick to pop any air bubbles that come up on the surface.
Then, bake the chocolate cake until a toothpick comes out clean.
Tips to get a Flat-Topped Cake
Bake the cake in a 300 °F oven (rather than 350 °F) since a lower oven temperature helps prevent doming.
Even with the lower oven temperature, the cake may still dome a bit in the oven. If this happens, place a heavy pan of similar size on top to weigh it down and flatten it while it’s still warm out of the oven. Put a piece of parchment or wax paper in between the cake and the weight so it doesn’t stick.
Another option is using a serrated knife to carefully level off the top.
How to Make Stabilized Whipped Cream
While the cake is baking and cooling, make the whipped cream for the filling. You need to use stabilized whipped cream in order for the filling to keep its shape. Otherwise, it will deflate or "weep" within a few hours.
The method of making stabilized whipped cream is super easy and exactly the same as fresh whipped cream (whip on medium speed for 5 minutes until you get stiff peaks). You just need to add an extra ingredient or two to stabilize it...
For this recipe, I chose to use Whip It, a cornstarch-based whipped cream stabilizer. It comes in small pouches (like yeast) and is super effective and easy to use. Here are some other ways to stabilize whipped cream:
- Cornstarch - works like Whip It which largely consists of cornstarch. It may effect the taste and texture a little when used in large quantities.
- Powdered sugar - use powdered sugar rather than granulated sugar in your whipped cream for a smoother texture. And since it contains a little bit of cornstarch, it also helps to stabilize whipped cream. By itself, it isn't super effective for long-term use but it works in combination with additional cornstarch.
- Gelatin - this is the way the pros do it! It's a bit more involved because you need to bloom the gelatin in warm liquid before adding it to the cream so it evenly dissolves.
Store the stabilized whipped cream in a lidded container in the refrigerator until ready to use.
How to Make Cream-Filled Mini Football Cakes
Now that you've got the chocolate cake and whipped cream ready, here's what to do next:
Use a football-shaped cookie cutter (about 4 inches across) to cut football mini cakes from the cooled chocolate sheet cake. Depending on the size pan and cookie cutter, it should make 10-12 individual-sized cakes.
Now, use a small cutter (~ 2 inches) to press down in the center of each cake (about ¾ of the way, not all the way through). Scoop out the center with a small spoon or offset spatula to hollow out the inside. Reserve a small slice to replace the top after filling.
Now, fill the mini chocolate cakes with the whipped cream filling. Then replace the small round slice of cake on top to conceal the whipped cream center. The top should be flush to the cake- if it sticks out too much, you've overfilled it.
To make the chocolate glaze, combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Hold the mini cakes over the bowl of glaze one at a time and spoon the glaze over top until the top and sides are completely covered.
After coating with chocolate glaze, place the mini football cakes on a baking tray lined with wax paper or parchment paper. Then transfer the tray to the fridge (uncovered) to allow the glaze to fully set.
Finally, make the football design with white icing. Make 2 arcs on the pointed ends. Then, in the center, draw a horizontal line with a few vertical hash marks through it to create laces.
Substitutions & Variations
This recipe is a variation of my homemade ding dongs (or ring dings) recipe, which is a copycat recipe modeled after the store-bought version. If you're more of a vanilla fan, I also have a recipe for rainbow vanilla ring dings!
If you want to simplify this recipe, you can always skip the whipped cream. I think it's delicious and worth it if you have the time. But if you prefer to make mini football cakes without cream filling, you can just make a thin chocolate sheet cake, cut the footballs, and dip them in glaze.
Here's what you'll need to make this recipe:
- Rectangular baking pan - a large shallow pan around 12x16 inches works perfectly. A larger pan like a 16x20 will also work. Just keep in mind, the larger the pan, the shorter the cakes will be.
- Football cookie cutter - a set of concentric football cutters would work great since you get a variety of sizes to choose from. You could use a smaller football cutter inside the larger one to make space for the cream filling, or you can use a small round cutter like I did.
- Electric mixer - most boxed cake mixes suggest mixing with either a handheld electric mixer or a stand mixer, but you can also mix by hand with a whisk. Stand mixers are easiest for making whipped cream, but you can also use a handheld mixer or whisk in a pinch.
- Mixing bowl
- Slotted spatula - a metal fish spatula with large slats is helpful for applying the chocolate glaze. Since the cakes are pretty delicate, it's easier to use something like this rather than holding the cake in your hand.
- Baking sheet or plastic tray - it's helpful to place the mini cakes on a flat tray to transfer them easily in and out of the fridge.
- Wax paper or parchment paper - their nonstick surface prevents the glaze from sticking as it hardens.
Storage & Make-Ahead Instructions
Store these mini football cakes in the refrigerator uncovered on a lined sheet tray. After 1-2 days, you can move them to a large shallow Tupperware container to keep them from drying out (still stored in the fridge). They will keep for at least 4-5 days.
I wouldn't recommend freezing these due to the fresh whipped cream filling.
With all of the different components, this is a great make-ahead recipe! The chocolate cake and whipped cream filling can easily be made a day or two before assembling.
What to Do with Cake Scraps
This recipe makes approximately 10-12 mini football cakes, depending on the size and shape of the sheet cake. So you'll end up with a good amount of chocolate cake scraps. Instead of letting them go to waste, here are some ideas on how to use them:
- Make cake pops or truffles - mix cake crumbs with frosting and form into balls. Then dip them in melted chocolate or chocolate glaze coating.
- Make chocolate trifle - Layer bits of cake with stabilized whipped cream in a large glass dish. You can also add layers of fresh fruit, crushed candy, and/or pudding. Chocolate trifle is the ultimate lazy dessert and I love it!
- Save for snacks - One of the hard things about making a cake is you can't really test it to make sure it tastes good before serving it. But in this case, you’ll have plenty of scraps! Top with a little bit of whipped cream topping and you'll have a good preview of what the mini football cakes will taste like ◡̈
Mini Football Cakes (Cream-Filled Football Shaped Ring Dings)
These chocolate mini-football cakes are the perfect dessert for tailgating and football-themed parties. Filled with fresh whipped cream and dipped in chocolate glaze, they're as delicious as they look!
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Yield: 10 1x
- Category: Dessert
- Method: baking
- Cuisine: American
FOR THE CHOCOLATE CAKE
- 1 box chocolate cake mix (i.e. Devil’s Food)
- 1 cup milk
- 4 eggs
- ½ cup oil
FOR THE WHIPPED CREAM FILLING
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1 packet Whip It (or substitute any whipped cream stabilizer)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
FOR THE CHOCOLATE GLAZE & FOOTBALL DESIGN
- ½ cup Dutch process cocoa powder
- ½ cup refined coconut oil, melted
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- Pinch of salt
- ½ cup warm water
- White cooking icing
- Preheat oven to 300 °F and spray a 12x16 baking pan with nonstick spray or line the bottom with parchment paper.
- Make cake batter according to box instructions, substituting milk for water and adding one extra egg. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake the cake for about 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool.
- Make the stabilized whipped cream: in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, combine heavy cream, powdered sugar, Whip It, and vanilla extract. Whip on medium speed for about 5 minutes or until stiff peaks form.
- Cut footballs and fill with whipped cream: use a football cookie cutter (about 4 inches in diameter) to cut footballs out of the chocolate cake, flipping them over if needed so the top is smooth. Then, use a smaller football or circle cookie cutter (about 2 inches in diameter) to make an indent on top of each cake (pressing about ¾ of the way down, not all the way through). Use a spoon or small offset spatula to hollow out the center. Then, cut a thin slice (about ¼ inch thick) off the top of the hollowed-out center, and discard the rest of the inside of the cake, reserving just the thin top slice. Fill each mini cake with about 1-2 tablespoons of whipped cream and replace the top slice to conceal the filling. Refrigerate until well chilled.
- Make the chocolate glaze: combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Adjust the consistency if necessary by adding more water to thin or more powdered sugar to thicken.
- Coat the football mini cakes with chocolate glaze: working one at a time, place the mini cakes on a slotted spatula and hold over the bowl of glaze. Spoon the chocolate glaze over top until the top and sides are completely coated. Then transfer to a baking sheet lined with wax paper and place the tray in the refrigerator (uncovered) to allow the glaze to set (at least 1 hour).
- Make the football design: use white icing to make two arcs around the pointed ends of the footballs. In the center, draw a short horizontal line and make a few hash marks through it to create "laces". Let the icing set before serving.
- For a shortcut, you can skip the whipped cream filling. Cut football shapes out of the chocolate sheet cake and cover them with chocolate glaze.
Keywords: football mini cakes, football desserts for tailgating, football shaped cupcake recipe