Birthday parties—we love them (and sometimes we loath ‘em), but we all want to do it up right when our pint-sized sweetheart is celebrating. And what better way than with the quintessential end-of-the-party sweet treat. If you’re ready to break out of the pan, wow your guests with one of these fun and festive alternatives to the classic birthday cake.

cupcake royale birthday

photo: Cupcake Royale 

The most popular cake standby, cupcakes now come in every possible flavor and combo, as well as mini sizes (a perfect option for younger birthday revelers). Available at a huge array of specialty cupcake stores, as well as most grocery store chains, cupcakes are also relatively easy to make and there are so many cute ways to decorate – from custom scenes in the frosting to creative stacking and arranging.

Sweet Scoop: Arrange cupcakes in a fun shape, animal, number or other concoction keeping with the party theme. Or mix and match cake and cupcake to construct an out-of-this-world dessert.

Where to Buy: Cupcake Royale (Seattle), Trophy Cupcakes (Seattle and Bellevue), PinkaBella Cupcakes (Bellevue & Redmond), Sweet Cakes (Kirkland), The Yellow Leaf Cupcake Co.(Belltown), Confetti Cupcakes & Desserts (Issaquah), Stuffed Cakes (West Seattle) and these Seattle-area favorites.


photo: Parfait Ice Cream Facebook page

There’s more than just cones and bowls when it comes to kids’ favorite dessert. Make your own sundaes are popular, ice cream cake offers frozen deliciousness, and ice cream sandwiches provide pre-portioned goodness for fairness and manageability (but do come with drips and sticky fingers).

Sweet Scoop: Obviously you need freezer time so you might be out of luck serving ice cream treats at a party in the park. But dry ice in the bottom of a cooler will help keep most ice cream treats cool enough.

Where to Buy: Ben & Jerry’s (Greenlake, Kirkland, Issaquah and Westfield Southcenter), Full Tilt Ice Cream (U-District, Ballard, White Center and Columbia City), Molly Moon’s (6 Seattle locations), Cupcake Royale Ice Creamery (6 Seattle locations), Parfait Ice Cream (Ballard), Snoqualmie Ice Cream (Maltby), Baskin-Robbins (multiple Seattle and Eastside locations), ColdStone Creamery (Eastside and Seattle locations) and these Seattle-area hot spots.

game cookies

photo: Bridgey Widgey

A classic standby, cookies are probably the most versatile treat – chocolate chip, oatmeal, sugar, gingerbread, you name it – every flavor, color and shape is out there. Arrange a single type of cookie in a cute way to go with your party theme, or make a variety and place into single serve packs for each guest.

Sweet Scoop: Mix it up by making bars or brownies. Again, the bar flavors are endless and creative cutting can help make them seem even more on-theme. Or order local, fresh-baked cookies delivered directly to your home or office, with Treatbox Seattle. What could be better?!

Where to BuyHello Robin (Capitol Hill), Cow Chip Cookies (Pioneer Square), Hoffman’s (Kirkland), Crumble & Flake (Capitol Hill), Flying Apron (Freemont & Redmond), Dahlia Bakery (downtown Seattle), Macrina Bakery (3 Seattle locations) and these Seattle-area favorites.

luau cake pops

photo: LA Party Stylists

Still birthday cake-y, but more manageable – no plates or forks necessary. While somewhat time consuming to do yourself, many stores are now selling pops in a variety of flavors.

Sweet Scoop: You can arrange the pops in a foam holder in a unique shape or Junior’s age, or skip the “cake” part all together and use Oreos. Pop in a stick, dunk in frosting and then douse in sprinkles – voila! You just saved an hour.

Where to Buy: One Wild Strawberry (Seattle) and Cupcake Royale (6 Seattle locations).

rice krispies

photo: Fly Away Design

Another classic favorite, Rice Krispy Treats can be food-colored, cut, molded or added to (think M&Ms, butterscotch chips, frosting, sprinkles or peanut butter – if all guests are allergy-free). Rice Krispy Treats are easy to transport and they don’t melt, making them the perfect treat for parties in the park and hot summer days.

Sweet Scoop: If you’re not feeling up to the strong stirring required to make from scratch, not to fret—Krispy Treats come pre-made at your local grocery stores and Costco.  Just unwrap and serve.

Top Pot 2 from FB Page

 photo: Top Pot Doughnuts Facebook page

Not just for coffee breaks, doughnuts (or the smaller and more manageable doughnut holes) can be sprinkled, arranged, towered, grouped – you name it. Obviously available most anywhere, these “breakfast” treats add a fun new twist to the ol’ sheet cake.

Sweet Scoop: Fill the center of the birthday boy or girl’s doughnut with frosting, candy or fruit and stick in the candles.

Where to Buy: Check out our list of the top donut spots around the city.

photo: New Cascadia Traditional via Facebook

photo: New Cascadia Traditional Facebook page

Long known for its festiveness, pie is making a trendy comeback. Almost as versatile as cake, pie is easy to bake (even easier with a pre-made pie crust) and still provides a nice big spot for all those candles. Warm or cold, cream or fruit, no one can pass up a slice.

Sweet Scoop: Pies are still available for sale at very reasonable prices at classic old school haunts like Shari’s. Or take it down in size with a variety of smaller tarts.

Where to Buy: Macrina Bakery (Seattle), Dahlia Bakery (Belltown), High 5 Pie (Capitol Hill), American Pie Bakery and Cafe (Georgetown) and A la Mode Pies (Phinney Ridge).

B Candy

photo: B.CANDY

The kids will go nuts (the parents probably will too), but with so many varieties, colors, brands, flavors and sizes—you’re sure to please your party peeps. Provide pre-packaged grab bags, make a tower with a candle on top, fill a piñata, give your little SWEET TARTs 100 GRAND… you get the idea.

Sweet Scoop: Think about marshmallows too. Colored, arranged, dipped, s’more-d — they’re hard not to delight.

Where to Buy: The Confectionery (University Village), Sweet Factory (Alderwood, Bellevue and Southcenter Malls), Violet Sweet Shoppe (Phinney Ridge) and these old school candy shops.

Mad for Macarons

photo: Mad for Macarons

These cheery treats will class up any party (they are French after all). In a dazzling array of fun colors and flavors, macarons are sure to be a new favorite for munchkins and grown-ups alike.

Sweet Hint: Mix and match colors—a red top with a blue bottom or yellow cookie with pink frosting. Or go big and prearrange in small boxes for each guest.

Where to Buy:  Lady Yum (Kirkland) or Le Panier (Pike Place Market)

Gourmet Popcorn

photo: KuKuRuZa Gourmet Popcorn

Carnival-esque treats are always, well – a treat – often for the shear novelty factor. Rent a cotton candy machine or make up a bag for each guest. Serve tasty popcorn (think drizzled in chocolate, or caramel) or deep fry something outrageous (Twinkies, Oreos, Snickers). Carmel up some apples, bust out some funnel cake, or put basically anything sweet on a stick.  Snow cones are sure to tickle tiny taste buds too.

Sweet Scoop: Make cookies shaped like “fries” and serve in a fry box, for an extra punch of fun. You can even add red and yellow ketchup and mustard frosting.

Where to Buy: KuKuRuZa Gourmet Popcorn (Seattle, Ballard, Bellevue and Alderwood Mall), Party Hoppers and Clowns Unlimited (carnival rental equipment).


Single serve makes life easy when the revelers get to reveling. Fill a clear plastic cup with granola, yogurt and berries on top. Custard, pudding, fruit, even small layers of cake (bake and cut out with a circle cookie cutter) make great layers—as well as crumbled cookies like Oreos, Butterfingers and peanut butter cups.

Sweet Scoop: Go crazy and make or buy edible cups. Oreo cookies also make a great “dirt” layer in keeping with a variety of themes.

Chill Out

photo: Zoku Quick Pop Maker

If you want to skip the processed sugar all together, fruit can be just as tasty and pretty. Cut watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew and pineapple with cookie cutters in theme-appropriate shapes, or make a rainbow skewer for each guest. Make a tower, or add some chocolate for fruit fondue.

Sweet Scoop: Use “exotic” fruit like mango, papaya, kiwi or starfruit (always a hit especially when slices like your own little star). Or better yet, make fruit popsicles like the cute little critters pictured above using the Zoku Quick Pop Maker Character Kit.

Where to Buy: Edible Arrangements or Shari’s Berries.

What is your favorite alternative to birthday cake? Share your sweet suggestions with us in the Comments below. 

— Jennifer B. Davis

feature photo courtesy of Parfait Ice Cream Facebook page