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How to Make a Volcano Cake (With Smoke and Flowing Lava)

This volcano cake is smoking hot!

This volcano cake is smoking hot!

Trying to "Wow" Some Guests?

Looking for a recipe that will really wow your guests? This active volcano cake—complete with smoke and flowing lava—won't disappoint. The steps in this guide are easy to follow, so even amateur cake makers can tackle this mountain. You bake the cake, decorate it, and then simply add the effects. Easy peasy!

This volcano cake recipe is doubly good because it combines the moist taste of molten lava cakes with an erupting volcano for a one-of-a-kind lava cake experience.

Volcano cakes are perfect for luaus, dinosaur parties, fire-themed parties, science-themed parties, or just for parties in general. Kids will love it, and adults will definitely enjoy it, too.

So get ready to erupt your next party with a volcano cake!

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

1 hour

40 min

1 hour 40 min

3 cakes (30 to 45 servings)

Here are the basic volcano cake ingredients.

Here are the basic volcano cake ingredients.


  • 3 boxes cake mix, any flavor
  • approximately 9 eggs, see the cake mix boxes for exact count
  • approximately 2 cups oil
  • 1 to 2 cans condensed milk, sweetened
  • 4 containers cake icing, 3 chocolate for the outside of the cake
  • 1 package toffee or other brown candy pieces like peanut butter chips, optional
  • 1/2 container Hershey's chocolate powder, optional
  • Crumbled cookies, optional
  • Cake picks, plastic figures, or any other decoration
  • 1 package strawberry glaze
  • 1 to 2 pounds of dry ice

Instructions for Making the Cake

  1. Combine the cake mixes, eggs, and oil together. You will follow the directions on the box of your specific cake mix. Some mixes might have different ingredients. But basically, you will combine the ingredients and then mix.
  2. If you are using the same type of cake mix for all three layers, they can all be combined in the same bowl. This helps because you can make the bottom layer bigger than a normal cake and the top layer smaller than a normal cake.
  3. If you are using different types of cake mix for different layers, mix each of them separately.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350˚F (or the recommended temperature on your cake mix).
  5. Oil three cake pans very well so the cake won't stick. Try to use one big pan, one medium pan, and one small pan. This will make shaping the cake much easier.
  6. Pour the cake mix into the pans. The pan for the bottom layer should have the most cake if you just have one type of mix.
  7. Bake the cakes for approximately 25 minutes. Remove the top two layers. Leave the bottom layer in the oven.
  8. Poke holes into the top of the middle and top layer of the cake. Use the handle of a teaspoon or the end of the mixer. The holes should be between 1/4 and 1/2 an inch wide.
  9. Pour the condensed milk into the holes and all over the top of the cake. You should use at least one full can of condensed milk. This will give the cake a moist, molten taste and texture.
  10. Put the two layers back into the oven for ten more minutes or until they are done.
  11. Remove all three layers when they are done. Use a toothpick or a fork to check them. Stick the fork or the toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out without any cake sticking to it, the cake is ready.
  12. Allow the cakes to cool for at least an hour. Approximately 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours to cool would be ideal.

How hot is this cake?

Decorating the Cake

  1. You will need something to put the cake on. A sturdy piece of cardboard works great. The back of a poster picture frame is what was used for this cake. If you have a large tray, you can put the volcano in it. This may be better if you need to transport the cake or if you are concerned about the lava flow.
  2. Cover the cardboard or whatever you are using. Butcher paper or brown wrapping paper will look the best. Tape it down on the back side to keep it from sliding and messing up the cake.
  3. Spread aluminum foil under the bottom layer leaving excess on the sides. This will act as a barrier or moat for the lava to keep it from making a mess everywhere.
  4. Gently remove the cakes from the pans and stack the layers on the board.
  5. Find a tall, narrow cup to use for the lava. I recommend using a plastic cup since there will be dry ice in it. If you use glass for the lava, there is a small chance that the dry ice could freeze the glass, making it more susceptible to shattering.
  6. Cut a hole in the middle of the cakes big enough for the lava cup to fit in.
  7. Ice in between the layers of the cake to make the cake secure and to hold the layers together.
  8. Use a knife to shave off the cake to form the mountain shape. Round the edges and trim off the excess. You can use the bits of the cake from the hole you cut earlier to fill in any gaps.
  9. Make sure you put your lava cup into the cake before you start adding the icing to the outside.
  10. Heat the chocolate icing in the microwave for about 30 seconds to 1-minute, stirring halfway through. You want the icing warm enough that it can be poured onto the cake like a liquid.
  11. Carefully pour the icing over the cake. Icing the outside of the cake this way will make it look even more like a volcano with ridges of hardened lava. It will probably take 2 to 3 containers of icing to cover the volcano. You can drizzle it into the lava cup a bit just to cover the edge and disguise it.
  12. Sprinkle bits of the toffee and/or peanut butter chips around the volcano to look like dirt and rocks.
  13. Add any other decoration. Palm tree cupcake pics or other luau-themed cake decorations look great. You can also use paper umbrellas or plastic dinosaurs. You can make your own edible palm trees with toothpicks and dried kiwi slices.
  14. Roll up the excess aluminum foil close to the base of the cake. This will help catch the lava as it flows down the mountain.
  15. You can use cocoa powder or crumbled cookie bits to look like dirt. You can pour them around the base of the volcano to cover up the aluminum foil. They will also absorb the lava some as it flows down. If you have any of the cake left from the cup hole, you can crumble it to cover the aluminum foil and to make it look like dirt.

Adding the Effects

  1. It is best to test the lava before you try it on the cake. You can just use a small amount in a short cup. Put the cup in a bowl to catch any that flows over the edge.
  2. You will need to water down the glaze to make it the right consistency to flow down the cake. If you don't water it down any, it will bubble in the cup when the dry ice is added, but it won't roll down the sides very much because it will be too thick.
  3. In a bowl, mix equal parts water with the glaze. Stir them well. Test a bit in the small cup. Heat it in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Add a piece of dry ice. If it bubbles over and flows easily, then it is the right consistency. If it doesn't, mix in a bit more water till it does flow well. You may also need to heat it more. The warmer it is, the more effective the dry ice will be.
  4. When it is time to present the cake, heat the glaze in the microwave until it is warm to the touch.
  5. Put several pieces of dry ice into the lava cup. Use tongs or wear gloves to touch the dry ice. Don't use your bare hands. Dry ice is safe to use, but it can give you a frostbite-like burn if you touch it directly.
  6. Carefully pour the lava into the cup until it is brimming over the edge. It should instantly start smoking and bubbling as soon as it touches the dry ice.
  7. The lava will bubble and smoke for several minutes. If you want to keep the effect going, add more lava and pieces of dry ice as necessary.
  8. The lava will flow down the mountain, but it won't be a huge flood unless you pour way too much into the cup. If you are worried, have towels handy to quickly catch any excess. You can put the cake into a large pan or tray to catch any lava flows if you want to.
  9. When you are done admiring the active volcano, start cutting and serving the cake to your impressed guests. Spoon some "lava" over the cake pieces to make the cake even more moist and delicious.

Volcano Cake Alternative Methods

  • The layers of the cake don't have to be the same cake flavor. You can use different types of cake. You can use two kinds or even three. Chocolate cakes or red velvet cakes are suggested mainly because they match the volcano coloring, but feel from to choose your favorite cake type.
  • You can make a smaller volcano. The three full cakes are recommended for the optimal volcano appearance. But you can use just two boxes of cake mix or even use just one cake and cut it to form the volcano.
  • If you are looking for an easier method to form the volcano, you can use a bundt cake or even an angel food cake. The cup for the lava will fit inside the hole in the cake without having to do much of any cutting and shaping (check out the video to the right to see how it would work). I would suggest making one flat cake and one bundt cake. The bundt cake (or angel food cake) can sit on top of the flat cake to give the volcano a bit more breadth.
  • The molten step of this volcano cake recipe can be left out if you prefer. Just eliminate the steps where you poke holes in the cake and pour in the condensed milk. This just makes the cake more moist and gooey, like lava.
  • You could leave off the special effects (dry ice and bubbling lava) and just make a molten cake. The condensed milk will make the cake "melt in your mouth" moist. You can add a strawberry glaze or chocolate syrup, or even caramel syrup to the top for even more of a molten taste. There are also several recipes to make molten cakes that actually have a gooey chocolate center.
  • You can substitute a red-colored Jello that hasn't congealed for the strawberry glaze (again, see the video to the right). It won't be as flavorful, though. The steps to mix the Jello and to water down the glaze are about the same, so one isn't really easier than the other. It is an option for anyone who can't or doesn't want to use glaze.
  • If you don't want to deal with lava flows, you can skip the lava altogether and just use dry ice for a smoking effect. You will still need the cup in the middle of the cake. Just add a few pieces of dry ice into it and pour in warm water to make the smoking effect.

© 2012 Candace Bacon